26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Acting Speaker, over recent days several references, some of them of an unofficial and frequently inaccurate nature, have been made in the Press and elsewhere to discussions that have been taking place inside the Government parties relating to the ‘Voyager’ matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has put questions to me regarding one aspect, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has given notice of a motion for the appointment of a select committee, and in another place Senator Wright has given a similar notice in, I understand, identical terms. There was one Press reference this morning to the effect that yesterday in the Government party room I offered to make time available to the honourable member for La Trobe to make a statement on the matter, and the newspaper indicated that it would be limited as to point of time.
In fairness to both the honourable member for La Trobe and myself, I think I should point out that, after conferring with my Cabinet colleagues, I did tell the honourable member that the Government would be willing to arrange for him to make a statement regarding the ‘Voyager’, and I pointed out that, being a statement, it would not be limited in point of time. He replied that he would prefer to exercise other rights available to him within the forms of the House, and his notice of motion for the appointment of a select committee followed. In the ordinary course, discussion on this motion would not be reached until some time in October. In any event the Government believes that this matter, having been ventilated widely through the Press over recent weeks and in unofficial discussion, should be dealt with promptly and directly. I am sure all honourable members will agree that it is undesirable for public uneasiness and concern to be allowed to develop in relation to the manner in which the Royal Commission was conducted, and the bringing of evidence before the Royal Commission, and it would obviously be contrary to the best interests of the Navy itself for the matter to linger on without some authoritative clarification. Therefore the Government proposes to make a statement on the matter next Tuesday. Opportunity will then be provided, either immediately cr at such time as honourable members prefer, for parliamentary discussion to follow that statement. This discussion will not interfere with the notice already given by the honourable member for La Trobe. It will be for him to decide what future course of action he wishes to take after he has heard what is said in the Parliament on the matter.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. As life assurance companies will not provide full insurance cover for national servicemen once they leave Australia, has the Government made a final decision on the matter of life assurance in these cases? If so, when will action be taken? I emphasise the importance of this matter because of the proposed escalation of the war in Vietnam.
– The question is based on an inaccuracy as to the facts. I have already pointed out in the House that life assurance companies will insure a member of the Forces at normal premiums until the date on which he is selected for service overseas. My colleagues, the Service Ministers, have agreed to advise national servicemen of their rights, as they have agreed also to advise all members of the Regular Army of their rights. I have recently asked the Department of Labour and National Service whether it will do likewise. As to servicemen under notice of posting, they still have the right, as they have always had, to at least two different kinds of insurance, but in these cases they have to pay a special premium. We have recently discussed this matter in Cabinet and I have now received approval to discuss the problem with the life offices in order to see whether an alternative practice may be adopted. As soon as I have their reply the matter will again be considered by Cabinet. Cabinet’s decision on this matter, along with decisions on other matters associated with the righting Services and service overseas, will be announced in the Budget.
– It is true that there are no nautical academies in Australia of the kind that exist in the United Kingdom and the United States. I think a need is developing for such an academy in this country. Courses in nautical training are offered in technical colleges in Sydney and Melbourne. Elementary courses in engineering are offered in other technical colleges in Australia. Some shipping companies operate their own cadet systems for officer training. The intake of officers into the merchant marine is supplemented by a fairly steady influx of officers from overseas. In view of modern technological developments I agree with the honourable member that the time is rapidly approaching when there will be a need for an academy of the kind he has suggested. He will be interested to know that officers of my Department who are now overseas have been studying the pattern of training in academies in both the United States and the United Kingdom. My Department is considering whether the potential intake of officers in Australia justifies the setting up in this country of such an academy.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report of a statement attributed to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of
Sydney that the recent reduction in university finances has been a bitter blow and that as a consequence there would be no advance in the teaching and research programme of the University of Sydney for the next three years? Is the statement correct? If it is, will this situation have a very serious effect on the future development of our universities? In the light of the opinion expressed by the Vice-Chancellor, will the Prime Minister review his Government’s attitude in the matter?
– I shall secure from my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, a statement expressing his view of the likely consequences of the financial provision that is being made. The honourable member for Dalley will appreciate that there are many desirable things which a government, having the responsibility for a balanced provision for security, social welfare, social services and other aspects of government, must take into account. He will also be aware that over recent years there has been a quite remarkable increase in the provision by this Government and this Parliament of finance for university needs in the various States. Having said that and having reminded the honourable gentleman that the provision for the current triennium represents a very considerable advance on that for the previous triennium, I shall see what additional information I can obtain from my colleague.
– Will the Prime Minister clarify his statement about the business of the House, particularly in relation to the debate on the ‘Voyager’ disaster? Does he contemplate that, immediately after a Minister has made a statement on this matter, debate will ensue immediately or, if the debate is to be adjourned, it will be adjourned to some day next week or to the Budget sittings? What length of debate does the right honourable gentleman contemplate? How much participation does he expect? How many members will be .able to engage in the debate?
– As to the resumption of the debate, I shall be guided very much by the views of honourable members and in particular by the view of the Leader of the Opposition, who will have a chance to confer with his colleagues, and other interested members on the Government side of the House. The point I sought to make earlier was that in the general public interest, and certainly in the interests of the nation, it is important that, these matters having been ventilated or canvassed in an unofficial and frequently inaccurate way in the Press, there should be some authoritative declaration in relation to them. This the Government will set out to present. From our point of view, it would be desirable to have the debate proceed forthwith after the statement is made, but I can well understand that either members of the Opposition or honourable members who have shown a special interest in this matter may want a little time to study the statement. I shall be guided by their wishes as to whether the debate is resumed on the same day, the next day or later in the week, or at some other time they might suggest. I would hope that there would not be any long delay. It would certainly be my wish that, if the debate could not proceed on Tuesday next, at least it could be considered for Wednesday.
– My impression is that my Party would want to consider the statement overnight after the honourable member for Latrobe might have spoken.
– And then be in a position to continue on the Wednesday if need be?
– That timetable would be acceptable to the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it true, as has been reported, that the destroyer HMAS ‘Hobart’ has been engaged in shelling coastal targets in North Vietnam, which are probably civilian targets and reported as being coastal towns, and shipping? These targets appear to have a very tenuous connection with the war in Vietnam, especially in view of the notorious inaccuracy, amply demonstrated, of intelligence reports coming from the area. What damage have these people done to Australia, anyhow? Does the Prime Minister recall the world-wide horror that was displayed when the Germans used similar tactics against Spanish towns during the Spanish Civil War? Why does he allow the good name of the Australian Services to be sullied by participation in such operations? Will he issue an emphatic instruction that the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force must not take part in action against possible civilian targets? Let me add this: If honourable members opposite want these Services to take part in such action, let them rise and say so.
– It is unfortunate that civilian casualties are an accompaniment of war, and that despite the best precautions taken by servicemen these casualties do occur. But I think that what has proved to be a remarkable feature of the hostilities in Vietnam is the scrupulous and most careful way in which those who have been giving support to the South Vietnamese forces have tried to minimise, so far as is humanly practicable, any damage to civilian property or loss of civilian life. One does not have to take one’s mind back very far to recall a time when it was a conscious act of military policy on the part of governments of countries which we would now regard as enlightened modern countries-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. The Prime Minister is deliberately avoiding my question.
-Order! There is no foundation for the point of order.
– The honourable member asked a very long question on this subject and, if I may say so, a tendentious question. I was describing the attitude that has been adopted consistently throughout the whole campaign and I was making the point that not so very long ago it was in accordance with the military policy of certain countries consciously to attempt to terrorise the civilian population of an enemy country by concentrated bombing of the larger cities of that country. This was a feature of the last World War. But it can be fairly claimed that efforts have been made, so far as is humanly practicable, to avoid causing damage to the property and harm to the life and limb of civilians in this Vietnamese campaign.
As to the role of the ‘Hobart’, just as we have made military forces available for the support of the South Vietnamese and in doing so have worked in close collaboration with other friendly forces, particularly those of the United States, so we have made this naval vessel available. It carries out tasks similar to those performed by other vessels involved in this conflict, and for similar purposes, and the approval of the Government has been given in a broad way for the use of this vessel. We do not attempt to regulate the course of every action, but approval has been given in a broad sense for this vessel to be used for the same purposes and against the same targets as the naval vessels of the United States.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether on Friday last the DC3 aeroplane which was to have taken passengers to Miles and intermediate ports on flight 466 was unable to make the trip and whether the replacement Friendship aircraft had to be flown direct to Taroom to take a mechanic to service another DC3 aeroplane which was unserviceable at the Taroom airport? In any case, in view of the age of the DC3 aeroplanes does the Minister consider that Trans-Australia Airlines should now replace these aircraft with a more modern type?
– I have no knowledge of the incident referred to by the honourable member but I will certainly make some inquiries and provide some information. However, it is a fact that the DC3 aircraft is slowly being phased out of operation in Australia. We still have between sixty and seventy of this type of aircraft on the register and performing very good service in country areas and in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and it will be some years before they are phased out of operation completely. In the meantime the airlines are bringing into operation some F27 Friendship aircraft on the main feeder routes and we have under examination proposals for a new type of feeder service for country areas. At this time I cannot give any more information about that matter, but I will keep the honourable member informed about the development of this type of service. I would like in conclusion to stress that DC3 operations in Australia are completely safe and in accordance with the standards laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation. Whilst in some cases the aircraft may be old in terms of registration, in many cases over the years they have been substantially rebuilt and very little of the original aircraft has remained. However, they must conform strictly to the conditions laid down by the Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: Does he remember informing me recently that when an invalid pensioner commences employment a medical review will not be carried out unless the earnings exceed $7 a week? Does he also remember saying on 18th April that the permissible earnings had now been increased to $10 a week? If he does remember those statements, is he aware that notes are being sent out by his Department, attached, to the notices of grant of pensions, which read:
You should note particularly that as you are in receipt of an invalid pension the question of your continued eligibility to receive such pension would have to be considered should you undertake any employment.
How does the Minister square his statement with the note I have just read, and will he ask his Department to stop harassing invalids and administer the Act with sympathy and understanding?
- Mr Acting Speaker, I was not aware that a letter in the form the honourable member has suggested was being sent out to invalid pensioners. However, I point out that there are certain accepted limits of eligibility to which the honourable member has referred and which have been widely publicised. As the honourable member has said, these are now applicable at the extended limit of $10 a week subject to property means, instead of the previous limit of $7. I will look into the terms of the letter. I point out to the honourable member that invalid pensioners, when they seek employment, of necessity must be aware that if they receive more than the permissible earnings their entitlement to an invalid pension must be reassessed. However, I will look at the specific note the honourable member says is being sent to invalid pensioners and consider the points that he has raised.
– My question which is addressed to the Prime Minister relates to his statement regarding the business of the House. When he says he will make a statement on Tuesday, does this mean that, in the ultimate, the statement and any debate which might take place would result in a vote? Has he received letters from two honourable members on this side of the House stating that they have evidence that may or may not be relevant, or is he otherwise aware of this? Is it a fact that the two members in question will not be here for the rest of this session? Does the Prime Minister therefore consider that this would be a fair and full debate when he knows that members who may have evidence completely separate from that which I have raised will not be here?
- Mr Acting Speaker, I thought I had made quite clear the objective that the Government has in mind. It certainly has no desire to avoid an expression of judgment by this House, nor does it desire to cover up matters which honourable gentlemen in the exercise of their own sense of responsibility feel should be disclosed by them. I receive correspondence on a great variety of matters from many members of the Parliament, and I would not feel at liberty to disclose the nature of that correspondence unless the member concerned authorised me to do so. As to the fact that one or more members who may be interested in this matter will be out of Australia or absent from the Parliament, I point out that this is the place where Parliament sits, and if we are to be inhibited in bringing matters on because at some time one or more members who may have an interest in them will be absent from this place, we will find it very difficult to get through our business. I think it would be found that there is opportunity for a representative set of viewpoints to be put on those matters and for a judgment to be formed by the House. It strikes me and my colleagues that this is the most appropriate way of dealing now with a situation which, if allowed to go without some official public statement, could only be damaging to the interests of the Navy, prejudicial to the public interest and, I believe, harrowing to bereaved persons who are entitled to know the facts received by the Government.
– I would like to ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the International Commission of Jurists has denounced the military coup in Greece? In view of the military junta’s denial of democratic freedoms to the people of Greece, and the Australian Government’s frequently declared principle of being opposed to those whom it claims deny freedom to others, will his Government take the initiative in the United Nations by there denouncing the undemocratic military takeover in Greece?
– The Government is not concerned with Fascists.
– That is so. Will he forward a personal message to the Greek power junta expressing concern at the shocking proscription of trade unions and mass arrests of trade unionists and others which occurred in that country and will he request the re-establishment of democratic parliamentary procedures there without any further delay?
– I did read Press references to a statement made by the body of jurists to which the honourable member referred. The course that the Commonwealth Government should follow in its foreign relations is a matter of policy, and it would not be appropriate nor would I feel equipped to deal with it at question time. But I would say generally that around this troubled world actions are frequently taken by groups inside particular countries. These do not evoke the approval of this Government but I have yet to hear honourable members opposite express the same concern when some of these events have occurred in countries of a very different political outlook-
– I take a point of order. We have now reached again the shocking stage of political character assassination.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Why do we have to listen to this?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I submit there is a point of order involved in this. I think it is clear that the Prime Minister intended to reflect upon the honourable member for
Oxley in the way that he answered a question. He suggested that the honourable member was prepared to protest only when liberties were destroyed in a country like Greece. The honourable member for Oxley and many honourable members on this side of the House have submitted protests against actions in the Soviet Union and China. The right honourable gentleman has deliberately reflected on the honourable member for Oxley and I submit he should be required to withdraw.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– When have you ever protested about one action in the Soviet Union or in China?
– By petitions, and the former Prime Minister had to say that he was aware of it.
– In reference to the point of order, I refer to standing order 76, which states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
Is it your intention, Mr Acting Speaker, for the remainder of this sessional period, to apply that standing order to ministerial imputations against honourable members on this side of the House?
-Order! I do not think the Prime Minister referred to any particular honourable member. He answered a question. It is for a Minister to answer a question as he wishes, provided that he does not transgress the Standing Orders, just as other honourable members cannot transgress the Standing Orders. I rule that the Prime Minister made no personal reference to any honourable member.
– Speaking to your ruling, Mr Acting Speaker, I submit that what the Prime Minister said was intended to show that members of the Opposition generally were biased in their attitude to international affairs and only protested when some action against liberty was taken by right wing governments. Whether or not this is correct, this is a reflection upon all members of the Opposition under the standing order quoted by the honourable member for Wills. I submit that the reflection is clear and that your ruling would be incorrect. I submit also that the right honourable gentleman should be asked to withdraw the imputations involved in the answer to the question. I ask you to reconsider your ruling in the light of that. If you cannot do that and ask the right honourable gentleman to withdraw - and I do not see why he should obstruct the House so much in being unwilling to do so - I suggest that some other course of action will have to be taken.
– Mr Acting Speaker, speaking to the point raised by the honourable gentleman, if what I said was a reflection on honourable members then clearly what was said in the form of the question was a reflection on this Government. The whole purpose of the question was to convey an impression that this Government, because of its known political attitudes, was not prepared to take action by way of protest. I was pointing out that this was a matter of policy and that so far as our course of action was concerned it had been quite consistent. I did add the comment that it was not without significance that we do get questions put in relation to governments of this alleged political character, whereas in what I termed the troubled world there are many acts of a kind of which this Government disapproves but which, do not call- forth the same condemnation from honourable gentlemen opposite. We in this Parliament must not become too thin skinned. I remind honourable members opposite that this is a place where we are bound to speak our minds freely. They may laugh, but I would point out that I have taken far more than they are ever likely to take in this place; and I am prepared to dish out my share of it when I feel that it is called for. But what is the position? Is it a reflection on an honourable gentleman to say that he is a Socialist? Of course it is not. Is it a reflection on him to say that he is a sympathiser of the Communist Party?
– Of course it is.
– The Communist Party has a legal status in this country. If a policy which is pursued by a member is identical in form or substance with that pursued by the Communist Party, surely there is some identification of attitude or viewpoint. At least there is a sensitivity which can be exhibited. While the standing order is there and honourable members are entitled to call for a withdrawal, if in your judgment, Mr Acting Speaker, there has been a reflection upon an individual member of the Parliament or a statement has been made in such a way that an individual member is not able to seek a remedy because of the broad nature of the charge, then it is in your hands to call for a withdrawal. But the Standing Orders should not be employed in such a way as to deny the normal rights of free expression and the statement of opinion by members who have been sent here to speak clearly and fearlessly the views that they hold in this place.
– Speaking to the point of order, the Prime Minister declined to answer the question about the colonels’ coup in Greece because he said the questioner showed no similar solicitude when there were unconstitutional coups in other countries. He then went on by way of interjection to say: ‘When did you ever protest about Russia or China? You will recollect. Mr Acting Speaker, that there have been cases when these same allegations have been made. Tha honourable member for Yarra refuted them on the last occasion by pointing out that he had taken a petition of protest to the Russian Embassy about the resumption of nuclear testing in the atmosphere. The Prime Minister, in his answer, threw out the “ challenge: ‘When did you ever protest about Russia or China?’ I recall this clear instance, which, I believe, you will remember, Mr Acting Speaker. We protested about Russia and China and France, too, when they engaged in nuclear testing in the atmosphere. On this occasion we protest about the action in Greece. We have protested about other coups, too. We do not apply a double standard to the demolition of democracy. It ill behoves the Prime Minister of Australia, alone among the English speaking democracies, to condone this Fascist coup in Greece. This would not be the attitude taken by the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or Britain.
-Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition is now entering a wider field than that covered by the point of order. Regarding the points of order raised by honourable members, I abide by the ruling I have given. I would suggest that question time is developing to the stage when questions that are being asked are being answered by many honourable members by way of interjection. I think, particularly after the events of last night, that it would be advisable for the House to come to order and return to the original practice at question time. I abide by the ruling I gave earlier.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether naval authorities have further considered the agitation on the south coast of New South Wales for civil airline schedules to include the Royal Australian Navy air station ‘Albatross’ strip or some other strip in the training circuit at Nowra. Is it a fact that the former Minister revealed a more friendly attitude by the Navy? Is it a fact that a civilian service would assist the Navy in its transport problems as well as bring tremendous relief to travellers to the rapidly developing south coast by having at least one civilian terminal?
– I am not in a position to comment on the latter part of the honourable gentleman’s question about the extent to which there is a demand for flights in this part of New South Wales, but I can say that the Navy has considered whether it will permit the strip at Nowra to be used by weekly or occasionally scheduled flights of commercial airlines and has said quite clearly that it would have no objection whatever, lt is my understanding that the matter now rests with the commercial airlines to determine whether such flights are economically feasible.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. If a retired Commonwealth public servant in receipt of Public Service superannuation marries or remarries after his retirement is his wife entitled to a superannuation pension, and when, at a later date, he dies, is his widow entitled to a superannuation pension? If the answer is ‘no’ in either or both circumstances, does the Treasurer not agree that an injustice is being done by the present practice?
– This question calls for legal interpretation and I am sorry that I am unable to keep in my head all the legal interpretations about superannuation or the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Nonetheless I will ask the authorities to give me a reply and I will let the honourable gentleman have it in the form of a letter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that troops of our 7th Battalion, on their first major operation in Vietnam, prevented a Vietcong execution squad from murdering a group of village officials? Has he observed that the honourable member for Wills this morning, while feeling free to allege that Australian troops were-
-Order! I would remind the honourable member for Parkes that the Minister for Defence is not responsible for the actions of the honourable member for Wills.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is true that Uruguay and Peru are contemplating closing their legations. Chile previously closed its legation, because Australia does not have accredited representatives in those countries, even by way of dual or multiple accreditation? Was the action of Chile, and is the possible action of Peru, also prompted by the Government’s failure to collaborate with them and with Ecuador in dissuading France from perpetrating nuclear tests in the Pacific?
– So far as I am aware there is no foundation in any of the imputations contained in the honourable member’s questions.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the campaign for the Yes vote in the referendum. Knowing that the right honourable gentleman has a real desire for the success of a Yes vote on both proposals, and considering the No vote campaign which is being advocated by the daily Press in some States, can he advise me and my colleagues as well as supporters who are prepared to add their weight to the campaign, why the House cannot adjourn for the next two weeks so that honourable members can campaign on these questions and, as now appears necessary, resume the parliamentary sitting in June?
– I can assure the honourable member that I lack nothing in my determination to do what I can to see that a favourable result is recorded for both these referendum proposals. In the course of this week, when opportunity permitted, I have been working on the text of television and radio broadcast; which I will be recording tomorrow morning. I have discussed with the Leader of the Opposition and with the acting Leader of the Country Party the desirability of having a motion put before the House rises to which the leaders of the parties and other honourable members could speak. In effect, this would launch a public campaign on this matter. I would hope to do this before the House rises next week.
– The abuse of Parliament last night did not help.
– The honourable member for Macquarie is merely introducing an unnecessary irrelevancy into this matter. We have a common purpose in this campaign. This House was unanimous in the support it gave to the legislation for both the referendum proposals. If an opportunity could be provided I think the House would welcome the chance to re-state the reasons which we consider are compelling and which we believe would induce a favourable vote for the Yes cases in relation both to the nexus proposal and the proposal concerning Aborigines. The honourable member asked whether it would be practicable to adjourn the sittings for some time and then resume. We have a very tight timetable which is related to meetings with State Premiers, a series of Budget discussions and other matters of that sort. I hope it will be found practicable to conclude the sittings of this Parliament certainly not later than the end of next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry and it refers to the tobacco sales at Mareeba. Last week, in answer to a question I asked, the Minister indicated that he was receiving representations from the growers regarding certain aspects of the sales. Can the Minister provide me with the latest information concerning these sales at Mareeba as the tobacco industry is a most important one for Australia?
– The indication I gave last week on this matter was that there was some difficulty in disposing of tobacco leaf to the extent that not sufficient of it was being disposed of in the auction line. Since then the Australian Tobacco Board, which consists of representatives of manufacturers, growers, State Governments, State Boards and a representative of the Commonwealth Government, has met and has examined all the aspects of this matter. There has been general co-operation on the part of all sections to ensure that these auctions will be more successful. Yesterday’s results were most satisfactory, with 971% of all leaf being sold. All of this percentage was not sold in the auction line but was the result of the day. Yesterday’s average of 1 14c, which is 4c or 5c above the Government support price, was a creditable result.
No other product sold at auction, including wool, has had as high percentage results as yesterday’s tobacco sales. The position has been brought about by this Government’s support guarantee for price levels in the tobacco industry. If the tobacco growers deliver leaf of a certain grade or quality, they will obtain a commensurate result, because a price equivalent is set for it. Therefore the growers ought to be satisfied with the support that the Commonwealth Government is giving them. The only instance of a better clearance in an auction system of selling than was achieved at yesterday’s tobacco sales was at the recent wool sales at Geelong when on one day a 98% result was achieved.
– I refer the Minister for Civil Aviation to a concern that is being displayed by residents of suburbs bordering the southern shores of Botany Bay about the likely development of the Towra Point district as a possible site for a second airport for the Sydney metropolitan area. Will the Minister outline the present policy of his
Department regarding the likelihood of this area being developed as a second major airport?
– An area at Towra Point has been reserved for possible expansion of airport facilities for Sydney. We do not anticipate that this locality will be required for this purpose for many years. At this stage we have no definite plans except that at some point of time in the future present airport facilities at Mascot will not be adequate for Sydney’s needs, and we will have to move to a parallel area at Towra Point. The only comment I can make at this stage is that the area is reserved against future requirements.
– Does the Prime Minister recall my asking his predecessor to protest on behalf of the Australian Parliament to the governments of China and France against any future nuclear testing? If he does not recall my question, will he protest on behalf of the Australian Parliament to those governments against future nuclear testing in the atmosphere? Will he also call on those governments to sign the nuclear test ban treaty?
– The honourable gentleman asks me to give an indication of a policy attitude. I assure him-
– Firstly, would the Prime Minister mind saying whether he recalls my question?
– Frankly, I do not recall the honourable member asking that question, any more than I can recall hearing his voice raised in protest in relation to events in Hungary or in some other countries in which there have been actions of a kind about which I thought he might protest.
– I suggest that the Prime Minister should check Hansard.
– I do not question the accuracy of the honourable member’s statement.
– I rise to order. A few moments ago when the right honourable gentleman was defending himself against an attack by members of the Opposition he said that he did not think it was offensive to say that a man was a Socialist or was sympathetic to the Communist Party. He said that he did not want us to be thin skinned. He submitted in defence of his remarks that his imputations were of political characteristics. I submit that what the right honourable gentleman is now doing is suggesting that the honourable member for Reid is the kind of person who would not protest against the murdering of people in Hungary by a foreign government.
– Order! The honourable member for Yarra will resume his seat. As to the point of order raised by the honourable member I point out that the Prime Minister said that he did not recall the honourable member for Reid asking the questions. I am afraid it is not the function of the Chair to read into a comment or statement made by an honourable member any imputations. The Prime Minister is in order.
– Let me make the position clear as far as the honourable member for Reid is concerned. I make no imputations against him. I respect his sincerity. I believe that he himself would welcome the description that he stands’ to the Left of his Party, but I imply nothing from that which is to his discredit. As far as 1 am concerned he enjoys my regard and my respect.
– I rise to order, Mr Acting Speaker. The Prime Minister said that he did not recall my protesting about incidents in Hungary. May I clarify the position by telling the right honourable gentleman that I was not a member of the Parliament at the time of the Hungarian uprising. If the right honourable gentleman wishes to peruse the records of the Guildford West Branch of the Australian Labor Party, of which I am a member, he will see that at the relevant time I moved in the Branch a motion supporting the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labor Party in protesting against the uprising in Hungary. So let us put the record straight.
Government Supporters - Oh!
– The jackals on the back benches of the Government side may laugh.
– Order! I remind all honourable members that this is the Federal Parliament. I suggest that they remember this. I think the honourable member for Reid is now entering upon debate.
– No. Sir, I am not. I am merely clarifying the position. There would still appear to be some doubt in the minds of honourable members opposite as to the true position. In the Guildford West Branch of my Party I supported the action of the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labor Party in protesting against the suppression of the people of Hungary. I moved a motion to this effect in the Guildford West Branch at the time. I was not then a member of this Parliament.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a brief statement relating to the provision of Australian currency for a drawing by New Zealand from the International Monetary Fund. The New Zealand drawing from the Fund amounts to $US29.2m. Of this the sum of $US9.2m or $A8.2m is being drawn in Australian curency. The drawing is being made under the Fund’s compensatory financing arrangements consequent upon a shortfall in New Zealand’s export receipts over the last twelve months. Australian currency totalling $A59.2m has been used in Fund drawings on six previous occasions, including one previous drawing of$A8.9m by New Zealand in November 1965.
I am sure that honourable members will share my pleasure that Australia has been able to co-operate with the International Monetary Fund in this latest drawing by New Zealand, our close friend an neighbour. I would also take this opportunity to point out to the House that Australia’s reserve position with the Fund now amounts to US$200m. This substantial credit has been built up partly as a result of initial gold subscriptions to the Fund amounting to$ US 125m and partly as a result of drawings of Australian currency from the Fund, similar to and including the present New Zealand drawing, amounting to $US75m. Australia’s reserve position of $US200m with the Fund represents liquidity which is virtually unconditional and which would be available to Australia automatically should we wish to make use of it.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– f move-
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament for the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $US13m, or $ Al 1.6m, from the United States Export-Import Bank and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation to assist in the financing of jet aircraft and related equipment being purchased by the Australian National Airlines Commission. The money to be made available under the proposed loan agreement, the form of which is annexed to the Bill, will be used by TransAustralia Airlines for the purchase of three DC9 aircraft and related equipment, spares and services. The aircraft will be purchased from the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, which is the successor to the Douglas Aircraft Company after a recent merger and which is to be one of the signatories to the agreement. On their arrival, these aircraft will bring TAA’s fleet of DC9s up to six. The first three of TAA’s DC9s, two of which have already been delivered, were financed with the assistance of a loan from certain United States commercial banks approved by the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Act 1966.
The general arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by the Parliament for other loans for TAA and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd in recent years. The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds of the loan will be made available to TAA on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer pursuant to clause 8 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will merely assume the functions of an intermediary in these arrangements.
The main lender on this occasion is the Export-Import Bank, an institution whose primary function is the financing of United States exports. The Commonwealth has previously borrowed from the Export-
Import Bank for commercial aircraft purposes. This was in 1960, when $US30m, or SA26.8m, was borrowed to help Qantas finance the purchase of three new Boeing 707 aircraft, and extensive modifications to other Boeing 7-07 aircraft. In addition, as I announced last month, the Export-Import Bank has now agreed to provide a further loan to assist Qantas to finance the purchase of ten more Boeing 707s. The Bank will provide $US66m, or SA58.7m, of the amount to be borrowed and the Boeing Company will provide $US7m, or $A6.5m.
Australia has traditionally been a net importer of capital. Capital inflow has importance at the present time when we are running a sizable balance of payments deficit which is expected to continue into next year. It has been the Government’s continuing policy to arrange oversea finance for a large proportion of the cost of new aircraft purchased by its two airlines. Much of the loan will be drawn in the latter part of 1968 and 1969 and there are obvious advantages in taking steps now to ensure that funds are readily available to meet known future contractual commitments of this nature. In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items which must be obtained from abroad. To assist in financing such imports, the Government believes that it should take advantage of opportunities, as they arise, to borrow overseas at reasonable rates of interest.
The proposed agreement with the Bank and Douglas follows the normal pattern of agreements with the Export-Import Bank. The Bank usually requires the borrower to find 20% of the total cost of the programme for which finance is provided. The Bank then provides up to 90% of the loan and looks to the supplier to provide the other 10%. Thus, in this case, TAA will be expected to provide $US3.3m ($A2.9m) from its own resources, out of the total programme estimated to cost $US16.3m, the Bank will lend $US11.7m ($Al0.4m) and Douglas $US1.3m ($A1.2m).
The loan agreement provides three methods by which TAA can make drawings on the loan. The first of these is to obtain reimbursement in respect of amounts already paid by TAA for items of equipment. Secondly, drawings may be made by letters of credit established with a United States commercial bank in favour of the suppliers of equipment, which would then be met by the Bank and Douglas. Thirdly, the Export-Import Bank may be asked to pay part of its share of the loan direct to Douglas in payment for items being financed under the loan. As the second and third procedures will not involve payments to the Commonwealth, which the Commonwealth as the borrower would pass on to TAA, clause 14 has been incorporated in the Bill so that such disbursements by the lenders will in the first place constitute borrowings by the Commonwealth, and then loans by the Commonwealth to TAA.
The agreement will be signed as soon as convenient after this Bill becomes law, and drawings are planned to commence when the necessary arrangements can be made. The final date for drawing is 31 December 1969 unless the parties agree to an extension. In accordance with normal banking practice in the United States, a commitment fee is to be paid on the undrawn amount of the Export-Import Bank’s portion of the loan, and this fee accrues from 1 September 1966, when the Bank formally approved the loan. Interest is payable at the rate of 5i% per annum from the date each drawing is made. This was the rate applying at the time the approval for the loan was given last year. The current rate for Export-Import Bank loans is 6%.
The loan is to be repaid in accordance with the three schedules set out in Article II of the agreement. Each schedule covers the finance to be provided for one of the aircraft and for equipment to be purchased between the dates specified, which fit in with the estimated delivery date of the particular aircraft. The amount of the loan represented by each schedule is repayable by semi-annual instalments over a period of seven years. Thus the loan is repayable over the expected life of the aircraft, and during the period that they are making a substantial contribution to TAA’s finances. As I mentioned earlier, the procedures involved in connection with the loan are in accordance with the normal practices currently followed by the Export-Import
Bank and follow generally the arrangements that applied to the borrowing from the Bank on behalf of Qantas in 1960.
The borrowing will be authorised under the 1966-67 programme approved for the Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting in June 1966 and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of $120m for State housing purposes. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Loan Council. This is the sixth occasion on which Parliamentary approval has been sought for a borrowing by the Commonwealth in the United States on behalf of TAA. The earlier loans provided $US40m ($A36.1m) for the modernisation of TAA’s fleet. $US38m ($A34.1m) of this amount has been drawn and $US8m ($A7.3m) has already been repaid. The present loan will make a further $US13m available for the purchase by TAA of modern jet aircraft and associated equipment.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned. [Quorum formed.]
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland for the provision of financial assistance to the State in connection with the marketing of the 1966 No. 1 Pool of the Australian sugar crop. The terms of the agreement are that thz Commonwealth undertakes to make financial assistance of about SI 9m available to the State for the benefit of the sugar industry and the State undertakes to repay the Commonwealth by 30th June 1980.
The background against which this agreement was concluded was that on 22nd July 1966, the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) outlining the situation in the sugar industry and endorsing a proposal put forward by the industry for financial assistance. In outline, the industry’s proposal was that the Queensland Government should make a loan to it of $19m, and that the Commonwealth should make it possible for the Queensland Government to assist the industry in this way.
At the time this proposal was put forward the world free-market price for sugar had been falling steadily and had reached the very low figure of £Stg16 a ton, c.i.f. London. Fortunately the free-market price has since recovered somewhat though it is still low. It stood at £Stg23* a ton at the end of last week, but as of today - and I hope honourable members opposite are listening - it has moved in London to £Stg25 a ton. About one half of the Australian crop is sold on the basis of the world price. The remainder enjoys an assured market, at prices in excess of $100 a ton under long-term and other contractual arrangements within Australia, and in Great Britain and the United States of America.
After examination of the industry’s proposal and consultation between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the industry’s request was agreed to, as announced at the time. As a first step, and in order to meet the immediate problem, the Commonwealth undertook to facilitate the provision of advances to the Queensland Sugar Board by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia, against the guarantee of the Queensland Government. Under the agreement now before Parliament, the Commonwealth is to make available to Queensland the funds necessary to discharge the obligation to the Reserve Bank when it falls due towards the end of October 1967.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and the State sets out the terms and conditions on which the loan will be made to the State. No interest is payable until 1st July 1970, and thereafter interest will accrue at the medium-term bond rate. The loan, together with interest, is to be repaid in ten equal annual instalments commencing on 30th June 1971.
It will be appreciated that this agreement is separate and distinct from the Common wealth-Queensland Sugar Agreement, which has operated for many years and which is concerned primarily with the price at which sugar is sold in Australia and the long-term regulation of the industry by the State. This agreement expires on 3 1st August 1967, and as a prelude to its possible renewal there will shortly be further discussions between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments on matters relating to the sugar industry. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia for the provision of financial assistance to the State towards financing the construction of a pipeline to carry natural gas to Adelaide from the Gidgealpa-Moomba region in the north east pf the State. Some months ago the South Australian Government approached the Commonwealth Government for assistance in respect of difficulties the State was experiencing in obtaining finance for a natural gas pipeline from the newly discovered fields at Gidgealpa-Moomba to Adelaide. The cost of construction of the pipeline was estimated at $35m. The State Government indicated its intention of setting up a semigovernmental statutory body to construct and operate the pipeline, but confronted a difficult financing problem in bringing the project to fruition over a comparatively short term of years from normal sources of semi-governmental finance. The State Government considered that it would be possible for the pipeline authority to raise no more than $20m during the period of construction and decided to approach the Australian Loan Council for permission to borrow that amount. The Commonwealth was happy to support the application to the Loan Council.
