26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the outbreak in South Vietnam of the deadly cattle disease called rinderpest? Is this the most dreaded cattle disease in the world? If the Minister is aware of this situation, what action is being taken to prevent this highly dangerous and infectious cattle disease from being introduced to this country by Australian troops returning from South Vietnam or by any of the thousands of American troops who will be coming to Australia on leave from South Vietnam? Is every precaution being taken to protect our valuable cattle and meat industry from the scourge of the dreaded rinderpest disease?
– The dangerous disease of rinderpest has been endemic in many countries in South East Asia from time immemorial. I am aware that it has existed in South Vietnam for a long time. I am also aware that attempts are being made to control it in that country by vaccination, but I am not surprised that in the disturbed conditions that prevail in South Vietnam there should have been an increase in the incidence of this disease. We do, of course, adopt very strict quarantine measures with regard to troops returning to Australia from Vietnam in order to prevent the introduction into this country of exotic animal and plant diseases, either by the troops themselves or by their equipment. I outlined these measures in some detail the other day in answer to a question by, I think, the honourable member for Riverina, and I shall not repeat them now. But I do make the point that the United States authorities have agreed to take exactly the same precautions in this regard that we take in respect of our own troops. Only yesterday I approved the text of a leaflet setting out Australia’s quarantine laws and the restrictions that are applied and the reasons for them. This leaflet will be issued to all troops coming to Australia. The troops will, of course, be subject to inspection by customs and quarantine officers to make quite certain, or as certain as anybody can be, that these diseases are not introduced into Australia to the jeopardy of our livestock industries.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether he has noted the statement by Sir Roland Wilson in the annual report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation that ‘towards the end of 1967-68 the uptrend in expenditure could be gathering considerable force and if this proves to be the case some shortages of labour and resources and a tendency for excessive demand for imports could emerge.’ Does the Minister agree with this and is it the Treasury view? Does he agree with the statement that the bidding up of wage rates which could result from such a situation would increase the danger of inflationary trends towards the end of the year?
– I did read Sir Roland’s report with great interest. Any views that he endorsed must command respect, of course, from all sectors of opinion because he is probably the most brilliant civil servant that we have ever had and this is his particular sphere. I am sure that he would be the first to admit that he is expressing an opinion. One always has to gauge these trends because they never become factual till long after the prediction is made. On the hypothesis he makes I think the other remarks about pressure on the balance of payments and on wages and the possible resulting inflation would logically follow. In the last year or so, following some large awards, we have seen a considerable increase in the average weekly earnings. As a result, wages have been rising rather faster than any conceivable increase in productivity. They are already exerting some considerable pressure on costs which is indicated, among other things, in succeeding company reports. If this pressure does develop towards the end of the year, as Sir Roland and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation think could well occur, then we will have to face a new situation and will have to take measures accordingly. I think the views expressed are very logical if we follow through the forces which are now discernible. If the forces change direction or if business psychology changes, the prediction could be altered. I am sure that Sir Roland Wilson would be one of the first to agree with that. However, this is an optimistic picture of the economy in the period ahead. I think this is thoroughly justified.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question about the Tariff Board. I remind him that in answering a question of mine a couple of weeks ago he said that he was expecting to be able to make an announcement about an appointment and suggested that that appointment would allow the backlog of work to be cleared up. I ask the Minister whether he has noted the view expressed by the Board in its 1965-66 report where it said that it is basing its attack on the main tariff problems on a systematic review of major Australian industries. Also, has the Minister noted a. statement by Professor Corden that it must be stressed that the tariffs reviewed in 1965-66 are only the top of the iceberg which happened to emerge and that many important tariffs were not looked at and indeed have not been looked at for many years? I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that many important tariffs have not been looked at for many years? Does the Minister consider that even with the appointment that he has in mind the Board will be able to make a systematic review of major Australian industries?
– I am in a position to confirm what I said a week or so ago in the House in reply to the honourable member. At that time I expected to be in a position in the very near future to make an announcement about the filling of a vacancy on the Tariff Board. I informed the House a short time ago that the Tariff Board Chairman had invited me to have lunch with the Board as this would provide an occasion for general discussion. This took place last Monday. I met all the members of the Board and had a very full discussion with them. No suggestion was conveyed to me from any member of the Board that when the Board was restored to full membership there would be any inadequacy of capacity to discharge all the normal functions of the Board or any additional work that may be referred to it. As to the need to review any tariff items which have not been reviewed for some considerable time, there is a complete opportunity for interested parties to make representation for an inquiry on any tariff item. If the representations are made from a broad enough base, the references go from the Minister for Trade and Industry to the Tariff Board. Therefore, proposals that a particular item or items should be reviewed ought to be addressed in a particular form to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I can assure the House that such proposals will receive proper consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I ask whether it is a fact that delivery of the Fill aircraft from the United States of America will be effected next July. If this is so, can the Minister advise the House what preparations are being made to train the crews?
– I am sure that the honourable member will be happy to learn that the development of this aircraft has proceeded so satisfactorily that we are now in a position to prepare detailed plans for the training of crews. Twenty-four crews will leave Australia in March to start their training in the United States. They will be given a total of 4 months training while there, part at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and part with the Combat Crew Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The first aircraft will be handed over to us early in July 1968 and others will follow at short intervals, enabling us to ferry the first six machines to Australia in September of next year. Further deliveries will be made at monthly intervals and all the aircraft will be here by the end of December 1968. The Royal Australian Air Force instructors who will train the Australian crews have already been in the United States for a few months and in conjunction with the United States Air Force have worked out detailed plans for training.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: Why did he choose to ignore the recent representations by me seeking the payment to a 59-year-old ex-serviceman with more than 5 years active service of a special benefit in lieu of the unemployment benefit, which had been cancelled? Does section 124c of the Social Services Act provide that the Director-General of Social Services may grant such a special benefit when he is satisfied that by reason of age, physical and mental disability, or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason the person concerned is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants? Is it a fact that some years ago a Labor Minister for Social Services issued to the then Director-General a written instruction that a special benefit was to be granted to persons who were not otherwise entitled to the unemployment benefit? Is the interpretation now being applied in respect of special benefits somewhat different from that current at the time to which I refer? If so, why, especially in respect of aged and somewhat sick people? Will the Minister justify his condoning the starving of the person concerned over the past three months since his unemployment benefit was cancelled, during which period he has had to live at the expense of his married daughter who has a family of young children to look after? Finally, will the Minister reconsider the matter?
– I have no recollection of the individual instance to which the honourable gentleman refers. However, the specific requirements for each of the benefits to which persons in the Australian community are entitled are set down in the Social Services Act, which has frequently been the subject of amending measures before this place. The special benefit is a discretionary benefit, as the honourable gentleman himself has explained, which is paid when there is no other entitlement in circumstances in which it is considered that the particular person would otherwise be without any kind of sustenance. There is, of course, one other field within which normally the provision of assistance is left to the State governments. However, I believe that in the circumstances mentioned by the honourable member this field would not be involved. I shall look at the case as the honourable gentleman has asked and shall reply to him in writing in due course.
– I preface my question to the Acting Treasurer by stating that I have received from an Australian trading bank a complaint about the $2 note. Is he aware of the poor standard of the printing and workmanship on this note? If so, does he think that a note of such low standard lends itself to the success of forgeries? If, to illustrate my point after question time, I were to give the Minister five $2 notes all of which have margins of varying width and which vary in overall size, what chance would I have of getting them back? May I suggest that if he were to think of paying me back with a $10 note he examine it carefully before letting me have it.
– 1 am not aware that these notes are of poor quality. Although opinions differ, the general view amongst experts is that the notes are very good. I assure the honourable gentleman that minor differences are not important. If he wants to detect forgeries the main safeguards are the watermark, the wire thread embedded near the centre of the note, and the character of the black embossed print. As for exchanging notes with him, I would prefer to wait until by some evil chance I get a forged $10 note to exchange for his $2 notes. I do not think that the honourable member should worry too much about the quality of the notes, but if he would like a more detailed indoctrination into the detection of forgeries I should be pleased to arrange that for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that the number of indigenous people in paid employment - including members of the police force but excluding members of the defence forces - in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea fell by over 800 between March 196S and March 1966, as is indicated in the latest annual report for the Territory? What were the reasons for this decline in employment opportunities for indigenes? What action has been taken or is being taken to provide paid employment at an adequate wage for the people of New Guinea, and has the alarming trend of 1965-66 been arrested?
– I am not aware of a fall in the employment of indigenous people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. On the contrary, there has been a very considerable increase generally. However, I will examine the situation and advise the honourable member accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I preface my question by reminding the Minister of the recent drastic fall in prices for the stronger type of wool and, on the other hand, the continuing firm market for mutton and lamb. Is the Minister aware of a strain of merino type sheep developed in South Africa, growing a heavy cutting fleece of 64 quality wool, and also possessing outstanding carcass characteristics for the production of meat? Would the Minister consider allowing, under the strictest quarantine control, the importation of some of these sheep, or of ram semen, so that the performance of this strain could be studied under Australian conditions?
– J am aware of the fall in wool prices, and even if I were not I am sure that the wool growers in my constituency would not allow me to remain in ignorance. The honourable member is aware that there is a complete ban on the importation of ruminant animals, including sheep, not only from South Africa but from the rest of the world as well. South Africa has a number of very serious sheep diseases, including blue tongue, Rift Valley disease and Wesselbron disease. These are all transmitted by flying insects and because of the abundance of such insects in Australia it is quite clear that if any of these diseases were introduced into this country it would be virtually . impossible to eradicate them, with serious consequences to our economy. So in the present state of knowledge, even with very strict quarantine precautions the importation of sheep or sheep semen from South Africa would present a very serious disease risk. Therefore I cannot give the honourable gentleman any encouragement that the ban can be lifted to allow these sheep to be brought into the country.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. If and when Australia’s 3-mile limit is extended to 12 miles, as I understand the fishing industry is seeking, will the Minister consider the drawing of a straight line between two extremities? Does he see any difficulties in drawing a straight line from the southern extremity of Tasmania to the southern extremity of Western Australia? Under present law is the Halibut oil well in Victorian, in Australian or in international waters?
– Extension of the fishing limit from 3 miles to 12 miles will not affect Australia’s right to exploit the continental shelf. As I understand international law - 1 will check this and give the honourable member an accurate assessment of the position - any nation has the right to exploit its continental shelf to a depth of 200 metres or to any greater depth which is exploitable. So the extension of the 3-mile limit to 12 miles will not affect this position. So far as the Halibut oil field is concerned, nobody knows whether it is in international, Australian or Victorian waters because the matter has not been tested in the courts. The intention of the agreement between the States and the Commonwealth is that there should be no case to test who has jurisdiction in this area but that there should be a division between the States and the Commonwealth on terms agreeable to both the States and the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. As I come from a cathedral electorate, certain constituents who are members of the AustralianNew Zealand Association of Bell Ringers have asked me to urge the Government to consider changing the proposed arrangement for the carillon to be placed on an island in Lake Burley Griffin. As the Association is affiliated with a British association and as the grant for the carillon came from Great Britain, my constituents urge that the bell be installed so as to operate over a full 360 degrees to enable their sound to be heard on both shores of the lake. If it is not possible to do this could some bells be installed at the keyboard of the carillon so that this ancient and traditional art might still be practised in Canberra?
– I do not know whether this matter is completely within my jurisdiction or whether it falls within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister. The carillon is principally a matter between the Prime Minister’s Department and the United Kingdom Government. My office, through the National Capital Development Commission, has been involved in preliminary arrangements for the construction of a carillon on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin. The present suggestion is for a carillon of fifty-three bells, the largest weighing over six tons. These bells will be in a fixed position so that they may be electronically or manually operated from a keyboard. This suggestion has been accepted by the British Government and the Australian Government in negotiations. To alter the requirements for the design now would involve considerable structural changes. To have bells which swing more space would be needed and construction costs would be greater.
When six architectural construction firms were asked to submit designs for the new carillon, three of the firms being Australian and three British, it was specified that the bells be in a fixed position. I believe it is a bit late now to have bells which could be operated by professional bellringers because the bells would have to swing. Perhaps I should add that we have a very fine peal of bells at St Johns church and if some bellringers would like to exercise themselves I am quite sure that the people of St Johns church would allow them to do so on special occasions.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has he had an opportunity to study a report of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council following its inquiry into the Government’s proposal to sell or lease the Canberra abattoir to private enterprise? Has the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council recommended most strongly that the abattoir should not, in any circumstances, be sold or leased to private enterprise? Has the Advisory Council in its report produced strong evidence to support its contention that the abattoir should be retained and placed under the control of a statutory authority, that it should be brought up to a standard equivalent to that of a New South Wales Department of Agriculture 21 A’ licence, that it should be a fully serviced facility with the staff employed by the authority and its services available to all who wish to use them? Will the Minister say whether some of the evidence produced at the Australian Capital Territory inquiry contradicts the recommendations of an interdepartmental committee on whose advice the Government decided to sell or lease the abattoir? Can the Minister say whether the proposal will be reconsidered in the light of the recommendations made by the Advisory Council?
– I have received the report referred to by the honourable member. I have read it and studied it, but I do not agree with it. I believe that much of the reasoning in it is fallacious. I still hold the view which I held previously that the abattoir should be operated by private enterprise. However, because I do not believe that I am the repository of all wisdom in these matters, I have referred the report of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council to the original interdepartmental committee on the basis of whose advice the Government took its decision with respect to the abattoir. I have asked the interdepartmental committee to report to me on the substance of the conclusions reached and the detail contained in the Advisory Council’s report. When I receive the report from the interdepartmental committee I shall study it further and consider what further action should be taken.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration in his capacity as leader of the House. I refer to an incident which occurred in the House last night when the Opposition refused me leave to table documents which proved conclusively that members of the Australian Labor Party Executive in New South Wales and Victoria were involved with the Chinese Communists. I ask the Minister-
– Why doesn’t he go back to sleep?
-Order! The honourable member is entitled to ask his question without interjection.
– Take the shotgun out of his back.
-Order! The honourable member for East Sydney will come to order.
– I will not be intimidated by the friends of the Communists. I ask the Minister: What action is open either to myself or the Government to ensure that these documents which prove these things conclusively shall become available for the perusal of honourable members and the public?
– I was rather surprised last night when the Opposition refused leave for these documents to be tabled. I listened to the honourable gentleman last night and I learned from his speech that there were three documents. The first was a photographic facsimile of the signatures on a petition from Victoria. It was alleged of this petition that it contained the signatures of five members of the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party and of very many other members of the Australian Labor Party. The second document was a facsimile of a petition bearing signatures. This petition emanated from New South Wales and it was said that it carried the signature of a member of the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labor Party and the signatures of very many other members of the Australian Labor Party. I understood from the honourable gentleman’s speech that the third document was a facsimile of a note which was proposed to be handed to the British authorities by authorities of the Chinese mainland Government but which the British authorities had refused to accept because of its tenor. It was said that the prayer in the two petitions was in precisely the same words as a portion of the document emanating from the mainland Chinese Government.
As the petitions are alleged to contain facsimiles of the signatures of these members of the Australian Labor Party and of the Party executives of two States, I would have thought that the Opposition would be anxious to have the documents tabled so that it could do one of two things - either offer a denial of the authenticity of the facsimiles or an explanation, which I think the Parliament was entitled to have, as to how it came about that there were these signatures of members of the Australian Labor Party in common with, so it was alleged, those of members of the Communist Party of Australia. These are matters that I thought the Opposition would have wanted to bring to the table of the House for the purpose of clarification. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition was in the House for some time while the debate was proceeding, but I am not sure that he was in the House when the honourable gentleman’s request was made. Those who have a recollection of the incident intimate to me that the Leader of the Opposition was not in the House at the time. I am very glad to hear that, because I think that the honourable member for Mackellar is in a sense premature in seeking to know what can be done to have the documents tabled. It is not necessary at this point of time to consider that aspect, because I am perfectly certain that, now that the matter has been made clear, if he renews his request the Opposition will agree to give him leave for the documents to be tabled.