At its meeting in February last the Loan Council agreed to the South Australian Government’s request for approval of borrowings in respect of the pipeline up to $20m during the period ending 30th June 1972, such borrowings to be additional to the normal South Australian semigovernmental programme. The Loan Council also agreed that borrowings under this special authority could if desired commence during the current financial year. To bridge the gap between these borrowings and the estimated cost of construction, the Commonwealth indicated that it would be prepared to lend the State during the construction period such additional sums, up to a maximum of $15m, as were needed to complete the project in accordance with the construction timetable. The Commonwealth’s offer is on the understanding that the State accepts responsibility for financing any short fall in semigovernmental borrowings over the period to 30th June 1972, below the figure of $20m, and also for financing any increase in actual construction costs above the estimate of $35m.
Agreement has now been reached between the Commonwealth and State Governments on the terms and conditions on which the assistance is to be provided. The loans made by the Commonwealth to the State will be repayable half-yearly over a period of eight years, the first instalment to be repaid on 15th December 1972 and the last instalment on 15th June 1980.
The sources of funds for payment of the Commonwealth loans will, of course, be a matter for the State. We envisage, however, that these will include the normal South Australian semi-governmental borrowing programme and receipts by the pipeline authority from its operations. The agreement provides that interest on the Commonwealth loans to be made to the State will be payable half-yearly on 15th June and 15th December at the maximum rate authorised by the Loan Council at the date each loan is made for private borrowings by semi-governmental authorities for a period of eight years. The agreement includes the usual provisions relating to such matters as advance payments to the State and the supplying of audited information about expenditure.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the Government is pleased to be able to provide South Australia with the assistance necessary to allow this project to go forward without delay. We accept the State’s views as to its technical soundness and as to the contribution it is expected to make to the development of the State’s economy generally. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Luchetti) adjourned.
– 1 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: Erection of a Mail Exchange Building, Perth.
The proposal provides for a four-storey building to house mechanical mail handling equipment. The building will be of steel frame construction, and the associated engineering services will include airconditioning and ventilation, lift services, emergency power plant and kitchen equipment for the cafeteria. I table preliminary plans of the proposed work. Pending finalisation of the detailed investigations, the Government has approved $3m for the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Development of Royal Australian Navy Base at Manus Island
– I move:
The proposal involves the development of operational facilities, and will include oil fuel installations; a slipway; workshops, cranes and store buildings; accommodation and messing facilities; married quarters; and associated engineering services. Detailed plans are not yet available, but I table a zoning plan which illustrates the area of the proposed development. Pending completion of final plans, the Government has approved S3.6m for the project.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: Construction of Beef Roads, Western Barkly Tableland, Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the following roadworks: The construction of two new sealed beef roads, one from Daly Waters to Cape Crawford and the other from Anthony’s Lagoon through Cape Crawford to Borroloola; and the bitumen surfacing of the existing beef road connecting Anthony’s Lagoon with the Barkly Highway. The total length of sealed road to be provided is 470 miles, and the estimated total cost is $9.85m. In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Committee has recommended that long term investigations should be undertaken into the capital, maintenance and reconstruction costs of beef roads of various widths, and these investigations will be initiated by my Department. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Royal Australian Air Force Band - Development Projects in Queensland - Unemployment in Queensland - War Widows - Telephone Services - Container Facilities - The Parliament
That grievances be noted.
– I rise today to put before the House a problem which I consider to be almost unbelievable. On 14th April last the Mackay Tourist Festival was being conducted. The Royal Australian Air Force Band was invited to play there. Arrangements were made for it to give several exhibitions, as is the custom at functions such as this. The Returned Services League ball was held on 14th April and members of the RAAF Band were asked whether they would like to give an exhibition there by playing a few tunes. The Tourist Festival and the RSL ball are among the most importantfuctions in north Queensland. The members of the Band said: ‘Yes, there is no problem in arranging that’. The public was informed of the arrangement. A big crowd attended the ball. A commercial orchestra was hired to play at the ball and it was paid $55. During the course of the evening, some members of the RAAF Band arrived. They were treated in a very fine style. They were given the complete freedom of the city, as it were. They had as much liquor and food as they wanted. In due course they took the stage to play a few exhibition items. They settled themselves and then dropped the bombshell. Their spokesman said: ‘Before we play we have to be paid’. They demanded $100 in cash from the President of the RSL. Corporal Christie, who was in charge, said in effect to the President of the RSL: ‘Before we play we want $100 in cash’.
The President of the RSL was absolutely staggered at this proposal. The members of the RAAF Band are full time members of the Air Force, are paid and travel around at the taxpayers’ expense. But here they demanded cash from the RSL. They picked on the wrong body. More will be heard of this incident if the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) does not take some action. The President of the RSL said:I do not carry $1 00 in cash in my pocket’. However, he had no alternative but to agree to the demand. These were the standover tactics, the intimidation, used by the members of the Band. People were in the galleries waiting to hear the Band play. The commercial band was not displaced and there was no infringement of any of the rights of the Musicians Union of Australia. The members of the RAAF Band were invited to be at the ball and to play a few numbers, if they would like to do so. They agreed to go along but they did not inform the RSL that when they took the stage they would ask for $100 in cash.
Having no alternative, the President of the RSL made arrangements for the RSL to pay the Band by cheque. The next morning Corporal Christie came along. The President said: ‘To whom will I make out the cheque?’ The cheque was made out to Corporal Christie. The cheque was not made out to the RAAF, the Receiver of Public Moneys, the Minister or the Department of Air but to Corporal Christie. The RSL could not refuse. Being the type of organisation that it is, it honoured its promise. No agreement had been reached before the ball and no discussions about payment took place, but these intimidatory practices were used. As T said before, the members of the Band received royal treatment, but they asked the RSL for $100. They were paid $ 1 00 by the RSL, which is one of the most highly respected organisations in Australia. What sort of people are these members of the Band? Of course, no contact was made with Squadron Leader Hicks on the night of the ball. What is he getting out of this rake off of Si 00? This is what we must find out. The matter was raised with me when I attended a meeting of the District Conference of the RSL on the following morning by the President of the RSL, Mr Badger, and the District President, Mr Abbott, who is also President of the Australian Country Party in Mackay. There were no politics in this. We agreed to keep the good name of the RAAF out of it.
– Why did the honourable member not write to the Minister?
– I saw the Minister a month ago. I said I would go along to the Minister for Air with one objective only and that was to get the $100 back to the RSL and to end the whole matter. No publicity has been given to it. I went to see the Minister on three occasions, but I have not yet had a reply to my request. On the last occasion the Minister said to me: ‘What do you expect me to do, get a reply in forty-eight hours?’ I do expect to get a reply in less than 34 weeks. J rang the Minister’s office this morning and, by a coincidence, the girl there told me that a letter has just turned up.
This is a very serious matter. It raises a lot of questions of finance. What has happened to this money, which was demanded by permanent members of the RAAF? What are the accounting practices with money of this kind? If this is a legal practice, why was not an official receipt book available? Why did the President of the RSL have to say: ‘You will have to sign one of the bar chits as evidence of the fact that we have given you $100’. I can assure the Minister for Air, who is now at the table, that the RSL is very upset and will take this matter further. All it wants is to get the $100 back. If that had happened, the whole incident would have been forgotten. No one would have known about it. The Minister could have stopped this sort of practice for ever in his own way. He did say to me that there may have been an infringement of the rules of the Musicians Union. But that Union was nol affected. Its members were there and they received S55. They were quite happy to see the members of the RAAF Band there. We should find out now how often this has happened and what happened to the money. The Minister said to me that the money may have been collected because the music needs replacing from time to time. Perhaps this is a legitimate answer; I do not know. The fact is that money was taken from the RSL, a non-profit organisation which is attempting to do good, not only for its own members but also for the community at large.
Obviously the question which must be asked is: How long has this practice been going on? Has it been authorised by the Minister for Air, who is now at the table? Did these people have the permission of the Minister for Air to charge $100 for playing a couple of numbers or whatever the term is when they are playing music? Further, will he put an end to this type of practice? Nobody worries about members of the Band on leave playing legitimately at some function and being paid for it, but they were not doing that. In this case standover tactics were used and there was a demand for cash. From the demand for cash it must be obvious to everybody that there was something very fishy behind it. It is very important that this practice be stopped. I ask the Minister to take steps to get the $100 from these people and give it to the Mackay RSL. Obviously the money has been spent; otherwise there would have been an official receipt. If the Minister does not do so the matter will go a lot further than this.
H2.1] - The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has asked a number of questions. 1 propose firstly to tell the House how the matter arose. Before the band makes any tours of any area the commanding officer of the band makes a preliminary tour. On this occasion the pretour visit to Queensland was made by the band’s commanding officer, Squadron Leader Hicks, in February 1967. During this visit he was asked by Mr Hansen, manager of the Mackay District Development Bureau, whether a section of the band could perform at a Returned Services League function. Squadron Leader Hicks advised that the dance section of the band could probably be made available but that the members involved would be acting in a private capacity. The members of the dance section duly arrived at the RSL hall wearing civilian attire. I should point out first that this was fully arranged with Mr Hansen and if he did not convey the arrangement to the officials of the RSL, that was his fault. The whole tour of Mackay was arranged with the Mackay District Development Bureau. They were the people with whom the arrangements were made. The full arrangements were made one month before the band arrived there, so there was every opportunity for the RSL to be informed.
– No-one knows about that.
– Mr Hansen was the person who made the arrangement. The honourable member can take his complaint to the people in his own town. The arrangement for the band was made through the one organisation. I should mention also that regulations are set down which enable the band to play at private functions. If it plays in uniform the relevant orders provide that if it is at a charity function the performance is given free of charge, and if the band is given approval to perform at non-charitable functions a fee is charged and this fee is paid into Consolidated Revenue. That happens as a regular thing. The arrangement was made by the Treasury and is in full accord with Royal Australian Air Force orders.
If, on the other hand, some members of the band out of working hours wish to play at functions, they are permitted to do so and to engage in their calling during standdown hours, provided that they receive permission to do so in the first instance and that they do not identify themselves by wearing a uniform. The members who engage in this activity are members of the Musicians Union of Australia and as such are obliged to observe the charges for functions set down by that body. These members of the band, playing as requested by the Mackay District Development Bureau, in an unofficial capacity, out of working hours, charged the fees set down by the Musicians Union. As they are members of the union they must charge the rates laid down. I am surprised that a member of the Australian Labor Party should get up in this House and criticise members of a union and ask them not to charge the normal rates which are set down by the union.
– Who would know about that?
– The Mackay District Development Bureau which arranged the whole function and which asked the band to play in the first place. The Bureau was given every opportunity in February, one month before the function took place, to deal with the matter. This was a body of people performing out of normal working hours at the request of people in Mackay and charging the fees that their union demands. To think that members of the Opposition should not support trade union practices is quite amazing. Finally, if the honourable member wants further information about the matter, I have much pleasure in providing him with a letter on the subject.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I call the honourable member for Herbert.
– I rise to order. By calling another honourable member on the Government side of the chamber the Chair is departing from normal practice and will deprive a member of the Australian Country Party of his right to speak in this debate. I have watched very carefully the procedures in this House for about twentyone years and I understand that the usual procedure is to call a member from each party in turn.
-Order! I agree with what the honourable member says is the usual procedure, but in this case I called the honourable member for Herbert because of an express arrangement that had been made. Normally this is a matter in the discretion of the Chair, which is not bound by any lists or arrangements. However, on this occasion I understand that an arrangement was made. It was because of this arrangement that I advisedly called the honourable member for Herbert. The honourable member for Mallee may rest assured that a representative of his Party will receive the call in due course during the debate.
– Speaking further to the point of order, does this mean that the time for the grievance debate will be extended?
– Yes, by twenty minutes.
– Order! The Chair has no knowledge of details of any arrangement.
– I have been informed that the time for the debate is to be extended.
– Order! I call the honourable member for Herbert.
– Over the weekend from 28th April to 2nd May the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and his offsider, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), were in Townsville. When I returned to Townsville last weekend 1 found that the Leader of the Opposition had made a statement, which was published in the Townsville ‘Bulletin’ of 2nd May, in which he claimed that the widespread development programme which has been going on in Townsville over the last six years had been the direct result of agitation by himself, the honourable member for Dawson and Senator Keeffe. He claimed that they were responsible for the rejuvenation of the Mount Isa railway line, the establishment of the copper refineries in Townsville, the establishment of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in the north, the establishment of the Army base in Townsville and the establishment of the university college. In fact it would appear that these three paragons had quite a time hounding the State and Federal Governments to bring about development in the city of Townsville, so much so that the Leader of the Opposition even forgot to mention the former Federal member for the Townsville area who is a member of the Australian Labor
Party. He could at least have mentioned him in this dreamtime party, but he was not worth considering. There was not much more in the way of development that could have been claimed; these three champions had done it all.
When 1 read this statement I was extremely angry and the reason why the Leader of the Opposition made such a deliberately false statement intrigued me. I wondered whether it was because the Australian Labor Party team received such an unmerciful hiding during the local government elections held on the Saturday and this, crowned by the fact that out of the thousands of good staunch unionists in Townsville they could muster only 115 members to march with the honourable gentlemen during the Labour Day procession on the Monday, may have soured him enough to make such a foolish statement. But whatever the reason, and whether or not he thinks it good political tactics, I think it was ill-advised and I take strong exception to it. Personally such a statement does not bother me, nor does it harm me politically. In fact, it did me quite a lot of good politically. When I arrived back in Townsville I was informed that a great number of people were of the opinion that it was one of the craziest statements the Leader of the Opposition has ever made, so much so that they dubbed him ‘Windy Whitlam’ around the town at the weekend.
– Order! The honourable member must not make a personal reflection on the Leader of the Opposition.
– I withdraw the statement if it is a personal reflection. I was only quoting what was being said around the town.
– I rise to order. The honourable member for Herbert is endeavouring to smear certain members of the Labor Party. At no stage did I make such a statement as he has suggested. At no stage did I speak to the Press, so this must be a complete fabrication, certainly in regard to myself.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Dawson that this is not a matter for a point of order. If he wishes to make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the speech by the honourable member for Herbert, the Chair will consider his request.
– I did not mention the honourable member for Dawson as saying this, but the Leader of the Opposition. [Quorum formed.] I do not take any notice of this nonsense, but what I object to, and what I can guarantee will always produce a sharp and violent reaction from me, is that the Leader of the Opposition attempted to treat the people of north Queensland as a team of fools. Even to attempt to lead the people of Townsville to believe that he and, as he said, the honourable member for Dawson and Senator Keeffe were responsible for the development I mentioned earlier, was an insult to their intelligence. It may surprise the three honourable gentlemen, but I can assure them that the people of north Queensland are not fools and are well aware that no matter how much the Opposition may ‘agitate’, as they call it, they will not influence the Government’s decision one iota.
– The people did not show too much sense in selecting the honourable member.
– I think I have been very patient and tolerant since I have been in this House. I have listened to quite a few statements from the other side and have refrained from saying anything because 1 have been interested to see how far members opposite would really go. But I refuse to sit idly by while the Leader of the Opposition, or any other member for that matter, makes outrageous and completely false statements which reflect against the intelligence of the people of north Queensland. As I have said earlier, this is one sure way to produce a sharp and violent reaction from them. The perambulations of the Leader of the Opposition around the countryside trying to sell himself, and desperately using any political trick to try to brighten the image of the Labor Party, holds no terrors for me. Although I prefer to fight politically under the Marquis of Queensberry rules, I do not mind getting down in the dust and fighting under dog and goanna rules if I am forced to do so.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Herbert stated that he did not mention my name, but in his opening sentences he mentioned it and he referred to it subsequently. I was in Townsville with the Leader of the Opposition but I made no such statement as he has attributed to me. I did not at any stage speak to or see the Press. My point is that-
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to debate the subject matter of his personal explanation.
– As regards myself it was a deliberate fabrication on the part of the honourable member for Herbert.
– The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) is entitled to any political capital he can make during the short time he will be here. I was a personal friend of his predecessor who served the people of Herbert for two terms and 1 shall be pleased to welcome him back on the other side of the House after the next election. I wish to raise the matter on which the Government did not want to hear me yesterday. I am glad that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns)- is present and I hope that he remains. I refer to the question of unemployment in Queensland. I am surprised, and a little disappointed, at the assessment of the position by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). He said that the situation would be all right as soon as the sugar season started. For many years there has been this attitude to unemployment in Queensland. If the Minister knew what Was happening in Queensland he would know that unemployment is increasing in centres of Queensland that are not greatly affected by the sugar industry. We are particularly concerned at the unemployment in the metal and building trades. The Minister said: it is part of the nature of the problem in Queensland that a number of people, mostly seasonal workers, prefer to seek high earnings for a while and then perhaps go fishing while they become eligible for unemployment benefits.
I have never heard such nonsense before. It is possible that people do have to supplement their unemployment benefits by fishing, and by living on fish, but the people of north Queensland, as the honourable member for Herbert said, are not fools. They would prefer to earn a regular and decent wage than to earn high money for a time and then have to exist on unemployment benefits.
No longer is high money to be earned in the sugar industry. High wages to cane cutters are a thing of the past. With automation intruding more and more into the industry, cane cutters are being replaced each season with cane cutting machines. The honourable member for Lilley described the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) as being somewhat like Pontius Pilate in asking a lot of questions. One question has plagued the honourable member for Oxley for some time, and it has probably plagued Frank Melit too. Nevertheless I pay a tribute to the brothers-in-law of the honourable member for Lilley. They are extremely loyal and I commend them for this. They show an appreciation of their fellow workers. They are not cobber dobbers This is a trait that the honourable member might well commend to one of his colleagues who seems to live in a glass house. While circumstances might have been overlooked in the days of Pitt, they are not overlooked these days. The honourable member for Lilley referred to a story about Jack Duggan and unemployment which has been bandied about the country since 1957. The story is that when the present Liberal-Country Party Government came to office in Queensland it discovered that Jack Duggan had planned to sack 750 railway workers.
– The story is true, too.
– It is true, is it? The Queensland Minister for Transport immediately before the present Government came to power was Mr Tom Moores. If honourable members opposite want to check further on this I suggest that they consult their friend Senator Gair who was Premier of Queensland at that time. Let us look at the attitude of the present Queensland Government towards railway workers. Today in Queensland railway workers are holding mass meetings to discuss unemployment and employment opportunities. In the district of Maryborough-
– Tell us what the railway workers feel about the Labor Party’s intrastate shipping proposals?
– I will deal with that question on the adjournment, if the honourable member for Lilley would like me to do so. I will be very happy to do so. Maryborough is the headquarters of a railway district which embraces Bundaberg and south to Gympie. The Railway Department employs quite a staff at Maryborough but it has proposed the exclusion of the Maryborough district from the expenditure vote and the transfer of certain clerical work from Maryborough to Brisbane. The administrative staff has already put forward a case against this proposal. When we examine the employment figures for Queensland we find that there are far many fewer railway workers now than when the present Government took office.
Reference has been made to employment in the building and metal trades. The depressed condition of the sugar industry may be influencing the amount of work available in the metal trades because as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the sugar mills are not handing out repair and maintenance work which is usually done by the foundries in Bundaberg, Maryborough and Mackay, in the electorate of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The mills are doing quite a lot of this work themselves. Even cane farmers are unemployed. In Maryborough this year we find that sixty-two skilled tradesmen have been paid off. They include boilermakers, moulders, drillers in machine shops - members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union - pattern makers and shipwrights. There is very little prospect of work for them. This is a serious position because many skilled men who are dismissed leave the State looking for work elsewhere. I believe that the Government is not considering this problem seriously.
I want to refer to the wastage of skilled tradesmen. I have been provided with figures covering the last two years which relate to the Boilermakers Society, of which the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Curtin) is a member. In the last two years the Society enrolled 2,887 tradesmen. But at the end of that period it had only 522 more members on its books. These additional members included apprentices, tradesmen or provisional members. There appears to be a considerable wastage of skilled labour in the younger age group - men from twenty to twenty-three years of age. In this House we often speak about the shortage of tradesmen and the need to bring skilled workers to Australia from England. Yet we find that in country areas, particularly in Queensland, skilled tradesmen are being sacked. It is all right to say that they will obtain employment when the sugar season commences. I do not know how many honourable members have ever used a cane knife but I assure them that cane cutting is not easy work. It is not the kind of job that a man in middle age should be taking on. Some men in their fifties are able to do this work, but they have been doing it for years.
I join with my colleagues the honourable members for Brisbane (Mr Cross) and Oxley in saying that the Government does not appreciate the employment position in Queensland. It could help by making money available to building societies, which are crying out for funds, so that men in the building trades could be kept in employment. The building trade has a great effect on the economy of any town, lt not only provides employment for building workers but assists employment in the sawmills, in furniture factories and in industries which manufacture household fittings and the like. I believe that this is something that the Government can do. The Government did act in 1962. I remember ‘Truth’ at that time saying: ‘Take a bow, Queensland. You have delivered a kick to the Federal Government.’ And Queensland did do this.
– 1 want to refer to a matter which was canvassed in an Adelaide newspaper on 13th March and which was mentioned in a television programme on the previous night. I have no criticism of the newspaper. [Quorum formed.] I am indebted to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) for providing me with a larger audience. 1 would like to read briefly from this article because in my opinion it was most damaging to our war effort in Vietnam. Briefly, the article dealt with the situation of a war widow whose husband was killed in February while on active service in Vietnam. The way that this matter was presented suggested that the Commonwealth Government severely neglected widows in these circumstances I Tight say that subsequently the television station concerned gave me the opportunity to correct this impression.
I wish to lay it clearly on the line that the Government does not neglect these people. Amongst other things, this newspaper report stated that the Vietnam war widow is paid $32.15 a week to maintain four children and pay off a war service housing loan. Another phrase was: This was a pittance for the family of a volunteer soldier who has lost his life’. Tha President of the War Widows Guild got into the act and is quoted as having said: ‘The war widows pension has never been adequate’. This type of criticism appeared all the way through the interview reported in this article. 1 think it should be mentioned in the House so that there will be a permanent record of the true situation.
The husband of this particular war widow was a contributor to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund which, as honourable members know, is a superannuation fund for the defence forces. The true situation is that the widow received, in addition to her widow’s pension of $32.15 a week, $40 a week from the Retirement Benefits Fund, bringing the total to $72.15 net a week. Mention should be made of the many fringe benefits that were not referred to in the report. All war widows receive for their children free education all the way through primary and secondary schools and, if necessary, into the tertiary level. This is a real fringe benefit in addition to pension payments, because the cost of educating children is quite stupendous. In addition to paying fees, meeting the cost of books and so on, the children receive education allowances that cun be as high as $15.25 a week at the tertiary level. Moreover, war widows receive free medical and hospital benefits for life or until they re-marry. I realise that money payments and fringe benefits will never take the place of a husband. However, it should be stressed that the Commonwealth Government does everything it possibly can financially to make up for this loss.
The cost of medical and hospital treatment for the lifetime of a family of five is equally tremendous. These services include the cost of dental treatment for the children of a deceased serviceman until they attain the age of sixteen years, or twenty-one years if they are studying at a university. In addition the widow is entitled to free vocational training, and while she is receiving it she is given an allowance to cover fares, books and everything else that goes with it. The widow receives also a funeral allowance and, through the good offices of Legacy, she receives free counselling and advice. Therefore, it should be made quite clear that the report to which I have referred was incorrect. The matter should be clarified here so that anyone in South Australia or anywhere else in the Commonwealth for that matter, may learn the true facts. The soldier in question was a member of the Australian Regular Army. When checking on some figures I found that in 1964 20,000 members of the ARA were contributing to this superannuation fund. 1 estimate Army strength at that time to be approximately 24,000. Last year more than 2,000 - in fact almost 3,000 - pensions were being paid out of this Fund, the total payment being more than $3m for all Services combined as the Fund applies to the members all Services. The 6,000 pensioners were receiving a total of $7m annually, but it is interesting to note that almost $6m of this sum was provided by the Commonwealth.’
In the short time left to me I should like to point to a couple of possible deficiencies in the system. I find the Act a most difficult one to understand. The Government could well consider the situation of Australian Regular Army personnel who are not in the Service for the longer terms. So far as I am aware, little or no provision is made in respect of members of the forces who have enlisted for three years and up to six years. I commend to the Government some study of the position. At the same time I should like to see that the promised investigation is made in regard to our national servicemen. We have an excellent record of treatment of our servicemen and their dependants and I should not like it to be undermined in any way. I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to put this record straight and to .prevent the development of an attitude that might or could affect the morale and reputation of our fighting men. [Quorum formed.]
– I can appreciate the sensitivity of the new member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who is an ex-serviceman, on the important matter of war widows’ pension rates. The honourable member has taken a considerable time apparently to correct a statement made on a television programme and a report printed in a newspaper, in addition to a statement made in the House today; but in so doing he has put the case of a war widow whose late husband was a member of the Australian Regular Army and who contributed to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The honourable member was certainly able to build up a reasonable case to prove that war widows are not neglected, but he did not mention the case of a national serviceman who happens to be killed in Vietnam and whose wife then becomes a war widow. A woman in such circumstances receives the base rate of about $32 a month, compared with average weekly earnings in Australia of approximately $54. There is a big discrepancy between the amount paid to a widow in these circumstances and the family income that she would ordinarily expect had her husband not been killed and had he still been able to provide for her and her children. War widows, and also civilian widows, deserve much more consideration than they have received in the past. In such cases the breadwinner - the husband and father - has been taken from the family. In the case of a war widow, this has occurred in service of our country. To offset this loss the widow receives a miserly pittance in addition to the fringe benefits that certainly are available but which do not add up to adequate compensation for the loss of a father and husband.
I hope that during the Budget session, when the Repatriation Act is being amended to provide a few extra benefits here and there - certainly not magnificent increases in benefits for the dependants of this nation’s ex-servicemen - the new member for Boothby will demonstrate that he is one ex-serviceman on the Government side who will back his principles and words with action by supporting proposals that will undoubtedly come from honourable members on this side of the Mouse. Over a period of years we have tried to have a committee appointed to overhaul the Repatriation Act. In another place a Liberal senator is complaining about the same thing. In the next few months the honourable member for Boothby will have an opportunity to show whether or not he is anxious to do something constructive for the war widows of Australia’s exservicemen.
The matter I rose to speak on concerns telephone services in Australia, particularly those in my electorate. From 1st July next, apparently irrespective of whether or not the Parliament passes the proposed increased rates for telephone, services, higher charges are to be made for them. One of the things that all honourable members are aware of is the shortage of telephones throughout the length and breadth of the land. I do not criticise the efforts of the sales staff and the technicians of the Postal Department who install telephones; rather I criticise the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) and his planners who, over a number of years, have failed to do what should be done to provide adequate telephone facilities in Australia. I hazard the guess that if everybody who wanted a telephone was able to get one, the PostmasterGeneral would not now need to increase telephone charges as he intends to do.
In the electorate of Lang a number of applications for telephones have been outstanding for months. I will refer to the case of a bricklayer in my electorate who applied for a telephone in April 1966. After waiting lor some time and not receiving a telephone he came to me in March 1967. At that time he had been waiting for twelve months to have a telephone installed. I made representations to the Postmaster-General’s Department and, in a letter from the Department dated 4th April 1967, I was advised:
An extensive programme of new cable installation is planned for the area in which Mr . . . resides and the project will be completed in the 1967-68 financial year.
So the Department cannot give this man, who has been waiting twelve months for a telephone, any indication of when it is likely to be installed. He requires a telephone for business reasons. The Department advised me to inform the man that he is likely to get a telephone during the 1967-68 financial year.
Another case involves a home building firm which wanted a telephone in a new workshop and store room. A representative of the firm approached me in February this year and I made representations to the Department on the firm’s behalf. I was told that it would be four to six months before a telephone could be installed. I was requested by the firm to make further representations, which I did in April 1967. Notwithstanding that I had been told in February that it would be four to six months before a telephone could be installed, in April, only two months after my original representations, the Department informed me that something could be done.
Another case in my electorate involves a businessman who operates a delicatessen. He is also District Secretary of the local Boy Scouts Association. So he requires a telephone not only for serai-business reasons - the telephone will be in his new residence - but also in connection with his activities in a community service as District Secretary of the Boy Scouts Association. Representations were made to the Department on behalf of this man in February 1967. On 2nd March 1967 I was advised by the Department:
The equipment necessary to increase the capacity of the Lakemba Exchange will be delivered in the near future and the installation of this plant is scheduled for completion in May of this year.
The establishment of additional telephone services will commence shortly afterwards and, if the envisaged rate of connections can be achieved, tho facility will be available to Mr……….. by July.
So, even if this man pays his money now to the Department, assuming that the Department can keep its promise, two months will elapse before he can obtain a telephone in his residence. This cannot be regarded as efficient operation of a business undertaking. Over a number of years the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been reluctant to install the new equipment and to provide the new works necessary to keep pace with increased demand for telephones and telegraph facilities in Australia. It is of no use the Postmaster-General saying that the Department is doing its best; thousands of people in Australia want telephones. By not providing them the Department is losing an enormous amount of money in rental and local and trunk call charges. It is time the Department did the necessary work in all electorates in Australia, and - as I see a Country Party Minister, the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes), is at the table - particularly in country areas. There is a great demand for telephone facilities. The Department is not keeping pace with the demand.
-Order! It being fifteen minutes to one o’clock, in accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Barnes) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of the question ‘That grievances be noted’ being continued until 2.35 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to talk about container facilities in Australia. I refer to a joint Press statement issued by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) about an investigation into container facilities in Australia. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate this statement in Hansard. It reads:
The Ministers for Trade and Industry and Shipping and Transport today announced that the Government was undertaking a complete investigation of the range of facilities required in Australia to ensure the efficient and effective introduction of container transport systems in Australia’s export and import trades.
The potential benefits of this new system and the progress made by overseas container shipping operators’, the Ministers said, ‘are such that Australia must be able to provide the complete range of facilities required in many of our major trades within two or three years. However, on the evidence at present before Government there appear to be shortcomings in Australian facilities for trades, other than to and from the United Kingdom, which could inhibit the prompt introduction of container operations’.
The Ministers said that the investigation would be carried out by officers of the two Departments with the assistance of the Australian National Line and the National Materials Handling Bureau. It would be aimed not only at uncovering any shortcomings in servicing Australia’s trade as a whole but also in formulating recommendations to the Government as to how resources and skills in Australia could most effectively be marshalled and co-ordinated to meet such shortcomings. ‘In the course of the investigation’, the Ministers continued, ‘discussions will be held with local enterprises associated with container movements to and from Australia. In addition, there will be talks with overseas operators planning container or unit load services with Australia. The objective of the investigation will be to establish authoritatively the complete range of facilities required un an Australia-wide basis to service the planned operations and to suggest the measures necessary to ensure that those facilities are available when and where required.’ The Ministers said that, in fact, understandings had been reached already with the appropriate authorities in Sydney and Melbourne on the availability of areas and facilities.
I support this proposal, which I think is very advantageous for the Commonwealth; but I am concerned at the report which is circulating that the only ports which will have container facilities will be Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle. A recent Press statement indicated that plans were already well advanced and that a large amount of money had already been spent in preparing the port of Fremantle for the future development of container transport. That has been confirmed from other sources. It will be noted that in the last paragraph of the Press statement the Ministers said that, in fact, understandings had been reached already with the appropriate authorities in Sydney and Melbourne on the availability of areas and facilities. In view of this fact, I urge that Brisbane be considered, because it is the third largest city in Australia and it is the capital of a State which has not always received the consideration that is its due. It has already suffered too much by virtue of its geographical disadvantage. It should be included in any programme to provide container ports to serve Australia.
I have heard it stated that arrangements might be made so that States which have not a container port would not be greatly disadvantaged. I cannot accept this without question. I believe that a container port in Queensland - I think Brisbane is the most logical place - is necessary to give that State the standing it deserves. Queensland has been considered big enough not to get grants under section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution; so I suggest that it should be considered big and important enough to justify its having a container port. The potential of the State has been elaborated upon time and time again. [Quorum formed.] The suggestion that it might be advantageous to Australia to have a limited number of ports may not be borne out in fact. I suggest that we could have more container ports in the Commonwealth without disadvantage. The Australian Financial Review5 of Tuesday, 9th May, contained the following observations about container facilities:
Among the many questions containers have stirred is the critical one over the size of ships. Not all believe that the biggest is the best. lt is possible that smaller ships may be just as advantageous or even more advantageous for handling this type of transport. The foregoing statement, made in a newspaper which has no parochial interest in Queensland, indicates that this could be so. I point out, too, that quite recently a Queensland newspaper reported that Senator Ellis Lawrie was conducting a one-man crusade to have a container port set up in Queensland under the new system of handling cargoes to and from Australia. There will be no need for Senator Lawrie to conduct a one-man crusade, as I am quite sure the crusade will be supported not only by me but also by my Queensland colleagues. 1 assure this House that we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to have Queensland brought into line with other States in regard to containerisation and the advantages to be derived from it.
It has been suggested that containerisation will not eventuate for a considerable time. Perhaps we in Queensland will have time to proceed with containerisation, but I emphasise that it has been considered advisable for Fremantle to be on the move already. I hope that every effort will be made to ensure that Queensland receives its just deserts in this regard and that arrangements similar to those which were made in relation to Sydney and Melbourne will be made for Brisbane. I am sure that in the final analysis this will prove to be of advantage to the Commonwealth. If one looks at a map of Australia one sees that Brisbane is only about half-way up the eastern coast. There has been tremendous development in the far north of Queensland. Brisbane will be quite far enough away from that area. I suggest Brisbane because it is the capital of that State. In his statement, Senator
Lawrie said that 330,000 people in Queensland were living more than 400 miles from Brisbane. These people must get the advantage of containerisation. I do not accept the suggestion that arrangements can be made which will give to Queensland the advantages that would otherwise attach to having a container port established. I believe that the prestige of Queensland requires that this facility be provided, at least in its capital city.
– I am glad that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) is here, because I will use my short time on Grievance Day to refer to what happened in the early hours of this morning. As Opposition Whip, I am speaking officially on behalf of the Opposition. Last night the performance of the Government under the direction of the Leader of the House, forced us to sit until 5.10 a.m. On behalf of the Opposition and the people of Australia, I condemn the Government for this action. We were here for more than twenty hours from 9 a.m., when we all arrived for duty, as we did not leave to go home to bed until about 5.15 a.m. This was quite unnecessary. This is the second last week of the sitting, not the last, and there is not an unusually large amount of legislation before us; yet we were forced to sit through until 5.10 a.m. This has happened from time to time in the past. The practice was more prevalent in the early 1950’s than it is now, when late sittings were more frequent - I will agree that they occurred even when a Labor Government was in office. But I thought we had become civilised in this place over the last few years with respect to hours of sitting. I condemn the action taken by the Leader of the House last night as completely unnecessary. I had given to the Government Whip a list of Opposition members who would speak on the Bills remaining for the attention of this House and we had a minimum of speakers. I have had nearly twelve years’ experience as Opposition Whip and I know that we could have got through the remaining legislation without unnecessary difficulty or inconvenience by tomorrow week. Included amongst those Bills were the Supply Bills that we debated in the early hours of this morning. We could have got through all the outstanding legislation without any trouble and we would not have had to sit beyond midnight next Thursday. Nevertheless we were forced to sit here until an ungodly hour this morning, then try to get two or three hours sleep and come back to face another long day.