– Will the Minister for Immigration give the full details of the new immigration arrangement with Yugoslavia, a Communist country, to bring migrants to Australia?
– There is no agreement with Yugoslavia.
– An arrangement.
– There is at this point of time no arrangement. In Australia there is quite a large community of people who were born in Yugoslavia and were formerly Yugoslav citizens. Many of them are now Australian citizens and, if I may say so, are fiercely Australian and share the same aspirations as I do, in common with all members of my Party and, I am sure, in common with all members of the Opposition Party. These people, naturally enough, are anxious to achieve family reunion where that reunion can be effected and, for that reason, the Department of Immigration receives from people of Yugoslav origin many nominations of relatives in Yugoslavia. We have recently established an embassy in Yugoslavia and we have an immigration officer and staff in Belgrade. At present, the Australian officers have taken over the processing of these nominations in the hope that family reunions can be more quickly effected. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the Yugoslavs who come to Australia to make their home make a very fine contribution to the development of this country.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of a number of allegations regarding the Australian Wheat Board selling wheat to mainland China at a price below that of the normal average export price, is the Minister in a position to say whether these allegations are true or false?
– I have no hesitation in saying that allegations suggesting that the Australian Wheat Board is selling wheat to China at a price lower than it could secure elsewhere are based on a complete misunderstanding of the position and are not factual. Why should the Board do this? It is a commercial enterprise established by this Parliament to sell our wheat crop to the best advantage.
– What is the price? Give us the price.
– A commercial enterprise would be unwise to state its price, as the honourable member will understand.
– Give us the price.
-Order! The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting. The House will come to order.
– Let me say this: Some of the writers who make these allegations no doubt base their mathematical calculations on statements made by the Commonwealth Statistician, but the Statistician does not define the quality of the wheat or the different varieties involved. He does not say whether it is hard premium wheat, wheat which is semi-hard, wheat which is of fair average quality, or wheat which is off grade. As everybody knows, or ought to know, at present China is by far the biggest purchaser of our off grade wheat on which a discount needs to be given. How on earth can one make a calculation on this basis right across the board and say it is the average price? Secondly, if anyone knows anything about wheat selling and has followed the markets during the last 12 months, he will have seen prices varying from week to week. The price appearing in a contract made this week may not necessarily apply, on the world market, in respect of a contract made next week. Thirdly, the Wheat Board is representative of a majority of wheat growers and would soon lose the confidence of the growers if they did not get the best results from their marketing. Naturally they are concerned to get the best results. All this hullabaloo by writers about subsidising wheat to China is representative only of those who have an interest in China.
– Has the Minister for Defence received a copy of the testimony released in the United States of America last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Fill fighter bomber? If so will the honourable gentleman table the document in the House for the information of honourable member??
– I have not yet seen the full text of the evidence given before the Committee. I will read it and see what is to be done with it.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Opposition I direct my question to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I preface my question by reminding him of the platform of his Party which states that no Labor Party member-
-Order! I cannot hear the honourable member’s question because of the noise in the chamber. Would he repeat it?
– I was- prefacing my question by reminding the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the platform of his Party states that no member of the Labor Party can co-operate with the Communist Party.
-Order! The honourable member is out of order. His question has nothing to do with the business of the
House. It concerns a party political matter. I call the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I have called the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– I rise to a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that a question may be asked either of the Ministers of the Government or of the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is correct; but a question addressed to a member, not being a Minister, must relate to the business of the House of which be has charge. I again call the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask: What is the attitude of the Government to the United Nations now that it has for its President a Communist?
– It has become the established convention of the United Nations General Assembly that the Presidency of the General Assembly rotates among different groups of members of the United Nations. The Australian Delegation at the United Nations was very pleased to support the nomination of the Foreign Minister of Romania as President. At some time before that I was happy to be able to inform the Romanian Government that Australia would support the nomination of the Romanian Foreign Minister. We are very happy to see that in the course of rotation of events the Eastern group of European nations has secured the Presidency of the General Assembly. We believe that this represents a greater disposition on their part to work for the general peace of the world.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Watson regarding migrants from Yugoslavia. Are there arrangements for migrants from other Communist countries to join their relations in Australia?
– I could not describe them as arrangements in the strict sense.
Arrangement’ implies some form of government to government agreement and I could not properly so describe it. The fact is that we do whatever we possibly can to achieve the reunion in Australia of people living here and their relatives in European countries which have Communist governments. Over the years we have found that a great number of people have been able to come here to achieve a family reunion from such countries as Hungary, Poland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The joy felt by people In Australia upon reunion with their loved ones from those countries makes very much worthwhile the effort by the Australian Government and by all the officers who so adequately serve the Department of Immigration.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. As the conclusion of the Mirage production programme is imminent, will the Minister inform the House of the Government’s plans for the use of the productive capacity which will become idle at the time of production of the last Mirage aircraft? I understand that the last Mirage aircraft to be built is in the course of production.
– I can only assure the honourable gentleman that the whole question of forward requirements of aircraft of all types for the Services is currently under study. When that study has been completed it may be possible to say what the prospects are.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. By way of preface I may say that Hansard records, and the Minister may recall, that some years ago I advocated investigation of the use of nuclear energy for blasting large caverns which could be used for water conservation in various parts of Australia, especially the Murray Valley. Is the Minister aware that a prominent engineer associated with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has said recently that this technique is a distinct practical possibility, and that no danger need be associated with it? Does the Minister know what progress has been made in California with an experiment in this field called Operation Ploughshare which is being conducted over a period of 5 years and which should now be almost completed? Will the Minister earnestly consider instituting a full investigation of this matter so that, if the technique is practicable, Australia may at an early date take advantage of this means of water conservation?
– I and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission keep closely in touch with the development in the United States of Operation Ploughshare. When I was in Washington recently I took the opportunity of having a long discussion with Dr John Kelly, who is the head of the operation, and I later saw Dr Seaborg, the head of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Dr John Kelly will be coming to this country in a couple of months to bring the Australian Atomic Energy Commission up to date with the investigations and research being carried out under Operation Ploughshare. But I must point out to the honourable member that Australia is a signatory to the nuclear test ban treaty and it would be impossible for any country which is a signatory to that treaty to explode any nuclear device which vents into the atmosphere. In the United States in the early days an atomic device was exploded in the Nevada desert which made a crater about 300 feet deep and about a mile across, but this was done before the nuclear test ban came into force. Now the experiments are carried out underground. An experiment is to begin shortly near El Paso called Operation Gas Buggy, involving the explosion underground of a nuclear device in order to increase the return from a gas field.
– The explosions 1 suggest would be underground.
– They would have to vent into the atmosphere in order to make craters, and of course there would be considerable problems, particularly if the operation were to be carried out in the Murray Valley. I am sure the honourable member’s constituents would not be very happy if there were a nuclear blast in that area, particularly if radioactivity resulted. I can envisage that any operations of this kind in the foreseeable future would be carried out only in remote and sparsely populated inland areas of Australia, or for the develop- ment of harbours in the northern areas where there is practically no population. There is also an economic problem associated with the honourable member’s suggestion. If we made a crater and filled it with water the only way to get the water out would be by pumping, and this might be expensive, particularly as the water level fell. The economics of the proposition would have to be studied to see whether it was practicable. I think that is all I can tell the honourable member at the present time.
-Order! The honourable member shall not canvass the contents of the papers. He shall only state the reason why he wants to present them.
– The second paper is a petition emanating from New South Wales. The third is a photographic copy of page 22,140 of ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’ containing the text of the Chinese Communist Government’s note of 15th May which is in identical terms to the petition I have mentioned. I ask leave to table these three papers.
– Leave is not granted.
– Recently 1 have been considering methods of increasing the debating time available during the parliamentary day. I have had discussions with my colleagues of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party and I have concluded that the method which is likely to cause the least inconvenience to members and least dislocation to those providing services to the House would be by reducing the dinner break on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the lunch break on Thursday. The Opposition has been consulted on this and I understand that it concurs. Commencing next week, I propose that the House should sit until 6.30 p.m. rising until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday anc1 Thursday and that it should sit until 1 p.m., rising until 2 p.m. on Thursday. By doing this we would retain the usual commencing time. The extra two hours debating time each week will represent a worthwhile supplement. I regret that I can give no indication that the adoption of this procedure will eliminate the necessity to sit late when exigency requires it or even sitting on Fridays as the situation demands.
– by leave- The change that has been mentioned by the Minister for Immigration and the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) is unprecedented in my 14 years in Parliament. I appreciate that towards the end of a session we normally sit late and sometimes sit on Fridays. My belief is that this session will perhaps finish on 2nd November or 9th November at the latest. At this stage we are only in the third week of September and arrangements are already being changed. I want the Minister to tell me and the House whether these arrangements have been made because a Senate election is going to be held at the end of November or early in December. If this is the case I think the Minister should be honest with the Parliament and the people. He should tell us so that we will know what the position is.
Changes in sitting hours have never been made this far ahead of the proposed finish to a sessional period. If the reason for these arrangements is that we are going to finish on 2nd November come hell or high water because of a proposed Senate electron, then I think that the Opposition and the people are entitled to know this. I am not against the alterations at all. As a matter of fact, most members of the Opposition are happy with these arrangements and would like to see them as permanent arrangements. We are happy if we can have an extra two hours sitting a week. We do not mind whether the arrangements are permanent or not.
But the Leader of the House should not make a statement that is not basically truthful. The full reasons behind the proposal have not been given to us. The Opposition, the Parliament as a whole and the people are entitled to have far stronger reasons advanced by the Minister than we have been given at this stage. I ask whether the Minister would contemplate amplifying his statement and giving us the correct reasons for the proposal that the House has been asked to approve.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Minister for Immigration) - Mr Speaker, I am quite sure that my friend, the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), really recognises that one thing that he can expect from me at all times is the truth. The truth will now be given to him again, just as it was given to him before. I do not know when the Senate election will be held. This does not fall anywhere within my area of responsibility.
– Who decides the date?
– The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) decides the date.
– Has he told the Minister yet? Has he that much confidence in the Minister?
-Order! The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith should cease continually interjecting.
– The honourable member for Lang pointed out that we have passed mid-September and he prophesied sitting until 2nd or 9th November. No doubt he gets those dates from a paper that I circulated in, I think, May last, when, in order to serve the convenience of all honourable members, I circulated a document indicating the programme in this Budget sessional period, which was as far into the future as I was then able to see. That document indicated a week of recess commencing on Monday, 6th November. The honourable gentleman may make prognostications about the end of this sessional period. I cannot make any at present. We are. now in the first week of the 3-week sitting period that my circulated document indicated. Including next week, there will be only 5 sitting weeks before that week of recess beginning on 6th November. I think I am correct in my recollection that this year there has been a record number of speakers in the Budget debate. I am now trying to provide as much time as possible for the consideration of the Estimates. Essential legislation related to the Budget is on the notice paper and in addition we shall have to consider essential legislation that is not related to the Budget. I am trying my best to get that legislation into the House as early as possible and to allow adequate time for it to be debated. The truth is that the parliamentary day contains only about 5 hours of debating time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when one makes allowance for question time, statements by leave and a variety of procedural matters.
– What about Thursdays?
– On Thursday mornings we debate general business or have a Grievance debate, except during the consideration of the Budget.
– The Minister cut it out.
– That statement by the honourable member for Gellibrand is not correct. I think the Opposition Whip (Mr Duthie) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) will agree that during last sessional period we considered general business or had a Grievance debate on Thursday mornings. It is only while the Budget debate is in progress that we do not have those procedures, and this is traditional. On Thursday mornings, we lose debating time to general business and the Grievance debate. I do not object to this, because it serves a good purpose, but the result is that the time so used is not available for debating Government business. The additional half hour on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the additional hour on Thursdays will give us an extra 2 hours of debating time each week for Government business. This represents about 10% of the total weekly sitting time of 18 to 20 hours. I am sure that after the new procedure has been introduced we shall be able to assess it and determine whether it will provide the extra debating time for which I hope so that honourable members will be able to use it effectively to debate the Government business that will come before them.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Development of airfield pavements at Mackay airport, Queensland.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– I would like to congratulate the Public Works Committee for its prompt investigation, the prompt report following that investigation, and also for the recommendation to go ahead with this most important work of lengthening and strengthening the pavements at Mackay airport. I would also like to congratulate the Committee for bringing to the notice of the Government the shocking state of the buildings at that airport. I am not conversant with the contents of this report but the fact that the Committee recommended that the Government should re-examine the timing of the terminal rebuilding programme at Mackay airport with the idea of accelerating the completion of the proposed long term improvement suggests very clearly that the Committee was not satisfied with the programme which co-ordinated the building of the terminal with the building of the pavements. When one has seen this terminal one must form the conclusion that the Committee’s finding is correct.
The proposal is to spend $ 1.25m on lengthening and strengthening the pavements to enable DC9, Electra and Boeing aircraft to land at Mackay airport. But then there will be the extraordinary contrast of two fibro sheds - and they are no better than sheds - perched at the side of the pavement. These buildings represent a town which has been labelled the gateway to the
Barrier Reef. I understand this airport is the twelfth busiest in Australia. In summer the temperature inside these two fibro sheds is about 100 degrees and outside it is sometimes 130 degrees to 140 degrees. In the Ansett-ANA building there are no public facilities whatsoever so that if one wants to wash one’s hands or go to the toilet one has to go across the road. In the monsoonal period one gets wet unless one happens to be carrying an umbrella. The toilet facilities provided for Ansett-ANA are the old type that will house two - and three is a crowd. That is the type of building that we have to put up with. The Government is spending $1.25m to provide Mackay with a first class airport yet it is not concerned about improving the buildings.
I understand from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) that this year there is a programme to relocate the public facilities to place them next to the Ansett-ANA building, so Ansett-ANA passengers will have somewhere to go. When I raised this question with the Minister he said that the Ansett-ANA passengers could use the Trans Australia Airlines facilities. These facilities are a box like compartment and if one wishes to use them one has to walk along the street and if it is raining - it usually rains for 3 months of the year in that area - one could get wet. I am sure that the Public Works Committee saw this state of affairs. As far as I am concerned it is a disgrace.
-Is each company not required to provide its own facilities?
– The buildings are a disgrace. As far as TAA is concerned the responsibility rests on the Commonwealth Government. The Minister for Civil Aviation has stated - and this is borne out by the report - that there will be an extensive rebuilding programme in the 1970s. This is what the Committee has investigated and it has recommended that there should be an acceleration of this programme. I heartily agree. I congratulate the Committee for bringing the unpalatable fact to light.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 20 September (vide page 1167).
Proposed expenditure, $341,164,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed expenditure, $48,754,000.
– Yesterday afternoon and last night some fifteen honourable members participated in the debate on the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. This morning I will not discuss all the matters raised, but only the principal matters. It may be possible for me, after reading yesterday’s Hansard, to make statements subsequently to some honourable members whose queries are not answered this morning. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) raised the question of the Gnangara Lake site. I think it is fair to say that he made some suggestion that the Commonwealth had been dilatory in its attitude to the transfer of this land to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission because the land had been sold when it became surplus to one department and re-purchased 12 months later for the Commission. This land comprises 320 acres and approval was given in April 1966 for its purchase for $128,000 from Dr Carl Georgeff.
Realising that it would have to move away from Applecross, the Commission made investigations around the area for an alternate site. Because of the development and the sophistication of the operation that it desired to undertake it was necessary for the Commission to have considerably more land than it had at Applecross. I think honourable members will appreciate that when the Applecross land was purchased some SO or 60 years earlier it was not surrounded by any development and, looking, into the then foreseeable future, it appeared unlikely that any difficulty would arise. In view of the experience at Applecross it was believed that the OTC should have a substantially increased area for the new operation and its desire was to obtain approximately 700 acres. The land we are speaking of comprises only 320 acres. If up to August 1965 the OTC had been told that this land was available it would not have been interested because the area was insufficient and because the Commission was then making experiments or tests around the whole south eastern part of Western Australia to find suitable land. When I say suitable land I mean in terms of transmission and reception of messages, which is the Commission’s essential business. Subsequent to this OTC was able to determine that land in this particular area was suitable to it. But it had to negotiate also with other landholders for the purchase of additional areas to make a total of 700 acres. Finally it purchased from Dr Georgeff 320 acres plus two other pieces of land, one of 384 acres and the other of 19 acres - a total of 723 acres. The price paid for the 320 acres was less per acre than was paid for the other two pieces of land. So I suggest that there was nothing wrong in this operation. The situation was that the land became available too early for it to be accepted by OTC.
The honourable member for Stirling wanted to know why this land had not been made available more or less as a gift to the town of Melville or to the State Government. I think the Parliament should appreciate that OTC was set up as a business undertaking and, in the interests of the Australian public, it has operated very successfully as a business undertaking. Having regard to the fact that the cost of land and buildings in the new area of Gnangara will be about $2.65m it is hardly reasonable to expect OTC to give away that which it holds and which is valued at between S 1.25m and $2.5m. The exact value is not known. If the land were subdivided there would be some expenditure associated. Having to meet an expenditure of $2.65m it is not reasonable to expect OTC to give away the land. As a business organisation it is entitled to set off against proposed expenditure the value of the property which it at present owns. I entirely support the attitude adopted in this matter by OTC.
The honourable member also referred to the supply and installation of equipment in the Post Office. I would remind him that as regards automatic switching equipment there is a total expenditure each year of about $28m, covering some 200 separate items. If we call tenders on the basis of supply and installation it may be that in the lowest tender there are some items that could have been obtained elsewhere at lower cost. So the Department has adopted the attitude of buying the equipment at the lowest possible cost and then calling tenders for installation, getting installation at the lowest possible cost. This arrangement allows the Department to use the resources available to it to the best advantage. The honourable member expressed some uneasiness or unhappiness about the present policy, but I would point out that the contractors themselves are the most unhappy people in this matter because they would prefer to supply all of the equipment, obtaining maximum profits thereby, and then obtain full profit from the installation of the equipment. The contractors feel that they are disadvantaged by the present policy. We believe that the taxpayers and the users of the telephone facilities are advantaged. I believe that we are justified in acting as we do.
The honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) referred to parliamentary broadcasts and suggested that there should be a third network. I have explained before to honourable members that we in Australia face a problem in the provision of frequencies. City dwellers must realise that people in many provincial and country areas have only one commercial network and one national network. In many cases reception is not entirely satisfactory. This factor was referred to by one or two honourable members representing distant areas. We believe that we should give maximum consideration to those who live in sparsely populated areas. If further frequencies are available it is these people who should be considered rather than those who live in metropolitan areas.
The honourable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) referred to educational television and tried to draw all sorts of conclusions from a comparison of Australia with American Samoa. As he said, American Samoa has to provide television for only 26,000 people. If I might use the term, American Samoa is no bigger than a postage stamp compared with Australia. So there are different problems to be faced in Australia compared with American Samoa. This is not to say that we have not tried to do something about educational television. A good deal has been done. In some States there is a lack of desire to expand educational television.
Most States subsidise the purchase of television sets in schools. One State- it is better not to give names - two years ago provided $10,000 for the purchase of television sets in schools, but less than 50% of that amount was spent. Another State does not subsidise these purchases at all. Two States - these are the smaller States - are very keen on educational television, but the other States do not show a great deal of enthusiasm. Having looked into the future and discussed this matter with people who understand the situation, I believe that if we wait a little while we will overcome one of the major problems associated with educational television. In so many schools in Australia today there are three or four classes in the same form. It is not possible to bring all students in a form together at a particular time, having regard to the overall school syllabus. Even if you could bring them all together at one time the numbers would probably be too great to enable all students to see properly a demonstration on one television set. An automatic device for the recording of a television programme is being developed. When this is developed, then at, say, midnight, when the ABC is not otherwise televising, the educational programme can be televised and automatically the school will make a tape of both picture and sound. This the school will later be able to use as it sees fit, class by class. In this way we will be able to cater for substantial numbers of viewers.
An additional problem affecting educational television is that television is not available to many areas where it would be of greatest advantage. Victoria and Tasmania would have almost 100% coverage, but in the other States there is far from a 100% coverage. In my own State of Queensland areas such as Cloncurry, Charleville and Cunnamulla would not have educational television available to them. This situation applies to many areas in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. I think it must be said that it will be impossible to have educational television available in Australia as it is available in American Samoa.
I pass on to matters raised by the honourable member for Calare (Mr England). He mentioned the question of more flexi bility for district telephone managers. I appreciate the point he has made. I presume that what is generally meant when asking for flexibility is that it shall be a one way traffic, which is usually to the advantage of the people. We provide a continuous service when the number of subscribers on an exchange has reached 40. I presume that when he asks for flexibility he is suggesting that if the number of subscribers reaches 38 or 39 a judgment should be exercised by the district telephone manager who can decide not to wait until the number has reached 40 but can provide the continuous service for only 38 or 39 subscribers. I wonder what the honourable member’s attitude would be if the district manager in the exercise of a discretion decided to wait until there were 42 or 43 subscribers before providing that service. I suggest that in those circumstances there would be a request that we move back to the standard that we have already set. In my view this is the sort of area in which there must be guidance given to the district manager. Perhaps I should inform all honourable members that a continuous service exchange of 40 subscribers is completely uneconomic from the point of view of the Post Office. If we were to wait until we reached an economic stage the number would be considerably higher than 40. A very substantial concession is given to people in areas where a continuous service is provided for only 40 telephone subscribers.
The honourable member referred also to additional small country automatic exchanges. The first matter that should be mentioned is the supply of equipment. It must be appreciated that those who supply the equipment for small country automatic exchanges also provide the equipment for the large exchanges throughout Australia and the resources available to the Department must be spread through all areas. At the moment we are spending in the vicinity of $6m to $8m per annum on country automatic exchanges of this nature. In 1962-63 the number of country automatic exchanges installed was 52, and in the year that we are now entering the number will have risen to 159, which is an increase of 200%. Having regard to all the circumstances I believe that this shows that we are making progress. However, as I have told many honourable members in letters, it will be many years before we are able to cover the whole of our Australian requirement with country automatic exchanges.
The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Curtin) raised the question of a concession in rentals for postmasters who have some supervisory responsibility in regard to buildings. I mention for the record and for his benefit that normally the rental charge to a public servant occupying a Government home does not exceed 15% of his salary; he is charged the economic rental for the home but it is provided that the amount shall not exceed 15% of his salary. However, where a public servant has the responsibility of supervision over a post office or other building the rental is reduced and shall not exceed 10% of his salary. Consequently, the matter which the honourable member suggested should apply is already covered.
The honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill) made a very useful contribution to the debate in relation to our estimates. I believe that I should draw to her attention page 88 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board report which shows that last year there was a 10% improvement in the Australian content of programmes. As from 1st July the new provisions of the Board will apply to provide that there must be a 50% Australian content, that there must be a certain amount of drama and that some of it must be shown in the peak viewing time. I have had the opportunity through July to review the first month of. operation of the new provisions. I believe that there may be one or two stations throughout Australia which were not complying with the new requirements. If we study the report of the Control Board for this year 1 believe that we will see that there has been a considerable improvement on the situation of last year.
The honourable member for Kingston referred also to the amount of money which was spent on - I use the broad term - public relations as shown in the estimates of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Perhaps I should direct the attention of the Committee to what these amounts are so that we might have a balanced picture. There are three broad items. The first is publicity, $481,500; next is ‘TV Times’ which is shown at $1,401,600; and then other publications are shown at $289,300. The total for these three items is $2,172,400. In relation to the general publicity item, the amount includes the purchase of photographs, blocks, stereos and other publicity material. It includes also newspaper advertising and incidental and other expenses. I come next to the item for TV Times’. I remind honourable members that there is a revenue item which offsets almost completely the cost which is shown in the estimates. In saying that I am not speaking in terms of the application of some administrative cost or what otherwise may be termed overhead. It is expected that there will be a revenue equal to the total expenditure, apart from a matter of $600. It is one of the problems associated with Treasury accounting that in one area is shown the cost and in another area is shown the revenue and it is not always easy to draw the two things together. A somewhat similar situation applies in regard to other items which are referred to as publications. Of the $289,000 on this item for this year $235,500 is for expenditure on school booklets. We expect to recover a little more than we actually pay in regard to school booklets. So in total the amount shown for public relations for the ABC will not be a net drain on the resources of the Commonwealth as the statement issued by the Treasurer might suggest.
I move on to matters raised by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who suggested licence fees for television on a reducing scale. His suggestion was that people who have a full opportunity to view television should pay the full fee, but those who are in a fringe area and do not get good reception, or have reception on only two, three or four nights in a week but not every night, should pay a reduced fee. It is impossible to know where one will or will not get a good reception.
The attitude we adopt is that if a person purchases a television set he accepts all the risks associated with the purchase. In many areas within 30 or 40 miles of a television transmitter, it is not possible to get a good picture. On the other hand, sometimes it is possible to get a good picture in areas 100 or 120 miles away from a transmitter. I would nol know how the Department could police a variation in licence fees in this situation. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie also asked about the provisions of radio stations in the north west of Australia. Perhaps I should mention to him that it is not so long ago that we provided a radio station at Carnarvon and it has already been intimated publicly that a station will be provided at Broome, another at Derby and a third at Port Hedland. These will commence operation during this year, 1967-68. In these circumstances, criticism of the Government for the lack of radio stations in this area is hardly justifiable.
I come to the comments of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), especially his concern that completely incorrect information was given in an advertisement about oranges. The standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board provide that intentionally wrong information must not be given in advertisements and the stations have an obligation to avoid this situation. I suggest he should complain about the advertisement he mentioned and I will regard his speech as a complaint. I will refer it to the Board, which will take it up with the stations concerned in the hope that we can avoid a similar situation in the future. It is not necessary to comment at length on the remarks of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He and one or two other honourable members referred to postcode and said that the book was pretty flimsy. Postcode will be included in future telephone directories. Honourable members also referred to the fact that the Australian Capital Territory is shown in the book as being part of New South Wales and the Northern Territory as being part of South Australia. This also was raised by the honourable member for Mallee. In the future we will show the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory separately, but I make the explanation that within the Post Office administration the Australian Capital Territory is under the decentralised control of New South Wales. The Director in New South Wales is responsible for the Australian Capital Territory and responsibility for the Northern Territory rests with the South Australian administration. If a mistake was made by including the Territories in the States, it will be corrected in any new issue of the book.
The honourable member for Corio referred to the present work to regulations operation in the Sydney Mail Exchange. It is not my wish at this moment to deal with all the problems associated with this operation. However, the honourable member suggested that a complete review should be made of the regulations. I do not know that this is necessary. In fact, there seem to be two lots of regulations. The Department has one, but apart from what we do the union determines its own regulations, lt is the working to the union’s regulations that creates a good deal of our trouble. Within the Department’s regulations is a requirement that work shall be performed in accordance with the instruction of a supervisor. This is a pretty broad regulation and it is not being observed. When officers at the Sydney Mail Exchange find a parcel addressed to one person from another person, they say they do not know to whom it should go. This is a little beyond the understanding of reasonable people. For 50 or 60 years they have been able to decide the person to whom a parcel should go. Why in the last couple of months have they not been able to do so? Many of these parcels flow to the Sydney Mail Exchange from other post offices where a fellow postal worker has accepted it and sent it on its way. When the honourable member for Corio asks for a complete review of the regulations, I think he has a misunderstanding of the total situation.
The honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) referred to the Department’s paying interest on revenue. He is not present at the moment, but for the record I refer him to page 11 of the financial report that 1 distributed some little time ago. He will see in paragraph 1, ‘Funds Provided by the Treasury’, that last year the total funds provided for works of a capital nature amounted to S205m but the net amount provided by the Treasury was $178. I will not give the full figures. This was the net addition and this is the amount on which interest is paid by the Post Office. Interest is not paid on revenue and not on the total amount shown in the estimates as the amount provided for capital works.
The honourable members for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and Maranoa (Mr Corbet) also made one or two comments on the estimates. The honourable member for Kennedy said that television transmitted from Mount Isa could not be received at Cloncurry. Television is a line of sight operation. It is not disseminated in the way that radio is. Because of the topography of the area and because the distance is 70 or 75 miles, reception at Cloncurry cannot be guaranteed. In general terms, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board believes that reception cannot be guaranteed beyond 60 miles, but even within the 60 miles topography can make a difference to reception. In Sydney, transmitters operate from Gore Hill, but some people at Middle Harbour, being on the near side of the hill, do not have satisfactory viewing. So, in these outer areas, as I said earlier, a picture may be received at 100 or 120 miles but not at 20 or 30 miles. This is the situation in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry area.
The honourable member for Maranoa asked that more attention be given to the needs of people in country areas. I want to make the point briefly that the Department must have a balanced programme overall so that the level of costs of telephone services will not be too high. Some areas are substantially profitable and others are heavy losers. The programme developed by the Department provides for the installation of telephones in all areas - those that are profitable, those that are not so profitable and those that show losses - so that in toto we have what may be regarded as a balanced picture. If we are to neglect the high earning metropolitan areas and capital cities in favour of country areas, our operations will show a loss much more quickly. So, having regard to all the circumstances and especially to the economics of the situation, I believe that the programme we have has proved to be satisfactory over the years. I believe it will prove to be satisfactory in the future. If we had more money we could use it. We might be able to do something more for those in the more distant areas. I believe I have covered broadly the matters that were raised during the debate, except the contribution of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allen) relating to frequency modulation broadcasting. This is too big a subject to be dealt with in a few moments now. What I propose to do, perhaps not during this particular session but possibly next session, is to make as full a statement as I can about FM broadcasting and then Parliament itself can have the opportunity to debate the subject. We then will get the most benefit from the issues that arise.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed expenditure, $19,787,000.
Department of Trade and Industry
Proposed expenditure, $18,288,000.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $37,492,000.
– We move on now to the discussion and dissection of expenditure of the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry. To discuss these Departments we each have fifteen minutes available. Before I refer to the Departments, however, I commend the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) who went into some detail in referring to the propositions and arguments put up by honourable members. It has been rather disturbing in recent years to see a trend against this procedure. Some Ministers have not gone into detail or given appropriate answers to proposals put by members. Indeed, we saw the spectacle two days ago, when we were discussing the expenditure of the Attorney-General’s Department, of the Government gagging the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) who, I understand, wanted to reply, but was unable to do so. This was very unfortunate and it should not have been permitted.
In our discussion of the expenditures of Departments we sometimes go into great detail and’ sometimes we have a general discussion about the policies that apply. However, the Ministers ought to show Parliament the courtesy of answering in detail members’ comments. In the limited time available to me I intend to refer to the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry. Firstly, I want to discuss primary industry generally and the lack of any cohesive force in the direction of rural industry. Rural industry is of vital importance to our nation and to our economy, it is conceded that secondary and tertiary industry supply the mass of employment in Australia, but it must also be conceded that the returns from primary industry contribute largely to our overseas earnings. They help keep our balance of payments - unsatisfactory as they are, and there is no question about that - from reaching a disastrous level.