Last night we debated the bill dealing with increased postal charges and we were prepared to sit beyond midnight to deal with that legislation. It was a controversial measure and we were opposing it, and we agreed to a late sitting to dispose of that Bill. But we thought that 3 a.m., which was the time when the vote on that Bill was taken, would have been late enough for Ais House to sit. There were nineteen speakers in that debate. It started at 8 p.m. and it continued until 3 a.m. That should have been a long enough sitting for anybody. It should have satisfied the most rabid Liberal. But it did not satisfy this new Leader of the House who for ruthlessness has in recent, weeks left Sir Eric Harrison for dead - and he was the champion gagmaster of all time. The new Leader of the House forced us to continue sitting and to debate two Supply Bills from 3 a.m. to 5.10 a.m. Supply Bills of this kind could easily have been left until today. Of the four Supply Bills requiring the attention of this House, two are before us today. The whole four could have been debated today without any serious loss of time, and we could still have assured ourselves of finishing the sessional period next week at a decent time. Eight to ten speakers had to speak on those Bills when all civilised people should have been in bed, in the early hours of this morning.
I repeat that the uncivilised performance by this Government was a disgrace to the institution of Parliament which was not established to debate legislation by exhaustion. It is an insult to our electors, who expect calm and rational debates on legislation coming before this House, to bring in legislation in the early hours of the morning. Not only did the Minister force members to sit here until 5.10 a.m.; dozens of members of the staff of this Parliament were also forced to remain for an hour after we left the place, which would be until 6.10 a.m. They got no sleep at all and had to come back and face at least another fifteen hours in this place.
– And without overtime rates, either.
– That is right. The Hansard reporters also were forced to remain here long after the sitting was suspended at 5.1-0 a.m. The Commonwealth car drivers, the members of the Press gallery and everybody else connected with this place had to stay here to satisfy the whim of this Leader of the House who was determined, by hook or by crook, to get these two Supply Bills through the House this morning.
Not only did the Minister force the Parliament to continue to sit until such an outrageous hour; to add insult to injury he gagged two Opposition members, one of them twice. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) was gagged at about 4 a.m., in the middle of a speech, and even in the middle of a sentence. For sheer discourtesy that beat the band. Then the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), after speaking for two and a half minutes on the case of ex-Sergeant Upston who was dismissed from the Canberra police force, was gagged at 4.34, after the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who wanted to reply at that time to some questions that had been asked in the Committee stage, had indicated that the honourable member for Hunter would be able to follow him. Then at 5.5 a.m. the honourable member for Hunter, during a debate on the second Supply Bill, was gagged after speaking for thirteen minutes on the Upston case, again in the middle of a sentence. This I thought added insult to injury when we were trying to express’ a viewpoint in the Parliament, even though at such a late hour.
We have fifteen Bills to debate between now and the conclusion of this sessional period. We have sorted them out and put them in order and I believe they can be disposed of without undue strain on members of the Parliament or on the staff of the Parliament. We should never carry on a debating marathon after midnight. If the Government had the will and the ability to plan sensibly the legislation that comes before the Parliament we could finish our sittings at sensible times insead of going half way through the night on several nights towards the end of a sessional period.
Members would, I am sure, prefer to come back here for an extra day or two than to sit beyond midnight.
I think we should have an item in the Standing Orders to prevent the Parliament from sitting beyond midnight at any time of the year. In my view the Standing Orders should be altered to allow for us to sit on Tuesdays from 2.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and no later, on Wednesday from 2.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and no later, and on Thursdays from 9.30 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. and no later. That would represent a civilised programme for a civilised Parliament in a civilised country. It is outrageous that we should be debating anything at all after midnight at any time of the year.
I want to make one other comment in conclusion about this bad planning of legislation. It is not always the fault of the Minister or of the Leader of the House, and I am not blaming him for what I am now about to speak of. New Bills should not be introduced four sitting days before the end of a sessional period, as has been done on this occasion. I personally am so completely opposed to debating legislation after midnight that in future I will not cooperate with the Government beyond that time on any occasion whatsoever while I am the Labor Party’s Whip. So far as 1 am concerned every minute of sitting beyond midnight will be under protest from the Opposition, and anything we can do to embarrass the Government after that time we will do because we believe it is outrageous that in a twentieth century Parliament we should be required to sit beyond midnight. I make a protest on behalf of all members of this Parliament whether they belong to the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Labor Party, and I hope the Minister in charge of the House will never again do what he did to this Parliament and its members last night. We all have heavy programmes on every weekend, and to expect us to sit here until such an outrageous time this morning, especially after our experience last week when we got to bed no earlier than 12.30 a.m. on any sitting day, is not fair to members, especially those who have to travel long distances and spend the whole of the weekend keeping appointments and attending functions. I protest most sincerely. Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of all of us.
– I shall detain the House for no more than two minutes, Mr Acting Speaker. The attack which the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has made upon the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) is completely unjustified. Let me say this to the honourable gentleman and to those who may share his point of view: Last night was the first really late sitting that we have had since this session began.
– What do you call late?
– Anything going beyond 1 a.m. No-one wants to sit here until ten past five in the morning gasping with excitement. This, of course, is unreal. But we had a tremendous programme to meet. For my friend who poses - I regret the word poses’ and will say that I understand the honourable member is a minister of religion. What a thoroughly uncharitable attitude for him to adopt Let me say this to the honourable member: It was no wish of the Leader of the House that we should sit here until ten past five. There was a heavy programme to be faced. I invite my friend to point to one other evening in this session when we have had anything to debate which approached the urgency and importance of’ what was before us last night. I hope that the honourable member and his colleagues opposite will realise that the attitude that they are apparently determined to adopt is most unhelpful and will do nothing to facilitate the business of the House.
-Order! The extended time allowed for the grievance debate has expired. I therefore put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received from the Senate a message intimating that the Senate has considered message No. 30 of the House of Representatives and has agreed to the following resolutions in connection therewith:
The Senate has requested concurrence of the House of Representatives in the Senate’s modification of the resolution transmitted to the Senate by the House.
Debate resumed from 2 May (vide page 1615), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– These two Supply Bills differ from the two Appropriation Bills that we debated yesterday. The Appropriation Bills were necessary to provide for expenditure which had been unexpected at the time the Budget was brought down. On the other hand, Supply Bill (No. 1) and Supply Bill (No. 2) enable supply to continue when this House adjourns, as it will within a week or so, until August. The Bills allow supply to be granted from 1st July 1967 to the end of November, a period of five months.
To a great extent, these Bills represent only five-twelfths of the expenditure provided for in the last Budget for the full previous financial year, subject of course to one or two modifications that have been foreseen in advance. Firstly, I suggest that there certainly ought to have been some modification of the Post Office expenditure if the measure that we passed last night is to be justified. I do not want to go into that at the moment. I begin by saying that there is no doubt that these two measures are money Bills. There seems to be some difference of opinion both inside and outside this House as to what in fact money bills are. I think it is important that we should endeavour to clarify this matter, because it seems that it has been made an issue outside this House. A statement was made outside the House yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when it could have been made, and in my view, should have been made, in the House. The Prime Minister indicated that it was a well regulated matter of British constitutional practice that the House of Representatives or the lower House should have full command of financial matters. That may be a matter of practice in some places where the provisions of the Constitution are either unwritten, as they are in the case of Great Britain, or are written differently, as is the case in some other countries; but it is certainly not the practice so far as Australia is concerned. I would like the House to look at section 53 of the Australian Constitution. Indeed, I think every honourable member ought to examine it carefully. That section, which governs this position, states:
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate.
That is not a matter of opinion but is a constitutional requirement. Then there is a rider, and it is these following words which govern the situation here, irrespective of British practice, as the Prime Minister chose to call it. The section goes on to say:
But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
In other words, certain measures, provided they are taxation measures, can originate only here, and certain provisions apply to them; but a Bill that imposes a charge, as did the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, is not a money Bill in terms of the definition of this section. What is important next is the relationship that applies between the two Houses in respect of the first form of Bill only, that is, a Bill appropriating revenue or moneys. Such a Bill can originate only here. The Senate has certain limited powers which are also defined as follows:
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate, by its own zeal, has often been able to separate certain Bills which undoubtedly otherwise would have been money Bills, on the grounds that they did not relate to the ordinary annual services of the country; in other words, that they were for capital works rather than for day to day affairs. The Senate has been able to take unto itself certain rights in respect of Bills that otherwise might have been regarded as money Bills. 1 am sorry sometimes that this House has not defined this position more strongly in its own interests, but it has not. It has allowed the Senate to take some initiative in this respect which otherwise it might not have done. The section continues:
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
Even in respect of charges, the only power the Senate has is to reject them. It has no power to change them. Section 53 goes on to say:
The Senate may at any time return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting -
And we had a request of this nature a few moments ago - by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
I suggest that both Houses should note the final part of section 53, which provides:
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Yesterday the Prime Minister by implication suggested that the stand taken by the Australian Labor Party with respect to the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was contrary to constitutional usage. He referred to British constitution usage. If he had read the section closely, he would have seen that he could not have said ‘Australian’ because the section does not so provide. He tried to suggest that certain honourable members on this side of the House were changing their views because they were now sanctioning what he chose to regard as a money Bill. The Bills we are considering now, the Supply Bills, are undoubtedly money Bills. I do not think that anybody would question that that is so. If there was any doubt yesterday as to whether the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was a money Bill, it was encumbent on the Tresurer to say that it was. But of course it cannot be a money bill because of the provision of section 53. It is not a taxing Bill; it is a Bill imposing rates for the use of certain services provided by a public utility.
Consistency is at least a virtue, although sometimes it is regarded as one of the smaller virtues. It was sought to suggest that we on this side of the House were inconsistent because of the way we proposed to treat the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. The Prime Minister, it seemed to me, relied on the fact that we had said - I do not deny this was said and I believe it was the truth when it was said - that in essence the Post Office is being turned into a taxing machine. Nevertheless, that still does not make the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill a money Bill. I would hope that some day the question of defining money Bills will be faced in the Australian constitutional situation. I believe that Bills that are properly money Bills ought to be the sole prerogative of this House. I have said that here before and I do not deny it. However, until the section of the Constitution is amended, it is left for anybody to attempt to mislead the public - it seems to me that that is being done here - into believing that something that is being done one way is in fact an example of something else. To my mind that is a highly misleading process and can only bring the constitutional machinery of this country into disrepute.
We of the Australian Labor Party oppose the increased charges made in the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill because we believe that they have not been justified and that an adequate explanation of them has not been given. We would have opposed them in this House if they had been in the form of a money Bill. That may have left some doubt as to what would be done in another place. However, the increased charges were not proposed in the form of a money Bill; they were proposed in the form of a charges Bill and such a Bill is not solely within the right of this House to originate. Had the Postmaster-General been a member of the Senate, the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill could have been brought down in the Senate. As an honourable member said yesterday, the late Senator Cameron who, of course, was a member of the other place, undoubtedly brought down postal rates Bills in that place. But as it stands at the moment the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill in terms of section 53 can be rejected by the Senate. The Senate does not have the same right of amendment. If certain other people not of the Australian Labor Party choose to identify themselves with the Australian Labor Party on the merits of this issue, they may do so. But it seems to me to be a rather peculiar political inversion that a party with two members in a place where at least thirty are required to negative a motion can claim that somehow it is responsible for the whole process. However, this issue is irrelevant. The members of the DLP in another place can decide on this measure in any way they like. We have taken our stand in this House and we will take the same stand on the same party lines in another place.
To my mind it is mischievous for the Prime Minister, the Postmaster-General, (Mr Hulme), some other Ministers and certain backbench members to suggest that the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill is a money Bill. It is not a money Bill. If they want to change the usages, I will go along with them in trying to secure the necessary constitutional amendment. But until that amendment is made I will, as much as anybody else in this place, defend the rights of the Senate. Some of those who have claimed to defend the rights of the Senate did not do so in the last Parliament on the question of the Repatriation Bill. This again was a Bill which the Senate historically had the right to originate. For most of the time since the First World War, Ministers for Repatriation have been in the Senate and legislation has originated there. There had never been any question of this. But because the will of the Government was thwarted, it took action that was unprecedented in my view in the constitutional relations of the two Houses. It turned what had been a non-money Bill into a money Bill by the insertion of a particular clause.
Whether that is clever constitutional usage or tactics I set to one side on this occasion. The point I wish to make is that the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was not put in the form of a money Bill; it was put in the form of a charges Bill. The wording of section 53 is specific enough. The Senate has the full right to reject the Bill if it wants to do so. If on the other hand the Government wants to turn it into a money Bill, some of its clever people may find a way out, as they did with the Repatriation Bill. But now it is suggested that the additional charges can be imposed by regulation. I am not so sure that this is so. But if this can be done by regulation, it merely adds more weight to the argument that the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill cannot in any circumstances be construed as a money Bill. I hope the Government will not fly in the face of propriety to the extent of attempting to impose these charges by regulation if it is thwarted in the Senate. It will have to lick its wounds until the Budget comes along and then incorporate the charges as part of the whole Budget. Both Houses will then be left to decide whether the whole financial measures in the Budget should be rejected. But here the Government is attempting by a back door method, as it were, to write the Budget in advance of the proper time, and I think it has rightly paid the consequences.
In certain other British constitutional places the question of money bills is different. Sometimes I think it is rather unfortunate that the Australian Constitution was written in 1901 instead of 1911. If the Constitution had been written in the light of the amendments which were made to the relations between, the House of Commons and the House of Lords in 1911, I am sure that section 53 of the Constitution would have been very much different from the section we now have. I am sure it would then have been acknowledged that the House of Representatives should have been paramount so far as finance was concerned. But the section was not written that way; it was written in what was the strict letter of the law rather than he practice of constitutional convention in the British system in 1900.
As far back as the 1850s in Great Britain all financial measures were simply put into one vast revenue called the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This threw the onus on oppositions either to reject in toto the programme of the government or to accept it. They were not able to nibble at it bit by bit. Prior to this there was a time when, for example, a separate salt tax was brought in by a separate measure. The salt tax might have amounted- only to a few hundred thousand pounds and no-one thought it mattered much if that financial measure was rejected. But once the sail tax was tied to income tax, to probate, to estimates for the .Postmaster-General’s Department and other financial measures the salt tax involving perhaps £100,000 could not be rejected without rejecting, perhaps, £100m. That is the situation that should exist in any well ordered, modernised, streamlined parliamentary system, but it is not the practice which operates in Australia, lt cannot operate because section S3 is written as it is. Until that section is changed, whether the Government likes it or not or whether the Opposition likes it or not, we have to live with the situation as we find. it. Therefore I suggest that the Prime Minister and any other Minister or back bencher ought not try to turn into a money Bill what is in fact not a money Bill but is a measure imposing a charge over which both Houses have equal rights, at least to reject if not always to initiate.
I have chosen this opportunity to put this on record because the Prime Minister outside the House yesterday joined my name in this controversy. If anyone likes to look back on the pages of Hansard over about fifteen years they will find several instances where I have stated my views on money Bills. I still hold those views, but I also bold that this Parliament is not a Parliament of one House - it is a Parliament of two Houses, each of which has certain defined rights. I will fight to preserve my rights here and I will fight also, where 1 can, to preserve the rights of the other place for as long as it continues in its present constitutional form.
– Unless I happen to be personally attacked or otherwise provoked - verbally, that is - this will be my last speech in this chamber, although having a sentimental streak as wide as this practical world will allow I shall be around until the shutters are put up at the end of the session next week. [Quorum formed.] The concern shown by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) in calling for a quorum follows a touching incident at 3.30 o’clock this morning when many honourable members came to me and asked whether I intended to make my speech. I was deeply touched until I found that it was not a case of their wanting me to make my speech but one of dread that I was going to make it.
When I first walked into the Speaker’s Gallery I was escorted by the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Joseph Lyons, in April 1932. I entered the Parliament as the representative of the electorate of Corio on 22nd February 1950 and I had the very great privilege of moving the AddressinReply. 1 was conceded, on that occasion, a very wide range of subjects and in this Bill I am claiming, on this last occasion, a similar indulgence. More than seventeen years have elapsed since that, for me, most memorable day. It was with interest and some nostalgia that I recently read over the words that I spoke then as an enthusiastic political tyro. One particular statement struck a responsive chord. So many hopes and ambitions fall by the wayside as we follow our political paths, so many conclusions and theories which we had in our idealistic days are shattered by changing circumstances and the material and monetary problems which face those whose task it is to convert projects into legislative practice that it is gratifying to realise that some verbal expressions have become practical realities.
I can recollect having a strong antipathy to the bitterness and hatreds which were permeating the immediate post war relations between employer and employee - the head on collision between them, the strikes, the lockouts, the loss of production, the resultant shortages and the constant irritations and the direct aggression of Communism. I said then:
It is evident from the speech of the GovernorGeneral that the Government proposes to do everything it can to promote understanding and tolerance between employers and employees so that they will form a team for the better development of Australia.
I had sufficient reason to draw attention to this. In 1948 there were 1,662,686 calendar man-days lost. In 1949 1,333,990 days were lost. By 1965 it was 815,869 and in ‘1966 it was down to 670.000 - almost a third of the peak period of 1948. lt must be considered also that the population in 1948 was approximately 7i million. Today it is approximately 1H million. So the proportion per head of working population is very much more in favour of today than those figures would indicate. We are a much better people for this. We do, though, retain the human prerogative of complaining, irrespective of the better conditions and easier living compared with those more difficult times. But this very alteration in our social structure in turn has brought its fungus growths which are proving more deadly as time moves on and our prosperity remains at such high levels.
Young people, particularly, today have avenues of temptation for leaving the normal path of good conduct to an extent never experienced before. Higher wages, personal transport and shorter hours are creating problems quite unanticipated as we worked towards what all felt were most desirable objectives. But with every privilege there is a penalty and, as our privileges grow, the penalties become more obvious. I refer to the bashings, the beatings, vandalism, robberies, the evidence of excess drinking and the later and more frightening drug traffic which has emerged from small shadowy hidden regions into the full publicity glare of exposures revealing its infiltration into ever widening sectors of our community. There is no one specific protection against these undesirable things that have insinuated themselves into the fabric of our society but there are avenues which, perhaps, could be exploited more emphatically as a wholesale counter balance against these undesirable developments.
One area that could be better expanded is in the field of sport. I know that we have a reputation as a great sports-loving nation and I know that every so often we produce someone who can be matched with the best in the world, but a wide and vast country like Australia has great’ handicaps for those who wish to pursue sporting pastimes on an Australia wide basis. Competition is the basis for higher performances in all phases of our lives and while I realise the desirability of making provision, as through the National Fitness Council, for the less spectacular physical exercises which will develop health and strength, nevertheless it is the inspiration and example of top flight world class athletes that establish an example for younger Australians to follow.
During my years in Parliament I have hesitated to mention what 1 intend now to propose, because it would have been perhaps inferred that I was a much too interested party. However, now that I am departing from this arena of verbal contest, 1 feel more free to say that it would be timely to have, as in some other countries, a Minister for Sport not engaged in that function alone but attached to another portfolio. For years various sporting bodies have been urging me to express this view. I feel that I would be recreant to them and to my agreement with their proposals if I did not register this suggestion prior to my leaving. I do not wish to overemphasise the value of sport, but there must be in this day and age constant portrayals of the value of good living, the ability to apply oneself and the willingness to sacrifice to achieve a particular goal, which is so obvious in sport.
It was with interest last week that I read remarks of a person who deprecated the character building effects of sport. I challenge the statements he made and I recall, how, many years ago when I was on the threshold of sport in France, in a Parisian newspaper I read words that are still very real to me. They were:
Sport is not just a game, in the sense in which the word is generally used. It is not a banal pastime, a simple distraction. When one is engaged in a fierce struggle with a rival, or against time or distance, one is also battling implacably and in secret with moral forces against cowardice and laziness. It is that which enobles sport.
One cannot triumph without suffering, one cannot win laurels without .meriting them. A prime requisite for the athlete is that he should know how to suffer. A victory on the road, on the track or in the ring is the corollary of another victory won by force of energy and will power.
The easy life, the congenial climate, the sweetness of the air, make the idea of suffering repugnant. Naturally the men who win battles in the arenas or on the road are those who have been reared in the hard school of necessity, who know the weakness of the flesh, and know that life’s prizes are to be won only by the sweat of the brow. These virtues are sometimes attributed to racial qualities as if they were inborn, and as if suffering had not for all the same bitterness.
I believe that to be a perfectly correct and inspiring assessment of the ingredients in sport which operate to the benefit of the individual’s mental and physical development. Sport should be assisted within Australia to make it more easy for States to engage one another in competition. Western Australians and Queenslanders, for instance, suffer great disabilities from the overhead costs of travel. Internationally, too, we are financially handicapped, and some form of subsidy to enable regular competition between top performers - individuals and teams - would raise interest among young people, because of the regular high rating of the competitors. In Europe, with distances so comparatively short, meetings between the top athletes of each country are routine but progressive features.
This is not an entirely novel suggestion. England gave direct exchequer assistance to sport and recreation, other than in educational establishments, amounting to £1,224,000 in 1965-66, and in Northern Ireland over £160,000 in grants was given for sports facilities and coaching schemes. The United Kingdom Government is not directly concerned with the organisation or promotion of sport as such, but it has assumed responsiblity for providing encouragement, guidance and help. The Commonwealth Jubilee Year in 1951 indicated how a government could co-ordinate sporting associations and stimulate sporting activity and organisation on an Australia wide basis. I recollect Norma Thrower and Betty Cuthbert as schoolgirl competitors in the school championships at Hobart. The sporting activity on that occasion was of tremendous value and the performances of these girls were inspiring. France and Luxembourg have Ministers for Health and Sports, and while I would not wish to suggest any formula that would enable Mrs X to approach her Federal member because her son Johnny had been left out of the 100 metres hurdle team, I feel that in view of the changing circumstances in our world some attention could, with merit, be granted to this matter. From the money allocated by the Government and spent on sport and in establishing liaison between Australian and overseas teams and our Department of Trade, there could be some recouping of Government outlay on sport through recip rocal publicity of our products and through successful competition. This is not a novel suggestion.
I do not say, as has been .said so often, that athletes are of greater value to a country than politicians. Athletes and the publicity they attract, are of tremendous value to Australia. However, people do not go and buy jam, fruit and the other products of a country simply because a team has been successful in the Davis Cup, unless there is a reciprocal arrangement with the country to which we want to sell goods. Athletes do not tie up trade agreements and financial arrangements between countries. While no-one would take away from athletes the merits of their performances and the publicity value of them to Australia, it is necessary for there to be reciprocal publicity between countries to secure the best returns.
The main point of my submission is that when it is revealed that what has been carried out so effectively in one area in the administration of a country has produced some regrettable by-products in its wake, then we must look for counter balances which may appear somewhat extreme and at variance with our thinking of a decade ago.
So far I have outlined a prospect for the future to decide, and now I should like to look in retrospect as objectively as possible over my parliamentary years. There is some pride in having been associated during these years with some of the most progressive developments in Australian history. While in the Ministry of Shipping and Transport 1 witnessed the commencement of the standardised line from Kwinana to Kalgoorlie and the spur line to the iron ore town of Koolyanobbing. The Australian Road Safety Council was reconstituted and the Point Wilson explosives pier of one and three-quarter miles - one of the longest in the world - was completed. In 1961 and 1962 construction was approved of $l3m worth of Australian built vessels, the ‘Empress of Australia’, ‘Jeparit’, and ‘Musgrave Range’, while the lighthouse services received three new long-overdue vessels, to replace the very old vessels with which this very essential service had been carried out in such a magnificent fashion.
When mentioning the Immigration portfolio, honourable members will excuse me for referring particularly to my visit abroad in 1965 when the agreements were signed with Malta, Germany and Holland. Probably one’s pride and faith in Australia can never be higher than when one is overseas and hears what is said by the personalities of other nations about the respect and regard which they have for Australia. Therefore I had an outstanding sense of satisfaction and privilege in signing these agreements on behalf of Australia. In Germany 1 heard reference to the never ceasing gratitude of the German people for Australia’s action in taking the first refugees after World War If. Perhaps one of the “most progressive and appreciated steps taken while I held the Immigration portfolio was the relaxation of the naturalisation period for Asians. This and other alterations with which honourable members are familiar meant much to thousands of people related by birth and marriage but separated by regulation.
Some of my recollections, I must admit, are not quite so pleasant. I learned !hat big business tycoons can stretch the truth to such an extent that Ananias would be grepared to take correspondence lessons from them. While they expect and demand the maximum of service and detail from departments, they reserve the right to be dilatory and inefficient in their own dealings. When thwarted, even though they are aware that it is because of Government policy, they have no compunction about declaring electoral war on an individual. Big men ran be as petulant and as cruel as children in school yards. My most unfortunate experience of this was when the then Prime Minister, now Sir Robert Menzies, many years ago when I was Government Whip, required a complete meeting of the Ministry on a particular date and therefore was unable to attend a big sporting event at which he was to have been guest speaker. He nominated me to take his place. I objected as well as one could to one’s Prime Minister. Few honourable members in this House would wish to substitute for such a world famous weaver of words. However, after assurances by the organisers that they completely understood the situation, I duly attended. There were about 600 people present and, being an international affair it was covered by radio and television services. Imagine how 1 felt when, with a State Governor on one side and a world famous business magnate on the other - both with their names on the programme - 1 found that the hidden pique had revealed itself and although three weeks notice had been given my name was not even on the programme. I had an introduction which was as cold as that accorded to a Chinese delegation visiting the Kremlin, and no reference was made as to why the Prime Minister was not present. I will always remember this as the nightmare of my political life. Unfortunately I did not wake up to find that it was just a bad dream.
In the last few minutes I want to say a few words about my parliamentary colleagues. I want to say this without any reservation: Irrespective of what is written about the Australian politician, irrespective of what is said about him and irrespective of his party or policy, he is in the toughest and most exacting occupation in Australia. For the number of hours he works and travels, for the responsibility he carries, for the persistency of calls upon him at all times, and for the overheads he faces each month, he is underpaid. I want to assure honourable members that during my sporting life I was often bone tired and right down to what appeared to be the last drop of energy - when competing, say, in the Tour de France. But it was a healthy exhaustion from which one recovered with vigour and strength. In those days I was never so utterly fatigued, unhealthily fatigued, and devoid of enthusiasm and ambition, as I have been after weeks of incessant sittings of this House, and travelling to and from it. Well that is the system and we accept the system; we are part of it. It is regarded as a way of life. But the most discouraging thing is that, despite this conscientious and arduous service, the life of a politician is held up to public gaze as - to use the Italian phrase - the sweet life. The feeling is similar to that experienced by a cyclist plugging up a hill when somebody grabs the back of the saddle.
As a Minister. 1 had the privilege of the use of a government car but I found it necessary for my wife and myself to drive our own cars. Very few members can manage with one car if they diligently represent their electorates. I extracted figures from my cheque book which indicated that in two years S3. 360 was spent on our own vehicles. I hesitate to think what car costs are to a private member with a large electorate. No one can persuade me - and I am speaking objectively now - that with the growth of the population and the spreading of electorates there is no justification for an expansion in the number of members in the House of Representatives. In case that remark should be misconstrued, I say that there should be an increase in the number of members in this House in order that the work of representing the Australian people can be done adequately.
I leave this House, as one should, with regret. It would be wrong to be leaving it without regret because this would mean that the life of a member of Parliament has become too much for me and that I have been living against it and resisting it. I leave the Parliament with great regret but proud to have been one of the 579 members who have served in this House since Federation. I also leave it with a great sense of privilege for I will now be serving the interests of Australia in the gallant little George Cross Island of Malta. If I am a sentimentalist, I am a realist also. I have seen many members of greater stature than myself leave this House and time and the incessant pressure of work have erased them from our memories unless we go through the ‘Parliamentary Handbook’. To my mind this compares with having nails in a tyre. Some protrude more than others but when they are removed there is not much more sign of one than another. But the member who leaves can never forget the House; I shall never forget it.
To my constituents in Corio, who have supported me so loyally for seventeen years, I must extend my grateful thanks. I want to say that, despite the clashes of opinion that take place at elections, one is always received cordially and with genuine friendship in the electorate of Corio.
Every member realises that if he did not have a splendid helpful partner he could never adequately cope with the strain of a political life; nor would his electorate have the same thorough representation. On this occasion I would like to have recorded in Hansard an appreciation of the never flag- ging efforts of my wife. To the officials and attendants of Parliament House I want to express my thanks also. To my splendid departmental staffs, to my loyal personal staff - all of whom have given the extra miles on my behalf - I am eternally grateful. To my one-time fellow Ministers I want to say that from the Prime Minister down, apart altogether from politics, they are the most maligned and misunderstood of all men in public life. Frequently this is due to spectacular coverage being sought more diligently than relevant and detailed facts. Whether or not the results of Minister’s efforts are received with approval by all, my personal knowledge leads me to state with emphasis that they inevitably work with a maximum of effort and a minimum of time because of the never ceasing pressure of an ever expanding country. I assure members on both sides of the House that any committee with a reasonable proposal or any individual with a logical point of view to express has far more consideration given to a request than may be believed by some members of the House. Government by the Executive is far less a reality than is surmised.
To honourable members on both sides of the House 1 express sincere respect. I must say to the Opposition that, although I do not favour its policy any more now than when I came into the Parliament, 1 now like many Opposition members personally much more than I did, and I think I can part on terms of real friendship with many of them and without enmity towards any of them. In these last words of mine may I ask of you all that whatever action you may contemplate taking in your political representation, you will regard the interests of Australia always as paramount to your own? Thank you.
– -Honourable members and the public in the galleries have listened with great interest to the last speech made in this Parliament by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Opperman). His speech has gone down on the official record, and I am sure thai for many years to come it will be looked upon as one of the most sincere speeches ever to be uttered in this Parliament. The honourable member came into this House with a reputation as a national and an international sportsman. I believe that because of his great qualities in the sporting field he was able to win the affection of all members of the Opposition. During my seven years in the Parliament I have never heard a member on this side of the House speak derogatorily of the honourable member for Corio. This great Australian is to leave Australia to become the first Australian High Commissioner in Malta. I feel that I can speak on behalf of all honourable members in wishing him well. Also we wish his wife well and we wish him success in his high and important office as High Commissioner in Malta. We hope that from time to time we will see him either when we are overseas carrying out our parliamentary duties or when he returns home on leave.
I associate myself with the remarks made earlier today by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), the Whip of my party. His criticism of the Government for stifling debate in the early hours of the morning was justified. It was not the wish of the Opposition that we should sit after midnight but, having been defeated in a vote, we then agreed to take part fully in the following debates. However, in the early hours of the morning we were rather brutally stifled from saying much of what we wanted to bring before the House. My purpose in rising again today is to continue the remarks that I was making in the early hours of this day about what I might describe as culpable injustice meted out to a most worthy, forthright and upright Australian, ex-Sergeant Upston of the Australian Capital Territory Police.
When the honourable member for Corio was addressing the House he said: ‘Big men can be so treacherous and cruel’. Those words might well be employed by me in what I am about to say. Earlier I complimented the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) on his persistence and his wonderful fight on behalf of ex-Sergeant Upston. This man of sterling qualities, under threat of dismissal from the Australian Capital Territory Police, was called upon to resign. Suddenly, when without legal representation, and after being away for several weeks in Queensland with the Citizen Air Force, he was called to the office of the Acting Com missioner of Police. Among his many qualifications this man holds the honourable rank of a Pilot Officer in that Force. On returning home he was summoned to the office of the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner said to him: ‘I want your resignation or you will have to be dismissed’. The sergeant had to make up his mind what he would do within a few moments. He knew that if he did not resign and was dismissed, he would have little hope of receiving his superannuation, which amounted to $1,000. Sergeant Upston is a married man with two children, one of whom unfortunately has a serious heart complaint.
Early this morning I began to tell honourable members of this officer’s qualifications but due to the limited time available to me then I could not fully expound his great qualities. I now intend to record more of his attributes, which were accepted by the Chairman of the Police Arbitral Tribunal, Mr Findlay, when Sergeant Upston successfully appealed against the promotion of six other members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force over him. The sergeant, who is not a man of wealth, defended himself on this occasion with great skill and eloquence. When addressing the tribunal he said:
I have also carried out the duties of a Process Server, both serving local and interstate summonses, making inquiries of a discreet nature and the execution of Warrants of Committment.
Owing to the rapid increase of this force,-
I might add that he was referring to the A.C.T. Force - much of my time has been in charge of or supervising junior personnel, to whom I have acted in all ways as a guide and tutor. To give a recent example is when damage was caused by fire to the C.S.I. R.O. Building Acton. I was called upon by the Inspector in Charge of General Duties to assist a junior Constable in the inquiry and compilation of a Fire Report, although this junior Officer had previously received the assistance of two Sergeants and a Senior Constable. My advice and furtherance of this matter was acceptable to this Officer.
Before the formation of the A.C.T. Water Police Branch, I was, because of my experience, selected by the Superintendent of Police to take charge of the provided equipment, boats, motors, tackle, etc., and my advice was sought as to the suitable personnel to fill that Branch. My recommendations were accepted.
As I pointed out earlier today, I believe that if Sergeant Upston were still in the
Police Force, he would be the only qualified coxswain in the Force. Sergeant Upston continued his submission in this way:
I have always served the A.C.T. Police in an active manner which has resulted in the successful prosecution of cases both in the Court of Petty Sessions and the Supreme Court of the A.C.T. These cases include break, enter and steal, stealing and other crimes normally investigated by Plain Clothes Police.
I have received letters of commendation for rescuing a mentally deranged man from the scaffolding of a five-storey building, a small lad, from the flooded Molonglo River, rescuing the crews of yachts that had capsized in a storm on Lake George and two youths who were washed to sea at Mossy Point, New South Wales.
Since February, 1962, I have on many occasions, during the days off, sickness and annual leave, relieved the Sergeant in Charge of shifts in the Enquiry Office and the latest occasion was November, 1964. This has kept me abreast of the latest instructions and duties pertaining to the supervision of shifts and in the handling of all types of public inquiry and Police procedure.
I have always been complimented by my superiors and the general public of my dress, friendliness and bearing when off or on duty. My reports on Police work have been read and displayed on parade states also my official notebook, this book, because of its neatness, conciseness and legibility has been used as a guide to junior officers and complimented upon by Judges and Magistrates.
These facts I submit, Sir, are evidence of my thought and concern for doing my duties in a more than correct manner. Although I submit that the aforementioned depicts some of the reasons that should showI am at least equal, if not superior to the officers promoted over me I wish to draw your attention to the following and that which is listed and attached as an Annexure ‘A’.