The general term ‘rural industry’ covers a multitude of farming products - wool, wheat, dairy products, eggs, tobacco and a variety of other products. Each has its own set of problems and each faces its own production and marketing situations. We are in a competitive and tough trading world and no longer can we drift along expanding the production of commodities that we prefer to produce rather than commodities that other countries arc prepared to buy. We should look into the future to see what products will continue to be saleable at economic prices. This, to me, seems to be a business-like approach. Today, we have a haphazard and piecemeal approach with no overall plan for the future of primary industry. The Government’s general approach to this has been to pass the buck to the States, but while the constitutional situation might be a convenient leaning post for the Government we ought to recognise our national responsibilities.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics performs valuable services but I seriously doubt that the majority of Australian farmers become acquainted with the Bureau’s comments on the outlook for each primary industry, nor do the Bureau’s comments on the outlook for each primary industry, nor do the Bureau’s comments contain long-term forecasts or details about the Government’s attitude to each industry. For a start I believe that the Government ought to produce a White Paper on primary industry and see that the farming community becomes well acquainted with its contents. A White Paper could set out the circumstances existing in each of the rural industries and the future prospects of those industries. It ought to contain long-term projections of domestic production and consumption, and a survey of prospects in overseas markets.
I know, of course, that the Liberal Party and Country Party Government does not like planning. This has been apparent down the years. We need look back only a few years to 1960 and to the situation then existing in the motor vehicle industry. The Government increased the sales tax on motor vehicles and said to the industry: You are producing too many motor cars.’ But at no stage would the Government say how many motor cars the industry ought to produce. Indeed, the same situation applied to the building industry. A year or so ago the house building industry asked the Government for a projection of the needs in the years to come but the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) replied that it was not the Government’s task to do this.
There must be planning from a national government. I think the Government has an obligation to prevent, for instance, any further occurrences like the happenings in the sugar industry which, in the face of a disastrous fall in the price of sugar on the world market, permitted 1,000 new farmers to go on the land to produce sugar. These 1,000 new farms have accentuated the problems of the sugar industry. We are selling our sugar on the free world market at a disastrously uneconomic price. The Government does show some recognition of the need for better planning and rationalisation of primary industry by its indicated readiness to rationalise, to some extent, the dairying industry. We do not know to what extent it will do this. We have not yet been told.
A lot of questions have been asked which remain unanswered, and I believe a White Paper could provide many of the answers or could, at least, frankly state the risks involved in each of the industries. Does the Government approve or consider wise the great switch from wool production to wheat production in recent years? The reason, of course, why the average farmer has changed his type of production has been the instability of the wool industry and the stability and profitability of the wheat industry. But has the switch been in the best interests of the nation and ought it to be encouraged? The Government ought to indicate to the industry and to the farming community its attitude to this sort of thing. Is the dependence of the wheat industry on trade with China wise? The wheat industry has undergone great expansion in recent times. We have had record harvest after record harvest, but can anyone deny that this expansion is duc largely to sales to China? I point out that 40% of our export of wheat is to China. There can be no question that despite China’s continued custom and prompt payment there is a risk that political considerations could suddenly alter the situation. What of China’s future production and future needs? How long will she need our wheat to feed her own people or to resell, for political purposes or otherwise, to other markets? These are the sort of questions that the Government should attempt to answer.
Let us look at some other industries - at the egg producing industry, for instance. There has been a stabilisation scheme in this industry, and it has been successful up to a point, but egg production continues to rise. Egg producers could face difficulties because of this rise and because of the very fact that the surplus production must be sold on an overseas market which is, to say the very least, uneconomic. What is the Government’s attitude to this situation? This situation, in itself, could be the subject of part of a White Paper on primary industry. The long term prospects of the beef industry look good. A White Paper could highlight these prospects. The Government should encourage the long term development of this particular industry. Again, what are the prospects of sales of rice from the Mumimbidgee irrigation area, having regard to proposed development in other areas? We could think of a number of other industries, for example, the dairying industry. It is apparent that we have lost opportunities for sales overseas of Australian cheese because we have been unable to meet the demand. What are the prospects for the industry? What does the Government consider is necessary to be done?
We have prospects of vastly increased production of sorghum in northern Australia. What are the prospects there? Has the Government examined the situation? Will it indicate to the farming community of Australia in a White -Paper what is the situation and what is to be done in the future? How will Australia’s primary industries be affected by Britain’s entry into the European Common Market? All we have to go on is the dialogue that took place about 5 years ago and caused the sacking of a Minister of the Government because he disagreed with the other Ministers at the time. Primary industry generally has not been told what is to happen if Britain joins the European Common Market. Of course, it is clearly indicated that the British Government desires to join the Common Market.
All of these matters could be the subject of a White Paper and could be dealt with effectively by the Government in that way. The Government claims to be a free enterprise government and says that it follows the free play of market forces. But we are dealing with overseas political situations, as well as economic circumstances. In tariffs, subsidies, restrictive trade practices legislation and the like the Government recognises that we cannot afford just to continue the outmoded practice of following the free play of market forces. I believe that guide lines for rural industry ought to be set out in a Government White Paper with annual reviews of what necessarily will be changing short-term situations.
In the brief time left to me to speak in this debate I wish to speak of the Department of Trade and Industry, with emphasis on the industry section of the Department. I refer to the need for balanced development in Australia. On a number of occasions I have spoken in this chamber on that subject, as have a handful of other honourable members. My colleague on the front bench, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), 2 days ago asked a question of the Prime Minister about the report of the Commonwealth and State committee of officials upon decentralisation or balanced development. The Prime Minister gave virtually the same answer to him as he gave to me a year or so ago and a year or so before that - that this is a very complex question and it will be some time before we get a report. Surely if a policy for decentralisation is to come out of the committee’s deliberations it will be the longest and slowest birth of any political policy that this country has ever known. The committee was set up in July 1964 - 3 years ago - and we have not yet had a report. We are told that the committee has been meeting. I understand that it has met three times in this period. No-one can tell me truthfully that the Government is really fair dinkum about this matter.
I do not doubt the interest of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) in the subject. He likened the committee some time ago to a slow boat to China. Quite frankly, the country people of Australia would be pardoned if they thought that the boat had sunk, because 3 years is a long time. I believe that this Parlament ought to demand that a rational, national policy for balanced development be provided by the Government. I appreciate that a better balancing of our industries and population cannot be accomplished unless some concerted action is taken by this Parliament. I realise that in respect of the committee there will need to be Commonwealth and State co-operation, but surely after 3 long years it is farcical that no report has been given to the Government. That is on the admission of the Prime Minister. Are we to wait until the 1970s or 1980s to get something done? For every day, month and year that nothing is done about this important problem the concentration of Australia’s population and industry grows worse. Every year a greater percentage of Australia’s population becomes concentrated in the capital cities.
– Implement the Electoral Act.
– The honourable member should not talk. His Party has been part of the coalition Government for 17 years and the concentration of population in the cities has become greater and greater. The honourable member is in no position to argue. In his electorate all he can talk about is decentralisation, but he does nothing about it. No concerted plan has come out of this Parliament on the subject. Nothing that the honourable member’s Party can say will alter the situation. I know that we have to convince some people that the cost of centralisation far outweighs the cost of means to decentralise. I do not like the term decentralisation. I recommend that people interested in this subject should read the book that I have here, ‘Economic Policy and the Size of Cities’, by G. M. Neutze. It will be available from the Library when I have finished studying it. It contains valuable evidence to show that for every person and industry in the city, and every increase in the population in the city, the cost to the community is tremendous and that something ought to be done about it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Stewart) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Some of Australia’s primary industries are going through a very difficult period and others face disturbing prospects for the future. Today 1 propose to speak on three of our main primary industries - wheat, dairying and wool. I think it would be correct to say that the wheat industry at present is enjoying boom conditions. There are several reasons for this. The price is profitable and in many areas there has been a swing away from wool. Improved varieties and farming methods have lifted production. Further, the new International Wheat Agreement has given prospects of continued stability in the industry. It would be unwise to assume that these conditions will continue indefinitely. The United States of America lifted its production last year and if this trend continues it is possible that wheat could be in over-supply for the countries able to pay for it. Unfortunately, there seems to be little chance that many of the countries most in need of wheat will be able to pay for their requirements. For this reason the agreement reached in the Kennedy Round by the more advanced countries to make a contribution of 4) million tons of wheat a year for developing countries is one of the most important breakthroughs yet achieved in international aid.
A major, but unfortunately an unpredictable, influence on the world wheat situation is Russia, which has not yet signed the International Wheat Agreement. Russia, of course, is the world’s largest wheat producer, but lately it has been an importing and not an exporting country. If Russia returned to her previous position as an exporting country, this could lead to considerable difficulty in maintaining the minimum price agreed to at the Kennedy Round.
Another factor that has helped to keep buoyant the demand for wheat is the greatly increased consumption by India and Pakistan where the shortage of rice is being offset by wheat purchases. With a rising wheat acreage in Australia, increased yields and faster harvesting with bigger and more efficient machinery, the handling of the harvest is presenting greater and greater problems. Increased storages are becoming a necessity in many areas. In Victoria the new aluminium bulk trucks of -the Victorian Railways are proving most successful in speeding up the shifting of the crop. From a national viewpoint, therefore, wheat seems assured of a sound future provided, as I mentioned earlier, overseas production does not increase at too rapid a rate.
I move next to the dairying industry. Here we have a remarkable example of an industry making every effort to diversify its production and its markets. The United Kingdom, of course, still represents easily the most important export market for our dairy products, especially butter, but vigorous action on the part of the Australian Dairy Produce Board has resulted in many new markets being established and expanded. Proof of this is provided by the fact that 2 years ago the United Kingdom took 51% of our exported dairy products while last year the proportion was only 37%. Chief among our new markets is Japan, which now takes more than 5,000 tons of our butter and 9,500 tons of cheese. Australia is now the leading supplier of cheese to Japan, but undoubtedly we must expect increased competition from highly protected European interests.
I believe the Australian Dairy Industry Council’s recommendation to increase the bounty on cheese to the same rate as that applied to butter is a wise one, but world cheese production is rising, and with new quota restrictions imposed by the United States of America the European Economic Community countries will be looking to markets now largely supplied by Australia. The most imaginative, and in the long term possibly the most important, activity of the Australian Dairy Produce Board is the opening of processing factories in South East Asia. It must be a matter of great satisfaction to those responsible for these schemes that the processing plants are now operating successfully.
There is no doubt that Great Britain’s application to join the European Common Market must be causing concern in the dairying industry. The Australian Dairy Produce Board will face a formidable task if it has to find new markets for a large proportion of Australian butter which now goes to the United Kingdom, since that country is easily the largest importer of butter in the world. For these and other reasons I consider that the Australian Agricultural Council made a wise decision in declining to allow any increase in margarine quotas. The dairying industry is Australia’s largest decentralised industry. Whole communities depend on it. If butter sales were to suffer a reduction at the expense of increased margarine quotas, this would place the whole economy of these communities in danger. In the face of constantly rising costs, common to all primary industries, the dairying industry makes every effort to improve its efficiency by increasing output per acre and per animal. This in turn leads to the conclusion that the industry should concentrate )n the land most suited to it. This point was raised by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) in his second reading speech on the Dairying Industry Bill early this year when he referred to the problem of the marginal producers. The Minister stated that this problem would be tackled by the Government on the basis of assisting farmers to achieve profitable production or assisting them to leave the industry. I was interested to hear the Minister give details of progress already made in this direction, and I sincerely hope that a further statement may be made soon.
I now come to the most important single industry in Australia, the wool industry, which is now facing its greatest crisis since the depression years of the 1930s. The wool industry must survive, not only for the sake of the people engaged in it but also for the sake of the national economy itself. It is all very well to ask: ‘But if wool is not profitable why not grow something else?’ This may appear to be a solution in some favoured areas of Australia, but the solution itself would raise difficulties. Whatever we produce in place of wool we have to sell, and gaining access to markets - the right to sell - is probably the most intricate problem facing our primary industries. One of wool’s greatest advantages is that k has free access to almost every country in the world, the only major exception being the United States with its 25 cents per lb duty on Australian wool. In addition, wool last year
In Victoria the position is made even more serious by the fact that most of the west of the State, where the density of sheep population is among the highest in Australia, is having one of the worst seasons on record and is a declared drought area. Fortunately this district is noted for its fodder conservation programme, and most woolgrowers have been able to get their stock through the winter, but feed reserves are now virtually exhausted and unless there are good spring rains in the next month or so the situation will become critical.
Before we ask ourselves how the Government can help in this situation we must be clear about the reasons for the fall in wool prices. First, we must recognise that Australia has no control over the economies of other countries. We must realise, secondly, that there are alternative products to wool available at highly competitive prices. This is not the case with wheat. Any proposal to assist the industry must take account of these factors. Everyone concerned in the industry is awaiting the report of the Australian Wool Board’s Marketing Committee, which is due for release shortly. I believe it would be a mistake to expect the report to offer a solution to all our problems, but I also believe that as the report is being made after the most comprehensive investigation ever made of the industry, it is vitally important that growers unite in accepting the recommendations of the Committee.
Marketing costs represent about 71/2% of total costs, and the system of marketing itself may also exert considerable influence on prices received. Although wool prices have recently fallen substantially, they have still not fallen as much as the prices of synthetics, and there can be little doubt that we have the success of the International Wool Secretariat’s promotion efforts, particularly the Woolmark campaign, to thank for this. However, Mr Chairman, I think it reasonable for wool
At the outset I should like to make it clear that I do not favour any direct subsidy on woolgrowing. Such a subsidy would inevitably be swallowed up in time by rising costs, and in any case subsidies historically have had a tendency to encourage uneconomic and inefficient production. Therefore my proposals are all directed towards increasing production. First I should like to refer to the bounty on superphosphate, currently $6 a ton. Since the introduction of this bounty, which has been a great incentive to increase production, successive price increases of superphosphate have completely eroded it, and the price to primary producers is now back to the pre-bounty level. Even in the high rainfall areas fertilisers represent only 12% of total costs, so it can be seen that an increase in the bounty would not, by itself, provide the answer to the cost-price squeeze. However, as it leads directly to increased production I feel that a rise in the bounty is fully justified.
But there are other incentives to increase production which could prove of even greater assistance to primary producers. These are special taxation concessions. An excellent example of this type of concession is the decision announced in the Budget Speech to allow the cost of sub-divisional fencing as a fully deductible item. With current emphasis on higher stock rates, this will be a definite help in increasing production andI congratulate the Government on introducing this concession. However, I believe that much more extensive measures are fully justified and indeed are necessary if primary industry is to continue its role as our main export earner. Therefore I support the proposition that double deductions for taxation be allowed to primary producers for the costs of water conservation, fodder conservation, pasture improvement, and for fees paid to management consultants. If granted, such deductions would not only increase production but would also serve the further purpose of acting as a most valuable incentive towards drought mitigation. This in turn would reduce the
Government’s heavy financial liability in time of drought, as evidenced by the very large amount made available to Queensland and New South Wales in recent years, and it would eventually result in higher taxation returns through increased production.
I commend these proposals to the Government and urge that they receive careful consideration. However, I fully appreciate that growers in many areas in Australia would be unable to take advantage of these concessions, and for such districts I support the concept of drought bonds as outlined recently by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong).
Finally, on behalf of all primary producers, I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Primary Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the CSIRO. In few other countries can primary producers be better or more expertly served. The annual report of the CSIRO in particular makes clear the scope and standard of this organisation’s research and the widespread influence it exerts on Australian primary industry. I am sure that all honourable members will join me in expressing gratitude to these dedicated men for the work they do on behalf of this country.
– The honourable member who just resumed his seat rightly referred to the crisis within the Australian wool industry. This crisis is all the more serious because of the fact that Australia produces about two-thirds of the world’s exported wool. It has been a cliche for years that Australia has ridden to prosperity on the sheep’s back. Of course, some people have been unkind enough to say that quite a number of the greedy graziers have ridden to prosperity on Australia’s back. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the., present market for wool is suffering from the impact of serious competition from various synthetic fibres which are today commencing to dominate the world’s markets for clothing fibres.
Today we face the prospect of Great Britain, come hell or high water, entering the European Common Market. That country has accepted rebuffs and delays over her entry. At the very worst, Britain will undoubtedly enter the Common Market when
President de Gaulle passes on to his reward. Australia will then face a moment of truth in relation to its future economic development unparalleled only by that which it faced when the Japanese attacked Singapore, when we realised for the first time that we were defenceless so far as the naval might of imperial Britain was concerned. With Britain’s entry into the Common Market, we will realise for the first time that we need to take primary risks and accept primary responsibilities. In simple language, it is time that we grew up. It is time that we were prepared to accept the responsibilities of being a major trading nation. Up to date we have been prepared to accept a subordinate position. It is true, without going through the history of Australian economic development, that until 1941, when we realised that we needed a balance between primary and secondary industry, we were prepared to be a market for manufactured goods and a source of raw materials and cheap food for one of the world’s major economies which had dominated the world for a considerable time as a result of the revolution introduced by the steam engine. However, from now onwards we are faced with a most difficult position.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), on his recent return after illness, was frank enough to admit what the position was in relation to sugar and wheat. The Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Sir Alan Westerman, further underlined the same situation in an address in Auckland a short time ago. He pointed out that in the last 10 years, whilst overseas freight rates on Australia’s exports to Britain and to the Continent of Europe had risen by 50%, the value of those exports had risen by only 2%. In other words, Australia is still most vulnerable to the vagaries of the world’s commodities markets. To most countries of the world, Australia is still a developing country. It is in a period of transition which is most difficult because whilst we have had too many of our eggs in the British economic market, we now find that we have the choice of changing our allegiance to another rising power which will dominate the Pacific unless we are very careful.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Chairman, before the suspension of the sitting, 1 was discussing the danger of Australia exchanging economic tutelage to the United Kingdom for a worse kind of economic tutelage to Japan. No-one would be so crazy as to suggest that we should not conduct our present trading relations with the Japanese. But, taking the long term view, we must ask ourselves whether they will be our ultimate trading partners or, conceivably, our trading rivals. After all, within South East Asia, Oceania and the Indian Ocean region, only Australia and Japan are in a position to achieve commercial, economic and industrial predominance. Though 1 subscribe to our present trading relations with Japan, I ask whether we can afford continually to sell the Japanese the best of our coking coal and the best of our iron ore so that they can compete against us on the open markets of the world. The immediate answer may be that they could buy elsewhere. But they could not buy these commodities elsewhere so cheaply and in such good quality as they get them from this country, as the Japanese well know. Today, Sir,’ the world is breaking up into trading blocs. The most outstandingly successful of these for the people within it is the European Economic Community. The United States of America and Canada form a trading bloc, and within their sphere they have as satellites the whole of the South American republics. There is another trading bloc behind the Iron Curtain. But we in Australia are in a most difficult position. We have the choice of either trading with the .Japanese or competing with them.
Much has been said in this chamber about the potential of trade with mainland Asia today. 1 want to give the Committee some figures taken from the ‘World Bank Atlas of Per Capita Product and Population’ which was published by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington in 1966. These are figures for gross national product per capita, expressed in United States dollars. The figure for Australia is $1,750. The figures for our immediate neighbours are as follows: Malaysia, $260; Ceylon, $130; Cambodia, $120; Thailand, $110; mainland China, $95; Pakistan. $90; India, $90; and Indonesia, $70. The people of these countries are supposed to be eager and able to buy our manufactured products. But these are people who, in dire danger of starvation, have at all costs either to buy or to be given our primary products. The comparison between their actual income standards and those that they need if they are to be a valuable potential market for Australia is pathetic. For years, we in this country have suffered from a population numbers complex, Mr Chairman. It appears that mainland China has a national income perhaps only three times that of Australia, though it has sixty times the population.
It is possible for us to enter into trade with Indonesia. Let me say here that I am at a loss to understand this Government’s reluctance to open up trade with that country. Is it reluctant because pressure is being exerted by other countries against our trading with Indonesia? For instance, is the United States the big dog that has its paw on the bone, or are the Japanese interested in the Indonesian market? It is surely in the interests of Australia to have in a neighbouring country like Indonesia a stable, democratic and well governed nation. Indonesia has always seemed to me to be economically complementary to Australia. We purchase 22% of our crude oil there. We buy the remainder largely from the various sheikhdoms round the Persian Gulf, to which we sell about one-twelfth as much as we buy from them. Is it not time that we adopted a hard headed approach and decided that we should trade with the Indonesians? We could barter with them. When mainland China overcomes its agricultural problems, Indonesia, 1 imagine, will be one of the major markets for Australian wheat, and Australian rice, too. Any deal we make with the Indonesians would need to be a barter deal at this period of their development. We all know the shocking state of their foreign exchange reserves and the resultant effect on its economy. But the opportunity is there if we are prepared to take it.
Let us examine our trading relations with the United States of America. Could anything be worse? For every $1 worth of goods that we sell the Americans, we purchase $2 worth in return. Recently our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), cap in hand, knocked on their door and asked them to take more of our wool. He was told: ‘If you will allow American banks to obtain charters under the terms of your banking laws, we may be able to do something for you’. When we sought better opportunities to sell our meat on the American market, we were given a horse laugh. After all, the President of the United States represents the state that is the main meat producer in America. In respect of sugar, we were told that the Americans have it running out of their ears. We were informed that the quotas on imports of our zinc and lead would not be increased. This is the attitude of the Americans. Is it not time that we bad a serious talk to them and really laid our trading needs on the line? I ask honourable members to think of our trade in timber with Canada. Why are we not doing a little more for New Zealand, which has timber available to sell us? Trade in the Pacific region today is a matter of barter deals. Japan in particular is selling steel to New Zealand in return for butter and other dairy products. As a consequence, trade that is legitimately ours is going to Japan, and will continue to do so. New Zealand, which ought to be one of our closest trading partners, is drifting further and further away from us and is in a pitiable plight today.
Economic miracles have been worked in Japan, which has learned many lessons since World War II. The most profound economic lesson that the Japanese have learned is that more can be achieved by economic penetration and technological superiority than by overt aggression. It seems to me that today as never before Japan’s trading pattern and ultimate economic policy are directed to the revival in an economic form of the Greater South East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. We have the choice of entering into it and being a satellite of Japan or of standing on our own feet. To stand by ourselves, we shall need more population and we must consider our own best interests.
When Britain enters the European Common Market, one thing will be certain: At least a quarter of her people will be intensely dissatisfied. A large number of them are already unemployed because of economic problems inherited from the previous Government by the present Administration. We need not merely to bring out British migrants as labour units for existing Australian industries; we need to transfer whole industries from Britain to Australia.
We need new Bradfords and new Birminghams in Australia. With two-thirds of the world’s exports of wool, why should not we be processing our own wool? Why should not we be weaving it and getting the whole of the profit from it?
Let us think of the pressure that is being brought to bear on us by Japan today. The Japanese, with their usual smiling, wheedling approach say that we should be buying more from them. But let us subtract from our exports to Japan the value of the wool that we sell there. Apart from our wool sales, we find that, give or take a few million dollars, we just about have parity between exports and imports in our trade with Japan. The Japanese are buying our wool, not because they like the colour of our eyes, but because they need it and can use it. They are buying it because they can process it and resell a substantial proportion of it at a good profit. We should resist the pressure for greater purchases of Japanese manufactured goods. If defence means anything in Australia, it is synonymous with development. The development that will bolster our defence can come only with the protection of reasonably efficient Australian secondary industries on a sensible basis. To get protection we will have to resist the Japanese pressures which have been generated. There are always people who take the short term view and who are prepared to continue selling primary produce to that country. If the crunch really comes there is an element within this Parliament that will gladly sacrifice Australian secondary industries so long as the surpluses subsidised by the Australian consumer can bc dumped in Japan at give away prices.
This is a vast subject and time does not permit me to develop it fully, but I would say that only a Labor administration that is prepared to take a truly national approach and not a subordinate and derivative one can recover the yeast the locusts have eaten and restore Australia to its true position as a leading nation in the Pacific, in Oceania and in the Indian Ocean areas. We have a great potential for the future but it will only be realised when we are prepared to stand on our own feet and when we are prepared to resist the people who come here not to lend us money - which we may in some cases need - but who want full equity participation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This afternoon 1 want to speak about a crop that is scarcely grown at all in Australia and yet constitutes one of the commonest of commodities grown in the world. This is the soya bean. The United States of America produces most of the soya beans used in the world and I think that this product ranks as about that country’s third largest crop. Its production has trebled in the USA since 1950. Of the soya beans entering the world trade, 70% come from the US. Soya beans are grown from Canada right down through California and Arizona to Mexico, and in all of the countries of South America.
There is no apparent reason why this industry - which is so successful in the USA and in other American countries - should not flourish in Australia. But we are actually importing soya bean meal, soya bean oil and soya beans. Instead of being an exporter, as we should be with our enormous resources of soil and suitable climatic conditions, we are actually importing soya beans and the products of soya beans. This is a very important subject because one of the largest importers of soya beans is Japan, our neighbour in the Pacific. It is remarkable that Australia cannot find its way into this very tempting Japanese market. Instead of importing around 35,000 tons of soya beans each year Australia could be exporting 200,000 tons or 300,000 tons to Japan and to another large importer of soya beans, West Germany.
I suggest that it is time we had a hard look at establishing the soya bean industry in Australia. There are two approaches that could be made. We could attack the problem from the angle of producing a better variety than has appeared up to date. This is an approach that is suggested at various times by agricultural experts. I am not strongly in favour of this method of approach because I recall what happened with our cotton industry. There the objection to the successful establishment of a cotton industry was always the claim that we did not have suitable varieties of cotton for the Australian climate and Australian conditions generally. It was said that if more money could be spent on research then we would somehow or other turn up a suitable variety. But ultimately, as everyone knows, it was not the research officers developing a suitable variety of cotton which did the trick and which established the cotton industry on a viable basis in Australia; it was commercial incentive. I believe that we must look now towards a commercial incentive for the establishment of a large scale soya bean industry in Australia. We should be prepared to pay a bounty on the production of soya beans until this industry gets on its feet and becomes capable of exporting and thus earning foreign exchange.
Up till now our studies of the soya bean industry have been largely through the wrong end of the telescope; they have been through the medium of the Tariff Board. This is one approach. Certainly it is necessary to control the prices of imported oils such as vegetable oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and soya bean oil, and to arrange a tariff which gives a measure of equity as between these industries. But this does nothing at all to promote the establishment of a new industry. I am sure that the time has come for us to look at this matter in a sensible way.
In the United States of America the soya bean is regarded primarily as a source of protein meal for stock feed. Most of this feed goes to the poultry industry, but a very large growing proportion goes to animals. Up till now in Australia we have thought of the soya bean as a means of supplying edible and non-edible oil. We have not thought very much about the stock feed aspect But there is a demand in Australia for stock feed and we can confidently predict that this demand will grow steadily because the world consumption of meats of all kinds is growing rapidly and we will be called upon to export more and more of our livestock and the products of our livestock. Therefore we have particular reasons for embarking on measures to make possible the start of a new rural industry.
I am very concerned about this matter from the general aspect but I am also concerned because the soya bean is a crop that I feel could be grown very successfully in my own electorate and in parts of south western Queensland. These are areas which traditionally have suffered very largely from fluctuating incomes due to the varying prices received for the commodities produced and to the high degree of variability of the seasons. If we could get diversification by establishing a large scale soya bean industry this would do very much to strengthen the economy of these regions and help build them up and make them better places for people to invest money and live in. 1 urge the Minister to have a close look at the problems surrounding the establishment of this new industry in Australia and to resist, if he can, the approaches of his technical officers for more and more money for research. Whilst saying that, I acknowledge the good work that is being done by all departmental officers, especially in Queensland. But I ask the Minister to place the main emphasis in his thinking upon providing a commercial incentive for growers to produce a crop which will yield them a very satisfactory return - a return that is more than commensurate with the effort they will have to make, the initiative they will have to show and the risks they will have to shoulder in embarking on something so novel in Australia.
Or PATTERSON (Dawson) [2.35]- On Tuesday last in this place I discussed the Government’s decision to make available to the sugar industry a further interest bearing loan of Si Om, which could increase to $l5m, depending on the level of the export price of sugar. I said that compared with the treatment given to other primary industries, the sugar industry had been discriminated against. If one takes notice of the assistance given to the dairying industry, to the wool industry in terms of promotion and research not taking into account collections made under the wool tax, and to the wheat industry under the wheat stabilisation scheme, one must come to the conclusion that the sugar industry is entitled to a loan at a lower rate of interest or, indeed, to a loan without interest. The total interest payable on the two loans of $19m and $10m is not yet known, but if the trend is the same as has been the case with other loans made to Queensland it is possible that the $l9m loan will involve a total interest payment of about $10m and the $10m loan will involve an interest payment of about $5m.
I am sure that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) is aware of the crisis in the sugar industry. If export sugar prices do not improve by the end of this season it may be necessary for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to carry out a snap investigation of the growing number of cane farmers who are in serious financial trouble. The mounting debt structure and the paucity of cash for farmers are reaching proportions which no responsible Federal government can ignore. I am aware that when the State Government authorised expansion of the industry the future seemed bright, but no effort was made to guarantee adequate financial protection for new growers or growers with small peaks in the event of a disastrous fall in world prices. Because of this the State would be reluctant to ask the Commonwealth to look closely at the economic position of some farmers. The leaders of the industry and the State Government must forget the past. We, too, must stop asking whether the decision to expand was good or bad. The immediate problem is the financial position of the ordinary cane farmer. His economic position is precarious.
As I have said on other occasions, I have no doubt that in the long term expansion will prove to be most beneficial for the development of the sugar industry and coastal Queensland but it is useless at this stage to talk about the future when hundreds of cane farmers are going bankrupt and are being forced to sell their farms. Like increasing numbers of cane farmers in central and northern Queensland I am becoming fed up with the complacency of the Queensland Government, whose spokesmen on sugar matters at all times try to convey the impression that nothing is seriously wrong with the economy of the sugar industry. For example, about 2 weeks ago in the Queensland Parliament the Minister for Mines and Main Roads, Mr Camm, implied that because sugar income was the third highest on record, economic conditions in the cane farming districts of Queensland were sound. In my opinion this is an example of economic nonsense and bush economics. Any self-respecting person trained in marketing economics knows that gross income is meaningless unless you take fully into account costs of production, the debt structure and the available net cash income. It is possible that in many dairy farming areas today the gross income of the dairy farmer has never been higher, but this means nothing. One has to look at his costs and how much cash he has available with which to keep himself and his family after paying his debts. To say that gross income is the third highest on record means nothing unless you pay regard to other economic indicators.