I have relieved in the rank of Sergeant Third Class for a period of seven and a half months since February, 1962, until as recent as last month, November 1964. This I submit is in complete contradiction to such qualities as stated in the Commissioner’s reply to my reasons of which I was passed over.
That evidence was presented by ex-Sergeant Upston to the Police Arbitral Tribunal. When the Sergeant decided to call witnesses to support his appeal, the Chairman of the Tribunal said that he did not want to hear them; he was satisfied with the Sergeant’s claim that he should be promoted on the basis of his seniority and that other men junior in service to him should not be promoted over him.
Ex-Sergeant Upston has received a number of very worthy character references to which I will refer. The first is from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr A. K. Healy, who states:
I have known Mr Charles Upston for the past fifteen years. In my association with him, officially and socially right throughout that period he has impressed me and my close friends as a gentleman of high principle and a conscientious and efficient Police Officer.
The next reference is from Air Commodore F. W. Lukis, who at the time of giving the reference in 1956 was manager of the Canberra branch of Australian National Airways Pry Ltd. Air Commodore Lukis stated:
This is to certify that I have known Mr Charles James Upston for the past four years. He is a Police Constable stationed at Canberra.
Mr. Upston has come under my notice on many occasions when he has been on duty at official functions held at foreign Diplomatic Legations, the Opening of Parliament, etc. I have particularly noticed that he is always very well turned out, and is alert, courteous and helpful to the public on these occasions.
I also know that Mr Upston, when off duty, takes considerable interest in the community life of this city. He is one of the coaches in the learn to swim’ campaign, and assists at football matches for charity and other sporting features of a similar nature.
Mr Upston is an ex member of the R.A.A.F. and I know that he is a motor mechanic of considerable skill, and is the holder of a trade certificate.
He still takes a considerable interest in Air Force activities and has discussed Air Force developments with me in an intelligent and interested manner. 1 know he is still anxious to assist in Air Force activities on the Active Reserve and in my opinion he would be an enthusiastic and useful member if selected, particularly on the ground transport side, in which he hits had a good deal of experience.
Another reference is from Mr H. C. Avent, Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. He states:
I understand that Constable C. J. Upston of the Canberra Police Force is an applicant for admission to the ‘Active Reserve’ of the R.A.A.F. more particularly in the capacity of Technical Transport Officer.
Mr Upston, an ex.member of the R.A.A.F. has been known personally to me for a period of 6-7 years, during which he has been employed first as a Coach Captain with Pioneer Tours followed by service in the Canberra Police Force for close on six years.
I have been in a position to observe Constable Upston over a period of several years. In the performance of his duties as a member of the Police Force he has been impartial, honest and discreet. At the various official functions I have attended, his demeanour and dress, whether on or off duty, have been all that could be desired.
He is known to take a personal pride in community and home life and altogether, impresses as being what a good citizen ought to be.
Mr Upston is a qualified motor mechanic holding a trade certificate. It is of interest too that he is at present Police Road Safety Lecturer for the A.C.T. Police Force.
I feel sure that Mr Upston’s personal qualities together with his experience and trade qualifications would fit him well for the position sought or any other position calling for these attributes.
I commend his application accordingly. This is the man who, for the most flimsy reasons, had the gun held against his head by the Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr Powley, who demanded his resignation on threat of instant dismissal.
– Because of personal vindictiveness. As a former member for twentyfour and one half years of the New South Wales Police Force, I would be proud to call most officers of that force father, but occasionally you meet a vindictive officer who has no scruples about squashing his subordinates, particularly those who have been successful in appeals against his decisions to promote officers of lower seniority over a man of the outstanding qualities of this dedicated Australian, ex-Sergeant Upston.
– Is it a case of personal animosity?
– Of course, and vindictiveness. No wonder unions developed in the community for the protection of the workers. As I said in the early hours of this morning, the police force does not have a union as we know unions, because it is a semi-military body. Its members work under a strict form of discipline. Such discipline is necessary but at times it borders on cruelty. Some officers entrusted with disciplinary powers do not know how to enforce discipline. I know what a firm disciplinarian the New South Wales Commissioner of Police is, but knowing all the facts in this case, I am sure that ex-Sergeant Upston would never have been asked to tender his resignation or face instant dismissal had he been a member of the New South Wales Police Force and not a member of the force in Canberra administered by Commissioner Powley.
– Could some sinister mind be behind all this?
– That is so. Another reference of ex-Sergeant Upston’s character is from Mr M. S. Nordsvan. who writes: 1 have known Senior Constable C. J. Upston since about 1951. 1 have been concerned in many public activities in Canberra in past years and I have constantly come into contact with members of the Police Force. In these activities I have had many contacts with Constable Upston both in his official capacity and in private life. I have always found him polite, considerate and extremely helpful particularly in his dealings with the public.
I also claim to know Constable Upston reasonably intimately as I served on the jury for the Nicholls retrial and he was one of our escort officers.
That reference is to Nicholls the sadistic murderer in Canberra of a sleeping receptionist. He had a criminal record extending over about twenty-five years. Of Nicholls it could well be said that he should have hit the hemp; in other words he should have been hanged. The reference continues:
You cannot be associated with a man as closely as we were for five days without getting to know him. Many of the jury were not very happy at being detained and it was only the tact and good nature, of Constables Upston and Alexander that smoothed out the ruffled feelings. Every member of the jury commented very .favourably on the treatment we got from these officers. They were always ready to assist us in any way they could.
Personally Constable Upston was of great assistance to me at that time. My son had returned from Sydney in order that I could assist him with plans for his future. Constable Upston went out of his way to assist my son and myself to finalise our business. The assistance he gave me in this instance is indicative of his general dealings with the public as T have always found in my associations with him.
– Does the honourable member think this case should be investigated?
– It should. It screams out for justice. Another reference, from Mr Joseph A. Courtney, a former Inspector of the ACT Police, is as follows:
This is to certify that 1 have known Mr Charles James Upston, of 3 Dianella Street, O’Connor, Canberra, ACT, from September 1950 to the present day.
During the period 1950 to my retirement from active duty as Inspector of Police, Canberra in 1960, he worked under my direct supervision as Police Motor-cyclist, Police School Lecturer, Traffic and General Duties Sub-Officer. In all these duties, he exhibited an extremely high standard of mechanical, technical and administrative ability. His co-operation and energy in matters affecting public goodwill were outstanding. I have not known him to shirk responsibility and his trustworthiness I have never had cause to doubt.
Since my retirement in March 1960 to this date I have retained my friendship and regard for him on a personal basis and am prepared to submit any additional assessments of his character and general all-round ability, either personally or in writing if so required.
The references I have read represent the opinions of highly responsible people in our community of this Australian, exSergeant Upston, who 1 believe has been subjected to a very cruel type of injustice which was imposed upon him by a former Commissioner of Police, Mr Powley. I do not altogether blame the Minister in charge of the ACT Police Force, to whom the recommendation was made. It is regrettable that Ministers have to spend so much of their time carrying out their parliamentary’ duties that they cannot give proper attention to recommendations made to them by departmental heads. However, the Minister erred when he carried out the wishes of the Commissioner of Police as expressed in his report in connection with the punishment of ex-Sergeant Upston. The only thing ex-Sergeant Upston did was to have a verbal disagreement with a motorist. This sort of thing happens day after day between the police and the motoring public.
I have in my possession a book which states that three out of every four complaints made against the police in Great Britain come from the motoring public, and I presume the same applies here. Motorists sometimes consider that they are harshly dealt with. They are usually hurrying to and from their businesses, they are all keyed up with other worries, and when they are pulled up by a courteous police officer, as was this man from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, they resent it. I intend to withhold this man’s name, as it was not referred to by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. I may mention it later. Ex-Sergeant Upston was never charged departmentally. He was the victim of a secret report which went to the Minister but which he did not see. He was never actually served with a copy nor was he able to study the complaint made by this member of the CSIRO staff with whom he had a disagreement. I am reliably informed that the man from the CSIRO who was responsible for this injustice being imposed upon ex-Sergeant Upston had stated in his written complaint to the Commissioner of Police that he had sworn at the Sergeant when the disagreement occurred over his discourteous driving.
In the time at my disposal 1 shall not be able to cover fully the things I intended to cover. When I entered this Parliament seven years ago I believed this was the highest court in the land. On several occasions during my period here I have praised this Parliament as a glorious institution where the most humble person in the community who has been meted out an injustice can have it ventilated and if possible corrected. For that reason, although I disagree with him on many political issues, I commend the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), for trying to have corrected what he believes to be an injustice in connection with the ‘Voyager* and ‘Melbourne’ disaster, but I have no doubt that he will obtain full justice if his case is as overwhelmingly strong as this case is.
Let me say of the Police Force that it is doing the difficult and dangerous job that society demands without getting a proper understanding from society of its moral and professional problems. Is this not true of the police force in any democratic country? The public use the police as scapegoats for its neurotic attitude to crime. The public, like Janus, has two faces, which it turns towards policemen. People expect policemen to be human yet inhuman. They employ the police to administer the law and yet ask them to waive it. We resent a policeman when he enforces the law in our case yet demand his dismissal when he does not do so elsewhere. We offer him bribes yet denounce his corruption. We expect him to be a member of society yet not to share its values. We admire violence in many ways, even against society itself, but condemn force by the police on our behalf. We tell the police they are entitled to information from the public and urge the reintroduction of beat policemen for this purpose, yet we ostracise informers. We ask for crime to be eradicated, but only by sporting methods. These are some of the hardships this loyal band of public servants have to tolerate. Is it not a fact that suitable recruits are difficult to obtain? We spend public money on recruiting campaigns, medical and education tests, lecturers to teach, and on books and uniforms, and then discharge policemen on the flimsiest complaint, as was done to this great Australian and ex-police officer. He is a man any police force in Australia would be glad to have. An injustice has been perpetrated on this public spirited Australian who was dedicated to his work but who was threatened with dismissal if he did not’ resign.
There is a saying that the public remember God and the police only when they are in trouble. It has never been suggested that ex-Sergeant Upston in his long fifteen-year career in the Australian Captial Territory Police Force has put wealth before honour. It has never been suggested that he has perjured himself in any case in which he has testified. He is a lifesaver, a skin diver, a motor mechanic, and he has been a flying officer in the Citizen Air Force for ten years. He is a qualified coxswain, a loving father and an affectionate husband; yet he has received this sort of treatment. I intend to protest and protest and protest in this Parliament until this cruel injustice is corrected. All this man asks of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory and me is that we seek to have this matter re-opened and that he be allowed to have his case ventilated before the Police Arbitral Tribunal, from which he got justice once before and from which I believe he would get justice again.
He was never case hungry. As I said this morning, on one occasion he had the unpleasant experience of having to arrest a senior officer of the Crown Law Office - a man who was arrested afterwards in Canberra for driving under the influence of liquor. However, this member of the legal profession was never demoted; he merely suffered the embarrassment of appearing before the court. Compare what he did with the verbal altercation that ex-Sergeant Upston had with a motorist. Who knows that this motorist, who was a member of the CSIRO staff, did not have a criminal record? I am not suggesting that he had. However, he may have a background of hatred towards the Police Force. Some people have this hatred, but when they are in trouble they are usually the first people to ask the police for assistance. However, I know that these injustices occur. 1 know of a case in New
South Wales in which a police sergeant appealed against the Commissioner’s action in promoting other men over him. This police sergeant was successful, but for years afterwards he had to tread very gently for fear of being victimised. He had to guard against being charged with some minor offence for which police disciplinary measures can be invoked against any policeman at any hour of the day or night, because the disciplinary code is extremely strict.
The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) pointed out this morning that ex-Sergeant Upston had lost £500 in superannuation. The honourable member said that he had lost this amount because he had approached his member of Parliament and that member had brought his case before the Parliament. The authorities denied that there had been a change in the Treasury’s attitude. It was claimed that at no time did the Treasury reverse its attitude because this matter had been raised in the Parliament. But there is overwhelming evidence to this effect. A child in kindergarten could appreciate this simply by looking at this group certificate which refers to a lump sum payment on termination of employment amounting to more than $2,000. This in itself is evidence that there was an intention on the part of the Treasury to pay this forthright Australian citizen, now ex-Sergeant Upston, his superannuation, and that because the matter had been raised in the House the payment was withdrawn, apparently by somebody in the Department of the Treasury who was a police hater.
In conclusion let me say that this case screams for justice. When I came into the Parliament I thought that if one had a case worthy of consideration and sympathy one would be able to have that case considered sympathetically and any injustice corrected. I will be sadly disappointed with this institution if the injustice suffered by ex-Sergeant Upston is not corrected in the not too distant future.
– I rise to speak on a subject about which, I have no doubt, we will hear a great deal more in the next few weeks or the next few months. I want to outline some of the consequences that would follow the entry of the United Kingdom into the European
Common Market. I propose to deal particularly this afternoon with the effect on the Australian sugar industry.
First I think we should realise that the action of the United Kingdom Government in applying to enter the Common Market is something that must have been expected. In Europe there is a strong and viable economic community on the edge of which stands the United Kingdom which is experiencing its ups and downs and trying to cope with economic problems. I believe all sound thinking persons must come to the conclusion that a united Europe would have to embrace the United Kingdom. For this reason the British Government is probing the possibilities of entering the Common Market.
If Britain does enter the Common Market there will be very serious repercussions for some of the Commonwealth countries unless such entry is accompanied by adequate safeguards. Some Commonwealth countries owe their very economic survival to the production and export sale, mainly in the United Kingdom, of one or two basic commodities. Sugar accounts for 90% of the total value of exports from Mauritius, for example: it represents 80% of the total exports of Barbados and more than 50% of Fiji’s total exports. In each case the United Kingdom is the largest purchaser. Commonwealth countries export sugar to Britain under the terms of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which is due to terminate in 1974.
If Britain succeeds in joining the Common Market there could be grave consequences for Australia. We must give full credit to the present and past governments of the United Kingdom for participating in Commonwealth Sugar Agreements which have been among the most important stabilising factors for the sugar industry not only in Australia but also in other Commonwealth countries whose economies depend largely on sugar. At present Australia exports 335,000 tons of sugar under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement at a negotiated price of £Stg43 10s a ton. Based on the latest available figures, which are for 1965-66, the value of our exports to Britain represented 47% of the total value of our exports to all parts of the world. It can be seen that in respect of sugar Britain is a very important customer of Australia. I do not think there is any doubt of the necessity for the United Kingdom, whether or not it joins the Common Market, to make adequate provision for Australian sugar, at least during the duration of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement at this negotiated price or some other negotiated price, but it can be expected that unless special safeguards are written into the Common Market Agreement there will be a gradual phasing out of the Sugar Agreement as it affects Australia.
It is necessary for us to understand the agricultural policy of the European Common Market if we are to appreciate the position in respect not only of sugar but also of wheat, wool, beef, mutton and lamb and dairy produce. There is a basic difference between the treatment of different commodities. Firstly, commodities which it is expected will be produced in insufficient quantities in the Common Market countries, such as wool, will be allowed duty free entry into those countries. But for those commodities which face competition from the Common Market’s own producers there will be a pretty tough battle in gaining entry into the countries of the Economic Community.
With respect to sugar, for example, the agricultural policy of the Economic Community, which will be emphasised in regulations to come into force on 1st July 1968, envisages self-sufficiency, which will be achieved, of course, by the production of beet sugar. Self-sufficiency in agriculture is achieved by the establishment of what are referred to as target prices and prices of intervention. The target price in the case of sugar is £Stg81 a ton for beet sugar. If the target price is slightly reduced the Common Market bloc itself will buy sugar to bring the price up to that minimum or target price. There will be no fear of importers, no fear of cheap sugar being introduced from Australia, from the West Indies or from other countries, because, under the Common Market agricultural policy, by a variable levy system it will be impossible for any country to export to the Common Market countries unless the importers pay the levies which will in turn bring the price of sugar up to the target price. The actual amount of the levy is in fact the difference between the target price, which is called the threshold price, and the actual world price. In other words, a levy will be payable to a special fund called the Guidance and Guarantee Fund.
This in effect means that the principal objective of the European Economic Community regarding sugar will be to obtain self-sufficiency. Its definition of ‘selfsufficiency’ with respect to sugar is 105% of the actual self-sufficiency total consumption. In terms of wheat it is 90%. These target prices, of course, give encouragement to its own producers of sugar to obtain this 105% of self-sufficiency. Between 105% and 135%, if that is the level of production, there will be guaranteed markets for this production. However, the price will in fact be reduced. The production of sugar over 135% will be stored and exported, and it will be exported by the Common Market countries at a loss, if necessary.
In other words, it is going to be extremely difficult for any country to be able to come through or scale the wall that will be built around the Common Market countries. Production up to 105% of self-sufficiency will be fully protected. It will be fully protected in terms of outlet, fully protected in terms of price - the target price being £Stg81 a ton for white sugar - and fully protected against the imports of cheap sugar which on the world market today is as low as £Stg25 a ton for raw sugar. In terms of the Common Market price, this is very low. Markets and prices are the two factors that are fundamental. They are fundamental not only to the Common Market countries which produce sugar but fundamental to those countries that are trying to break into the Common Market. It has been said, for example, that some association rights would be available to Commonwealth countries if the United Kingdom enters the Common Market. However, this would be most unlikely. Association rights have been granted to some of the overseas countries which are in fact run from France itself. Those countries, termed ‘Government department countries’, are Reunion and Guadeloupe. They will have full rights under the common agricultural policy, but Australia, because it is producing sugar which competes on the open market and will compete directly with beet sugar, like every other country producing sugar, will be severely penalised through import duties against gaining access to the Common Market.
There are, of course, special provisions for association rights for those commodities which cannot be produced on the Continent. These are mainly tropical commodities, such as cocoa and coffee. As I have said, wool, because of the short fall, will in fact have no duty applied to it and will be able to gain access to the Common Market without a duty. The dilemma facing the United Kingdom Government is concerned not only with the 1.8 million tons of imported sugar under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement but also the 3 million tons of sugar consumed domestically. This figure is made up of the 1.8 million tons from Commonwealth countries and about 1 million tons which is home grown. The United Kingdom has always followed a cheap food policy. In other words, whether we like it or not, the United Kingdom is in fact subsidising Australian sugar producers today, because the price which it guarantees under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement of £Stg43 10s per ton is higher than the world price. The policy of the United Kingdom is to provide its own consumers with cheap sugar. The present price of sugar in the United Kingdom is 8. Id per lb. However, if it joins the Common Market the £81 per ton target price for white sugar applies immediately to Britain as well as to the other six countries, and this means there will be an immediate upsurge in beet sugar production in Britain. It also means that the domestic price of sugar there must increase by 3d or 4d per pound. In other words, if Britain joins the Common Market it must accept the fact that its consumers will have to pay more for agricultural products. They will have to pay in line with what is being paid in the other six countries.
One might say that there will be no benefit to the United Kingdom in respect of sugar if it enters the Common Market without any special arrangements being made for the Commonwealth countries, because then the consumer will have to pay more in the first instance, the British Exchequer will have to pay the levies to the Commonwealth Agricultural Guarantee Fund, and the Commonwealth producers will have to accept the residual free market price, whatever it may be. Several months ago it was £Stg13 per ton, and I understand that today it has reached £Stg25 per ton, one of the highest figures for many months. However, whatever the residual world price is, that will be the price the Commonwealth producers will have to accept if no special arrangements are made by the United Kingdom when and if it joins the Common Market. As I said before, every Australian and every person in the United Kingdom, we hope, will accept the fact that the United Kingdom will have to honour its obligations to Australia, at least until 1974. There can be no question whatever that to negotiate special agreements for the Commonwealth countries will be a most difficult problem. Therefore it would seem that the United Kingdom, if it honours its agreement with Australia and the other producing countries in the Commonwealth, will have to do so under a more or less private arrangement with those countries.
Now as I have said, Australia is highly vulnerable. We do not today have an international sugar agreement and we are producing about 2.2 million tons of sugar. Given normal seasons, I have not the slightest doubt that even with the present assigned areas we will produce up to 2.7 million tons. At this present time and under present conditions, the more we produce the more vulnerable we become because we only have guaranteed markets for our own domestic consumption, which is about 650,000 tons, for the 335,000 tons under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, and for 180,000 tons coming within the United States Act. This amounts to 1.1 million or 1.2 million tons, leaving about 50% of our total production to be disposed of at the complete vagaries of the world market.
The members who represent sugar electorates know what the vagaries of the world market have been in the last fifteen months. It would mean that we would have to find other outlets for the saleof our sugar. We are today selling about 600,000 tons to Japan, which still leaves us about 500,000 tons to be disposed of on other markets. The most important fact I am bringing out is that, of the 1.2 million tons that are protected by guaranteed prices, 335,000 tons are being disposed of under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and should be fully protected up to 1974. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Australia will have to negotiate either a new International Sugar Agreement or bilateral agreements with Japan, principally and the United States. These bilateral agreements will need to deal with output and price. At the present time we have an agreement with Japan which enables us to export sugar to that country, but the price is related to the price on the world free market. We must remember that 70% of total exports is at the complete mercy of the free market. This shows how vulnerable the Australian sugar industry is. We must lose no time and use every effort to conclude a successful and satisfactory International Sugar Agreement or adopt domestic pricing arrangements that will protect our producers.
Some people may say that, if the sugar industry is beset with these problems, it should reduce production or turn some of its acreage over to other forms of production. It is accepted that sugar is a monoculture. It is unlike the rotational system used in our wheat and wool areas. It is geared not only to production on the farms but also to specific capacities related to sugar mills, bulk handling and port facilities. In other words, it is part of a chain. There is little difference between the sugar producer in central Queensland and the beef cattle producer in the north. Irrespective of the price of sugar or the price of cattle, the producer in the north has no alternative form of production. He either grows sugar or he does not; he either runs beef cattle in the pastoral areas of the north or he does not. In other words, he is in exactly the same position as many West Indies producers are. Despite the fluctations in price, both are still compelled to grow sugar. It is usually accepted that, if the price of a commodity goes down, the producer pulls in his belt, grows a little more or works a little harder. This is happening in many countries.
The future of the Australian sugar industry on the surface appears to be somewhat bleak. But it is not so bleak if we consider the importance of the residual market. We have already seen in the space of five years how the residual price or the price on the free market can fluctuate from £Stg30 a ton up to more than £Stgl00 a ton, fall to £Stg12 a ton, and in a matter of a few weeks rise to £Stg25 a ton. What is the reason for this? Why is it that this price is so highly susceptible to the export market or the free market? The reason is that, out of a total world production of sugar of about 64 million tons, only about 5 million tons are sold on the free market. Australia is now the second largest exporter of sugar in the world. It jumped from fifth position to second position. Although sometimes we may despair at the low level of sugar prices on the world market, as we have in the last few years, we should realise that, if one of the countries selling sugar on the world market suffers a flood or a drought, we will gain from a substantial price increase, as we did several years ago. I am not one of those people who believe that we face a problem that we cannot solve. We can solve it. We have the hard core of our own domestic market. In this industry costs have been rising as they have been in other industries, and we have an obligation to protect our sugar producers. If it is good enough for the dairy producer, the wheat producer and the dried viae fruits producer to receive a fair price for his commodity, it is right for the sugar producer to receive a fair price for his commodity. The sugar farmer has no control over many costs, and if his costs go up he is entitled, under our domestic pricing arrangements, to get a fair price. If the price of sugar on the domestic market increases, it will be based not on the depressed state of the sugar industry, but on the fact that costs have risen for the sugar that is being consumed locally.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the domestic market and of a fair price to the Australian sugar producer. I cannot over emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. It has been the backbone of the Australian sugar industry for many years. It has also been the backbone of the economy of many other Commonwealth countries for many years. It is up to the people in the industry in Australia and in the government there, in conjunction with people from other countries whose life blood is sugar and who depend on sensible trading arrangements with the United Kingdom, the European Common Market or other countries, to formulate a satisfactory International Sugar Agreement. If this cannot be done, what will happen? That is the burning question. We have our protected home market. We have a market in the United States for 180,000 tons, and let us hope that we can get a bigger quota from the United States. We have the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement which enables us to sell 333,000 tons. Let us hope that Great Britain can provide safeguards for the Commonwealth, including Australia, if her application to join the European Common Market is successful.
Our biggest problem is what to do with the residual 50% of total production or 70% of total exports, which are sold on this very dicey world market. Can the sugar producer, who has in many areas suffered the devastation of drought, continue to bear a price that is well below his cost of production? Can he bear a level of production that does not, because of the vagaries of the season, give him even the normal return that he should get if he produces at bis peak? What is facing the industry? These are the problems that we must solve. If the Government finds that an International Sugar Agreement is not possible and if the industry makes a request, it may be that a comprehensive stabilisation scheme will need to be introduced. Some scheme will have to be introduced to give the sugar producer an orderly marketing arrangement because whereas previously only 20% of his total production was vulnerable to the free price, today it is 50%. As I have said before, this represents 70% of his total exports.
No industry can afford to have its unprotected surplus susceptible to the violent fluctuations that have taken place and will take place in the sugar industry. The sugar industry is not like the wool industry. The amount of wool entering the world market is quite a different proposition from the proportion of sugar which is sold at the residual free price. As I said earlier, only about five million tons out of about sixty million tons have been disposed of at the residual price. All of these factors have to be carefully weighed. I should have thought that we would have seen legislation introduced into the Parliament for a renewal of the domestic pricing arrangements which expire in August. I directed a question on this subject to the Minister for
Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) but 1 did not receive a satisfactory reply. It is quite obvious that legislation will not be introduced. Therefore the only solution will be a private treaty arrangement between the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Premier of Queensland for an extension of the domestic agreement until the new arrangements can be negotiated.
– I should like to deal briefly wilh certain aspects of the cattle industry as it is today in northern Australia and perhaps to visualise what will happen to this gigantic industry, perhaps in the very near future. 1 think many of us can envisage dramatic changes. I should like honourable members to consider for a moment the present conditions and trends which are affecting the industry. Perhaps the most prolific cattle producing areas in Australia at the moment extend from the Gulf country of Queensland across into the Barkly Tablelands and well into the Northern Territory. We have always recognised the Gulf country as the traditional breeding area of the vast herds of cattle in Australia. That area extends particularly in the more prolific rainfall belt across into the northern part of the Northern Territory. It was understood also that the recognised fattening area of Queensland particularly was the Channel country. We saw on many occasions vast herds of cattle being bred in the Gulf country and being brought down, perhaps through necessity or perhaps because of the negotiations that would have taken place, into the Channel country where they were fattened. This picture has changed somewhat.
At this point 1 should like to counter any suggestion that the Channel country of Queensland could be written off as an effective fattening area. [Quorum formed.] I thank the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) for providing an audience, or at least bringing honourable members into the chamber, because what 1 have to say is of vital importance to the economy of the nation. I should like honourable members to hear my message. It is quite wrong to suggest that the Channel country of Queensland can be written off as an effective fattening area for the growing cattle herds of Queensland. I heard one great economist arguing along these lines at a symposium held recently. He said that there had been drought after drought and, therefore, we must very much doubt the effectiveness of the Channel country for fattening our herds. If we are going to use this argument we must write off consideration of many of the major pastoral properties, not only in Queensland but also throughout the length and breadth of Australia. His argument was based on a fallacy. However, we must recognise that there is a new trend.
Before developing this theme I propose to look into the future. I visualise that there will be dramatic developments in the cattle industry in northern Australia. My very good friend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) recently stole my thunder - 1 say this with respect - by speaking at some length on the phosphate deposits of the Cloncurry area. I propose lo state in a little more detail some of the interesting statistics which we have reliable grounds for believing apply fairly accurately to the rock phosphate deposits. lt is claimed that the deposit covers an area of about 100 square miles, lt is claimed that its grade will vary somewhere between 26% and 41%. If this does not impress honourable members, let me point out to them that the average grade of rock phosphate brought into Australia from Nauru is rated at about 33% and this. I believe, is in an upgraded condition. The deposit is 45 feet thick and it is almost in a pure state where it can be mined by open cut methods. But the open cut method of mining phosphate rock may be a deterrent to a development which would otherwise lead to large scale employment. However, this is another story which perhaps 1 shall deal with in the House at another time.
The point I am making is that quite suddenly, and in an almost dramatic manner, from a situation in which we believed we had supplies of phosphate on our threshhold which would last no longer than thirty or forty years, we suddenly find that we can look forward to supplies lasting 1.000 years - I say that without exaggeration - on the basis of using 31 million tons of superphosphate per year. I come back to the point about cattle production and look into the future in an attempt to visualise what will happen. [Quorum formed.] We can now look forward to massive development in the higher rainfall areas of northern Australia. About three years ago I attended a school at which problems associated with the cattle industry were discussed and I was appalled to learn from experts that the mortality rate in cattle in the Gulf country of Queensland was about 40% . This was primarily because producers in the area, acting under adverse circumstances, could not develop their properties and fence them effectively as they would want and young cows were throwing calves at a premature age. This was one cause and there were other circumstances that 1 shall not go into at this time.
I hope that through the development of this rock phosphate deposit the potential of a great primary industry will be recognised in the area. We are on the threshold of having unlimited quantities of superphosphate. Massive thinking is required. We must look ahead and plan for the extensive distribution of superphosphate over the northern parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory. We would not be indulging in pipe dreams to suggest that in the not far distant future, with our technological advances and research, we may be able to utilise superphosphates in the lower rainfall areas and effectively use country that is not noted for its intensive productivity but which is capable of development to carry vast cattle herds. Honourable members will recall that doubt has been expressed about the effectiveness of the Channel country for the fattening of beasts from the Gulf country, the Barkly Tablelands and the northern parts of the Northern Territory. It has been suggested quite logically that the vast herds that will be developed as a result of this new look in the industry will be brought to the eastern coastal areas of Australia and walked down the Burdekin Valley to the central highlands of Queensland. [Quorum formed]
The point I am anxious to make is that the central highlands of Queensland have a fantastic potential. People interested in developmental projects think of. the potential of the central highlands as related to the growing of cotton, grain sorghum and other crops, but it has a far greater role to play in the productivity of Queensland. Without doubt it will become one of the most significant cattle fattening areas of Queensland. If I am wrong then so is one of the most informed pastoral companies of Australia which recently paid over Slim for 43,000 acres in the Clermont district. The people associated with this company are not idealists. They are not pipedreamers but are tough and rugged businessmen. They have tremendous faith in the future of the area and expect to get an adequate return on their outlay. They are aware of the trend of bringing cattle - and they are not walked these days, as drovers who are going out of business will testify - to the eastern coast and taking them to the central tablelands and to the hinterland of Bowen and Mackay to fatten.
The central highlands have another role to play. I have had the opportunity of examining at close quarters trends that are happening in the United States of America. 1 must refer briefly to these trends because I gave an undertaking - stupid though it was - to speak for about fifteen to twenty minutes. No doubt I will learn as I go along in this House. The first aspect to which T refer concerns lot feeding. When lot feeding is mentioned the average cattleman says: ‘You are getting up in the clouds now’, but 1 believe it will become a reality in Australia. It is being used in a limited way now. but lot feeding is extensive in countries like the United States and in Japan, of all countries. Australia has the greatest potential of all. but what we lack is a market for the sort of beef that will be produced under lot feeding. We will not be paying $1.25 for the best steak in Australia, which can be obtained in the north west of Queensland, or S2.25 for the saddle that is sold as steak in Sydney but possibly S3.75, for a steak of the type one dreams about. I visualise lot feeding as a reality in the central highlands of Queensland.
If the central highland area is to fulfil the role it is destined to play - the role nature has equipped it to play - then in the near future I hope to see constructed in the area what has become known as the Nogoa Gap Dam scheme. This proposal has been used as a political football. It has been subjected to all manner of examination and verbal exploitation, but the State Government is absolutely convinced - not by guess work or local information but by a long and tedious programme of research - that the scheme <s ready to proceed. I hope for, and I plead for, the scheme. I intend to press the
Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to give, in the near future, a decision on how far the Federal Government will go in assisting the development of this area. The great and vital role that the central highlands will play is in becoming the granary of the inland of Queensland. This is vital because of the tremendous losses that resulted from the disastrous drought and the losses that are continuing. There is a critical condition in the grazing industry west’ of Longreach. In fact, third generation graziers in the Jundah and Stonehenge area are wondering where they will go from here. Their financial resources have been completely absorbed. They depend now on some realistic scheme, which will be forthcoming, I hope, from this chamber, whereby there will be a long term low interest loan programme to permit them to survive and to make plans to rehabilitate their properties, perhaps in twenty-five years time. This is a tragedy, it would be a greater tragedy if it were permitted to continue and if no realistic programme were formed - and formed quickly - to counter the effects of any future drought. The Nogoa Gap scheme is a vital element because it will permit immediately the large scale production of cotton and other crops which may be used to fill fodder granaries as part of a fodder conservation scheme to offset the effects of future droughts.
If we look at this matter realistically and logically we must realise that’ there will be tremendous development in the cattle industry in northern Australia. This will be stimulated by the discovery of the phosphate rock deposits in the Cloncurry area. Vast’ herds will be brought across to the east coast of Queensland and down into the central highlands hinterland of Bowen, Townsville and Mackay. This area will become a fattening area but it must have water, and plenty of it. Far more important than that, it will become the granary of inland Queensland. I hope vast quantities of grain - pyramids of grain such as are to be seen in the United States of America - will be stored to counter the effects of drought. Because of fodder conservation, drought losses are now almost non-existent in the USA and millions of dollars have been saved. A conservative estimate of the losses which resulted from the Queensland drought - which is continuing - would be not less than $500m. My guess is that for the whole of Australia it would be SI, 000m. Are we going to hesitate for very long before commencing a scheme which will evenutally cost only §26m?
– I wish to support the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) who spoke so glowingly about the honourable member for Corio (Mr Opperman) who is about to retire from this House and take up duties overseas. When Mr Opperman first entered this Parliament his reputation was that of a famous bike rider. Indeed, his reputation was such that it gained for him the seat of Corio. He has held thai seat for the last seventeen years through his own efforts. He has become very well known in the district and has worked very hard for the benefit of the Corio electorate. 1 cannot see the man nominated as his successor holding the seat as well as the honourable member did. I think that the new postal legislation, or the regulations which, we are told, will be brought into operation, will have a big effect on voting in the Corio by-election.
The honourable member for Corio entered this House in 1950. During the seventeen years he has been here vast changes have taken place in Geelong and the surrounding area. The honourable member played a leading part in many of these changes. I remember that in 1950 only ships with a draught of 25i feet or less could get into the port at Geelong. During the seventeen years that the honourable member has represented Corio that figure has increased to 34± feet. Honourable members may have read in today’s Press that ships as big as 65,000 tons deadweight will soon be using the port of Geelong. So Geelong, which seventeen years ago was a little backwater when compared with other ports, is now one of the major ports in Australia.