I would suggest that the State Minister, who is a cane farmer, confine his analysis to cane farming and keep out of the fields of economics and marketing. Let those Ministers in the State Parliament who know something about these matters make statements on them because statements such as that made by Mr Camm have caused a lot of heart burning in the north. It is wrong to suggest that economic conditions in the sugar towns are viable because of expansion and because gross income from sugar has never been higher. The position in fact is serious. It is so serious that some northern Queensland newspapers - I have one here - are condemning leaders of the sugar industry. To do this is perhaps a little unfair because most of the leaders of the industry are trying to do their best, but they must get rid of their air of complacency and face the problem confronting the sugar industry. There is too much complacency today; too many people are going bankrupt I could take an hour telling honourable members of the dozens of cases brought to my notice in the last few weeks - cases of farmers with properties valued by the Central Cane Prices Board at up to Si 30,000 who cannot get more than $20,000 credit. I know of properties with small peaks which in terms of content of commercial sugar and sugar per acre efficiency are good properties, but the cash income of the grower is so small that he cannot in many cases pay even his grocery bills. This is not an exaggeration. Many of these farmers have been hit by two or three years of drought On top of the drought they must contend with low prices.
It must be becoming increasingly clear that if a new international sugar agreement cannot be negotiated by the start of the next crushing season a bilateral agreement must be negotiated with Japan. If this cannot be done the only alternative is to introduce a price stabilisation scheme. There are no other alternatives. The granting of inter est bearing loans each year will not solve the problem because it would appear that in order to repay the loans and interest the State will have to impose a levy on the sugar industry. If, however, the loan and interest were to become part of a stabilisation scheme the long-term effect would, in a sense, be good, but my criticism of such a proposal is that I can see no reason why the sugar farmers should be saddled with this interest. The Commonwealth claims that the industry asked for the loan arrangement. My information is that it did not ask for this high rate of interest.
To give an example of the serious financial position in which cane farmers now find themselves, many of them in the Isis and Mackay districts last year were receiving the unemployment benefit. I have asked questions in this place and in particular I have asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) in writing, but still J have not been told what criteria are used for determining whether or not a farmer is entitled to the social service benefits. There is nothing in the Act to suggest that he is entitled to it Nevertheless, many farmers have been getting either a social service benefit or the unemployment benefit. Surely this is an example of how serious conditions are in the sugar industry. Those who are most severely hit are the small growers who have small mill peaks. But this situation is not confined only to the sugar industry. There seems to be a trend throughout Australia in which farmers who years ago could make a good income from a reasonably small farm are now reaching the stage when despite their efficiency in terms of productivity per acre or per cow or wool per sheep - whatever the measurement might be - unless their gross incomes are high enough their costs have risen to such a degree that they are unable to get a cash income large enough to enable them to carry on with a decent standard of living.
I pay a compliment to the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that when he retires - I do not know when he intends to retire, but he cannot go on forever - one of his most important and tangible contributions to primary industry will have been his achievement in securing from the Cabinet the Government’s backing of the wool reserve price plan. Why the industry refused to accept the plan is beyond me. I am sure that it must also be beyond the Minister, and certainly it is now beyond many farmers who voted against the proposal. An honourable member said before the suspension of the sitting that the wool industry is now facing a crisis in finding a market for its products. I believe that the beef industry is the one which has the soundest future. In the various analyses which I have made over the years I have never deviated from that view. In Australia we have, comparatively, great advantage in beef production. We have plenty of land and, relatively speaking, we have cheap grass, lt lakes 9 months to drop a calf and not even the United States of America can afford to store feed cows and calves. So long as we have relatively cheap land and cheap grass our costs of production must be relatively low. Also the only substitute for beef is other meat. The situation is different in the wool industry because wool meets competition from substitutes.
I was talking to some chemists from the Du Pont company who were visiting Australia a few weeks ago. It is their opinion that technology is increasing so fast that in time they will have almost the perfect substitute for wool. It will then be a question of competitive cost of production of synthetics versus the raw fibre. No matter how far one goes back it seems that as our standards of living have increased we have been inclined to eat more beef. The price of beef is important. There is no question that the reason why the consumption of beef per head in Australia has decreased has been due to the high price of beef. But this situation has never worried me because so long as we can sell beef on the export market and eat those meats which we find it more difficult to sell on the export market there is nothing wrong with a lower per capita consumption, provided that when beef prices drop we go back to our normal level of beef production. Although the Minister is aware of the financial plight of the sugar industry, I suggest that he should take a more active part in finding out what are its problems in the various districts of central and north Queensland because the small farmer who has a small peak, the new farmer, and even the big farmer who has been hit by droughts, are in a serious financial position.
– I should like to speak this afternoon about agriculture and its problems in relation to the cost price squeeze. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) mentioned this factor when speaking of the sugar industry. I do not believe it is possible to analyse the problem faced by agricultural industries without looking throughly at both sides of the question. We must examine the costs to the industry and consider also whether the industry is getting a fair return for the quality of goods produced. I believe it is fair to suggest that the industries concerned should be receiving a fair return for the goods produced, whether they are sold here in Australia or whether they are sold on the world market. There is no doubt that the Government is well aware of the situation which exists in the sugar industry. It has assisted the industry in many ways to meet the cost position in which it finds itself. It is still assisting by endeavouring to find an answer to the tremendous problem which the industry has of finding more stabilised and better markets overseas for our sugar. We are well aware that the industry has problems, but it is not the only primary industry which has problems today. Before proceeding further with this question I propose to draw to the attention of the House a statement by Sir Roland Wilson which appeared in the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Annual Report of 1967. I think it is appropriate at this time to take note of what Sir Roland said. The report states:
In brief, all major elements of expenditure seem likely to increase, but not excessively in relation to resources, at least during most of the year ahead of us. Towards the end of 1967-68, however, the uptrend in expenditure could be gathering considerable force. If this proves to be the case some shortages of labour and resources, and a tendency for excessive demand for imports, could emerge. Any bidding up of wage rates, which could result from such a situation, would increase the danger of inflationary trends developing towards the end of the year.
I do not believe that we can ignore a statement from a man such as Sir Roland Wilson. I am not suggesting that primary industries can stand inflationary trends, but certainly they have reached a stage in Australia where they certainly cannot absorb any increases in the cost of production. We now find ourselves in an extremely serious position. During the Budget debate I mentioned something about the situation of the wool industry. Some reference to this industry was made also by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech, but since that time the situation has deteriorated considerably. The wool industry has had opportunities in the past to do something about the situation I mentioned a short while ago, that is, it could ascertain reasons for its plight and do something to compete on the world markets. If we consider the world markets we see something of the situation that we are up against.
Britain is still one of our major markets for many of our products. Let us consider our situation in relation to exports to Britain and consider also the position of farmers in that country. A statement which appears in the 1967 edition of ‘Britain - An Official Handbook’ says:
The aggregate net income of farmers rose from £390m-
That would be sterling: in 1960-61 to £475.5m in 1964-65. The annual cost of government support to the industry has averaged £290m during the past 5 years.
If we do a little mathematics, we see that this amounts to about 67% of the production figure. Let us look at the situation in Australia. We grow the product in Australia and export it to a market that is some 10,000 miles away. We must face the fact that we must sell our product in competition on the support market in Britain. In Australia some subsidies are provided. They are listed in the Budget papers and are well known to most people. In 1964-65, subsidies paid to primary industry, as far as my calculations can make them, amounted to $59,784,000. The gross value of rural production in the same year was $3,450,834,000. The net value of rural production was $2,612,235,000. The subsidies were 1.73% of the gross value of production and 2.28% of the net value of production. This of course is a small amount of protection for the rural industries, if my figures are correct and I stand to be corrected if they are not. But we find ourselves facing competition on a market in Britain that is well and truly protected up to the tremendous figure I have given.
The situation will no doubt continue and our costs and freights will continue to rise. Freights amount to $600m a year, and most of this amount is charged on agriculture because most of our exports are of an agricultural nature. We must face up to the effects of this cost. In the European Economic Community we face another protected market, but a market that is protected in a completely different way. For instance, our exports to West Germany have almost doubled m price by the time they reach the consumer. We cannot export a very large volume of primary products to America. The opportunities for us on that market are limited because of the situation there. We face difficulties on all these markets and we must take a deep look at the situation m which we find ourselves.
It has been stated in the House quite recently, I think by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) - no doubt he will correct me if I am wrong - that industries such as the wheat industry in this country are not efficient. I take up his challenge. The wheat industry in Australia is probably one of the most efficient grain producing industries in the world. It is the only industry in Australia, as far as I know, that has reduced its cost of production in the last 5 years. In the last negotiations for an agreement with the Government, in which the cost of production is assessed, the wheat industry reduced the cost of a bushell of wheat to the Australian consumer. What other industry has done this? The cost of every item bought and used in the production of wheat has gone up. The cost of production of wheat was reduced because the number of bushels per acre has increased and so the unit cost has been reduced.
I have also looked at the dairy industry. Here is an industry that has been torn apart and accused of being inefficient. It has its problems and perhaps there are areas of inefficiency, but taken on the whole it is not inefficient. Mr Roberts, the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, in his report of August 1967, said:
Australian milk production continued to expand during the season under review, reaching an all time record level of 1,615 million gallons with an estimated gross value of 8401.7m. As the number of persons engaged in dairy farming has been declining at around 1.7% per annum in recent years, the 6.7% increase in milk output in 1966-67 represents a significant improvement in productivity. Average Australian milk production per dairy cow reached a record of 480 gallons.
Here is another industry that is becoming more efficient every day. It is doing everything possible, with the assistance of the
Government and of research workers, to improve its position. But this does not overcome the difficulties that we face when we try to sell our produce overseas.
What can we do to meet these difficulties? The Government has assisted in various ways. The figures I have given do not total a very large amount, but they are important. The Government gave assistance to primary industries by paying a bounty on superphosphate. The bounty has disappeared over the years because of so-called increases in the production of superphosphate. But I question, as I have questioned before in the House, whether it is good enough to go on trying to absorb all the costs that are met in primary production without thoroughly examining the methods of manufacture and distribution of a product such as superphosphate which is so necessary for primary industries. Do we continue to accept the situation as it is or do we examine other industries to see what we can do to improve their efforts and to increase their efficiency? Let us look at what is being done in an effort to reduce the freight costs, which I said earlier amounted te $600m. I pick up the challenge in relation to shipping and say that something is being done. Some opposition has been met with such products as wool. Doubt is expressed as to whether wool should be shipped in containers. But the container method of handling cargo is a new concept that will be adopted in 1968 and 1969. It will completely change the pattern of shipping general cargo overseas, but the capital cost of the scheme will amount to millions of dollars. It will bring a complete revolution to shipping methods. But the shipping industry has accepted the challenge and we hope that we will in this way stave off further increases in freight rates. I am a little more optimistic than some about this method of handling cargo. Given a chance to settle down, it will reduce freight rates. This has been shown by experience around the world.
However, it is time we had a look at the superphosphate industry. I am not happy about continuing to subsidise the industry at the rate of $6 a ton. It may be possible to give the industry more assistance than this, but let us examine the process from the point at which the rock is obtained. Let us see what the shipping position is like. Is it efficient? Are tha handling methods efficient? Are the Australian industries engaged in the manufacture of superphosphate efficient? We do not know, and it is time we did know. Agriculture had to accept the challenge of the times. It had to recognise that its labour force had to be reduced. Perhaps this was not done willingly, but this was the trend at the time. Mechanisation was introduced and a large amount of capital was expended to enable the primary industries to continue. The result has been that the wheat industry, for instance, has reduced its costs of production. If the primary industries had not examined their situation, they would not have survived. They would have been out of business now. It is not good enough that a primary industry should have to battle by itself to absorb these extra costs. All industries associated with it - industries such as the superphosphate industry - should do likewise and take every opportunity of reducing costs, so helping other great Australian primary industries.
– I want to speak about the need for a national trade mark for Australian products overseas and also about the fruit that is trapped in the Suez Canal. There is no conformity in the advertising of Australian primary products in the United Kingdom. Each State is more or less vying with the others for the sale of their products in the United Kingdom. I believe we should have a national trade mark that would easily identify Australian products in United Kingdom markets. I have a friend who is in England at present and he informs me that Tasmanian apples often are sold as coming from other countries. For instance, in mid- June of this year Tasmanian apples were being sold in a Leeds market as New Zealand Granny Smith pippins. New Zealand, of course, has built up a formidable image with its butter and lamb and often wholesalers and retailers cash in on this popular image by selling Tasmanian apples under a New Zealand label. Perhaps the Australian Apple and Pear Board is not so concerned about this aspect provided our apples are being sold, but I believe we should examine the question of advertising and publicity. In other parts of England, apples are sold as coming from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and so forth.
We spend huge sums on publicity in the United Kingdom in an effort to sell our apple and pear crops, but the secret is to develop a popular brand which will easily identify our fruit and other foodstuffs in United Kingdom markets. Israel has a national trade name for all her produce. She sells under the trade mark ‘Jaffa’. South Africa does likewise under a national trade mark ‘Outspan’. Publicity has been successful in the United Kingdom in fixing in consumers’ minds that ‘Jaffa’ stands for Israel and ‘Outspan’ for South Africa - not segments of each country but the nations as a whole. Australia could adopt a national brand - Aurora, Southern Cross or Austral - which would identify and symbolise our products in the minds of United Kingdom purchasers. It can and does cause confusion when products are advertised under State names or under the description ‘Australia’. I believe we are losing in the market battle as a result of this confusion of trade names.
In the United Kingdom some States of Australia are hardly known at all. For example, after the recent tragic fires in Tasmania a news item in Scotland stated that as a result of devastating fires on the island of Tasmania two British submarines had moved in and evacuated people safely from the island. This indicates how little is known overseas about Australian States. That is why I believe a national trade mark would be of tremendous help in selling our products overseas. I know this matter has been taken up from time to time by the Apple and Pear Board, but I think it is a matter more for the Department of Trade and Industry. The fact that some wholesalers and retailers in the United Kingdom sell our apples under the New Zealand trade mark is, of course, a form of national plagiarism. We cannot stop it, but it should not happen. If we had a good image with a well known trade mark, it would not happen and there would mot be an interchange of sales under other trade marks. Proper publicity given to a national trade mark such as those adopted by Israel and South Africa would be advantageous to Australia in the long run. We have State jealousies to contend with. This is often a blight on this country. Our rigid States system divides the people and fragments our national image overseas. It is a damaging factor in our sales of primary products.
I took this matter up with the State Fruit Board of Tasmania in August. It examined my suggestion and I received from Mr L. J. Farrell, the Secretary of the Board, the following letter dated 8th September:
The Board has now considered your letter of 9th August and the copy of a Press statement that accompanied it
The Board is in accord with the suggestion that there should be a national trade mark to identify Australian products on overseas markets. In fact, efforts to this end have been made in the past but there has always been failure to achieve unanimity as between the various States of the Commonwealth. ,
It is up to the Commonwealth Government to try to break down this ridiculous State righter’s attitude and to build up a national image overseas rather than a State image.
I refer now to the tragedy of 379,000 cases of apples and pears still remaining in the Suez Canal in refrigerated cargoes. This fruit has been on four ships since Sth June. It has been trapped in the Canal for 16 weeks. It has been in refrigeration for 19 weeks, and some of it has been packed for 21 weeks. This is the longest time in history for fruit to remain packed on a voyage from Australia to the United Kingdom. On 4th July I first raised this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in the following telegram:
Can the Government at the diplomatic level assist in freeing ships trapped in the Great Bitter Lake Section of the Suez Canal? There are four ships carrying between them 379,000 cases of apples and pears as follows: ‘Scottish Star’, 182,000 cases apples 40,000 cases pears from northern Tasmania, Adelaide; Albany and Fremantle. ‘Port Invercargill’ 103,000 cases apples 39,000 cases pears from Port Huon and Melbourne. Munster Mand’, 13,000 cases pears from Melbourne. ‘Killara’, 21,000 cases apples 7,000 cases pears from mainland ports. Ships trapped about a month. Tasmanian growers deeply concerned.