During the time the honourable member has represented Corio big industries have been established at Geelong. There is the Shell Oil refinery, the aluminium complex built by Alcoa, the Ryland undertaking and several others. This has meant a lot to Victoria; it has meant a lot to the industry in the area and to housing, because many homes have been built and many roads consructed. It was necessary to build a two-way highway between Geelong and Melbourne. Although seventeen years may sound a long time, in that period remarkable changes have taken place. As I have said, the depth of the waterway into Geelong has increased from 25 i feet to 34£ feet and there is the prospect that it will be deepened by another ten feet if sufficient depth can be had at Port Phillip Heads. This is a remarkable achievement. 1 have heard some honourable members say in this House: ‘What about my electorate? A port must be established there.’ But to achieve things it is necessary to get about and ascertain what can be done with the natural facilities available. Geelong is very fortunate because the sea bed there consists mainly of clay and sand and is comparatively easy to deepen. It is not possible to deepen some ports. I have in mind’ the port of Newcastle. I first went to sea in 1927 and it has taken about forty years to deepen the bar across the Hunter River so that ships may get in and out of Newcastle Harbour. This has been a very costly business. I hope people remember when they speak about developing ports that ships should be built so that they can enter ports; ports should not be built to accommodate ships. It costs many millions of dollars to improve ports whereas it does not cost so much to build suitable ships for the ports.
– The same thing applies to the aircraft industry.
– Yes. 1 thank the honourable member for Watson for his interjection. I will have something to say about that later on. In Victoria great changes are taking place at Westernport. It has plenty of water with depths of up to 60 feet. Not so long ago I gave evidence in Melbourne before a committee set up by the Victorian Government to investigate the development of Westernport. My advice to the committee was that Westernport should be developed slowly. I pointed out that many millions of dollars - I do not know the exact figure - had been sunk into developing the port of Melbourne by providing roads, wharves, cranes and handling facilities. This investment cannot be abandoned overnight merely because there is a greater depth of water available at Westernport and a new port has come into being.
All of these things are linked with the honourable member tor Corio who is now leaving us to take up his post as High Commissioner for Malta. At one time he was Minister for Shipping and Transport and had a lot to say about these mutters. He was also Minister for Immigration. He did well in his post as Minister for Shipping and Transport. In his speech today he mentioned the new lighthouse ships that were brought into use during his period of office. They are very fine ships and I hope they will serve as long and successfully as the ships they replaced. The old lighthouse ships were kept in service too long, but due to the Minister’s efforts the new vessels, which are of a modern design, were brought into service and are performing their task very well.
There is one thing that the Minister did that 1, a sailor, do not agree with. He could be right, of course, but he did away with the Deputy Director of Navigation in various ports, and he left it open for Deputy Directors not to be master mariners. They can now be engineers, or have similar qualifications. I suppose, looking at it fairly, that this is the modern trend. In the world of today changes are constantly being made following the introduction of automation, even on ships. It will not be long before the captain of a ship will not need to be as specialised in his knowledge of navigation as he has in the past. I think it was the Americans who, in their Navy prior to World War II, saw fit to ensure that all their officers were qualified in all departments. As a result, an officer in the United States Navy could be an engineer on one ship, a navigating officer on another, and could end up on still another ship as captain. This sort of practice is coming into force in many parts of the world. I understand that this year the Government in Holland will introduce its first examinations at which officers will seek to qualify in both engineering and nautical knowledge. I believe also that shortly Britain will adopt the same procedure. Of course, when Britain does this the rest of the Commonwill follow suit, including Australia.
The honourable member for Corio has attended conferences on these matters, as has the present Minister for Shipping and Transport, and I thank him publicly for the way in which he discharged his duties in that portfolio as well as in the portfolio of Immigration. I have many new Australians in my electorate and I daresay that I write as many letters to the Minister for Immigration on their behalf as does any other member of this House. I have been pleased to achieve some success for my new Australian constituents by persisting in supplying the Minister with additional information that one is able to obtain over weeks, months or even years, about people in other countries who have been refused entry into this country. This information always received keen attention from the honourable member for Corio in his capacity as Minister for Immigration and when he was convinced of its value he made it possible for the people concerned to come to this country as migrants and to be re-united here with their families. I am sure that when the honourable member reaches Malta he will play a big part in future migration to this country. As the House is well aware, Britain is gradually getting out east of Suez. We do not know what will occur when our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) confers in June with Mr Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister. However, from what I read in the newspapers it is clear that Britain will be reducing markedly the size of her forces east of Suez. Maltese artisans repaired many ships for the Royal Navy in the Grand Harbour and the Grand Naval Base at Malta. Now all that is finished.
As Malta is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Maltese who migrate to this country are treated like other citizens of the Commonwealth. They go on the electoral rolls straight away. I hope that as a result of the efforts of our colleague in this new post we shall see many more Maltese settling in Australia. We can certainly do with the artisans who have been trained very well in the skills of ship repair, especially as this country must expand its shipping industry.
Recently I travelled to Papua and New Guinea to take part in the commemoration of Anzac Day. In company with the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) I travelled fairly extensively there and from what we could see the country has still a long way to go before it is ready for either self-government or independence. I gained this view after speaking to many people there. I did not put the words into their mouths; I asked them what they would like to see done about the future of their country. They all replied: ‘Why do you keep bringing this matter up? Why do you not leave us alone and let us get on with the job? We are not ready yet for selfgovernment or self-determination.’ I spoke also to people in the Wewak area, including the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Sepik area. I said to him: ‘It appears to me that this is a case of festina lente’. That is the Latin motto of a shipping company with which I was associated. It means to hasten slowly. The Bishop replied: ‘It is not a case of hastening slowly at all; it is a case of hastening very very slowly’. This is the view of a man who has lived in New Guinea for many years.
At Rabaul I spoke to the Tolai people, and to others on Bougainville. These people, who were of the same opinion about selfdetermination, put it this way: ‘Why do you people keep bringing this up? Why don’t you keep quiet about it? We do not want it.’ I hope that as many honourable members as possible will visit Papua and New Guinea and learn at first hand the views of the indigenous people there on this most complex question. It is difficult to get residents of Port Moresby to understand the people of Tolai at Rabaul and the Tolais do not understand them. Some Tolais said to me: We are not going to take instructions from the Administration at Port Moresby. They have different rules there and the tribal laws are different.’ I am sure that it will take a long time to induce the various people of this area to accept uniform laws. For instance, in Papua and New Guinea the natives do not believe in wills. Consequently when the head of a tribe dies the whole of the family divide up the estate.
– That is not a bad idea.
– It is a very good one provided the system can be made to work. However, if a native plantation consists of three acres of copra or cocoa and one fellow says: ‘I will have this portion’, gets it but then goes off and drives a taxi, failing to spray his crop, disease sets in and the crop on the whole of the plantation is virtually destroyed. I know of one native who has done it. I shall follow the course adopted by other speakers in not taking up too much the time of the House in this debate. My main concern about Papua and New Guinea is that in 1884, I think it was, Britain proclaimed British New Guinea to be a British colony. According to my research it was proclaimed by the same Act that provided for the founding of Tasmania and Australia. In 1906 Britain, by Act of Parliament, passed British New Guinea, now known as Papua, over to Queensland, which followed suit by handing it over to Australia. From my limited constitutional knowledge I should say that Papua is Australian territory, because the Queensland Act stated that Queensland needed Papua so that it could take the overflow of population from Queensland. This point might appear to be an insignificant one, but when Britain proclaimed Papua, or British New Guinea as it was then called, and handed it over to Queensland, which subsequently handed it over to Australia, the people of the area were given Australian citizenship. Parts of Papua have a common boundary with Queensland. Some islands only one mile off the coast of New Guinea are in Queensland. The subject of referendums is in the air at the moment, and I think it would be necessary to hold a referendum in Australia before Papua could break away from the Commonwealth. I intend to ask a question with notice on this subject of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen). I hope that he will look into the matter and be able to give me some information. In conclusion I wish the honourable member for Corio well in his new position. I know that he will succeed just as he has succeeded in this House.
– I want to tell the House and the people of New South Wales how I was censored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on Monday, 24th April last. Will all radio stations please come in? On Thursday, 20th April, a representative of the ABC contacted me by telephone and asked me whether I would take part in a documentary being produced about Mount Druitt. I agreed. I was informed that I would be asked two questions, namely, why I wanted the State Planning Authority abolished and why I opposed the Mount Druitt development scheme.
I will now relate the incidents as .hey occurred. I met the ABC team at Mount Druitt as appointed. I was astounded when the interviewer asked me had I seen the detailed plan. I replied to the interviewer and the director of the interviewing team that I had not. They informed me in unison that they had. They said: ‘We have seen it; we have seen the layout and all the buildings and amenities.’ To make sure that I had heard aright I asked: ‘You have seen the plan?’ The reply from both was: ‘Yes.’ You cannot beat the bureaucrats. To ingratiate itself with the ABC the State Planning Authority had shown the interviewer and the director the plan, although the State Planning Authority had resolutely refused to exhibit the plan to two vitally interested parties - the people of Mount Druitt affected by the plan and the Blacktown Municipal Council. One can appreciate the enormity of this monstrous action. From then on the interview gave a decided slant to the State Planning Authority.
The cameras and tapes were duly set up in Carlisle Street. I was asked the first question: ‘Mr Irwin, why do you want the State Planning Authority abolished?’ I replied: ‘It is a curse and a scourge. It dulls ambition. It stifles initiative. It negates human dignity, personal liberty and freedom. Abolition of the State Planning Authority does not mean the abolition of planning. It does mean that a more democratic and intelligent, planning, advisory, co-ordinating, elected authority should be set up in its stead. The State Planning Authority is totalitarian in design, implementation .nd application. It has caused unnecessary misery and suffering to thousands of property owners and thousands of acres of land have been made unproductive. Its cost to the community is out of all proportion to any service it renders.’ [Quorum formed.] I went on to say: ‘It has created a black market in land. It is responsible for confused and disorderly development in most areas in which it operates.’
I had almost completed that reply when a motor car passed by. The interviewer stated that the recording would not be good because of the dust and noise created by the motor car. He then said: ‘I will not ask that question.’ I remonstrated. I said that my reply was not defamatory; it was challenging and provocative, the sort of reply which the ABC should welcome if it were not biased. The director and the interviewer conferred and decided not to ask the question. That is how I was censored by the ABC.
I was then asked: ‘Mr Irwin, why do you oppose the Mount Druitt scheme?’ I replied: This exemplifies the stupidity and lack of realism of the State Planning Authority. Firstly, it is recognised in all circles that a dual town is most undesirable; that is, a town divided by the railway. Here at Mount Druitt the town planner could have obviated this. He had sufficient area to establish a town in the present commercial area. No, he had to select 135 acres on this side of the line with fifty-eight homes thereon. The cost of improvements would be at least $500,000 which of course will have to be paid for. Of course, when authorities such as the State Planning Authority are spending public funds, this is of no significance whatsoever. However, the first conception initiated by the Housing Commission of New South Wales was to establish six village areas within the area and to allow the existing commercial centres of Rooty Hill and Mount Druitt to meet the requirements of the areas within and around those towns. However, the worst feature is that the present owners of business premises at Rooty Hill and Mount Druitt have had a restrictive order placed upon them forbidding enlarging or building new premises to meet the situation, whilst the State Planning Authority erected a huge commercial centre with public moneys in direct competition with them.’ This is brutal and will cost the property owners thousands of dollars. Most of the thirty businessmen of Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill will be fortunate to eke out a living. I would like to see the same principle applied to one of the merchant houses of Sydney - say, one of those of which Mr Morton, the Minister of Local Government is a shareholder. Hell would be let loose. It reminds me of the Diggers’ dictum: ‘To hell with you, Jack, I’m all right’.
After seeing what the State Planning Authority in Sydney can do, I am satisfied that anything can happen in New South Wales. We are proceeding to a police State, but fortunately we have people in this area who are determined and have great fortitude. Some of them are central Europeans, and they are wonderful settlers. Many of them have been prisoners in concentration camps. They found a haven in Australia, and by their hard work they established themselves in beautiful homes. One man - a professional man - said: ‘What I suffered in the concentration camps oi Europe was hell, but if this Authority comes and takes my home from me under the conditions it proposes then I am sad that I came to Australia. It would have been better had I died in the concentration camps of Europe.’ These people, who have great determination, are prepared to stay put and to fight this totalitarian monster which has no respect for personal liberty or the dignity of man.
– In speaking to the Bills before the House I wish to draw attention to certain provisions of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act, particularly to that part which deals with small producers within the industry. I hope, and industry would expect as a result of what has been said previously in this House, that later this year the Government will introduce legislation to improve the Act to assist the large and the small producers. Then we will have an opportunity to discuss this matter at length, to examine the industry generally, and to approve or criticise as the case may warrant. I wish to place a few ideas before the House in regard to small producers before amendments to the Act are introduced, because experience has proved that once a Bill is brought down in this House it is almost impossible to have it amended, no matter how good an argument is put forward. Therefore, I ask the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to give some prior attention to the suggestions which I intend to make.
I appreciate that very few if any honourable members on the Government side would have any knowledge of or experience in the gold mining industry or the problems that face it, and that therefore certain anomalies and obstructions in the Act may not have come to their notice. In the first place, I point out that when we refer to small producers we are dealing mainly, if not entirely, with the prospecting side of the industry - a side which has played a very important part in the past and which will continue to play a very important part in the future, provided it gets some assistance to do so. I use the word ‘assistance’ rather than incentive’ or ‘encouragement’ because prospectors are a type of their own. They have prospecting in their blood. It is their life; so they do not require any incentive or encouragement to pursue that field. But they want some assistance so that they can continue in that occupation of chasing the weight, as it is normally called, and not be gradually forced out by a process of starvation.
The prospecting show or ore body which a few years ago would have provided a reasonable living and would have allowed the prospector to remain in the area and continue to propect further will not permit this today. At least those of the same grade would not. This is so for the simple reason that the cost of living and the cost associated with prospecting - the cost of tools, dynamite, fuses, detonators and so on - have increased very considerably while on the other hand the price of the gold which the prospector is able to produce has not increased at all. It is as simple as that, and whether one knows anything about the gold mining industry or not it must be quite obvious that this cannot continue under the cost and return situation as it is at present. The situation is becoming gradually worse; so obviously these people require some assistance to enable them to carry on.
In 1954, when the Gold- Mining Industry Assistance Bill was introduced into this House, the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies, said:
The importance of the gold mining industry to Australia needs little emphasis. Not only does the industry make a significant contribution to the national income but it produces a commodity which has a direct effect on the balance of payments. Moreover, there are large areas, particularly in Western Australia, which are almost dependent upon gold mining.
He concluded by saying:
The Government believes that for a number of reasons it would not be in the national interest for these areas to languish.
If this was so in 1954, surely it must be so in 1967. In other words, surely the industry is equally important today and the same reasons for its continued operation must still apply. Therefore, surely we are entitled to request this Government to treat it as an important industry - and to expect that it will do so - which is entitled to sufficient assistance to enable it to pursue a proper course, not a gradually restricted course or a course which must eventually cause it to run into a brick wall where there can be no return or recovery.
Recently we debated continued assistance to the dairying industry. I remind the House that the Minister for the Interior (Mr
Anthony), when speaking to the Bill in question, stressed that it would be unjust and unfair to force people out of an occupation when they knew no other. This is a point that applies particularly to the people engaged in gold mining. In fact, it is much worse for them than for the people in the dairying industry, because the latter can turn their hand to some other type of production on their dairy farms. Some of them can enlarge their properties and produce beef or engage in some other form of primary industry. But when a gold mine is closed down there is nothing on the gold field to which these people can turn.
I would like to tell the House of what occurred a few weeks ago in a little place called Mount Ida which is some 140 miles from Kalgoorlie. One minute, so to speak, there was a nice settlement, with quite a few people, a school, a store and so on, and the next minute there was absolutely nothing but one person acting as a caretaker. If the dairying industry can be assisted then surely it is just as important, or even more important, that the gold mining industry should be assisted.
In providing assistance it is necessary to ensure that the prospecting side of the industry, which can play and has played such an important role in the exploration field, continues to receive assistance sufficient to allow prospectors to continue operations. Yet to the best of my knowledge the Government has never seen fit to invite a representative of the Prospectors Association to join in discussions with the Government concerning the industry or the GoldMining Industry Assistance Act. If I am correct, and 1 am fairly confident that I am, the first thing I ask the Government to do is to discuss the prospecting side of the industry with a representative of the prospectors before making a decision in relation to the provisions of the GoldMining Industry Assistance Act relating to small producers. I suggest that in doing this the Government should, in relation to Western Australia at any rate, contact the secretary of the Prospectors Association in Kalgoorlie.
I am aware, of course, that the needs of the industry are discussed with representatives of the Chamber of Mines and that the Chamber submits proposals. Whilst the
Chamber is, quite naturally, interested in the prospecting side of the industry it is mainly concerned, again quite naturally, with large producers because its own members are almost entirely large producers - companies operating large mines. I hope the Government will see fit to discuss the problems of small producers with one of their representatives. I am sure such a discussion could be most helpful not only to small producers but also to the Government, the Treasurer and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) in arriving at a decision. The prospectors have problems which the large producers do not have. On the other hand the large producers face problems which do not affect the small producers. 1 think the obvious course for the Government to take is to discuss the various problems with the people who actually encounter them.
The provisions of the existing Act relating to small producers give an incentive to recover gold only up to a certain amount. As a matter of fact the Act deters producers from recovering gold beyond this amount. This is the main point to which 1 wish to address my attention today. Under the provisions of the existing Act a subsidy of $6 per oz is paid on up to 500 oz in the producing year. For each ounce over the 500 the subsidy is reduced by 1c. I appreciate that there must be an upper limit to this subsidy for small producers if we are to have different methods of assistance for small and large producers. Personally I favour a subsidy of so much per ounce for every ounce irrespective of how much is produced, but the Government claims that this is not permissible because of the attitude of the Internationa] Monetary Fund. I am not convinced that this is so. Certainly I would not accept a claim that the International Monetary Fund would not agree to such a subsidy scheme until the Fund gave a definite answer to a proposal along these lines, and up to date, as far as I know, it has not given a definite answer to the question whether a flat subsidy may be paid on every ounce of gold produced. However, that is a different argument from the one I wish to concentrate on today. I am dealing with the methods adopted by this Government, which discriminates between large and small producers, as a result of which there must be an upper limit of production at which point a producer can elect to be treated as either a small producer or a large producer. At present that upper limit is 500 oz.
The 500 oz limit would no doubt be reasonable in a case in which only one prospector was involved - where that single prospector was operating alone. The limit of 500 oz might also be considered reasonable if the reduction in subsidy after the 500 oz limit was reached applied only to those ounces recovered beyond the limit of 500. But unfortunately, and, I think, unreasonably, the reduction after the 500 oz limit is reached or exceeded applies also to each of the first 500 oz recovered. For instance if a prospector or a party of prospectors recovered 500 oz of gold in the producing year he or they would receive by way of subsidy 500 times $6; but if they produced 501 oz they would receive subsidy not for 500 oz at $6 and for 1 oz at$5.99, but for 501 oz at $5.99. If they continued on and recovered a further ounce, making the total 502 oz, they would receive subsidy not for 500 at $6, one at $5.99 and one at $5.98 but for 502 oz at $5.98.
So if a prospector recovered 500 oz he would be entitled to receive a total subsidy of $3,000, but if he recovered 1 oz more he would receive a total subsidy of $3,000.99. This means that he would receive only 99c subsidy for the additional ounce. If he went on and recovered another ounce he would receive a total subsidy of $3,001.96; he would get only 97c subsidy for the second ounce over the limit of 500. When his production reached 600 oz the subsidy would be payable at the rate of only $5 per ounce, so that he would receive $3,000, or the same amount as he would get for a total production of 500 oz. That is why I say that the encouragement to continue recovering gold disappears once the total of 500 oz is reached.
When only one prospector is involved the position is not so bad, but the reduction in subsidy is the same irrespective of whether it is a single prospector or a party of several prospectors working the same show. For instance, if there is a party of four prospectors - and I use that number because it makes for ease of calculation - they suffer a reduction in subsidy immediately they exceed the recovery limit of 500 oz, or in other words immediately they exceed an average recovery of 125 oz each. If a man works alone he can go to a recovery of 500 oz before suffering a subsidy reduction, but if two, three or four are working together because of the nature of the show - perhaps because of a particular hazard, because the mine is deep or because of hard ground or a poor grade of ore which requires a large tonnage to be extracted; there are plenty of reasons why more than one prospector might be required - the average recovery limit per man is reduced according to the number of prospectors involved. This is another condition of the existing legislation that I would ask the Government to look at.
Admittedly in circumstances such as these the prospectors could, after reaching the limit of 500 oz, elect to be treated as large producers, but this means that any subsidy payable is related to costs per ounce of gold produced, and I think honourable members will appreciate that in a prospecting situation the determination of such costs is not as easy as it may sound. The prospectors themselves might have no idea of bookkeeping or costing, and this would mean that they would have to employ another man simply for this purpose. Further, a prospector cannot be sure before he reaches the limit of 500 oz whether he will exceed that amount, and so it is likely that in the early part of the producing year he will not take any real notice of his costs.
Now let us proceed a little further. If four prospectors in a party recover a quantity of gold, and after lodging a bar or several bars with the mint and having it subjected to a silver extraction process find that they have recovered 500 oz, they may then receive $3,000 in subsidy. If they continue mining in the same producing year and recover another 250 oz they will subsequenly be asked by the Treasury to refund $375 of the $3,000 already paid to them. The total amount of subsidy on 750 oz is only $2,625. If they should produce a still further 250 oz, they would be required to refund a further $1,625 because the total subsidy on 1,000 oz is paid at the rate of only $1 an ounce. If they were to go on and recover a still further 100 vh, making a total of 1,100 oz, they would have to refund every cent of the subsidy they had received upon first recovering the 500 oz.
– Unless they produced their costs, and then qualified to come under the other section.
– That is right. However, as I pointed out, it is not easy for the prospector to determine what his costs will be. I said earlier that I knew members on the Government side had no practical knowledge or experience of the gold mining industry, and that I appreciated the difficulties they would have in realising what these prospectors were up against. As I said, the prospectors would receive no subsidy at all if they recovered 1,100 oz. The Minister has said that they can elect to be large producers. However, what we have to remember is that had the four men worked separate leases and they recovered a total of 1,100 oz between them, the subsidy they would receive would be much greater. For instance, if they had been working separately and each recovered 275 oz - and one does not need to be a Rhodes scholar to know that that is exactly one-quarter of 1,100 oz - they would have received $1,650 each because the subsidy would have been $6 up to the first 500 oz. They would receive between them a total of $6,600, whereas under the Act as it stands at present they do not receive one cent unless they can prove their costs per ounce and come in on the large producer side. Therefore, the Act as it stands is not doing what it is required to do. It is not doing what Sir Robert Menzies said in 1954 that it should do, which is to give assistance and encouragement to the industry and to the small producer.
I have a couple of proposals I would like to put before the House for consideration. A very simple way and the proper way to give the industry a real kick would be to pay maximum subsidy on each ounce produced, to have no upper limit and to treat small and large producers alike; to make no adjustment or difference just because one mine can be worked at a lower cost or more efficiently than some other. I point out that they have to be worked efficiently today if prospectors want to live under the circumstances today. Let me remind the House that this is the method applied in relation to the subsidy paid to the dairying industry. The Government does not apply the means test to the people in that industry. If it did, I suggest that quite a number of dairy farmers would not receive any benefit at all from the subsidy. Surely if this situation is good enough for the dairying industry it is good enough also for the gold mining industry.
As I said earlier, I know the Government claims that the International Monetary Fund would not permit this to occur. However, I think I am correct in saying that the Government has never asked the Fund if it would give approval to this method. The Fund has only been asked to approve the present method, and apparently it was prepared to approve it. This situation, of course, would not actually increase the price of gold. All it would do would be to encourage the production of gold, and as the production of gold in Australia is falling fairly considerably, I cannot see why the IMF would want to hamper that position unless, of course, it wants Australia to go out of gold mining altogether. If that is what it wants, I think we should divorce ourselves from it on that issue. However, if that method of subsidy is not acceptable to the Government, my next suggestion with regard to the small producer would be to increase the limit on which the maximum subsidy is paid from 500 oz to at least 1,000 oz. This would not be completely what is required, but it would be a step in the right direction. The single prospector I have referred to would not get much benefit from it, because there would be very few, except in exceptional circumstances, who would recover 500 oz; but it would overcome to some extent the position in which the party of prospectors I referred to find themselves. Such a party gets only a very small proportion between them overall in relation to their activities.
If those proposals are not acceptable, I have another suggestion. If the maximum of 500 oz has to remain in relation to the small producer,, then I suggest that the Act be amended so that he gets this subsidy on the first 500 oz, and any reduction of subsidy after that will take effect only on the quantity over and above 500 oz. I know it would suit some to be treated as large producers after reaching the 500 oz mark. I emphasised that it is not a simple operation for prospectors to arrive at the costs they will be up for in relation to the gold that they produce. People in a large mine where several men are employed can take the cost of wages into account. This is a pretty simple operation for the large mining companies which have proper bookkeeping and that sort of thing, but how does a party of prospectors arrive at a decision as to how much they should allow for wages for themselves? The prospectors do not work set hours. They work odd hours, and they work on odd jobs that would attract different wages from those being paid in the big mines. I do not know how the prospectors are supposed to be able to arrive at a conclusion as to what it would cost them per ounce to recover gold. They do not know, early in the year, whether they are going to exceed 500 oz or whether they are going to exceed 10 oz. I hope that the Government will seriously consider inviting a member of the Prospectors Association to Canberra or sending one of its officials to Kalgoorlie or elsewhere in the other States to discuss this matter with the prospectors and give them the opportunity of placing their problems before the Government.
– Recently I received a deputation of British migrants from the Villawood Hostel at my office in Granville. It was arranged that a public meeting would be held in Villawood on 9th April so that some of the problems of people living in migrant hostels, the subject of the increased tariffs at those hostels, and of migration generally could be discussed. I attended that meeting, and there was widespread agitation among the migrants against the Government’s increase of tariffs. Many migrants had complaints about false information given to them overseas when they were prospective migrants to this country. Those migrants have distributed a pamphlet headed: ‘Who wants to live in a hostel - or be dragged before a court?’ The pamphlet, under the heading ‘Do not want special privileges’, then goes on to say:
Migrants do not ask for any special concessions or privileges, only the opportunity to have reasonable transit hostel accommodation and the opportunity to make their own way into the mainstream of Australian life.
I do not think anybody could complain about that. The pamphlet continues:
British migrants accept the fact that their early days in Australia will be spent in hostels until they settle down and save enough to get a house.
All honourable members know that it is difficult enough for an Australian who has lived here all his life to save enough money for a deposit on a house. The pamphlet goes on:
They want to get out of the hostels, stand on their own feet and become part of the Australian suburban community.
Having tempted migrants to come out to Australia with glossy publicity and a $25 passage, the Government throws them into sub-standard hostels and increases the tariff to a point where a mere existence takes most of a migrant worker’s wages.
To the prospective British migrant getting a house of his own is presented as a simple matter in Government publications attracting migrants to Australia.
But the facts are that buying or renting a house is not a simple matter.
Houses for rent are scarce and expensive, while buying a house requires a substantial deposit and long delays in obtaining a housing loan.
These are some of the legitimate complaints made by British migrants. An investigation should be made into them, lt seems that there has been greater agitation in Victoria than there has been in other States. Reading the editorials in the Melbourne ?Age it seems that that newspaper has taken up the case of the British migrants. I am sure honourable members are aware of the need to have a continuous inflow of migrants. Some time ago the Government promised to build flats for migrants. Conditions in hostels are sub-standard and the hostels will be replaced by flats. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) made a statement on this subject on 5th April. It was reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 6th April in these terms:
The Federal Government is to build selfcontained flats for migrants brought to Australia on assisted passages as part of a major attempt to halt the flow of disillusioned migrants returning home.
In the last financial year the number of migrants who departed from Australia rose to 16.363. This is the highest number in any year and was an increase from 10,000 in the previous year and 8,600 in the year before that. The Government’s figures show that many migrants are discontented. It has also been shown that the number of people in Britain applying to migrate to Australia dropped by 36% in the first three months of this year. So there seems to be something wrong with the way that migrants are treated. We know that the Government paints a rosy picture to attract migrants, but when they come here they find that we also have a housing problem. Some 100,000 families throughout Australia are waiting for homes. I believe that the Government should consider these aspects.
The Villawood migrant hostel is in my electorate. It is an old wartime camp of iron huts. They are as hot as hell in the summer and as cold as charity in the winter. The residents can use only a 1,000 watt single bar radiator for a limited period each day. If they use a radiator for more than a couple of hours a day, they must pay an additional tariff. In this hostel, the tariff for a husband, wife and three children, which is not a large family, is $34 a week. Yet a migrant is supposed to save enough money within two years of arriving in Australia to place a deposit on a house and buy furniture. With the burden of a tariff of $34 a week, it would be difficult for him to save anything. The food in the hostels is not good and many of the migrants cannot continue to stomach it. They buy their own food and do a good deal of their own cooking.
I notice that the Minister for Immigration has now come into the chamber. We on this side of the House will co-operate with the Government in an effort to improve the conditions for migrants. I hope that the Minister will, during the winter recess of the Parliament, come and have a look at the conditions in the Villawood migrant hostel. I hops he will make known the number of flats that will be built for migrants and that the Government will increase the rate at which houses become available. We will co-operate with the Government in a more progressive policy to make more houses available to migrants. I believe that the British migrants have many legitimate complaints. For the information of the Minister, I repeat that I was invited to speak at a meeting at the Villawood migrant hostel on 9th April. Some 300 people were present. They were very concerned about their living conditions and complaints were made against the increased tariffs. The Minister for Immigration, with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), has stated that the Government will build flats for migrants, but already those representing the real estate sector-
– If I may interrupt, I can inform the honourable member that it is my intention to do as he has suggested.
– I thank the Minister for his co-operation. If he will let me know when he is coming, I will be pleased to accompany him.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Honourable W. C. Haworth)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 May (vide page 1616), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 3 May (vide page 1696). on motion by Mr Howson:
That theBill be now read a second time.
– ls it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the four measures, as has been suggested by the Minister? There being no objection that course will be followed.
– 1 am sure that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is sitting at the Table, will be pleased to know that we offer no strenuous objection to these measures. For the most part they are technical, as the preamble to the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) indicates. That preaamble states:
To amend the law relating to income tax m relation to income derived by persons connected wilh certain undertakings of the Government of the United States of America, in relation to moneys paid on shares in certain prospecting and mining companies and in relation to nonresident dividend income.
Let me look briefly at these three subject matters. Since the construction of the North West Cape Naval Communications Station - and I do not want to go into the politics of that station - there have been two other developments by way of joint projects, namely the Joint Defence Space Research Facility and the Sparta project. Basically all that the amending legislation does is to extend the term ‘approved project’, which formerly applied only to the North West Cape Naval Communications Station to the Joint Defence Space Research Facility and the Sparta project. I would be interested later to hear how the term ‘Sparta’ is derived. The perplexity on the Minister’s face indicates that he does not know its derivation, but if he can find out and inform the House, so much the better. Whilst we offered some objection to thte establishment of the North West Cape installation, once the agreement’ was made to go ahead with it we offered no objection to the taxation aspects of it, and we offer no objection to the extension of these aspects to the other two projects.
Similarly with respect to the taxing of moneys paid in shares in certain prospecting and mining companies, basically all that the amending legislation does is to extend to June 1970 certain concessions that would run out at the end of June 1967.
The House will not meet again after it rises until August 1967 and it is necessary to re-enact the provisions before we come back. Again the Opposition offers no objections, although I would suggest that the taxing of mining concessions is a matter of some fundamental importance in Australia and it is time the whole position was reappraised. There may be different concepts as to how we ought to tax these things, and in terms of Australia’s future development we will rely to a great extent internally, as well as externally, upon the development of mining operations, not only in respect of petroleum, but of other minerals, including uranium, copper, tin, lead and zinc. At this stage I do not want to traverse what ought to be done but merely draw attention to the fact that in many respects our sister dominion of Canada is far ahead of us in the development of mineral resources.
I commend to the attention of honourable members, although not necessarily endorsing them, the views expressed in an article in the July 1966 issue of ‘Growth’, a magazine published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The article entitled ‘What the Mineral Industry Means to Australia’, was prepared by Mr A. J. Keast, a man well known in mining circles. He was involved in the development of the Bell Bay project and the Mount Isa project and he is now concerned in Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. He certainly makes interesting comments in the article. He refers to the situation which applies in some other countries and mentions what are known as tax holidays. I do not altogether endorse the idea of a tax holiday, but it is worth contemplation by the Government and I hope that the Government asks Mr Keast to elaborate on the points of view he has expressed in the article. I know Mr Keast quite well personally. I first met him when I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, as was the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), who was engaged with me on the Postmaster-General’s Department inquiry and on the Bell Bay inquiry. We both know Mr Keast and I would suggest we both have admiration for him for what he has done. I am sure he would be gratified if the Minister acknowledged that he thought Mr Keast’s points were worth consideration.
All that the legislation does is to extend to 1970 certain concessions that have been available until the end of this financial year, and we offer no objection to that proposal. The third matter is the question of the taxing of non-resident dividend income. 1 should like to comment on this matter. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who is not with us tonight, indicated that it was proposed in the next session of the Parliament to make certain alterations to the taxing of interest as distinct from the taxing of dividend income. One or two matters are in question at present, including the re-negotiation of the double taxation agreements. As I understand it, we have had representatives from the United Kingdom present in Australia recently. These very fundamental documents - the double taxation agreements - come up for review in the next few months. They are certainly not the subject of this legislation but they will be the subject, I suggest, for legislation in the Budget session. They reach down fundamentally not only into taxation but into the question of the whole economic development of Australia. They reach down also into the question of foreign investment in Australia. 1 hope the Government will enable interested parties to put their views before legislation is introduced. I have different views about double tax agreements to those of the Government. The Government has had its discussions with the experts from the United Kingdom and, possibly, from the United States of Amenca. I would like to see the Government set up a kind of interim committee between now and the Budget session which could scrutinise these details.
One of the difficulties about alterations to income tax is that it is the most central tax in our system. Income tax comprises nearly 60% of the total tax collections of the Commonwealth Government, lt is applied on individuals, both as wage earners and as profit makers, ft is applied on partnerships, trusts and certain other activities, and on companies, both public and private. It is rather difficult sometimes to adjudicate suddenly when legislation is introduced. I offer no objection to this legislation because it seems to me to be re-enactment rather than the introduction of new principles. Every honourable member will agree that sometimes the subject matter of legislation is pretty complicated and beyond the know- how of most of us. 1 think the time has been reached when we should be able to contemplate intelligibly amendments to the Income Tax Act. I think we should have some other kind of machinery. I am not going to be dogmatic as to what ought to be done. I am merely indicating that what is b:ing done now is not satisfactory. Whether the Treasurer can suggest something between now and live time when these double taxation agreements are renegotiated I do not know but I hope that his ingenuity will enable him to come up with another method. All I am suggesting is that something ought to be done. Perhaps the Government could appoint a committee of two or three people, such as the Ligertwood Committee was, to take evidence from certain people and interested groups and at least make an assessment of the pros ind cons of the proposition. I will leave my suggestion fairly flexible.