I point out that 200,000 cases of this fruit is from Tasmania. My telegram continued:
Grave doubts exist re insurance or compensation among growers and shipping agents. Apple and Pear Board working on problem. Would Federal Government meet financial loss to growers if no solution is found and fruit ruined? Would be grateful for your advice.
The Prime Minister looked into the situation and gave me a long reply. I followed it up with two more telegrams before the Parliament reassembled on 15th August. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) answered a question I asked him on 17th August in this House. I also found out from three reliable sources that fifteen ships from eight nations were trapped in the Suez Canal, including four fruit ships, and that the Egyptian Government nad put armed guards on board and sealed their radios. If this would not have been regarded as an act of war at any other time in history, I do not know what would have been. So far as I know that is still the position. These ships are owned by eight nations which are not involved in the war between Israel and Egypt. The ships were just unfortunate enough to be in the Canal area when Nasser closed it and so forced ships from that time to go around the Cape. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of goods are on those ships. They are carrying not only fruit; meat may be carried on them in refrigeration, for all I know. Nasser will not open the Canal between now and doomsday, so far as I can see. Other Arab nations are paying him the equivalent of the canal dues he has lost. My long range torecast is that the Canal is finished as an international waterway. No shipping company worth the name would ever try to go through the Canal again and take the risk of further closures, even if it were opened within the next 6 months.
What is to happen to the fifteen ships? Why cannot the United Nations solve a problem like this by clearing the Canal and freeing the ships? The United Nations should run the Canal until the dispute is settled between Israel and Egypt and thus could bring back sanity into the trading picture. The fruit ships involved are not owned by the Australian Government. We do not have an overseas shipping line of our own and our products are carried by foreign ships. The apples are not owned by the Government. They are owned by the agents or the growers. A legal battle is proceeding in respect of insurance and we cannot foresee the result. Meanwhile growers are receiving accounts for freight although they have not received a penny for the fruit.
Yesterday I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) a question about this matter. He was very helpful in giving the up to date picture as he has it from his officers and the Australian Apple and Pear Board. We dc not know what is to happen because this is completely new ground and packed with legal argument. Never before has this type of legal problem occurred where because of war ships have been caught within the Canal and trapped there by the actions of one of the warring nations. The placing of guards on board the ships and the sealing of the ships’ radios seem to me to be warlike actions. A week or two ago Nasser agreed to a change of crews on the fifteen ships involved. The crews have now been changed.
In my opinion this is a major crisis on the waterways of the world. So far as I know, the United Nations is doing nothing about it. It says that it is not its responsibility. What a ridiculous situation it is when the deadlock cannot be resolved. All these goods - fruit and other products - are trapped in the Canal and we do not know for how many months or years th;y will be there. The Minister said that the legal angle was being investigated. I asked whether compensation would be paid if insurance is nor to be paid. That has to be considered. I believe that the Government will compensate the growers if the insurance companies fail to pay out.
The point is this: When is the fruit lost? It is still in refrigeration and could be there for another 6 or 9 months. It may keep in refrigeration. When will the insurance companies acknowledge that it is lost? Not until it is lost can insurance be claimed. That is the legal problem to be faced. In the meantime the growers are not being paid. They could have received wonderful prices on the English market where this year our fruit Drought from 50s to 60s sterling a case, as against 20s sterling a case last year. The growers have missed that remarkably buoyant market in England. The twenty-first annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, which was issued this week, in explaining the buoyancy of the United Kingdom market, states at page 4:
The Arab-Israeli conflict and the uncertainties of arrivals no doubt contributed to the situation as did the substantial fall-down in New Zealand quantities. The Suez Canal closure resulted in four fruit ships (approximately 370,000 bushels) being trapped when the last convoy *o enter the Canal was stopped. At this stage the ships are still in the Canal and the prospects of the fruit being moved before the Canal opens or ever reaching its market in saleable condition are minimal. The Board end other industry organisations are closely examining all aspects of the situation with particular emphasis on the avenues available for compensation, including insurance. A close liaison has been maintained l with the Commonwealth Government and the practicabilities of freeing the ships or unloading the cargo have been thoroughly explored.
To all intents and purposes the ships trapped in the Suez Canal have been wiped off the face of the earth. The Government must not lose sight of the fact that fruit worth $1.5m is involved and the Government owes it to the growers concerned to help them out if the insurance companies do not.
– I want to say a few words about the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Primary Industry. Two years ago in speaking in the debate on the Estimates I mentioned that I was not happy about certain arrangements in Melbourne. I referred to an incident when an Asian was taken off a bus, placed in a shed and searched. I did not mean to offend the Department of Customs and Excise. I was trying to point out that it would be preferable if two people were taken instead of one, because if one person of another race is placed in a shed and searched he believes that he is being discriminated against. I mean no ill to the Department of Customs and Excise. I have the highest regard for that Department. While its officers continue the work they are doing I think ali Australians will have a high regard for them. I have come in contact on numerous occasions over the years with officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and I appreciate the work they are doing. I think every member of this House who has had dealings with the Department must appreciate the work that it is doing. Visitors from overseas are passed through the customs check courteously and I think we can be proud of the way that procedure is conducted.
I want now to deal with the Department of Primary Industry. I have had several talks with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) and I have found him to be most helpful on fishing matters. The fishing industry will become more important to Australia as the years go by. This morning I asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) whether he would consider the drawing of a straight line from, say, south of Tasmania to south of Western Australia. I appreciate that problems are involved, but something must be done quickly. We must lay claim to certain waters or we will have people coming in to take them over. At the present time there are fishing adjacent to Australian waters not one or two ships, but hundreds of ships. We must make it quite plain where our waters lie. lt is a very complex problem. Some people would say that we should follow the contours of the coast. If the decision was that Australian waters extended for 12 miles off the coast, they would say that the contour of the coast must be followed by a line drawn 12 miles out.
The Press a couple of days ago carried a report of a huge find of fish in the Great Australian Bight. Now we must try to find out whether they are in Australian waters. Until we find out what is meant by ‘coastal limits’ in respect of the continental shelf, we will always be in doubt. The continental shelf is said to be where the 100- fathom line disappears. Of course, between Tasmania and Victoria there is no continental shelf because the water is not deeper than 100 fathoms. The site of the oil discoveries in Bass Strait is not in deep water. Recently I spent 3 days at Karumba. I went there especially to study the prawn fishing industry. The only operator there - Craig Mostyn and Co. Pty Ltd - is doing a mammoth job. About fifteen trawlers were working out of Karumba and the people there are fiat out processing the prawns as they come in. It has been said that the Japanese are operating also in the Gulf of Carpentaria They may be operating there; it is very difficult to say. It is said that a mother ship is working there with some seven Japanese trawlers catching prawns which are processed on the mother ship and then sent off to Japan. I heard the fishermen’s point of view while I was in Karumba. They asked whether it would not be better for us to have a stabilised fishing industry in the north where the prawns are to be found, so that the Government would know exactly how many prawns are caught and how much fish is caught. We would then have a record of the catches and we would know how much is exported to other countries. When strangers come and work these waters nobody knows how much fish they catch. When their boats are filled, off they go.
I know the Minister has given this a good deal of thought. When I spoke to him about it he was very helpful. But the fact is that we have many problems in this country with our fishing industry. Most of our small fishing boats are built in backyards. A man builds a fishing boat with the help of his sons or his friends then goes off to make a fortune. Some really have made fortunes. But if our fishing is done in this way we cannot compete with people who bring well-found ships from overseas to exploit any waters they like. In these days of electronic gear the fish and the prawns are just not in the race. The trawlers operating out of Karumba cannot compete against the Japanese trawlers, because they are in the main small wooden vessels which, as I say, have been built in backyards. Some of them have been built in Victoria and some on the New South Wales coast. When the people who build them feel up to it they sail north and start fishing. This is something that I believe the Government should earnestly consider. I know that not so long ago the Government bought a well-found steel trawler and that this has operated in the Great Australian Bight, but without very much success. It is not for me to say anything about the people who ran it. One cannot expect the Government to know all about matters such as this. People who were considered competent were put in charge of this venture, but they came back without any very good results.
I want to say something about an excellent publication produced by the Department of Primary Industry, titled ‘Australian Fisheries Newsletter’. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Primary Industry work in close collaboration in matters connected with the fishing industry, and this is a very good thing. In the August issue of this publication there is an article about HMAS Diamantina’ which recently travelled far and wide carrying out oceanographic research. But the article which I mainly wanted to refer to appears on page 21 of this publication. It is headed: ‘How Soviet Fishing Fleets Operate’. I do not intend to read it all. I hope honourable members will read it for themselves. The article commences in this way:
In June the 3,500-ton Akademikberg was reported to be working off Western Australia, while other vessels believed to be from the Soviet Union have been operating is the Great Australian Bight.
When a vessel of 3400 tons comes here with all the latest research equipment and operates in a promising area, undoubtedly that vessel will catch fish. It is of no use for a small wooden trawler SO or 60 feet in length to try to operate in the Great Australian Bight. It just cannot be done. As we have read in the last few days, huge shoals of fish have been discovered in the Bight. There is a most interesting piece of information in the article I have referred to which I hope the Minister will pass on to the Navy authorities in case they have missed it. Referring to this huge Russian vessel operating in the Bight, the article says:
With most of their logistic operations hiking place at sea, the Soviets have developed to a high degree the art of bringing ships alongside of each other. With clusters of very large pneumatic fenders they can conduct transfer operations alongside in winds up to 35mph.
This represents a very big step forward, and it is something that our defence authorities should be examining. One of the most difficult problems at sea is transferring stores or oil or other things in bad weather. Even with the best run ships things can go wrong and frequently two vessels will come alongside one another. In bad weather this causes a certain amount of damage.
That article is followed on the same page by a smaller article headed: ‘Japanese Fleet in Tasman’. It says:
A fleet of Japanese tuna long-liners has been operating this winter in the Tasman Sea between 25 and 60 miles east and north-east of Jervis Bay. . . .
Commercial fishermen in particular are asked to report sightings. These should include if possible a description and a photo of . the vessel, its nationality and its name if known, the type of operation in which it was engaged, the approximate position in which it was sighted, and the date.
Because of my profession I belong to an organisation known as the Company of Master Mariners of Australia which distributes a publication titled The Melbourne Log’. In the issue of 12th September 1967 one of the sea pilots who brought a Japanese ship into Melbourne had this to say:
There was considerable speculation around the Melbourne waterfront recently on the sudden influx of a fleet of Japanese fishing boats. Language difficulties gave rise to several stories circulating. But the skipper of the last of the fleet to call here spoke reasonably good English and he told me that they all came from the NZ area where the tuna are not biting this year.
Then comes the amazing piece of information:
Of 121 boats fishing there only 2 have remained.
This was information given by the Japanese captain. It is obvious that 119 boats have left the NZ area and have gone somewhere else. This small article continued:
The others have made for waters between the south coast of Tasmania and about 100 miles south of Cape Leeuwin. AH they fish for are tuna, using long lines. The occasional sharks caught are thrown back minus the fins, which are sold to Chinese. Catches vary between 1 ton and 9 tons a day. When their capacity of about ISO tons refrigerated, is reached they head for Japan. Farthest afield this particular skipper had been was off the Gold Coast (Africa) whence his catch was landed in Italy.
One can appreciate the ramifications of all this for our fishing industry and the amount of money that is involved. I hope that something will .be done quickly to put our Australian fishing industry on a sound footing so that people from afar cannot come and exploit our fishing areas. It is a very good thing for a country if it can say: ‘We will leave our fish alone because we can go somewhere else and get all the fish wc want’. If we are to do our job in this Parliament we must look many years ahead and plan for the people who will come after us. It is no use sitting back, doing nothing and letting other people come here and take the food that we may need for our own people. We have to look at the question of boundaries. Time will not permit me to go into this but everyone knows that the boundary between Queensland and Papua runs right along the Papuan coast. We have to make this clear and inform vessels that use this area that they are in Australian waters because the Queensland boundary runs right up to the Papuan coast. I know that this is going to be awkward. I would not like to see the day arrive when we have to go to the International Court of Justice to lay these things out, but I believe that the time will surely come when this will happen.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– On behalf of the Opposition recently, I have stated approval of a number of external activities of the Minister for Trade and
Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Department of Trade and industry. 1 would be pleased if I could express the same kind of approval about their activities within Australia. Today I would like to speak on an aspect that I believe needs considerable attention by the Minister and the Department. Recent reports, including the annual report of the Tariff Board dealing in particular with the chemical and motor car industries in Australia show the inadequacy of the scope and resources of the Board. The Opposition is convinced that a system of tariffs is necessary for the development of the Australian economy. We believe that the Board must contribute to the desirable ends of full employment, priority allocation of productive resources for most effective enonomic growth and for national and individual standards of welfare. I believe that there can be no doubt at this point in our history that full employment and a rapidly rising population could not have been maintained and manufacturing industries could not have grown without high and general tariff protection. However, changes have taken place in the Australian economy. Full employment, whilst by no means beyond threat, is a more stable force than it was in the past. In addition, the manufacturing industry is now so developed that it may be expected to specialise more with consequent advantage in efficiency and increased ability to replace imports and to export. In some senses it is no longer necessary for us to seek to do everything under the sun in Australia. We have reached a strengthened and diversified industrial structure which allows increased specialisation to become a conscious objective of tariff making policy.
The Opposition does not believe that every industry that seeks protection should be granted it. We believe that the Tariff Board should be enlarged and adequately equipped to ascertain those industries which it judges are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. Should the Board be of the opinion that an industry is not reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success, it should inquire and report what changes, if any, in its structure, organisation or methods should be made so that the industry or industries may become reasonably assured of sound opportunities of success. We assume that in the future more steel, chemical products, shoes, textiles and every other product will be produced in Australia. However, we believe that these products will not be produced in exactly the same way as they are now. We do not think it is enough for the Tariff Board to be merely equipped to say that in a particular case a tariff shall or shall not be given. We think that the Tariff Board should be equipped and required to say what changes it thinks ought to be in an industry.
The Board should be able to say whether it considers that there are too many firms or too few firms in the industry or whatever changes might have to be made. We want to see this most important body that inquires into Australian industry equipped with a prestige, a status and means of ascertaining information that are better than those of the Department of Trade and Industry or the Treasury because the Tariff Board is the most sensitive point in the whole system. In making its inquiries and recommendations, the Tariff Board should be required to take into account the policy of the Government. The Opposition makes no qualification to this. We believe that the Board - and the Government seems to think along these lines - should be required to take into account the policy of the Government. However, we believe that the Board should have the confidence, status and the ability to give whatever advice it considers appropriate to discharge its responsibilities. The Tariff Board should be guided by this basic principle to ascertain whether and how industries may become reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success. As I have said, the Board should also take into account government policy.
The Opposition, in government, would not necessarily accept the Board’s recommendations. Special reasons such as defence, local or regional employment or problems of transition could require some course of action other than that recommended by the Board. If this happened, the Opposition in government would notify the reasons and accept the responsibility for its action and adopt action appropriate to the need. We have criticised the Government because, in effect, it has done this on many occasions. However, we believe that the Government has not faced up properly to its responsi bility to explain why it has taken such action. The Government seems to act in a self-conscious way as though some guilt was involved. The Opposition believes that the responsibility of sometimes bringing in a different decision from that recommended by the Tariff Board is one that ought to be openly and publicly faced and accepted.