At the moment we are dealing with the taxation of non-resident dividend income. Under the existing double taxation agreements with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada, there is a maximum rate which can be applied on dividends remitted from profits earned in Australia to the home country. A foreign undertaking in Australia is taxed on the same general terms as any other undertaking in Australia. Let us consider a concern like General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. In doing so I am not playing the devil’s advocate. General Motors-Holden’s pays the same rate of tax on its profit in Australia as any other company in Australia. There is no gainsaying that proposition. It ought to pay the same rate of tax. But when we consider the profit which General Motors-Holden’s has after taxation and which has to be remitted, we can see the effect of the double taxation arrangements.
– That company does not pay any more or any less tax because of the double taxation arrangements.
– No, it does not pay any more at the first point of impact.
– Or less.
– That is the point I am trying to make. Nor does the International
Harvester Co., Heinz or anyone else. They pay the same rate of tax on their profit as returned on their activities in Australia, as anybody else, if they are incorporated the same way. But in respect of profit after tax has been paid, there are differences according to whether double tax agreements apply or not.
– It makes no difference to their return.
– I am not sure that the honourable member for McMillan is following my argument. If one of those companies made a profit of $2m, then it would pay the same amount of tax as it would if it were entirely incorporated in Australia. There is no argument about that. At the current rate, the Taxation Branch would get $850,000 of that $2m and $1,150,000 could remain to be remitted. The point is what happens to that sum of $1,150,000? Like most companies, General MotorsHolden’s does not pay out all its profits as dividends but the amount paid as dividends is now taxed at a maximum rate of 15% or 15c in the dollar. If there is no double taxation agreement the company may have to pay twice that amount. In some circumstances it could have to pay the current company tax rate which is 42.5c in the dollar.
– It does not save any tax.
– Whether it saves tax depends not only on how it is taxed in Australia but also on how it is taxed in its country of origin. After all, a double tax agreement is basically a compromise between two countries. It has advantages and it has disadvantages. I suggest that most of the advantages seem to lie on the side of the foreigner and the disadvantages on the side of Australia.
– Let us hope that the question is examined.
– I suggest that it needs looking into. This legislation seems to me to tidy up one point which, in the terms of the current legislation, has been disadvantageous to Australia. It tidies it up to our advantage. At least to that extent I commend the Government. Up to the present, people who were recipients of payments from Australia, whether dividends or any other income, have been able to opt to pay the 15% rate or to be taxed as individuals who had no other income in Australia in which case the figure could have been well below 15%. I do not know how many people are involved but at least this legislation tidies up that difficulty.
At this stage I am begging the question as to whether the double taxation agreements are good or bad. All I am suggesting is that in the terms of the existing arrangements this amendment seems to be in favour of the Australian revenue rather than against it. I was a little disturbed by the paper presented by the Treasurer a few days ago dealing with what he called interest returns as against dividend returns. In it he indicated that it was possible for certain recipients of interest to evade their proper taxation liability in Australia. He did not define how this was possible. I asked him yesterday for precise details of this. I agree that being confronted by a question like that, one might not necessarily be able to answer it in detail. I hope he will provide this information. According to the Treasurer, certain interest recipients rather than dividend recipients - 1 am not quite sure of the reason for the difference - are to be taxed one way rather than the other. There is no doubt that if they come within the double tax agreement the maximum amount payable will be 15%. However, the Treasurer implied that some of them are liable to tax at the full company rate in Australia of 42i% .
– Some of them evade it altogether.
– I know that. That is what I want information about - who currently pays at 424% ? Surely it cannot be those who are covered by the double tax agreement. Why shall some investors who do not invest money directly in shares but take out unsecured notes and therefore are income recipients be required to pay 42i% as against those paying 15%? This was a point made by the Treasurer and yesterday I asked him for an explanation of it.
The next matter that makes me curious is that in this legislation the Government is closing up what it regards as a loophole which enables some people to pay tax at less than the rate of 15%. The Government is removing that option, yet in relation to interest it is willing to impose a ceiling not of 15% but of 10%. These are the questions that I want answered. I am finding it difficult to learn what kind of foreign investors in Australia currently pay 42i%. One of the views put by the Treasurer was that some investors who receive interest payments rather than dividends escape tax altogether. I should like to know how anybody who derives income in Australia can evade paying tax on it. The recipient of income derived in Australia ought to pay tax on it. I should like to know also how revenue is to benefit when people who could have been taxed at the 42i% rate are now to pay tax only at the 10% rate. If the Government intends to tax them at 10% instead of at 42i%, surely it must lose, not gain, revenue.
Another point that I should like clarified is how people who derive income in Australia are able to avoid their tax responsibility. I endeavoured, perhaps unskilfully, to ask this question, or the Treasurer skilfully avoided answering it. At least the question is worthy of a reply. I was rather intrigued by the Treasurer’s statement of 4th May, and so were some newspaper writers. Some Press writers regarded it as an attempt to tighten a loophole. Others regarded it as a device to encourage the investment of more foreign capital in Australia. The matters I have mentioned are, like a lot of others that come before the House, shrouded in mystery. They should not be; they should receive full publicity. 1 am not canvassing my view or that of my Party on the double taxation agreements that are to come up for renegotiation. It seems to me that the Government is closing a loophole that enabled some people to opt out of paying tax at less than the rate of 15% but that at the same time other people will pay tax at the rate of only 10%. These tax rates are not yet the subject of legislation; they are merely projected. Even if they are projected, at least some light should be shone on them in advance.
One of the reasons given by the Treasurer for this measure is that at the moment it is easy for foreign investors in Australia to evade their proper tax liability. If so, there should be no warrant for allowing them to be taxed more lightly. Rather there is a warrant for taxing them properly. This is the kind of information I hope the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, and the Treasurer, might supply. I was somewhat confused by the Treasurer’s statement, as were some members of the financial Press. Different aspects seemed to be covered by it. One newspaper applauded the proposal as a good one for it would close a loophole. Another newspaper openly stated that the purpose of the adjustment was to make it easier for foreigners to invest in Australia.
– So as to pay less tax. They definitely stated it.
– My reply to the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) is that the Government seems more concerned about encouraging foreign investment, irrespective of the price of doing so. The Government is not concerned about the equity of its proposal. At least I am. Last week a statement was made in the House that in some instances it is easy for people who invest in Australia to evade the tax prescribed in Australia’s tax laws. If so, something should be done about tightening up our tax laws instead of giving interest recipients kinder treatment than is to be meted out to dividend recipients. If I were asked whether I would prefer foreign investment in the form of dividends instead of in interest I should reply that I pre.er it in the form of interest. At least at the end of the interest arrangement you can pay off the people concerned. It is not quite so easy to pay off shareholders.
– You might be a conservative investor.
– In this respect I must be conservative, but at least I want some illumination of this matter, and I hope it will be forthcoming. I put my question to the Treasurer in all good faith. In view of the so-called enlightened articles that appeared in the financial Press, I should have thought that he was well apprised of what I was seeking to learn. Apart from this technical point we offer no objection to this legislation.
– Surely the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) would lead us into deep water if we followed him into the interesting field that he just ventured into. Although the subject of double taxation and the revision of any double taxation agreements is not before us in this Bill, at least let me digress to an extent and reply to the honourable member. As a supporter of the Government I am confident that future revisions of our income tax laws will be made to ensure that no wide evasion of tax will occur. As the honourable member has said, members know that representatives of the United Kingdom Government and its taxing authorities have been visiting us. Probably a review of the existing agreement between the two countries is overdue. None of us is in a position to anticipate, but it seems logical to follow along the lines of the thinking of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. Let us leave it at that. J know that the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) has views on this subject. Seeing that we have an undertaking not to extend the time of the House tonight I trust that he will not unnecessarily enter the debate on a subject that is not relevant to the Bills before us. [Quorum formed.]
Four Bills are before the House, but my observations this evening relate to only one. 1 refer to the Income Tax Assessment Bil’ (No. 2). There are three points of interest in the amendments to the Act, all ot which have been fairly adequately covered by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) in his second reading speech. The first point to which I refer is that which relates to mining for petroleum and other minerals. Section 77a of the principal Act is by this Bill to be extended. The section Was inserted in the Act in 1959. I would assume that my colleagues of the Government Members Mining Committee will be ready supporters of this further extension because I re;all that when it was introduced into the taxation law they reminded us that this was a very distinct incentive in the petroleum and general mining fields.
The deduction means a lot to those who are prepared to invest their money. It also will be of considerable assistance to the promoters of development in our expanding country, those promoters seeking to obtain money to maintain the momentum of development. This is the appropriate time, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has said, to give this matter attention because the last extension made in 1964 will come to an end on, I think, 30th June next.
The amendments to which we give ready agreement - it is pleasing to note the Opposition’s approval - will extend the period to 30th June 1970.
There is nothing contentious in that proposition, nor is there any difference of opinion regarding the amendment which extends the exemptions granted in respect of the North West Cape project, which has been financed entirely by United States money, to the two new projects known as SPARTA and the Joint Defence Space Research Facility. All that this provision means is that the United States will have the sole right to tax American citizens working on the three projects and deriving income from the Treasury of the United States. Where the source of their income is from the United States it is only fair that they should be protected against our claims for income tax and that their earnings should be preserved, for taxing purposes, for the United States. So we are simply showing the normal co-operative Australian spirit in extending the exemption to the two new projects.
This brings me to the only other point dealt with at any length by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I refer to the dividend withholding tax provision. Most of the second reading speech of the Minister for Air was devoted to this particular amendment. Honourable members may be aware that the Commissioner of Taxation has released some time ago, along with other explanatory material produced for the guidance of taxpayers, a booklet entitled Taxation and the Overseas Investor’. If my friend the honourable member for McMillan has not seen this booklet I am sure that he will profit from a quick reference to the section dealing with double taxation. But as I have said, this is something for a later interesting debate. The dividend withholding tax is very sensibly summarised in the booklet. The booklet points out that the withholding tax is the final liability for Australian income tax of the overseas investor unless he elects to account for his dividends in a return of income and pay tax on an annual assessment basis. In this event the dividends, unless they be specifically exempt from our income tax, will be included in an assessment with other income derived from sources in Australia and die non-resident investor will be entitled to a refund of any excess of the withholding tax over any tax that may be assessed. The rate of withholding tax on dividends flowing to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada or New Zealand is 15% to accord with double taxation agreements entered into with those countries. In other cases the rate of withholding tax is 30%, but it is open to shareholders to have an assessment basis applied.
That was the existing situation. What does the amendment now before the House intend to provide? This amendment has been some time emerging. It was the Ligertwood Committee, appointed by this Government, which handed down its report on income tax generally in 1961. That report included a specific recommendation which we now find as a provision of the Bill. From 1961 to 1 967 is a space of time which must indicate either that it was a massive task for any government to implement quickly all the excellent recommendations or that adequate research given to the recommendations one by one has necesitated some being brought in earlier than others, as well we know they have been, and now it is the turn of the withholding tax proposal. Or there may have been relationships with double taxation agreements. Perhaps it was wise and fair that only now should the amendment be proposed because we have had the opportunity of looking carefully at the double taxation agreements between the United Kingdom and Australia. I again suggest that there was some relativity in what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said. I would hope that when we next review the double taxation agreement it will lead to a substantial diminution of tax avoidance. What was said by the Ligertwood Committee? How specific was that Committee, and has there been any departure from its recommendations? I refer particularly to paragraph 540 of the report in which the Committee said:
Representations were made to us that the right of election for assessment has, to a large degree, nullified the advantages of simplicity and certainly of liability anticipated when the withholding tax was introduced.
Had there been no option clause, that is had the deduction of Australian tax at 3s. in the £1 been the final liability to tax in Australia, taxpayers in the United Kingdom could have proceeded with their claim to double tax relief in their United Kingdom assessments without having to be troubled with the inconvenience and expense of submitting Australian tax returns.
In paragraph 542 the Committee said:
If the right of election were withdrawn, the Australian system could conform to the generally understood and accepted form of withholding tax. In regard to residents of those countries with which Australia has tax agreements (and from which the main source of overseas investment comes) inconvenience would generally be avoided by the operation of double tax credits. . . As to small investors who were not formerly subject to Australian tax because their Australian income was less than £104, it is not unreasonable to take the view that the country which affords them a stable and prosperous economy in which to invest is entitled to first claim for taxation of income derived by them from within its territories, irrespective of the amount of that income. . . . Accordingly, if he were a resident of Australia he would not be entitled to exemption from tax.
So, there was a distinctive and specific recommendation by the Committee that the obligation to lodge returns be removed from the provisions relating to dividend withholding tax.
Having expressed concern about the delay, 1 come now to the concluding recommendation - that it is quite apparent that all of us should support the removal of this option and the establishment of this Australian withholding tax as a final tax. This is the proposal which is well supported by the Treasurer. I believe that it is fair and that it indicates a more efficient administrative procedure. I wonder, however, whether it might have any detrimental effect on the incentive to the overseas investor to invest in Australia. In the context of the revision of the double tax agreement I trust that that important point about attracting investment to Australia will be constantly borne in mind. I support the measure.
– I do not wish to delay the House for very long, but I desire to understand legislation which is brought before us. By a series of questions I have asked the Treasurer over the years 1 have endeavoured to find out exactly what is the effect and object of these withholding taxes. In his second reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) discussed the withholding tax and said that there were two rates. The rate of 15% is applicable to those countries which have double taxation agreements with Australia - that is, the United States of America, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain - and the rate of 30% is applicable to all the other countries. The .15% rate represents a payment of 3s in the £1, or 15c in the SI, and the rate of 30% a payment 6s in the £1, or 30c in the $1. I asked the Treasurer: ‘What exactly does this mean in terms of payments which are made overseas to people from these countries who draw dividends on investments they have in Australia?’ The Treasurer said: ‘If you are an investor and you live in New York and receive taxable income amounting to $5,000 you pay $750 in taxation. If you live in Australia you pay $1,150. If you live in one of these countries with which we have no double tax agreement you pay between $750 and $1,150.’ 1 asked: ‘If you receive $50,000 in dividends and you live in New York, what would you pay in taxation?’ He said: ‘$7,500’. I said: If you live in Australia what would you pay?’ He said: ‘$29,000. If you live in Germany or Japan you pay between $7,500 and $29,000/
Why is it that people in Japan and Germany who invest money in Australia have to pay considerably more taxation than is paid by Americans, Englishmen, Canadians or New Zealanders? There is only one reason - this taxation is supposed to be a method whereby we encourage and induce people in other countries to invest in Australia. The main capital exporting countries are Great Britain and the United States of America, and we have agreements with those countries so that they will invest capital here to help develop this country.
Mx Whittorn - You look like a woodpecker.
– It is all right about looking like a woodpacker. The honourable member is willing and anxious to see that the interests of this country are subjugated to the international capitalists. He is interested in seeing that the standard of living of the people of this country is absolutely controlled by and is subject to the whims of people who desire to make unlimited profit and who have no interest in this country except to make an unlimited profit from it. The Government does not want anybody to know specifically the effect that certain legislation will have on the incomes that people earn in this country. When the Treasurer introduces amendments to Acts, does he put forward evidence clearly setting out what the effect of the legislation will be?
– The honourable member does not read it.
– Don’t I read it. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said, the Press of this country has noted the statements of the Treasurer. One set of newspapers reported as follows: The object of this reduction in rates of double taxation is to secure more taxation from people overseas. Another set of newspapers reported as follows: The object of this double taxation agreement is to secure less taxation from people overseas and to encourage their capital to come to this country. According to one set of newspapers, the Minister who introduced the Bill made it clear that he was so horrified to find that there were people overseas evading their just taxation payments to this country that he found it necessary to introduce legislation to ensure that these payments are made. The other set of newspapers which came out on exactly the same day contained articles by economic experts to the effect that the object of the reduction in the rate of taxation under the double taxation arrangement was to encourage the. flow of goods and capital from other countries; in other words to reduce the tax on money invested from other countries, in order that this country may halt the reduction of the inflow of capital that is now becoming evident and is resulting in the diminution of our overseas funds.
– Pep it up.
– The honourable member who is interjecting has never been distinguished by contributions he has made to any of the debates of this House. He is a political accident. He got into this House not because of bis capacity or knowledge but because he has a nice genial appearance, and out in the suburbs that he represents, where people are comparatively affluent, all that one needs are good manners and not intelligence. The honourable member may be beautiful but he is dumb.
But let me proceed with the matter I was discussing. It is absolutely clear that sufficient specific evidence has not been submitted to this House by the Minister who introduced the legislation to make clear, not only to me but also to the economic experts who write for the daily newspapers, the object and the likely results of the legislation. We should have exact information about these matters, and it can be easily provided. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) could easily say that if a person receives S 10,000 in New York from money invested in Australia he shall pay so much in taxation. He could say that if a person received the same amount in Berlin he would have to pay so much in taxes. He could say that a person receiving the same amount in South Melbourne would have to pay so much in income tax. AH this can be clearly set out so that even the honourable member who has been interjecting all night would be able to understand it. This is the only appeal I make, and I make it not to the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is now at the table, because I do not think he is in charge of this legislation. I ask him, however, to tell the Treasurer that we, as representatives of the people of this nation, object to having the issue obfuscated by the Treasurer.
– It is a great pity that certain of my friends on the other side of the House would not, before talking about withholding taxes, find out exactly the background to this taxing practice. It is not designed to save anybody an amount of tax. It is not designed to encourage certain investors to get a little bit more money out of Australia. It is related entirely to the amount of money that flows between countries and the exchange difficulties that confront them. But this was not the point I wanted to speak about tonight, and I would not have mentioned it except that the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) was so far astray that it appeared to me that somebody had to put him right.
I want to talk about clause 5 of the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2), which relates to an extension of the facilities available under section 77a of the Principal Act to provide that subscribers to oil exploration companies of share capita] for prospecting purposes may claim the amount subscribed as an income tax deduction. I do not need to tell the House in detail what a great benefit these facilities have been in oil exploration activities in Australia. The provision contains one condition, of course, that the company concerned must make a declaration under section 123a that it will not claim the same amount as a deduction from its income when it finally gets into production.
The Australian companies - and the benefit provided in this way is available particularly to Australian companies - which benefit from this provision do not have income of their own from some other source from which to deduct amounts needed to finance their exploration activities. In this respect they are at a great disadvantage as compared with the major oil companies overseas which have large incomes and which, as an ordinary and natural business precaution and practice put aside a certain amount of money every year for exploration - and we are very grateful for the amount of money that has been spent in this way in Australia and which has resulted in the only discoveries of oil and gas that have been made. But the books of those companies are not open to Australian investors, so we are not concerned with them in discussing this legislation.
Without the deduction made possible by this kind of legislation it is quite certain that very much less money would have been made available from Australian sources towards the capital requirements of the companies engaged in exploration for oil in Australia. It has been very difficult to persuade Australian investors to back up the oil search because of certain difficulties that confront us. This is evident from the fact that whenever calls are made by these companies there are always large amounts that are not taken up.
This brings me to a matter connected with oil exploration that I would like to bring to the attention of the House. During the last few years when we have been a litle more fortunate than we formerly were in our discoveries of oil and gas, there has been a change in the attitude of the Commissioner of Taxation towards investors. This became apparent originally in South Australia but the change in attitude has spread to the other States. Certain people have had some pretty unfortunate experiences which have proved a definite deterrent to investment in oil shares. We all know that the Government’s policy is clearly to encourage the search for.oil. This is apparent from the concession in section 77a and the announcement of the extension of the subsidy until 1969. But the Australian companies have faced difficulties in getting the share capital that they badly need. One of the sad consequences of this has been the need to make arrangements to sell out part of a lease in return for getting the necessary work done. However, considerable sums have been put up to enable many companies to be formed. The people most concerned are ordinary people with some surplus money with which to gamble in what they hope will become a rather lucrative business if oil turns up in the right places. I emphasise that this is a very large ‘if in the Australian story.
No doubt there are also many speculators who have made considerable sums by the buying and selling of shares. Well, that is a practice that extends over the whole range of share dealing, and we all understand it. However, there have been some decisions by the Commissioner of Taxation in the handling of oil shares that have heavily penalised those whose main interest in subscribing their capital in the initial stages was in wanting to help in the search for oil; they had their hearts in it, and they wanted to see that Australia got on with this particular job. Those people put their money up in the first place with the best of intentions. However, for various reasons some of them found it necessary, because of contingencies and expenses that they had not expected, to sell shares after holding them for some time in order to see what was going to happen. For various reasons they wanted to cash the shares. There have been occasions when people wanted to take their money out of an investment in one company that was not going quite as well as had been hoped and to put it into some other company where the prospects appeared to be better. I could quote specific cases, but because of the time and the stage that the session has reached I will not do so. lt has happened that some of these transactions have turned out to be profitable. In other words, people have got more for the shares than they paid for them, and the Commissioner of Taxation has gone back over a period of time, looked into their transactions and demanded tax on the profits, on the basis that they were trading operations. I point out that many of these were only paper profits, and that the people involved had put their money into oil exploration in one place, had found that the company was not getting results and had drawn it out and invested it somewhere else. As I have said, these were purely paper profits. No actual money was acquired oy those people, or at least not in the sense that it was profit that they could take home and spend.
Last year I proposed to the Treasurer that some guide lines should be set down for the Commissioner, who has extremely difficult decisions to make in borderline cases such as those to which I have drawn attention, because he has no way of telling the state of mind of the investor. The Commissioner can look only at figures on a sheet of paper; he does not know what people were thinking when they bought shares, nor can he know their reason for selling. This may be told to him, but he has to make a judgment. I should say here that when purchasing shares an investor may declare them as speculatory. By doing so he obtains the benefit of deductions for losses which normal traders would expect, and at the same time he becomes liable for profits. He can also, I presume, deduct legitimate costs that he might have and which are not available to the type of investor of whom I have been speaking. This is one of the general conditions that operate over all share transactions.
Investment in oil exploration is entirely different from any other investment that we have on the Stock Exchange. In the interests of arriving at uniform decisions and to simplify administration - and I emphasise the need for the latter because it must be extremely difficult for the Commissioner to make these decisions - and so that the investor will know where he stands and will consider that the game is fair, I submit that a new provision should be added to the Act at some time to provide that when shares in companies listed on the Stock Exchange and eligible for concessions under section 77a and perhaps 78b are held by the purchaser for a minimum of two years they shall be regarded as non-speculative. Of course, I do not suggest that this provision should be added now. Under this suggested provision, tax would be imposed only on gains accruing where disposal occurred less than twenty-four months after acquisition. Those operations could fairly be regarded as trading operations by a professional operator.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I have followed with interest the debates tonight. Although 1 do not wish to delay the House, T have been asked a number of questions which I think honourable members require me to answer. Firstly, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) referred to the question of SPARTA. The agreement, as the honourable member saw from the notes, means the undertaking of the establishment which is provided by a memorandum of arrangement dated 30th March 1966 between the Governments of Australia, the United States of America and Great Britain. The project is at Woomera and deals with re-entry of space vehicles. The details of the memorandum can be found in the Department of Defence and are available if the honourable member wishes to pursue the matter in greater detail.
The honourable member also referred to the article by Dr Keast dealing with the advantages of certain tax laws in Canada from the mining company point of view, particularly regarding the question of tax holidays. I should only like to say in relation to this that a recent royal commission on taxation in Canada had a look at the mining laws there and compared them with the mining taxation laws in Australia. On the question of a comparison between the whole of one set of laws and the whole of another set of laws, the Canadian royal commission has said it would much rather operate under the taxation laws in Australia than those in Canada.
There would therefore seem to be evidence that our taxation laws in Australia have given a greater amount of incentive to companies wishing to prospect and to develop mines than has been given to such companies in our sister Commonwealth country. I assure the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that a certain amount of work has been done in studying carefully the results of the Canadian royal com- mission, and that anything that comes out of that study will be conveyed to him in due course. While I am on the question of the taxation laws I certainly will take note of the matters raised by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). We will not be dealing with those matters tonight, but we will have a look at what he has put forward.
A large part of the debate has revolved around the withholding tax arrangements and other matters concerning double taxation agreements. I think it would be wise if I drew the attention of the House first of all to the draft Double Taxation Convention on Income and Capital that was prepared by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1963. 1 think this report is well worthy of study. One can see from the report the number of countries that have within the last five years negotiated double taxation agreements and have used the model taxation agreement for the purpose of drawing up various agreements with other countries. For our part, I think we have derived a great deal of benefit from studying this document. I think we can say that generally it is of advantage for us as a nation, where possible, to start to conform with the general terms of the agreement.
The particular matter that has been raised deals with the withholding tax on interest. Article 11 of the Draft Double Taxation Convention reads as follows:
Interest arising in a Contracting State and paid to a resident of the other Contracting State may be taxed in that other State.
However, such interest may be taxed in the Contracting State in which it arises, and according to the law of that State, but the tax so charged shall not exceed 10% of the amount of the interest.
The reason we have fixed on 10% in the proposal that is shortly to come before the House is so that we shall conform generally with Article 11 of the Convention.
– Why did the Treasurer not say that?
– I am certain that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is well aware of sub-section (3.) of section 125 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Broadly section 125 provides that a company in Australia is liable to pay tax at the ruling company rate, which is at the moment 424%, on interest paid to non-residents. The company is authorised to deduct from the interest paid sufficient to recoup itself for the tax it is liable to pay in other countries. Under sub-section (3.) of section 125, the company paying the interest is not liable to tax if it can establish that payment of the interest without deduction of tax can be enforced against it in the other country. In most cases this can be arranged by executing the borrowing contract overseas so that it is not enforceable under Australian law. It is because of the effects of these provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act that it has been found convenient by the Government to introduce the new withholding tax on interest. I think this explains the matters that have been raised by the honourable members for Melbourne Ports and Scullin (Mr Peters). By now setting down a flat 10% withholding tax on interest we shall not only be setting out a standard rate of tax for all interest going overseas but we shall also be conforming generally to the principles of international taxation contained now in the model convention between sophisticated countries such as our own and other countries of the Western world.
I hope that some of these explanations may help honourable members to understand these matters. I think I have already held the House for long enough. I hope that the explanations may be of help in the further consideration not only of this Bill but also of other Bills likely to come before the House within the next few days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Howson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I want to take just a moment to speak at this stage. I appreciate the explanations given by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), but I still think it a little bit remote, after a Bill has been presented to the House, for him to tell me that I can find certain information in a document available at the Department of Defence. With all respect, I think the document should be available here before the legislation is introduced. Similarly, he has shown me a copy tonight of a rather abstruse document entitled ‘Draft Double Taxation Convention on Income and Capital, Report of the OECD Fiscal Committee for 1963’. Again I suggest that such a document should be made available at least to those honourable members who will lead the debate in the House on either side.
I would hope that if certain legislation is to be based on findings of a Canadian committee, he will supply a full copy of the report at least to me and to some other honourable members, so that we may do our homework. The Minister has said that the finding of the Canadian committee is that the taxation of mining ventures is more favourably treated in Australia than in Canada. Supplying copies of these documents is not merely a courtesy; it is information that really ought to be available to honourable members. I suppose if 1 send $30 to Canada I can get the information, but 1 suggest that the $30 would be better expended on my starving wife and children. I do not think that it is good enough in the circumstances for honourable members to be told now that the information is available. I think it should be freely available to honourable members so that they may understand the legislation. I hope the Minister will follow my suggestion on future occasions. It seems odd to say in the middle of this debate that I can go down to the Department of Defence and get a secret document.
– It is not a secret document.
– If it is not a secret document, it should be laid on the table of the House for the information of honourable members. If the Treasurer, when he made his statement the other day, had said that what he was doing was the result of a convention agreed to in 1963 - I would think that is about the time lag for getting things done in Australia, from 1963 to 1967 - I may have ,been a little better informed. I hope I may soon be fully informed by having the text of the report of the Canadian committee on taxation made available to me.
– I will not take nearly as much time as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) did. However, I would be very remiss in my duty to the House if I did not point out, as an ex-chairman of the Mining Committee of Government members, that we have done all this work. We do our homework; it is up to Opposition members to do theirs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Howson) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos. 5, 6 and 7 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1967, the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1967 and the Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1967 being called on and read together and a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 3rd May (vide pages 1696 and 1697), on motions by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Howson) passed.
Debate resumed from 4 May (vide page 1761), on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Whilst the Bill contains several amendments that may be termed administrative amendments to the Wool Industry Act 1962-66, the major part of the Bill provides for the extension of arrangements for the financing of wool promotion and wool research for the three-year period from 1st July 1967 to 30th June 1970. By an extension of these financing arrangements, it provides for an increase in the Commonwealth con- tribution to wool promotion from about $9m or $10m per annum to a maximum of $14m per annum. The wool grower’s levy is still retained at 2% of the gross value of his wool sales which apply for the period of three years from 1964 to 1967. The Opposition approves of this Bill, subject to some reservations. These reservations are the reason for the amendment which will be circulated in my name.
In 1962, by way of amendment, the Labor Opposition mentioned for the first time in this Parliament the need for the Commonwealth Government to make a contribution to wool promotion in the interest of the industry and in the interest of the whole community. We proposed at the time that the contribution be at the level of £1 for £1 with the woolgrowers’ contribution. The Government rejected the proposal at that time. But this was five years ago. It is rather interesting in retrospect to see what Government supporters said about our motion at that time. It must be borne in mind that subsequently the Government has adopted this idea and, in 1964, it introduced the Commonwealth contribution. I think the attitude of the Government five years ago can be summed up by the attitude shown in the words spoken by the honourable member for Lawson (Mr Failes) on 5th December 1962 when he said in referring to the Labor Party’s amendment which endeavoured to introduce this contribution:
This is plain humbug. The amendment proposed by the Opposition merely represents an attempt to bribe the producers, not with Commonwealth money, as it may appear, but with the producers’ own money.
Then comes his deduction:
Most graziers pay pretty heavy taxes, and, as a result of the increase in taxes that will be necessary to meet the cost of Labor’s proposals, the graziers will really be paying the cost themselves.
This sumsupthe attitude of the Government of that time. I wonder what the honourable member for Lawson thinks now. He used the term ‘humbug’. We rather think that the humbug was on the side of the Government rather than on this side. Subsequently, of course, the Government has taken up this attitude which we thought was right and proper in 1962. So it was the Labor Party which supported and in fact initiated in the Parliament the move for a
Commonwealth contribution towards promotion. We of the Opposition have always maintained that the reform of wool marketing is first priority, that the benefits of wool promotion can be lost through inefficient and old-fashioned marketing methods which are wide open to malpractice and manipulation or by maintaining costly nineteenth century methods of clip preparation and presentation.
The Labor Party has long believed that wool buyers have operated together on the market in such a way as to reduce the wool prices paid to Australian woolgrowers and that buyers have operated to reduce competition in prices. Indeed, in 1958 Mr justice Cook in a royal commission indicated in New South Wales that pies, as these groups of buyers were called, existed and, what is more, they reduced the prices to wool growers. Further confirmation of this suggestion came as a result of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, known as the Philp Inquiry, into the wool industry when it was found that pies existed and that they reduced prices. But the Philp Committee was not able to ascertain the exact extent of this operation. I remind honourable members that if only lc per lb were lost in this manner the cost to Australian wool growers, and to Australia, would be at least $15m per annum.
What better example could we have than the present situation in New Zealand where the wool commission has had to buy in more than 300,000 bales of wool. A prominent New Zealand treasury official, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, stated that buyers have been ganging up on the reserve price scheme, that they have been trying to bring down the reserve price. His statements were supported by the General Manager of New Zealand Cooperative Wool Marketing Association Ltd. This action has been causing great concern in New Zealand. The point that I want to make is that if the wool buyers can cause such havoc in an organised selling system, how much more havoc can they cause among the unorganised Australian wool growers, the ones who sell alone on the market and are unprotected in the free auction system, the ones who sell without asking a price. Wool must surely be the only major commodity in the world which is sold without a price being asked.
I have no quarrel with wool promotion as a principle. Wool promotion goes as far back as, I believe, 1936 when there was a promotional levy of something like 6d per bale. Promotion of wool is essential. It is standard practice in a society such as ours that to sell a product it must be advertised and it must be promoted. The seller must extol the virtues of the product and create an image of a good product among prospective customers, lt is certainly proper that the wool industry should do this both in Australia and throughout the world. However, I have some criticisms of the promotional activities of the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Board. Perhaps the major criticism is that they failed in their relations wtih the very persons who have contributed the major portion of promotional finance and whom they are endeavouring to assist. I refer to the wool ‘grower. There has been a lack of communication between the Wool Board and wool growers.
The promotional campaign has been concentrated on promoting a quality label Woolmark’. I have found that a great number of wool growers do not even know what it means. Some say that a garment bearing the ‘Woolmark’ label is a quality garment. Others say that it merely guarantees that it is made of pure virgin wool. Others just do not know. Of course, a garment must be shrinkproof and mothproof and meet other requirements. But the point that I want to make is that if wool growers are kept in touch with the promotional programme and understand it they are more likely to accept the burden of promotional levies and are less likely to complain about promotional techniques. Without having proper knowledge supplied to them, they find it hard to understand. I have some criticisms to make of wool promotion methods and I believe that some mistakes have been made in the promotion campaign. I propose to mention one or two of them. The first was in the visit of Sir Francis Chichester, the famous yachtsman, a man who is a great character. It was of great interest to everyone when he visited Australia, but I believe that very few people in Australia would have realised that the Australian Wool Board had something to do with the visit.
– It is the people overseas who should be informed.
– But why not tell the wool grower also? That is the point I am trying to make. I remember opening a Melbourne daily newspaper on 4th March, I believe it was, and seeing a huge advertisement extolling the value of wool. It said something about the wonderful warmth of wool. This kind of advertising might be very good at this time of the year or in the next month or so, but on the day that I saw this advertisement the temperature was 104 degrees in the shade. Yet they were talking about the wonderful warmth of wool in this huge and costly advertisement. I am sure that they would have turned anyone off wool. The point that I make is that promotion of this kind will turn wool growers, the people who are helping to finance promotional schemes, against the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Board. I believe that generally the International Wool Secretariat has conducted a good promotional campaign to establish wool as a quality product but, frankly, no-one can tell me that this campaign, costing tens of millions of dollars, is reflected in the price of wool. It is this reason basically why we in the Labor Party have reservations about this scheme.
We are not against the principle of promotion, but we believe that until the wool industry brings its marketing up to date the full benefits of increased demand will be whittled away by its failure to ask a price, and its failure to prevent collusion between buyers who keep wool at low and near uneconomic prices. An analogy is the horse that gets out of the paddock. It is hard work catching the horse and one can spend money on a new gate, but if the fence is down he will still get out. The view that the Labor Party takes is that this matter is of the utmost urgency and that the nineteenth century marketing practice of free auction should be changed. Like the horse, the benefits of promotion are getting away through the weaknesses in the marketing system. Following the defeat of wool marketing referendum in 1965 there has been renewed unrest in the industry. More than 50,000 wool growers voted for a change and the movement of wool prices since then has convinced them and many others that a change is needed.
Why was the referendum lost? Frankly, I lay the blame at the door of the Govern ment. It is true that it authorised the referendum and offered financial support for the reserve price scheme, but from then on, in racing terms, it ran dead. Indeed, the stewards should have been called in because some of the Government supporters were going the other way. I contrast this attitude and the actions of the Government in the referendum of 1965 with the situation in 1951. In 1951 Government Ministers and the present Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) stumped the country campaigning actively for the introduction of a reserve price scheme. Unfortunately the Government’s 20% taxation levy on payments to wool growers, together with the 7i% levy required to operate the plan, proved too much for the wool growers to stomach at the time, but the Government tried. What of 1965? The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) supported the scheme and issued statements on it. It took the Opposition a series of questions day after day to drag out of the Minister for Trade and Industry the fact that he voted for the scheme, and that was all. There was no campaigning, no advocacy and no encouragement for the scheme. Of course, there was campaigning against it A few of the city Liberals, including the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) were more in sympathy with the brokers and the buyers than with the wool growers and they did their darndest to prevent the scheme going through. The Government stood by and watched.
More than wool growers have a stake in the industry. The nation has a stake in it. Indeed, this is recognised by the Parliament making a contribution towards wool promotion. Wool accounts for more than onethird of our export income. This has always been significant but today we have our lowest overseas reserves for at least four years. Wool production this year will gross more than $800m and its impact upon the economy is tremendous. It is clear that every man, woman and child in Australia has a stake in the industry. The effects of lack of stability in the marketing of wool go beyond the loss in revenue; and revenue for wool and its related industries is impossible to estimate. It goes beyond the loss of income for 120,000 wool growers. It goes beyond the loss of export income. The uncertainty, and the loss of profitability, have had an effect on other industries. If honourable members need evidence that the cost price squeeze and the lack of profitability have affected the wool industry, it is apparent from the statistics that are available. The ratio of prices received by wool growers to prices paid by them based on an index of 100 for the three year period 1955 to 1958 paints the unfortunate picture. From 90 in 1963 the index figure fell to 69 in 1966-67. So the diminution of net returns is quite apparent.
Let us examine the wheat industry. It has established production records year after year in recent years. Why? Sure, there are improved farming methods, increased mechanisation, better seed wheat and high yields, all of which have contributed, but the greatest single factor in the record wheat production growth has been the drift of wool growers to wheat growing. The stability of financial returns to the wheat grower has been a strong attraction. On the other hand wool growers have faced uncertainties in their industry, and in the present circumstances who blames the wool grower for going over to an industry which has an organised stabilisation and marketing scheme? Of course, this could present dangers to the wheat industry, because the wheat industry sells in what must be termed uncertain markets. While the demand for wheat has always equalled the supply the plain fact is that distribution is important. The question of tariffs is involved, and regard must be had for the fact that many of the people who need wheat cannot afford to pay for it, but there is no guarantee that Australia will always sell her wheat. Indeed, the transfer of producers from one industry to another can, in a lesser way, affect the meat industry as well. The effect of lack of stability in the wool industry goes even beyond that. Australia sells 60% of the wool entering the world trade. How we sell this vast quantity and the price we get for it have an effect upon other countries, and I refer especially to our partners in the International Wool Secretariat - New Zealand and South Africa. Both have reserve price schemes and for many years in both countries harsh words have been spoken about the failure of Australia to introduce a similar scheme in order to close the gap and present a united front and to prevent the weakening of the operation of their schemes. The individual wool grower, the whole community and our partner countries in the Wool Secretariat have interests which must be protected.
For many years the Labor Party has had included in its policy the establishment of reserve price schemes. Year after year at election after election we have put this policy forward. It is true that the wool growers rejected the reserve price scheme in late 1965 but it may yet prove that they may accept a modified reserve price scheme. Other schemes have been suggested and are under examination - acquisition, pooling, appraisal and so on - and I am not going to delay the House in debating the pros and cons of these but I mention just one, namely, the plan proposed by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers. It has framed a free enterprise wool marketing organisation to conduct the sale of wool. I am not going to discuss it in detail. While it represents a minor improvement on the free auction system it is quite clear that it proposes no basic change to the selling system. It would still be open to all of the abuses and the wool growers would still be unprotected. I suppose that it is understandable that the brokers would seek to preserve their own situation and their own interests. I believe they have done so by putting this scheme forward. I also believe that the wool growers would be foolish if they accepted this proposal as meeting the needs of the moment.
Of course, there are people with a vested interest in the uncertainty of wool auctions who support this sort of scheme. I refer to bodies like the Sydney Greasy Wool Futures Exchange which supports this sort of proposal. I refer also to financial circles which have a vested interest in the uncertainty of the wool market. The Australian wool growers would be making a grave mistake if they accepted the scheme put forward by the brokers as a cure for the ills of the marketing system. As I have said before, the future of wool is of concern to all Australians. The Labor Party regards marketing reform in the wool industry as vital. Everyone recognises that research and promotion play an important part in the production and sale of the Australian wool clip. While I doubt that the wool grower is getting full value for his money that is spent on promotion, or that this Parliament is getting value from taxpayers’ money spent on promotion, and I have outlined my reasons for this, I readily admit that the answer does not lie in the introduction of a new marketing scheme alone. This is very desirable and it is urgent, but increased productivity, continued research and the application of the results of research remain vital means of widening the price cost gap.
Wool research, of course, is divided into two broad fields. There is research into sheep and wool production and research into the uses of wool - wool textile research. Economic research, an activity neglected for years by many primary producers, is now starting to make headway. In wool production, research into pasture improvements, foot rot, animal genetics and a host of other activities, has repaid the financial outlay handsomely. Indeed, the elimination of foot rot from previously affected areas in South Australia is estimated to have increased wool growers returns by $2m a year. Of course, in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, foot rot is still a major problem.
The more spectacular results of wool textile research are more apparent to the average citizen. The shrink proofing process developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for wool tops and fabrics is one example. Everyone will know that a washable woollen is a breakthrough of great importance. Permanent creasing in garments is another research achievement. But improvements in wool handling, scouring and processing, and other advances, also result from the research programme to which this Parliament and the wool growers contribute. Frankly, I have never met a wool grower who complained about expenditure in this field of research. We are told that the scientists are not yet finished with the development of synthetics. But we also know that the scientists - and there are many of them - are busily seeking improvements in wool.
On behalf of the OppositionI move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House recognises the urgent need for wool marketing reform and, believing that the full benefit of wool promotion cannot be reflected in wool prices until adequate marketing reform is instituted, the House requests the Australian Wool Board to make such recommendations as it may see fit at the earliest possible time’.
We believe that this amendment should be acceptable to the Government and to the Parliament. The Government must recognise that a change in wool marketing methods is needed and is urgent. After all, it indicated before that it was willing to risk$1 60m in the rejected wool reserve price scheme. This matter is urgent. If the amendment is accepted it will mean that this House accepts the proposition that a change in wool marketing is needed and needed quickly. It will indicate that the industry should examine the matter carefully and that there has been enough delay. It will also indicate to wool growers that the Parliament recognises their problem. The Minister for Primary Industry said in his second reading speech:
The need to take all action possible to assure the future of our great wool growing industry is a matter for concern not only to wool growers but to all Australians.
We believe that all action possible includes marketing reform and we emphasise its urgency.I commend our amendment to the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is the amendment seconded?
-I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-I support this Bill with great pleasure and with a considerable sense of responsibility. I am also pleased to find that 1 can agree with many of the things said by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), as will be apparent during the course of my speech. However, when we come to the subject of priorities I regret that we do not agree. In fact we commence to march off in opposite directions. I feel that if the Government accepted the Opposition’s amendment - a copy of which I have received - it would put the industry in a very dangerous position. Those are strong words and I realise that they need justification. I propose to demonstrate the truth of them in a moment.
Firstly 1 would like to remind honourable members of the present position in New Zealand where there are 440,000 bales of wool in store which has been bought under the reserve price scheme - and the reserve price fund itself is rapidly running out of money. Secondly, I would like to remind members of the Opposition that the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry of the Australian Wool Board is due to present its report in September. By accepting this amendment we would be pre-judging the report of this Committee of experts.
Traditionally our greatest export earner, wool, still occupies first place in our national industry. Therefore its continued prosperity is of paramount importance to all Australians, whether or not they are engaged in the industry. Most thinking people agree that wool is at the cross roads. Decisions made in the near future by the growers themselves, and decisions made in this Parliament, will have profound consequences for the industry and for the national economy. As we all know, the population of the world is increasing at a tremendous rate and these people have to be clothed. However, for the first time in history there are now alternatives to the traditional natural fibres, wool, cotton and silk. Natural fibres no longer sell themselves. Because the world population is increasing at a more rapid rate than wool production, the wool growers’ share of the textile market is falling. It is now about 9% compared to about 10% or 11% a few years ago. It seems inevitable that it will continue to decline because of the reasons I have given earlier.
With synthetic fibres gaining a consistently increasing share of the market it seems absolutely imperative that every effort be made to ensure that wool retains its place in this competitive world. We can do this first by increasing wool production and, secondly, by selling all that we produce at a satisfactory price. This means that returns from wool growing, that is a combination of wool prices and wool production, must increase faster than costs are rising and, over the last couple of years, this has been about 5% per annum. This is a figure which growers consider dangerously high and which introduces the whole question of our wage fixing and tariff structure. It is a matter of grave concern to the industry that tariff protection in Australia is estimated to account for approximately 13% of wool growers’ costs.
Increasing wool production is the responsibility of the agricultural research and extension services. Obtaining a satisfactory price is the responsibility of the organisations which will control the spending of the funds provided for in this Bill. I congratulate the Government on making the extra money available; but 1 would remind honourable members that woo) growers themselves are matching this sum on a $1 for $1 basis. They do not expect everything to be done for them. 1 know that some growers think that extra funds for research and promotion should wait until improvements or alterations are made to the present system of marketing. As 1 mentioned before, I cannot subscribe to this view. If we wait until a decision is made about wool marketing we will be endangering the whole world-wide structure of the International Wool Secretariat which largely has been financed by Australian woolgrowers and which I consider is vital to the future of the industry. We must remember that it is only in the last few years that the wool industry has made a determined and concerted effort at introducing modern promotion techniques, particularly with regard to the wide and growing acceptance of the Woolmark symbol. However, we cannot expect miracles overnight.
Wool promotion must be looked at as a long term and continuing project. There is a widespread belief that promotion consists mainly of advertising in papers, magazines and so on but in fact it covers a much wider field. Indeed, I think that one of its most important functions is to get the new processing and treatment methods which have been evolved by the research scientist’s adopted by the various sections of the industry. In effect promotion must be used in much the same way as agricultural extension work Ls used in the actual growing of wool. However, the work is complicated by the fact that many manufacturers have large investments in machinery that will not be satisfactory for the new processes recommended as a result of later research. A measure of the success of these new processes is that many of them are now widely accepted, as is clearly shown by the fact that between 1959 and 1965 in Australia alone mills have spent $22m on modernising plant and equipment which can now be considered to be among the most modern in the world.
If growers curtail the work of the IWS, their refusal to contribute more funds could wipe out all the gains we have made and could destroy a world-wide organisation that has been carefully built up as well as destroy the confidence of the manufacturing section of the industry. Wool would suffer a setback from which it might never recover, and then we should only have ourselves to thank for it. Having made this statement, I should not want honourable members to think that I oppose any change in the present system of wool marketing. Rather 1 believe that considerable improvements are needed in the system, and perhaps some alterations should be made to it. As 1 mentioned earlier, this subject is being reviewed by the Wool Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board. I believe that the time to discuss the matter is when the Committee presents its .report in September or October of this year. However. I strongly believe that this will be the last occasion on which a full scale inquiry will be made. Therefore, the Committee’s recommendations, which will follow an exhaustive examination of all aspects of the industry, will represent the last chance for growers’ organisations to reach agreement on this vital question. Their failure to reach agreement could have most serious consequences. 1 do not want this speech to become merely a list of IWS activities. Although the honourable member for Bendigo has mentioned several, I think 1 should also mention some of them briefly. Machine washability, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Bendigo, appears to me to be a real breakthrough. We now have garments of all sorts, including knitted garments, that will stand 200 full washing machine cycles without damage and loss of colour. There are now 244 permanent creasing plants in Europe alone producing approximately 3,500.000 pairs of trousers annually. A new dry creasing process, although slightly more expensive than existing methods, is proving to be very suitable for more delicate fabrics. Dyeing has always been a problem with wool, but new low temperature processes developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation reduce fibre damage to a minimum and give a greater range of colour. Greatly improved techniques now make it possible to print designs on wool, and new methods are being investigated. The C.S.I.R.O. is doing work on a rapid, automatic method of testing wool for yield. I shall have a word or two more to say on that matter in a moment. These are just a few of the many technical projects that are being conducted with funds provided by the IWS.
On a broader basis there are great possibilities for reducing costs in the industry - not at grower level, because with our seemingly permanent economic climate of increasing costs this is virtually impossible, but at all subsequent stages of handling. One can visualise almost boundless opportunities for improving the position of wool when it is realised that in, say, a man’s suit selling for anything between $60 and $100, the actual value of the raw wool is about $5. Incidentally, in this context the retailer’s mark up is tending to increase from about 33% a few years ago to up to 50% today, but apparently this situation applies equally to products made from the synthetic fibres. We must look carefully and critically at alt the traditional methods of handling wool from the show floor to the finished product. Figures confirm that the cost of wool increases steeply at each stage of its manufacture. Obviously this position must be improved.
An illustration of my point is a new system of handling wool for shipment whereby ten men can load 120 bales an hour compared with twenty-one men loading forty bales an hour by the existing method; and the new method is available at very little extra cost. In addition, vacuum pressing of wool has exciting possibilities in relation to container shipments of wool. Another matter that should be given more attention is the objective method of assessing wool by core testing rather than by relying on the traditional subjective visual method. 1 learned today, greatly to my surprise, that skilled, visual assessment is still more accurate than core testing of fibre diameters; but I believe that it is in the interests of the wool industry to encourage further investigation of this technique, the aim being to reduce its cost and increase efficiency. Of course, synthetic fibres are sold on a basis of exact and guaranteed measurement. 1 feel that the wool industry must come to terms with the synthetic manufacturer.
Evidence is growing that the best textile for certain uses may be a blend of synthetic and wool. I do not look on such a proposal as a threat to the wool industry. I look on it as a way of opening up new markets for wool. However, I should like to sound a note of warning in this respect. We must be extremely careful that we are not bulldozed into accepting the synthetic manufacturer’s recommendation on the best proportion of wool in a particular blend. Nothing like enough research has been done on this vital question, but there are signs that the proportion of synthetic required to give a fabric certain desirable characteristics may be much less than the commonly used 40% to 50%.
This point brings me to the topic of wool promotion. The Woolmark campaign is responsible for 90% of the International Wool Secretariat’s promotion effort. The Woolmark symbol is aimed at giving pure, new wool a clear identity amongst the many fibres that are now available. Woolmark has established quality standards for wool and it has encouraged manufacture to these standards. Woolmark has gained wide acceptance by industry and it is recognised by the public. Incidentally, public recognation has reached 83% in Japan and, since the introduction of Woolmark in Germany, 38% of suit manufacturers are planning to increase their use of wool. In the United Kingdom firms that never before used pure wool are now doing so. In Holland a leading financial journal attributed increased sales of wool worsted fabric to the wool mark. Also Italy, traditionally a larger user of waste wool, is increasing its purchases of pure wool. The use of pure apparel wool in the United States of America has increased by 17% and in Russia the State buying organisation insists that all wool imported into the country from the United Kingdom must meet Woolmark standards. Every manufacturer of note in Japan, the largest single purchaser of our wool, is among the 486 licensees in that country. So impressed is the Japanese Wool Spinners Association with the help it has received from the IWS that it is instituting a levy on its own members to raise funds to assist wool promotion.
Another country worthy of mention is mainland China. Members have heard in this House about the Government’s attitude to trade with China. It considers that trade is one way of preventing China from becoming isolated from the rest of the world. This is one way of retaining an avenue where China may eventually come to realise the folly and danger of her present course. Provided that the goods in question are not listed as being of strategic importance, the Government supports this policy. As it is estimated that China is eighth among the wool consuming countries of the world and has almost unlimited possibilities for increasing its demand for wool, we cannot afford to ignore this market. Admittedly the nation’s standard of living is a limiting factor, but it may not be so for ever.
I know that the International Wool Secretariat is maintaining contacts which have provided technical and fashion information to China, but if we are to take a long term view of this matter, thought must be given to a considerable extension of this activity. I hope that those examples will illustrate what has been done and is being done and the prospects for the future.
With continued support for this work I believe that wool can look confidently to the future, although I do not believe that we can expect any sudden and dramatic rise in wool prices. We must try to make the growing of wool profitable under existing circumstances. But demand controls wool prices, and the object of promotion is to increase demand. I have tried to explain how the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat hope to do this by finding new end uses for wool, by research and by promotion in new processes and manufacturing techniques.
Wool is a wonderful product. It is a product which has qualities impossible to match. But having the qualities alone will not sell wool today. People must be told about it and convinced of its superiority. We must remember that the manufacturers of synthetics are not standing still. They are making equal efforts to improve and promote their product. If we believe that wool promotion does not pay we are in effect saying that all the other fibre manufacturers in the world who are spending millions of dollars in this field are wasting their money. In today’s hard business world that is not a convincing argument. However, 1 agree that as wool growers are equal partners in providing the funds for promotion they have a right to know whether all the achievements - and I believe they are very considerable achievements - have in fact put any more money into their pockets or whether the programme may be improved in any way. For example, one aspect of promotion that is not considered very favourably by the trade is general advertising as opposed to specific advertising - that is, advertising that simply promotes wool rather than a given garment. Such advertising does not bring in either the garment manufacturer or the retailer. Advertisements of this type do not give any information as to where a particular garment may be bought or its cost. There may be a place for this background advertising, but I feel that this kind of advertising needs to be examined closely.
I have been informed on good authority that an objective assessment of the results of wool promotion is possible. Certain firms using very advanced and sophisticated market research methods specialise in this work and I suggest that money spent on such a survey would be well spent. If the survey showed that our money was being spent to good purpose it would not only return valuable information on markets and promotion but also reassure growers that they were getting value for money On the other hand, if it showed that the present International Wool Secretariat campaign was not effective, the sooner we knew about it the better.
This is an important Bill. The results of its application will, as I said earlier, affect all Australians. In supporting the Bill wholeheartedly I congratulate the Government on its foresight in realising the importance to the industry of research and promotion. Provided we maintain and where possible increase our efforts in these fields, I am confident that wool has a permanent place in the textile industry of the world.
– I compliment the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) on his speech. It is obvious to me that he either understands the wool industry thoroughly or has made a thorough study of it. We appreciate his efforts on the production side and I am sure most honourable members will agree that his knowledge of the industry, right through to the consumer, is very valuable.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act and to give effect to new arrangements for financing research and promotion. Under the Bill the Government’s contribution for research and promotion has been increased to a maximum of $14m per annum on a $1 for $1 basis. Turning to the speech of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), I point out that the difference between the Opposition’s policy on wool promotion and research and that of the Government has been most marked. The Opposition believes in socialisation and control of an industry whenever and wherever possible. The Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party believe in private enterprise. We believe that each industry has the right to choose its own destiny. We believe also in orderly marketing and stabilisation but only after the industry has ij notified the Government of the day of its wishes in the matter. The wool industry is no exception. Last year we gave growers an opportunity to express their opinion of a marketing plan. They gave us their decision and while I and other honourable members would have preferred a different result from the one we got, we will respect the decision of the growers. I for one will not dictate or take part in the takeover of any industry no matter how tempting such a course may appear at the time. Growers want control of their products, and rightly so. We must respect their wishes.
The amendment moved by the honourable member for Bendigo indicates a watering down of the Opposition’s earlier policy because in the past Labor has always advocated the introduction of some form of marketing plan. The amendment sought simply makes a recommendation to the Australian Wool Board.
At present growers contribute up to 2% of their gross returns, of which some 20c per bale is reserved for research. This is matched by the Government on a two for one basis. For promotion the Government has subsidised, on a Si for $1 basis, all moneys subscribed by growers exceeding $1 a bale. The Government’s contribution at present amounts to between SI Om and $llm. Under this Bill the Government’s contribution will be increased to a maximum of $14m.
There is little need for me to remind the House that the wool industry is going through a very bad time. Any grower who claims that he is getting a good return for his investment is either very fortunate, has an excellent property, is a very good farmer or has not really studied his finances thoroughly. I suppose it would be fair to say that the return on his investment at today’s valuation would not reach 5%. If he claims that he is getting a good return for his investment I suggest that he is actually living off the capital that he formerly put into his property when the price of wool was high, such as the returns he ploughed back in the early 1950s in the way of fencing and pasture improvements.
The wool industry is very sick indeed. Unless the position improves it will go the way of the gold industry, but for a different reason. Gold has folded because of the high cost of extraction and, naturally, the lack of it. Wool could fold because of high costs and low returns. Wool is our biggest export earner, but if the price declines further or even remains at the present level, and our costs continue to rise, as no doubt they will, the time is not too far distant when our total income derived from wool will no longer have pride of place. For the record I remind the House that wool accounts for about 30% of our total export income. Wheat production and wheat acreage are increasing, partly because of the price of wool. Many people would like to see wheat production restricted, but at whose expense? Would it be at the expense of the old growers, the new growers or the Government? That is rather an important question. How can we as a government help an industry as big as this? We cannot subsidise it, because this could cost hundreds of millions of dollars of the taxpayers money. 1 am reminded of a statement made by the honourable member foi Bendigo (Mr Beaton) in the past that Id a pound would be equivalent to about £7m. A penny, or a cent in today’s currency, is of little value to the industry. It would need twenty times this sum which, con verted to decimal currency, would represent $300m. What would the taxpayer say to a suggestion that this sum be provided? Perhaps it would be unparliamentary. Therefore we must look to an alternative to boost the industry. Naturally enough, the goal’ is to endeavour to increase the price payable to the producer. But how can it be done?
Two considerations arise - to try to improve the price by promotion or to improve the quality of the article we wish to sell, or both. I like both, and I am sure this is generally accepted. If they are to be acceptable, those two considerations must work together. We must first produce the goods and then promote their sale. Research is a very broad subject. Research within the wool industry ranges from the wool on the sheep’s back to the finished article not only when it is available in the retail stores but right through until it is used extensively - I emphasise that word - by the purchaser. Whether they be garments to wear, blankets for the bed or even carpets for the floor, the articles must live up to the reputation that we endeavour to give them.
Wool research can be divided into many categories. If honourable members care to read the 1 96-5-66 report of the Wool Board they will find various breakups of costs of the various types of research. Most of these are of a technical nature, and I do not wish to go into them in detail. We do owe a debt of gratitude to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for its contribution, and any increase in the allocation of funds to that organisation will naturally help it considerably. Mr Vines, managing director of the International Wool Secretariat in London, said recently that merino and fine crossbred wools fortunately have made some recovery, but the situation of the stronger crossbred types can still be described only as almost calamitous. He went on to say that New Zealand was the principal sufferer because the bulk of her wool was of this particular quality. Incidentally, production of this type is increasing in the country. Unfortunately, as the price of wool declines the producers must naturally look for an alternative.
Some producers are turning to or are increasing their production of cereals. In many instances growers of fine wool are changing to fat lamb production, and others are turning to beef production. May I make two points at this stage? Firstly, turning to meat production naturally means an increase in the quantity of the coarser type wools. This, of course, is having the tendency of overloading the market with this type. It should be borne in mind that, although the International Wool Secretariat advocates quality in wool, these strong wools are in limited demand and cannot bc classed as really top quality. The second point I make relates to the principle of rotational farming. Many wheat or cereal growing areas depend on sheep to provide a rotation. If the price of wool falls the tendency is for the farmer to attempt to continue producing cereals which over the years may prove to be uneconomical. Beef is not a real alternative. In many areas it is only a sideline the income from which cannot be classed as major.
I turn now to the promotional side of the industry and seek to ascertain why the price of raw wool has not kept pace with rising prices, lt is very obvious to me, and no doubt to everybody else that the various man made fibres have made inroads into the wool industry over the years. Recently I was talking to the commercial director of a very large knitting mill. He gave me figures in relation to the proportion of wool used by his firm which I shall now quote. In the years until 1935, and even as late as the early 1950s, his firm used almost 100% wool. In 1955 orion was introduced, and by 1958 only 50% of wool was used by this firm in its products. In the period between 1959 and 1961 it used 75% other fibres and 25% wool. The strange thing is that in the year 1965-66 the proportion of other fibres dropped back to 50% . Perhaps I should nol say that this is strange, because I believe the decrease in the use of other fibres, or the increase in the use of wool, was brought about by successes with our research and perhaps our promotion.
The prices of man made -fibres are gradually but surely being reduced, mainly, I believe, because their original research costs were naturally high. With these costs behind them, so to speak, the manufacturers of those fibres can now afford to reduce the prices of their articles. But we must remember that the garments they are making arc still popular and that while they continue to be popular wool will always have a strong competitor. It is interesting to note some of the production figures of various fibres. A Tariff Board report of 15th December 1966 showed that the world production of raw cotton in 1955 amounted to about 20,000 million lb and that in 1965 this had increased to about 25.000 million lb. In 1955 it represented 71% of total fibres produced: in 1965 the percentage had dropped to 63%. In 1955, 2,789 million lb of wool was produced, representing 10% of total fibre production. In 1965 production increased, mark you, to 3.274 million lb. but this was only 8% of world production. In 1955, 5,610 million lb of man made fibres were produced, and in 1965 this increased to 11.817 million lb. It can be seen that it more than doubled. The other interesting point is that the percentage of man made fibres produced increased from 19% in 1955. to 29% in 1965.
Unless the Australian Wool Board or the International Wool Secretariat can really pull something out of the hat very quickly I think the future of the wool industry must be in doubt. Manufacturers of synthetic materials are reducing prices to a dangerously low level, and it is forecast that prices could go lower. One must ask these pertinent questions: Is the promotion programme hazing any real success? Can more be done, and can it be done effectively? Is the story being got over to the people? If not, why not? The question is often raised as to whether we should increase production of wool or decrease it. To my mind there is certainly a big advantage in increasing the quantity of wool grown to meet the actual demand. If wc can increase the demand for wool, well and good; we will naturally tend to boost the price. lt is all very well for us in this country to say that promotion is having an effect on our potential users. I remind the House that Australia’s contribution to world consumption is only about 4% or 5%, and even if we double our consumption it will have little effect on the world position. People throughout the world do not buy a garment simply because it is made of wool, despite what may be said about the effects of promotion. Most people buy a garment today according to ils appearance, its colour and its price. Those are the three aspects that attract people to a particular garment, and these are the points of which the Board must be ever mindful. If a pair of socks made with a nylon blend is better than another pair of socks made of pure wool, then we must follow this line in our promotion. Sometimes I wonder whether the International Wool Secretariat and the Wool Board have not stretched themselves out into too many fields without cleaning up the ones in which they started. I believe that manufacturers and retailers would be quite happy to conduct a joint campaign, but we must give them the opportunity to do so. The synthetics people are co-operating with the manufacturers and retailers, and so should the wool industry.
I compliment the Minister and the Government on introducing this measure. I support the Bill. I believe the alteration of the allocation of funds so that the Board will virtually have the final say as to the proportion that will be used for promotion and research is a very good move. I support the measure wholeheartedly.
– We on this side of the House appreciate the measure that is before the Parliament. It will prove of tremendous help to the wool industry throughout Australia when another $3m is available to be devoted to research and promotion. I represent an electorate covering about half of Tasmania, in which some of the best wool in Australia is grown. In that electorate there are properties of 60,000 and 80,000 acres producing top class wool. I am and have always been deeply interested in this wonderful industry. I appreciate the concern for the industry displayed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) throughout the time he has held this portfolio.
I appreciated the speech made by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), a new member from the western district of Victoria, and the contribution made by my colleague from my old district, the Wimmera district of Victoria. 1 was rather amused to hear the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) saying that the members of the Country Party believe in private enterprise. It is a remarkable fact that the moment many primary producers get into difficulties they go to the Government to obtain assistance in the form of subsidies and bounties, and rightly so. But it has been truly said - and 1 say this without any degree of malice - that many farmers like to individualise their gains and socialise their losses.
– That is old hat.
– It may be, but it is very true. It is as true as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. When members of the Country Party say they believe in private enterprise I always think of this. It is absolutely true of many engaged in primary industry. They want socialism when it will help them, of course, and so the Government comes forward with schemes like this, which represents a big chunk of socialism in the wool industry.
I would also like to express support of the amendment that we will be moving but on which we will not ask the House to divide. We have decided to adopt this course because we do not think a vote is necesary. We will have made our point and it will be in the records of the House for the Minister to think about. We stress the need for further investigation of marketing improvements, and here I may say that money spent on promotion is not enough. Improved marketing is the real need of the industry at this time. It has been said that sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. Promotion without marketing leaves the industry in the position it is in today, in doubt and in some cases in great anxiety. So I join with the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) in saying that those sections of the wool industry that are trying to unravel the weaknesses of the marketing system are making a tremendous contribution to the future of the industry.
It is easy to promote wool and to conduct research on wool with all the facilities at our disposal today, but to market wool correctly is a different kettle of fish. The growers were asked about a reserve price plan. It is all very well to say that the referendum on that proposal was defeated, but the fact is that it was only just defeated and 1 would like to give the House the figures. There were 59,235 votes against the proposal and 51,388 in favour of it. Informal votes numbered 303. The majority against the proposal was only 8,000 out of a total voting strength of more than 1 10,000 wool growers.
We know the kind of campaign waged in New South Wales against the proposal. In my opinion it was quite outrageously biased. It is interesting to look at the voting in the various States. In four States there was a majority in favour of the proposal. One of these four was Victoria, as I remind the honourable member for Corangamite and the honourable member for Wimmera. The other three were Western Australia, Queensland and good old Tasmania. New South Wales and South Australia voted against it and, having greater numbers, they carried the day.
As honourable members have already explained, the purpose of the Bill is to inject into the industry’s research and promotion section another $3m of Government money. The combined levy which is payable by growers for research and promotion was fixed at 14% for 1964-65 and 2% for 1965-66 and 1966-67. When an investigation was made to determine how the industry could be further assisted it was found that the 2% provided by the levy, together with the Government’s contribution, was not sufficient. That is why we have this Bill to approve of a further $3m, with the Government’s grant being limited to $14m.
The need to find new revenue to finance wool research, and also the question of a Government contribution after June 1967, were matters considered by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which made a recommendation that is embodied in the measure now before us and which, I hope, will be approved by the Parliament. The woolgrowers were not in a position to increase their annual levy for research and promotion above 2%, so the Government had to come to their assistance with another big slice of socialism. The Wool Industry Conference requested the Government to renew and increase its contribution for research and promotion by matching, dollar for dollar, all the amounts contributed by woolgrowers by way of levy for these activities over the three year period from 1967-68 to 1969-70. The need for promotion is the vital question in this Bill. What is the use of allocating more money for promotion if we are not confident that the present methods are satisfactory and successful? The International Wool Secretariat has done quite a remarkable job in promotion around the world. 1 believe that it will be able to use this money well and without wastage. However, the growers should be kept informed of how the money is being spent. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) made this point. The growers should never be left in the dark as to how their money is being spent in promotion.
There is a section of the Australian people, namely the youth of Australia, that does not know about wool as docs the older generation. The reason for this is that the younger people are being bombarded with the synthetic fibre, which is now very good indeed. This bombardment is coming from the shop windows and from advertising in the Press and on television. Young people may be more inclined to go for looks rather than quality, and they need now to have a good look at clothes before they buy them because synthetics could look so much like wool that these people could be buying synthetics even when they thought they were buying wool.
The story of the IWS and its remarkable international wool symbol outlined by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) is one of the best primary industry success stories I have ever read about. It is now commanding 90% of the Secretariat’s promotional effort and is promising a new and heartening consumer interest in wool. The symbol aims at giving pure new wool a clear identity at point of sale among the vast array of textile fibres now marketed. In addition, by setting strict standards of manufacture for articles which carry the symbol, it underwrites the quality of the article, protects the consumer, and justifies the small price premium he must usually pay for real wool. In other words, it is an effort to pinpoint and underline quality, and this symbol is now the symbol of quality.
The wool symbol was first introduced in six IWS branch countries on a pilot basis in September 1964, and it has established quality standards for wool products and encouraged - and in some cases even compelled - manufacturers to comply with them. It has made retailers aware of a new and potent force in the market place. It has made wool promotion for a wide variety of end products in a score or more countries completely mutually supporting. Wool symbol licences are now being sought by the textile industry on an increasing scale. To a recent date, 5,314 domestic licences and 4,111 export licences had been issued, with other applications waiting for consideration. I do not have the time to devote to the countries concerned. The honourable member for Corangamite quoted some remarkable figures. The progress of this symbol in the past six months has been as great as in the previous fifteen months. During that time, in Western Europe, for instance, more than 25 million articles bearing the wool symbol have reached retailers, representing an annual average of one unit of merchandise for every five people living in the region.
That. Mr Acting Speaker, is a fantastic story in promotion. The survey that was made shows that in each country increased sales of wool have resulted from this symbol. In Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Holland, France, Italy and the Soviet Union the increase in wool sales has been quite phenomenal once this quality symbol has become recognised and has started to have its effect on the consumer, who begins to know that if the article has this symbol on it it is a quality article. The textile industry of Europe is recovering from the depression of the last two years. In the ‘Big Six’ countries - Belgium, France. Germany. Holland, Italy and the United Kingdom, which between them take more than half the raw wool exports of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - there has been a marked upturn in the sale of wool. Over the six months to March of this year, these countries consumed 611.5 million lb of wool, compared with 537.9 million lb for the same period the year before. Japan, of course, is becoming the greatest buyer of Australia’s primary products, and it is a dominant market. It is now the world’s third largest wool consumer and the biggest single purchaser of Australian wool.
Japan has recognised this wool symbol, too, and every Japanese wool manufacturer of note is numbered among the 486 wool symbol licensees in Japan. In Hong Kong and in the People’s Republic of China the wool symbol has now been established and is increasing sales of our wool. There has also been a strong swing back to wool in the United States of America, which is a difficult market to break into. These are stories of promotion overseas, and this promotion now occupies 90% of expenditure by the IWS. It is good to know that it is having this remarkable success in such a short time.
In Australia the Wool Board undertook a full programme of promotion activity from 1964-65, and it has stepped up its advertising campaign. It is using television to a maximum, and it is using coloured photographs in women’s magazines and the like to great effect. It is also using shop window dressing to wonderful effect. An example of Press advertising is shown in today’s Melbourne ‘Herald’. On page 21 of that newspaper we see pictures of some very nice looking women dressed in wool. Women are very nice dressed in anything, but they are particularly nice when dressed in wool. We see in this newspaper some lovely pictures of lovely women advertising wool products, including a sporty outfit of coat and matching skirt in white wool overchecked with navy and red. Then we have a kind of knitted wool slacks with cigarette legs and a hip height belt in the stripes of the pull-on top. The colours of that are brown and stone, and the top is a loosefitting wool knit with rolled collar. It is a pity that these cannot be shown in Hansard, but Hansard is so conservative it will never print pictures, even of nice looking women. I think that is a great lack in the workings of Hansard. On the same page we see a picture of a woman wearing a grass green wool coat with standaway neckline. The coat has a contour seaming and a gently flaring skirt. All this ought to warm the heart of every wool grower in Australia. In another section of the newspaper the Myer Emporium Ltd is advertising wool for mcn.
– But is this form of production being reflected in higher prices at Australian wool sales?
– We now see the materialistic outlook of the member for Mallee. Advertising is designed to sell more wool garments, and if we can sell more wool garments we will be selling more of the raw wool off the sheep’s back. Another interesting point relates to wool promotion as outlined in the excellent publication Australian Wool 1964-65’ published by
Birt and Co. Pty Ltd, Sydney. Two promotional themes used by the Australian Wool Board proved to be among the most successful yet devised. One was the ‘Welcome Winter in Wool’ theme. But they should not be advertised in summer. Fancy putting big advertisements for wool in newspapers on a day when the temperature was 103 degrees. The second theme was a colour theme, ‘Welcome the Warmhearted Colours in Wool’. The advertising, publicity and sales promotion activities linked with each theme were explained to the trade and the ensuing campaign was carefully programmed to meet the needs of each section of the industry. These themes went out through the trade Press and the other publicity channels I mentioned a short time ago. The honourable member for Mallee expressed interest in the consumer impact. Consumer impact is achieved through national and co-operative advertising, fashion and product publicity, fashion presentations and various individual promotions. Highlighting all these, of course, is the national presentation . of the annual wool fashion awards. Many feature stories on the growing use of wool were written about furnishings, wedding gowns and washable-wool workers uniforms. These are three new uses of wool. Supplement material was supplied for newspapers in all States, together with fashion photographs.
I have watched the advertisements for wool on television and in the Press and 1 think a magnificent job is being done to promote this product. Whether it will increase the price of wool at the sales is problematical. All sorts of factors influence price levels at the sales. I believe that if the growers had a reserve price plan, which we as the Australian Labor Party have supported, they would have a far more secure price level over a period of a year or two years than they have now. In addition, they would have more security. I am in favour of a reserve price plan. I know that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is Leader of the Australian Country Party, supported the referendum. He admitted this in the House and I admired him for having the courage to stand up in this place and speak against the scheme that the Liberal Party advocated. He said in this House: ‘I will vote Yes at the referendum”. I hope that other members of the Australian Country Party also voted in this way.
I want to make one or two final suggestions. One problem in the use of wool remains for the research workers to solve and that is that coats and trousers go shiny too quickly. This is very sad. We buy lovely woollen suits and before long they are shiny. Coats become so shiny that people can see to comb their hair in them. I think that mirrors should be used for this purpose. The industry has not yet solved the problem of the shiny appearance that develops in woollen cloth. I think that we can help to solve it in this Parliament. 1 will make a worthwhile suggestion. The leather seats or benches in this House have been here from the very beginning of Parliament’s use of this building. They make a big contribution to the shiny suits that honourable members wear. I suggest that woollen slip zip covers be put on the leather seats in this chamber and in the Senate. This will promote wool right here. We can ask the Australian Wool Board to provide the slip covers for our seats. They can be made in such a way that they can be taken off. I think the Board would be glad to do this as a promotional exercise right here in the Federal Parliament. Thousands of people visit this place every year and would see them.
– Would the honourable member like them in tartan?
– They can “ be in all colours. I would like them in gold and black, the colours of my football club in Tasmania - the Tigers. If we could do this, we would help the industry and we would help ourselves by preserving our woollen suits. I hope all honourable members are wearing woollen suits. I put this suggestion as a practical way of promoting the product right here in the Federal Parliament.
How much are we spending on wool? In 1963-64, the Wool Board spent $853,000 on promotion and publicity. In 1964-65 it spent $984,000. In 1965-66 it spent $1,267,000, an increase of $286,000 on the amount spent in the previous year. This is the trend. The expenditure in the last twelve months was about 50% of the total expenditure on administration, promotion, publicity, wool statistical services, wool stores, the Australian
Wool Testing Authority and Wool House. Half of that total expenditure was devoted to promotion. This Bill has our full support. It makes a worthwhile contribution towards establishing wool firmly in the minds and on the backs of all the people in this country and in other countries as well.
– This Bill, which 1 support, amends the Wool Industry Act 1962-66 to give effect to an increase in the Government’s contributions to the funds for wool research and promotion. The Government will in future contribute SI for §1 with the amount contributed by the wool grower up to but not exceeding $I4m per annum. Promotion and research are, of course, very closely allied. The organisation responsible for the implementation of promotion and research is the International Wool Secretariat, about which I will speak later. Last year 1 witnessed its activities in fourteen countries in Asia and Europe, lt was reshaped in 1961 and stepped up in 1964 when Mr W. J. Vines was appointed Managing Director of the Secretariat. He is an able and energetic man and has won the confidence and respect of people engaged in the wool industry everywhere. I found an obvious spirit of loyalty and dedication in the staffs of the Secretariat. Its employees are entirely the nationals of their respective countries, except for India and, I think, Japan, which I did nol visit.
The aim of promotion and research is to establish wool as a top quality fibre and to create a special demand that synthetics cannot fulfill. This requires, firstly, the development of consumer appreciation of pure virgin wool and a willingness to pay for these qualities; secondly, that consumers can readily recognise wool at its point of sale; thirdly, that the textile industries favour the use of wool as a preferred raw material; and, fourthly, to retain the unique natural advantages of wool, having imparted modern easy care properties to if, and to ensure that the industries concerned use the most appropriate processes. These aims require the provision of technical and merchandising services to the textile and garment industries. Promotional activities must be directed to consumers, in collaboration with manufacturers and retailers. Success depends on influencing the consumer on a continuous basis. These aims must be based on the fact that wool cannot compete with synthetics on a price basis if wool is to continue to be profitable. Wool can only succeed by giving better results.
Consumers in the northern hemisphere, who buy more than 90% of our wool, have no natural predisposition for wool, except perhaps in the United Kingdom. In fact, particularly with the younger people in these countries, wool has to prove itself to be better than other fibres if we are to get a premium price for wool. First it is necessary to establish a firm understanding and appreciation of pure wool in the minds of consumers. With this object in view the Woolmark’ was established. This is applicable only to pure virgin wool. The ‘Woolmark’ is well known in Europe and is succeeding as a means of identifying pure wool. It is authoritatively stated in commercial circles that ‘Woolmark’ has gained public acceptance faster and over a wide area in more countries than any other textile programme. I have seen evidence of this and I can support that statement. I saw an example of this in a departmental store in Hamburg where the departmental manager waited with me while for two hours we watched customers come into the men’s department and look at suitings. More than 50% looked for the ‘Woolmark’ in the suits.
– Could they find it?
– That is a question, of course. A number did find it and they were aware of what it was. ‘Woolmark’ is a mark of quality, rather than luxury. The promotion of individual garments has been mentioned. 1 shall deal with that later. Public relations with all sections of the wool industry is vital. This includes processors, manufacturers, distributors and consumers because the real profit comes only when wool is sold over the counter. Publicity by the International Wool Secretariat is carried out with great thought for effect and economy. The emphasis on fashion which is often criticised is not fully understood, but fashion in individual wearing apparel is more important than price, fibre or utility.
In passing I refer to remarks made by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr
Beaton) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) about promoting wool in summer. I draw their attention to the fact that promotion programmes in wearing apparel are directed at sales about six months ahead. Companies have for some few months past been promoting summer wear and they promote woollen garments in summer so that they will be worn in winter. In talking about the rivalry between wool and synthetics I was interested to see recently that women’s jumpers made of synthetic fibres had been imported from Hong Kong. The place of manufacture was shown in very small letters and in big print was the name of a well known department store in Australia. The garment came into Australia for $1.56 and would be sold for $2.50, so five garments could be bought for the price of one woollen garment.
Synthetics have made great advances - there is no doubt about that. Whilst none on its own embraces all the desirable qualities of wool, most of wool’s qualities are obtained in synthetics collectively. Wool has lost most of its household and industrial market. It also continues to lose its percentage of the apparel market, but it maintains its aggregate position. All wool can be sold, but at a price. It is notable that Japan, our principal wool buyer, has increased its production of man made fibres more rapidly than any other nation. In less than a decade Japan has increased its production of man made fibre by 850%. Man made fibre now holds a larger share of the market in Japan than in any other major wool using country. Man made fibres hold two great advantages over wool. Firstly, they have relative price stability and, secondly, they have shown a steady downward trend in prices.
The chemical giants producing synthetics are making great efforts and are spending fantastic sums of money in their endeavours to imitate the qualities of wool. One firm alone has more than 3,000 chemists so employed. Synthetics now have 25% of the world fibre market while cotton has 65% and wool just over 9%. Relative price stability is forcing the use of synthetics in preference to wool to some extent and in some quarters. The trend in the wool trade has changed very quickly. In Yorkshire, for instance, great commercial changes have taken place in the wool trade. Only ten years ago there were many family companies whereas today there is a limited number of public companies, many of them being directed from other parts of England. But science and research are also helping wool. In production, for example, they have helped the grower to produce more wool per head and carry more sheep per acre. But how to continue to do this economically is the great challenge facing the industry. Growers are caught between a rising cost structure and a falling market. It is interesting to note that the costs deducted from a wool cheque amount to nearly 20%.
Wool still represents more than 30% of our export income. It is well to remember that Australia’s economy was founded on wool. In passing it is of interest to note that in the last decade the wool cheque per annum was more than $ 1,000m whereas the wheat cheque was less than $200m. Today wool earns a little more than $800m and wheat sales return just on $600m. Nevertheless there is a great gap between scientific discovery and application. This is due to a great extent to inadequate extension services. Many good discoveries remain unknown to the bulk of wool growers. A contributing factor is the shortage of extension officers. The grant for extension services by this Government to be applied over the next five years will help to ease this situation considerably.
There is still great scope for wider and more intensive research into many aspects of the wool growing industry. As examples I refer to stock diseases, soil analysis, plants, animal fertility, insects, weeds and loss of new born lambs. Between ten million and eleven million new born lambs die annually. But research into wool itself is really only just gaining full momentum. There have been many discoveries, but it is only now that research is gaining full momentum. An example of this research work in the United Kingdom is to be found at the new research centre at Ilkley in Yorkshire where many research activities are centralised. These activities were formerly scattered throughout the countryside. Some were operating under great difficulty in woollen mills.
The International Wool Secretariat Product Development Department and the Technical Advisory Department work in close co-operation with processors, manufacturers and distributors, many of whom make large contributions to the research funds of the IWS. These total $2m annually. Many millions of dollars are contributed for joint ventures in promotion. Some of the more commonplace activities are shrink proofing, crimp processing and bulking, which increases the volume of wool for a given weight. This is necessary in knitting wools. It adds to the resilience. Another activity is abrasion testing which is particularly valuable to carpet wools. There is research into the use of lanolin which is a very important by-product of wool. Derivatives of lanolin are used in almost every phase of industry. Permanent creasing or Si-Ro-Set was mentioned tonight. Interestingly enough, this is something which to some extent is reactionary in these modern days when dry cleaning is widely used. There is a doubt about permanent creasing in some places and it is not as acceptable to a large part of the European trade in particular as we might think.
The carpet fibre market in the United States of America uses synthetics almost exclusively. Americans use more fibre in carpets than the rest of the world put together. Synthetics gained an advantage by the discovery, through experiments, of a process known as tufting, but it would not be wise to publicise a lot of information about research discoveries. One example of the danger of so doing concerned the discovery by two Japanese professors of the Kyoto University of the particular structure of wool responsible for its resilience and springiness. The publication oi this discovery enabled Dupont to apply it to the manufacture of orion and so gain a tremendous advantage commercially. The discovery put the synthetic industry years ahead of what it otherwise would have been.
While we acknowledge the existence and value of blends it would be unwise to promote them. The wool industry secures better value when pure wool products aTe promoted rather than the promotion of those garments that contain 50% or less wool. Synthetics join with wool in blends only while it suits the synthetic industry or while wool is needed; thus it is a doubtful partner, lt could bc wise to promote blends when wool has established a quality image and is able to bargain from a position of strength. Blends for apparel can contain inferior wool and wool with colour but produce a cloth of similar quality to that produced by blends of superior wools. Wool of 60s quality used in 55% terylene 45% wool mixture is undistinguishable from a 64s quality.
We must look for wider markets for our wool. We should examine possible Asian markets. Many people do not realise that a large area Oi Asia has a cold climate. In India 5% of the population, or 25 million people, have an income equal to the average American income. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) mentioned the China trade. I do not want to be drawn into a controversial discussion but I would ask the pertinent question: How do we prevent anybody getting wool or any other commodity at an open auction without completely disrupting the whole system? The honourable member for Corangamite also mentioned the 400,000 bales of wool that the New Zealand authority had to buy in this year. This may be a coincidence, but when I was in Europe and the United Kingdom last year I was told by three separate persons - a European wool merchant, a broker and a manufacturer - that there would be a tremendous challenge to coarser wools this year and that New Zealand might be the target for such challenge. This is food for thought.
Wool is now an industrial raw material which is not purchased on the grounds of sentiment. It is bought because it is needed, but if that need ever disappears the countries whose political and economic sympathies lie with synthetics will cease to buy wool. This applies to buyers of almost fourfifths of our wool. Australia’s economy would be severely affected if one or more of these countries lessened their buying to any marked degree. While the future of wool is full of challenge there is reason for guarded confidence. Growers would like to be clearer about the future. It should not be forgotten that a large section of the international financial world thrives on variations in the fortunes of the wool industry. These privileges will not be relinquished lightly. I am confident that the International Wool Secretariat is doing an excellent job. The managing director is an outstanding executive and is a dedicated advocate for wool. He has built up, in a very few years, a skilful and energetic staff which is held in high regard everywhere. I am confident also that the Wool Board is likewise doing great work and it ill becomes people to make irresponsible statements not founded on fact. Wool suffers from the same complaint as the troops whose officer said to them when they came from the battlefield and were about to return to base: You will realise now that you have only been fooled about by amateurs when in action. Now you are going back to base you will be fooled about by experts.’ Time is not on our side. It is interesting to note - and it is not possible to arrive at an exact figure because of overlapping membership of organisations - that almost 50% of wool growers are not members of any acknowledged organisation that speaks for wool. I believe that they should be members and that they should interest themselves in the conduct of these organisations. If we lack confidence in the men elected to direct the welfare of this great industry we might find ourselves being dictated to by people who have more regard for their own financial advancement than they have for the future of the wool industry.
While it is always difficult to assess the value of advertising, we do know that the rivals to wool in the fibre market are spending millions, and unless wool is effectively promoted it will suffer accordingly. I reject the amendment because it would upset the Bill and because it does no more than the Wool Board is already endeavouring with all haste to do.
– 1 support the Bill which is designed to give effect to the altered arrangements for financing wool promotion and research and to improve the administration of the Act. Recognising that the wool industry would have difficulty in finding the amount necessary for the expanded promotion campaign launched in 1964, owing to the reduced- return growers were then receiving in comparison with earlier years, the Government at the request of wool growers agreed to grant assistance for a three year period which will expire in June of this year. The wool industry, faced with keen competition from synthetic fibres, requested the Government not only to continue this assistance to the industry on the basis upon which it was previously given but to increase its contribution by a matching grant of an equal amount on ali moneys contributed by wool growers by way of levy for this purpose over a three year period ending June 1970. The Government, appreciating the importance of the wool industry to the national economy and realising the difficulties faced by the industry through low prices and unseasonal conditions, readily agreed to the proposals subject only to a maximum annual limit of $l4m. The Government felt that this amount should be sufficient to cater for the demands made upon it, but it left a safeguard that, in the event of unforeseen exceptional circumstances arising, it would be prepared to review the position before the end of the three year period. Another point I commend is the degree of flexibility that has been allowed in the amount of money permitted to be devoted to research and promotion respectively. Expenditure for these two purposes combined will be a maximum of 55 14m a year, lt is true thai funds required for research and promotion could vary considerably in particular years, so to make the most effective use of the money available it is desirable that this flexibility be permitted. I commend the Government upon this provision. Possibly we shall have to step up research when promotion has reached a level at which it could be stabilised. Money could be switched from one project to the other. As I have said this flexibility will ensure the best possible use of the funds available.
Large areas of Australia are more suited to wool production than to any other purpose. The importance of the industry to our economy can be realised from the fact that almost one-third of our foreign exchange earnings comes from the sale of Australian wool. This was pointed out previously by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). The importance of wool to Australia is still very obvious despite lower prices and unseasonal conditions and it is desirable that the Government give this measure of assistance to an industry which for so many years has played a major role in developing Australia without calling for government aid.
The welfare of the industry will continue to be important to our progress and so should be a matter of concern and interest to every Australian.
One of the great problems facing tho industry today is rising costs. This problem has confronted many other industries. But the wool industry is one which cannot pass these rising costs on and because of our peculiar economy it is natural that costs will continue to rise. It is not easy to find an answer to this problem but it is true that the wool industry today must be considered with grave concern. Whatever can be done to assist it to face the difficulties which it is experiencing will be fully justified, even if the Government has to do i little more than it proposes to do under present arrangements. This would not be too much to ask on behalf of an industry which deserves so much from the ustralian people.
I have mentioned the difficulties facing the industry because of low prices. I would like now to emphasise what the drought has done. The damage can be illustrated by recounting figures for different areas. Honourable members may be interested to know that in the electorate of Maranoa alone the number of sheep fell by no less than 3,488,963 in the twelve months from 31st March 1965 to 31st March 1966. It is easy to imagine the difficulties facing the wool industry as the result of this decline. But these figures are not the whole story. The drought in my area is continuing. How men on the land have carried on is difficult to understand. Men engaged in wool production are a deserving lot of people and merit anything additional that can be done for them. It has not been their habit to ask for assistance but they deserve all that they can get. 1 do not want to take up too much of the time of the House but I want to refer to some of the remarks made earlier by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton). He said that in 1962 the Labor Party had suggested that the Government should make some contribution to the wool industry. It is easy for an Opposition to pick up suggestions and promote them with the object of gaining some electoral support. Oppositions do not have to worry about the possible effects of their policies on the national economy or about how their policies can be implemented. So the suggestions of honourable members opposite hu ve to be taken with a grain of salt. The Government accepted the decision of the wool industry at the wool reserve prices plan referendum. I believe that the Labor Party supported the reserve prices plan and of course there is political advantage to be gained by taking the side of people who were genuinely disappointed with any result. Some students of political affairs consider that the Labor Party would have adopted a different policy if the referendum had gone the other way. However, even the policy adopted by the Labor Party has been watered down quite a bit, as the honourable member for Wimmera said, when we consider it in the light of the amendment moved tonight.
I turn now to the amendment moved by the Opposition. Surely anyone with a knowledge of the wool industry and what it is doing will realise that it is trying to achieve unity within its own ranks. I agree with the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who expressed grave concern about unity and said that the industry should come to some agreement on this occasion. Nevertheless I commend those in the industry for not hurrying their decision. The industry is confronted with the problem that it has been unable to present a unified front for its own benefit. I will not try to suggest where the blame for this lies or say whether the lack of unity could have been avoided by any particular action. But this division of opinion has been one of the industry’s greatest problems. The Government realises that the industry must be allowed to make its own decisions and present its own ideas. I will always stand solidly behind the right of our primary industries to do this. It is their privilege and I hope it will never be taken from them. I feel there is a doubt that they would retain this privilege and right if we had a change of government. However, the industry is endeavouring with all its energies - and I am sure sincerely - to achieve some unity about an acceptable wool marketing system so that it can present a plan to the Government. The amendment moved by the Opposition would not assist this endeavour. A thousand amendments would not assist. The amendment moved by the Opposition serves no useful purpose.
The Government is providing the funds specified in this Bill at the request of the industry. I want to illustrate what wool promotion is doing to aid the industry. One way I could do this would be to read the answer given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) to a question asked by the honourable member for Mallee on 9th May. To be brief, I will quote only the last part of the Minister’s answer.
If the promotion that is undertaken by the Inter.national Wool Secretariat does no more than hold present markets it will have achieved something. The wool industry would have been in a chaotic situation had it not undertaken promotion work and been ready, as it has been ready in the last two years, to meet the onslaughts of the synthetics industry. I hope that as a result of increased promotion - and the industry is gradually building up its programme - it will achieve the effect that the member wants of having the important effect in increased return to growers.
I conclude by commending the Government on renewing and increasing its assistance to the wool industry, particularly as it is an industry that has contributed so much to the development of Australia over a long period without receiving any financial assistance. I trust that all honourable members will support the Bill.
– The Labor Opposition has moved an amendment to the Bill that in effect will throw the Bill out of the House. At the end of his speech the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that the Australian Labor Party fully supports the Bill. I am somewhat confused about what the Labor Party really means. The honourable member cannot have it both ways when an amendment like this one is moved.
– That is not correct.
– It is what he said.
– Read the amendment.
– That is what the honourable member for Wilmot said. The honourable member may check the remark in Hansard. He said: ‘I support the Bill’. Every year for the next three years the Government will make available to the industry the large sum of $14m. In addition the industry will make a contribution of 2%, which also will represent a considerable sum of money. As I have said in this House on many occasions, the need for research in the industry is most important. Throughout the nation one can see the results of the expenditure of this money - in the industry and in our export income. However, when the people of Australia make a generous contribution to research and promotion they look for some tangible results. Such results are always difficult to find, especially with wool. In making a realistic approach to this problem one must conclude that the wool industry has had a chequered career. In 1951 the average return was approximately $2 per lb. Prices are now in the doldrums; so if one were to confine one’s argument to costs, one must conclude that the situation is out of balance. Obviously at this point of time promotion has not been successful in conferring any real benefit on the grower. In many instances returns to growers have not been large enough to cover their expenses or to enable them to do what they want to do on their farms. Of course, they could build up their returns by taking more out of the soil than they put back into it. Members need no reminding that much of this practice has been followed in Australia over the years and that we do not want this sort of thing done. Therefore, we must look further afield to determine what should be done in relation to the wool industry. A three-pronged approach is necessary - research, promotion and improved marketing.
To some extent I censure the Wool Marketing Committee for not placing before us at this point in time its report on the industry. I understand from the Minister’s reply to a question 1 asked a few days ago that the Committee’s report will not be available until October, or thereabout. Over the years many inquiries have been made into the wool industry. The amount of research done in this field must be tremendous. The amount of knowledge that is available is equally tremendous. Surely after all the investigations that have been made this Committee should be able to bring down its report much earlier than October. The Wool Marketing Committee could exercise more haste in compiling its report and submitting it to the authorities. The wool industry has a responsibility to ensure that this is done much earlier than October. I cannot recall when investigations were first begun into the wool industry. They go back many years and a tremendous amount of information about the industry is already available. People who come to Australia from overseas claim that their biggest concern is the fluctuation in wool prices. They add that they can purchase synthetics at reasonably level prices. What is the answer to this problem? It is the Committee’s job to put forward a proposal to the responsible authorities earlier than October next.
Under this measure a considerable amount of money is to be made available by the Government for research. The people who are making this $14m contribution a year are looking for a return on their outlay. Surely this fact alone must concern the Committee, which also has a responsibility to the people of the nation to bring its findings forward as early as possible. I fail to understand the honourable member for Wilmot when he states that he fully supports this Bill and at the same time moves an amendment that will result in its rejection.
– I said earlier that I would take only five minutes tonight, and I will keep to my promise. The speeches are getting shorter as the night draws on. I have often told my constituents that most speeches are improved by being shortened. First I shall refer to statements made by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). He held up some printed material depicting beautiful girls wearing woollen frocks. If higher prices are obtained for these frocks, will the increase be reflected in the price paid for wool at auction? I have asked this big question time and time again. The answer to it was quoted by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). How can we be sure that a rise in prices for woollen products will be conveyed to the grower? Most of it will be received by the manufacturer and the retailer who advertises the frocks manufactured from wool. This is all very well, but perhaps the producer is being overlooked. How can we guarantee that the higher price paid for woollen garments will be passed down to the grower? Only a small percentage of the wool produced in Australia is used here; most of it goes overseas. Can we expect people to pay higher prices for woollen products and not expect the grower to find those higher prices reflected on the floor of the auction? I know this is a difficult problem.
Tonight most speakers have mentioned the great value of the wool industry to Australia. I have been hearing such statements since I was a boy, and I know they are true. Noone doubts for a moment that research and promotion are good but is the money that the Government is contributing to promotion being spent for the benefit of the manufacturer and retailer of woollen products, or will some of it find its way to the source of the industry - the grower, who is the man who matters?
– What about the pictures in the book that were displayed by the honourable member for Wilmot?
– The honourable member should not interject too often because I intend to keep to my five minutes limit. He is trying to upset me, but he should know that is difficult. The grower is often subject to pinpricks that cost him a lot of money. He has been the subject of one of them recently. Everybody knows that good shearers are essential to the wool industry. In its edition of 5th May last the Kerang New Times’, which is published in my electorate, carried the headline ‘Union Ban Stops 400 Boys at Shearing Schools.’ These shearing schools, by training shearers, are essential to the smooth running of the wool industry. The report in the ‘New Times’ reads:
An Australian Workers Union ban has jeopardised the future training of 400 young men each year at 24 shearing schools in Victoria and South Australia.
Most of the schools, including that of the Kerang Agricultural Society, are conducted by ace shearing instructor, Mr. Henry Salter, of Kerang.
Mr Salter said yesterday the AWU had ruled that pupils at all shearing schools must receive an adult wage equal to $36 a week.
The union will declare ‘black’ the property and wool of any grazier who allows a school to be held at his shearing shed where the pupils are not paid.
Mr Salter said yesterday he was an AWU member and this was the first trouble of this kind he had encountered ia 42 years as e shearer.
There is nothing in the union rules to say that I cannot instruct these boys,’ he said.
Three-quarters of the young men at our schools have never shorn a sheep before,’ he added. ‘They are only too happy to pay the small fees and do not expect to get paid to learn to shear.’
The Labor Party in the course of the debate did not refer to the ban. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) did not refer to it. The ban applies throughout the country. It must be lifted. This is the kind of thing that harasses wool growers. What does the Labor Party think of the ban? Is it in favour of it? Judging by interjections from the Opposition side of the House it would appear that the Labor Party does favour the ban. Opposition supporters favour the ban on teaching young men to shear. The Labor Party should immediately get in touch with the AWU. with which it has some influence, and have the ban lifted. Shearing schools are of paramount importance to the wool industry.
– Mr Acting Speaker, 1 speak to the amendment. All that need be said about the wool industry has been said. The Government rejects the Opposition’s amendment. I challenge the Opposition to vote for its own amendment because if it does and if the amendment is carried there will be no Bill, no promotion and no research. All we will have will be a recommendation to the Wool Marketing Committee. But if we reject the amendment and carry the Bill we will have research and promotion; we will have the Marketing Committee bring in a report to which the Labor Party has referred. I will he interested to see whether the Labor Party is game to vote for its own amendment.
– The Minister knows what 1 said about that.
– 1 know that the honourable member for Wilmot said that there will not be a vote. Nevertheless, if the amendment were carried there would be no Bill, no research and no promotion. I advise the Labor Party to examine carefully future amendments before moving them. The Marketing Committee is doing its work. The Committee appointed by the Australian Wool Board had two special committees to assist it. I understand that after a very comprehensive review those special committees have now submitted their reports to the Marketing Committee, which in turn will report to the Wool Board. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said that the Marketing Committee should submit its report before October. If we are to have a comprehensive and thorough report I do not see how the Committee can complete its work before October because it has had to wait for the reports from the special committees. If we want a report let us have a thorough one. Let us get all the information possible so that the best possible results may flow to the industry.
I thank honourable members for the opinions that have been expressed in the course of the debate. This has been a comprehensive review of the industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator 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 Adermann) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some of the comments passed a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) need clarification. I would place the facts on record. After all, devoted, dedicated and loving as is the honourable member, often he is in error. A couple of weeks ago I was in the area where the shearing school to which he referred functions. Some people in the district raised this matter with me. It appears that a chapter of confusion has arisen over this matter. The Australian Workers Union is adopting an attitude which it thinks is desirable to protect the shearing industry generally. From what I can gather there has not been sufficient contact in this matter with the trade union movement. I hope that the parties concerned can discuss this matter with the A.W.U. If the dispute is not brought to a successful and diplomatic conclusion it will be the fault of the wool growers, not the A.W.U.
– There is no confusion. Let me emphasise that Mr Salter has been conducting these shearing schools for about twenty years. The report from which I read earlier states:
That is, Mr Salter - 400 boys from three States would go through the schools this year if the AWU allowed them to continue.
Surely the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) can see that this is not happening.
– This is a matter for negotiation between the interested parties. It is not a matter on which letters should be written to the editor of a newspaper.
– No letters have been written to the editor of this newspaper. The honourable member is jumping to conclusions. I have read from a special report in the Kerang ‘New Times’. The show societies are taking up this matter. The report states:
Kerang delegates will raise the matter at the meeting of the Northern District Agricultural Societies’ Association meeting . . .
The wool industry know* that this ban is wrong and the industry is protesting. It is my place to raise this matter in the House. I think the Labor Party is in favour of the ban. The honourable member for Wills as much as said so, and one of his colleagues near me interjected to say that he favoured the ban. If the Labor Party is genuine, and I think it is, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) and his colleagues who are agricultural and pastoral men should as soon as possible get in touch with the Australian Workers Union and ask it to withdraw the ban for the good of the wool industry. As many honourable members, including Labor supporters, have said tonight, the wool industry means a lot to every man, woman and child in Australia. If it means so much, let the growers have the facility of getting better shearers, which they may get throughout the shearing sheds that are being banned by the AWU. I do not blame the Opposition for this ban, but when I mention it I get protests from the Labour Party. Why do I get these protests? Are honourable members opposite not in favour of shearing schools? Do they think they should not be conducted? I hope they do not think so and that they will get busy and have the ban lifted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
As there have been a number of accidents resulting from unsafe lawn mowers, will he list this matter for discussion with State Ministers with a view to the introduction of uniform legislation to make manufacturers of lawn mowers comply with a safe standard?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I understand that several of the States are at present investigating the question of the safety of lawn mowers and that the Standards Association of Australia has also been asked to examine this question.
In the circumstances, I see no need for Commonwealth Government initiative in the way the honourable member has suggested.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
To my knowledge I have not received a copy of a resolution from the 1966 Biennial Conference of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. However, in December last I received the terms of a resolution carried by the New South Wales Division of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. This resolution registered the Division’s disagreement with the economic arguments advanced by the Commonwealth in relation to the application of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an interim increase in margins. This may be the resolution to which the honourable member is referring. In my reply to the New South Wales Division I said that the Government would bear in mind the views expressed on this matter.
Poverty in Australia (Question No. 103)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
I have had my attention drawn to a report of the Melbourne University Institute of Applied Economic Research which is conducting a survey of this nature in Melbourne. The preliminary results have been made known and I understand that they have been expressed in terms of a tentative poverty line adopted by the Institute for the purposes of the survey and based on such factors as income and family size and composition.
The Government believes that investigations of this kind are more appropriately carried out by such independent bodies as the Institute rather than under direct Government auspices and the Commonwealth, through its Research Grants Committee, is giving substantial assistance to the Institute towards the cost of its Melbourne Needs Survey.
As is customary, the Government will undertake a review of the whole range of social service benefits in connection with the preparation of the Budget for 1967-68.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. There is insufficient information available to the Commonwealth to enable me to express an opinion. 3, 4 and 5. It is a long established policy that the initiative as to the type of aid provided by the Australian Government should rest primarily with the recipient country. As Australia has not been asked to date to supply used railway engines under its various aid programmes, the Government would not consider it appropriate to adopt the course of action suggested by the honourable member.
Official Overseas Visits by Parliamentarians (Question No. 143) Mr Daly asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Information made available to me indicates that the following members of the present Parliament have been members of official Parliamentary delegations abroad or have travelled overseas in an official capacity since the date of their first election to Parliament. Visits by Ministers overseas on Parliamentary, rather than Ministerial, business have been included.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Since the compensation rates paid by the Board are based on normal conversion costs, it would be most unlikely that any profit could in fact be made.
It is not appropriate to speak of ‘obsolete’ scales in the context of compensation, since no scale, no matter what its age might be, can qualify for compensation unless it passes the tests of the weights and measures authorities. Older scales, however, qualify for somewhat lower rates of compensation.
The Board also suspects that, in a few isolated cases, there could have been some some switching of serial numbers from scales previously scrapped, in order to obtain compensation on more than one occasion for the same scales. Following a routine check recently made of S3 scale companies, nearly all were able to account immediately for all scales for which compensation has been paid. Subsequent inspections have reduced considerably the number of scales not accounted for. Investigations are still proceeding and, if it is established that a scale owner has claimed compensation more than once for the one set of scales by misrepresentation, legal proceedings will be instituted by the Board.
Where a scale company cannot account for all scales for which compensation has been paid, the amount of money involved will be deducted from future claims, which will be accepted only after a physical inspection of the scales involved.
Cash compensation is not paid for machines of this kind which could be termed ‘obsolete’.
Where a machine is replaced by a decimal model at Government expense, the contracting company is required to take possession of the replaced £ s d machine, and the system of records established by the Decimal Currency Board would ensure detection on the event of more than one payment being claimed in respect of a machine.
This also applies to payments for machines being converted to decimal operation under contract with the Board.
Cash compensation has been paid to owners of older machines (Category B machines) which were considered unsuitable for conversion or replacement at Government expense, but which still had some working life remaining. It is likely that some owners have scrapped Category B machines after receiving compensation from the Board. The machines would have little or no value under a decimal system unless they were converted, and scrapping them is not regarded as an improper practice.
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
ns asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What has been the cost of Australian involvement in the war in Vietnam, for the (a) Army, (b) Navy and (c) Air Force, in each year to the present date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The cost of Australian involvement in the war in Vietnam, for the Navy, Army and Air Force, in each year to 31st March 1967 is:
These amounts represent the excess over normal costs in Australia for each of the three Services. The cost of Navy involvement in 1964-65 and 1965-66 represents the extra costs incurred in using HMAS ‘Sydney’ to transport stores and personnel to Vietnam.
Australian Representation in Poland (Question No. 243)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The question of extending Australian diplomatic representation to additional countries is kept under constant review. The honourable member may be assured that the Australian Government attaches importance to its relations with Poland, and that direct contact is maintained through representatives at the United Nations as well as by visits of officials and in other ways.
Australian Representation in Czechoslovakia (Question No. 244)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Australian Immigration Policy (Question No. 272)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, on notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
One question was whether the Australian people supported the policy of the Government on immigation. In the course of his reply the Austraiian Ambassador made statements along the line of what is set out in the honourable member’s question, but this was as part of a statement of the reasons, historical and otherwise, which lie behind Australian policy, including the determination of the Labour movement in the last century to prevent cheap labour being brought in which would have the effect of depressing wages and working conditions. The statement cannot be summarised in the brief way set out in the question. The Ambassador, in a reply that was impromptu, expressed the view that the Government was wise in its policies. He was not expressing disagreement with the Australian Government’s policy, and in fact he defended it.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670511_reps_26_hor55/>.