The Opposition is not alone concerned with supporting protection for Australian or foreign capitalists, irrespective of their efficiency, the prices they charge and the profits they make. Our policy requires us to pay attention to the rewards that people get out of industry. Also, our policy requires us to do something to ensure that those rewards, whether they be wages or profits, are fair and reasonable and are not excessive. We believe that in recent years the Government has paid scant respect to the principle that returns should be fair and reasonable in the nation. We are convinced that there are highly efficient Australian industries or sections of industry. We want to see more Australian industry in this class. However, we will not accept avoidable dislocation to achieve this. There is no need simply to leave this to the forces of nature. We believe that there is a need for some careful planning so that dislocation of industry will not result. However, fears of dislocation in the absence of careful planning to prevent this must not be allowed to preserve inefficiency and excess prices and profits. Increased efficiency and lower prices and profits, where they have not already been achieved, can result only from a well planned industrial development.
The Opposition believes that the stage has gone where the forces of irrational change should be allowed to operate in the market without some attempt to guide them in the public interest to achieve these desirable objectives of lower prices and fair and reasonable returns. We believe that no attempt at anything very much like this has been made in the past. The Tariff Board has examined only a small portion of the Australian tariff protected economy in recent years. I pointed out recently that in 196S-66 it examined industries employing only about 140,000 people. Professor W. M. Corden, formerly of the Australian National University and now at Oxford, and probably the best Australian academic specialist on tariffs, referring to tariff reviews conducted in 1965-66, has stated: lt must be stressed that the tariffs reviewed are only the top of the iceberg which happened to emerge . . . many important tariffs were not looked at and indeed have not been looked at for many years.
This morning, the Minister for Trade and Industry, in his reply to a question asked by me, stated that an additional appointment to the Tariff Board would soon be made and that this would allow the Board to carry out its normal functions, which, he said, were to ‘deal with matters referred to it’. He stated that there were opportunities for interested parties to have matters referred to the Board. I want to know a little more than that. I want to know what the Minister means by the ‘normal functions’ of the Tariff Board. In the minds of himself and other members of the Government, are the normal functions of the Board merely to deal with matters that are referred to it? I wonder whether the Minister and his ministerial colleagues, in their attitude to what the normal functions of the Board are, have any room for the provisions of section 17 of the Tariff Board Act, which reads:
The Board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to in sub-section (2.) of section fifteen of this Act or in paragraph (a) or (c) of section sixteen of this Act.
Do the Minister and other members of the Government think that the normal functions of the Board are confined to examining matters that are referred to it by the Government? Has the Board any initiative at all under the terms of section 17 of the Act?
The Board, in its annual report for 1965-66, expressed its wish to make a systematic review of major Australian industries in accordance with a planned approach. I now ask: Even with the appointment of an additional member, would the Board be able to make such a systematic review thoroughly and properly? Is the Minister satisfied that many important tariffs were not looked at in 1965-66 and have not been looked at for many years? Is he satisfied that Professor Corden was right in saying that a great many important tariffs have not been looked at for many years? I do not know what the real situation is, but I want to know. I believe that members of this Parliament and the Australian people want to know and should know what the position is. The Government also should want to know.
I have emphasised that the Opposition is not concerned only with supporting protection for Australian or foreign capitalists regardless of their efficiency or of the prices they charge and the profits they make. We are concerned at the excess profits and excessively high prices that exist in Australian industry when there has not always been a satisfactory or even proportionate increase in productivity. The Government has claimed that the rate of private capital investment in Australia is high compared to that in comparable countries. It is, but the rate of increase in productivity here has not been high. Indeed, it is very much lower than in comparable countries. We on this side of the Parliament sometimes wonder whether conditions are just a little too easy for the larger monopolistic concerns in this country, both Australian owned and foreign owned. We believe that the Tariff Board has an important role to play in solving the problem. Opposition members consider that at present it has neither the right attitude nor the right resources to enable it to do so. We would like the Minister for Trade and Industry to answer the questions that I have put to him and to say whether he believes that the Tariff Board is able to meet the requirements that are implied in those questions.
During the consideration of the Estimates over the last two days, we on this side of the chamber have submitted much to the Government, but we see very little sign that it is even considering what we have said. I am inclined to believe that the Minister for Trade and Industry has not quite the same attitude to suggestions by Opposition members as a number of other Ministers have. I put my submissions to him today confident that they will not altogether be ignored.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I propose to confine my remarks to some statements that have been made by previous speakers during the consideration of this group of estimates, because I believe that those statements, if let go unchallenged, could have serious and very detrimental effects on two of the major primary producing industries in Australia. These are basic industries in the Federal division that it is my privilege to represent. On them depends the welfare not only of those who live on and work the farms and large rural holdings throughout my electorate but also of the thousands of men, women and children who live in the various rural communities in the electorate and who indirectly depend on these two industries. I refer, of course, to the wheat and wool industries.
The first matter that I want to take up is a statement by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) to the effect that expansion of the wheat industry has been due to trade with China. From time to time, I have noticed that the- honourable member, like a number of members in this place, exhibits opposition to trade with China and seems to have an inaccurate understanding of how it began and what it is all about The statement that expansion of the wheat industry has been due to trade with China is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. What happened was that trade with China had to be developed to provide markets because of the development and expansion of the wheat industry. This is the exact reverse of the claim made by the honourable member. Expansion and development of the wheat industry is essential to the development of Australia and to the maintenance of the prosperity and growth that we have enjoyed in recent years. In particular, it is essential to the maintenance of our immigration programme. Any suggestion that the trade in wheat with China should be curtailed or prohibited is tantamount to a declaration that we must halt our immigration programme and our development plans and face a situation in which vast numbers of our people would be unemployed, not only in the rural areas but perhaps even more in the cities and large towns throughout Australia.
– We have never said that the immigration programme should be curtailed.
– I am dealing with what was said less than an hour ago in this chamber. Expansion of the wheat industry has not been due to trade with China. On the contrary, trade with China has been the inevitable outcome of the expansion of the wheat industry and the continuing development of Australia. Let us look at some of the facts and figures relating to this situation, Mr Deputy Chairman. They bear out completely the truth of my remarks. I point out that these figures are available to the honourable member for Bendigo, if he cares to check them, from the Parliamentary Library, the Australian Wheat Board, which has them in its official records, and any responsible wheat growers organisation in Australia.
If we take the year 1948-49 as a starting point we find a carry-over of 18.3 million bushels of wheat. In 1 949-50 we were developing our industry much faster that we were developing our markets and our carry-over went up to 43.8 million bushels. Because of seasonal conditions it then went down to 18.8 million bushels in 1950-51 and to 18 million bushels in 1951-52. In 1952-53 the carry-over went up to 35.8 million bushels and in 1953-54 we had the colossal carryover of 93.5 million bushels. At that time in the export field we were selling approximately 90 million bushels a year, so that we had on hand more than one year’s requirement for the export market. This was the situation that we were confronted with due to the expansion and development that was already taking place within the wheat industry. This carry-over was reduced to 91.6 million bushels in 1954-55, to 84.1 million bushels in 1955-56, and it was down to 21.4 million bushels in 1956-57. Because of disastrous seasonal conditions in the eastern States in 1957-58 the figure was further reduced to 16.3 million bushels. However, in 1958-59 the carry-over went up again to 65.2 million bushels. In 1959-60 it was 60.2 million bushels and we were facing a situation where our handling authorities .could not possibly cope with the amount of wheat that they were required to receive from the growers.
At this stage it was suggested that Australia should embark on a policy of acreage restriction and curtailed development. Being closely associated with the situation applying at that time, I have a very clear recollection of the tremendous commotion that this suggestion of restricted production created throughout the commercial and industrial areas of Australia. In 1959-60, to try and cope with this situation of development and growth within the wheat industry, the China market was developed. Let us examine the situation since we developed the China market in 1960-61. The carry-over in 1959-60 was 60.5 million bushels, but by 1960-61 it was down to 24.2 million bushels; to 17.5 million bushels in 1961-62; to 20.3 million bushels in 1963-64 and to 24.3 million bushels in 1964-65. By 1965-66 it had reached the dangerously low level of 16.4 million bushels, which is now considered to be below the quantity necessary to safeguard the economic requirements of this country. These figures illustrate quite clearly the point I have been making that the China market was developed as an inevitable outcome of the expansion of the wheat industry in Australia.
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) believes that the wheat industry will continue to develop. In “his Budget Speech he said:
The rural industries will depend, as always, very much on seasonal conditions. For some major districts a good season is not assured as yet. But there can be no doubt that the rural industries, especially the wheat industry, are capable of greater production. Given a good season greater production will certainly be achieved.
The Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Premier, speaking in Perth only a few weeks ago, gave some figures of the development that is taking place in Western Australia. For instance, he said that in 1956 the amount of cleared land in Western Australia was 21.5 million acres; that in 1966 that figure had risen to 30.9 million acres and that the estimate for 1976 was 43.7 million acres. This is the sort of development that is taking place and which must take place if our economy is to grow and expand. But if these things are going to happen and if we are to maintain legislation - enacted by Labour governments as well as this Government - requiring that a grower shall deliver his wheat to the Australian Wheat Board, then quite obviously the Board must go out and find a market wherever it can. Therefore to say that the wheat industry expansion was due to the trade with China is an exact reversal of the position. The trade with China followed as a result of the development which took place throughout the wheat industry.
The honourable member for Bendigo raised a very provocative question when he asked how long China will need our wheat. To the Australian Wheat Board at the moment that is probably the $64m question. Having been to China and having discussed this very question with the Chinese, I believe that there is no reason why China should not continue to buy our wheat for many years to come. Nor do I see any reason why we should not be able to continue our development and expansion; why the wave of prosperity that we are enjoying at present should not continue; and why we should not be able to pursue our migration programme. All these things can be done provided we can retain our trade not only with what is regarded as our traditional markets but with all countries that are ready to trade with us, regardless of their political colour. Although I may violently disagree with a person’s politics, I certainly have no desire to carry that disagreement to the stage of starving his wife and children. This is not in my makeup and I certainly want no part of it. So far as I am concerned, as long as China requires our wheat she can have it in huge quantities. I believe that the standard of living of the Chinese people will continue to rise and that as a result they will require more and more supplies of the foodstuffs that Australia produces. This is my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Bendigo regarding how long China will need eur wheat. I say that China will continue to require this wheat for many years and will continue to buy it unless some misguided person takes some action which attempts to destroy this trade. This would be to the detriment not only of the Chinese people but of the Australian people and the development of this country.
I want to spend a little time now dealing with a remark made by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). The honourable member said that wheat prices were very profitable, hence the swing away from wool production. Here again the facts and figures tell another interesting story. I have insufficient time to go into it fully now but I do want to take the honourable member back to 1948-49 when the Bureau of Agricultural Economics determined the cost of producing a bushel of wheat at 6s 8d and the pool realisation was lis 3.4d a bushel. Incidentally, these are all port prices. That gave the grower a profit of 4s 7d a bushel. By 1949-50 the cost of production had risen to 7s Id and the pool realisation was 13s .062d, giving the grower a profit of slightly more than 6s a bushel. In 1950- 51 he showed a profit of approximately 4s 9d and in 1951-52 that profit was reduced to 4s 3d. The position deteriorated gradually until by 1964-65, for instance, the cost of production determined by the Bureau was 14s 7d a bushel and the pool realisation was 13s 5d. Therefore the grower showed a loss of ls 2d. In 1965-66 the cost of production was 15s 2d a bushel and the estimated pool realisation was 14s Id a bushel, indicating a loss of ls Id a bushel. In 1966-67 the cost of production was 15s 6d a bushel. The estimated pool realisation is between 13s lOd and 14s a bushel, which means that the grower will lose between ls 4d and ls 6d a bushel. If the honourable member wants to know why woolgrowers are turning from wool to wheat production he would do better to confine his inquiries to the wool industry. Obviously to go from a profit of 4s 7d a bushel in 1948-49 to a loss of ls 6d a bushel in 1966-67 is not the kind of economic activity that is likely to attract a man from wool production to wheat production. Might I suggest with all respect to the honourable member that he devote far more of his time to a consideration of how to correct the problems of the wool industry and put it on the same basis as the wheat industry. If he wants to stop the rot in the wool industry, this would be the logical way to do it. I regret that lack of time will not permit me further to develop my theme.
– Most honourable members who have spoken in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Trade and Industry have given the impression that Australia is a great trading nation; that our trading operations are beneficial to the people of this country and will add ultimately to the general prosperity and progress of the nation. We have been told that Australia is one of the twelve greatest trading nations. For 3 of the last 15 years Australia has had favourable balances of payments and for 12 of those years it has had unfavourable balances of payments.
In the last 15 years goods and services purchased overseas have cost Australia $4,978m more than Australia received from other nations in payment for exports and services. It could be said that over 15 years Australia’s loss on her trading operations has amounted to almost $5,000m. This is a greater loss than that incurred by the United Kingdom or New Zealand in their trading operations, not merely overall but on a per capita basis. If the United Kingdom and New Zealand are in trading difficulties, how can the Government contend that as far as Australia’s trading operations are concerned, everything in the garden is lovely? In reality Australia’s loss on overseas trading operations per head of population has been fabulous compared with losses incurred in similar countries. I would go so far as to say that no other country has had a greater trading deficit on a per capita basis in the last 15 years than has Australia.
For many years until comparatively recently all adverse balances of payments were described in official documents as increased indebtedness to the rest of the world. Our indebtedness to the rest of the world as a result of our trading operations has increased during the last 15 years by $5,000m or more than $450 for every man, woman and child in Australia and the prospect is that our trading position will further deteriorate rapidly. This is a sorry position. From 1953 to 1957 our exports totalled $9,068m while our imports totalled $8,042m leaving us a favourable trade balance of $ 1,026m. However, after invisibles, including freight, insurance, interest and dividends payable overseas, are taken into account there was an adverse balance of payments in that 5 year period of $280m. In the next 5 years from 1958 to 1962 exports amounted to $ 10,298m and imports to S8,568m, leaving a favourable balance of $l,730m. When invisibles are taken into account, however, we find an adverse balance of payments of $ 1,868m. In the next five years from 1963 to 1967 exports amounted to $12,999m and imports to $ 12,768m, leaving a favourable trading balance of $23 lm. When invisibles are taken into account we find that we have an adverse balance of payments of $2.830m. So in successive 5 year periods we had adverse balances of payments of $280m, $l,730m and $2,830m. Every 5 years our position gets much worse.
In 1959 a convention was held in Canberra to devise means of increasing exports. If everything in the garden was lovely why did the Government become agitated and asked people from industry, government, banking and all sorts of organisations to tell it how to increase exports? I do not know what advice the Government received, but it increased exports. Unfortunately, although our exports have increased steadily in every 5 year period, as I have shown, the loss on our trading operations continues to grow at an alarming rate. The object of the convention in Canberra was to devise ways in which to reduce our adverse balances of payments. Our exports have increased immensely but our trading position is worse than it ever was.
The state of our overseas funds has deteriorated. Since July 1966 our overseas funds have declined by $223m. Our overseas funds, which have been artificially built up by recently obtaining a loan and by the inflow of capital from other countries, are today probably lower than in any period in Australia’s history. The figures I have given, which I have taken from official documents, show conclusively in my opinion that Australia’s trading operations are leading us rapidly to disaster. We cannot continue to buy more and more goods from overseas if we are unable to pay for them with what we receive from our exports. Ultimately we must build up our exports to the position where they will enable us to meet the cost of services and goods that we receive from overseas. I know that temporarily or occasionally there will be an imbalance in the situation between exports and imports, but if generally and continuously we pay out more than we receive then ultimately disaster must result. The same situation applies whether it is a private business or a country which is engaged in trading operations. The United Kingdom has been facing that situation recently. Yet, as I have pointed out, its loss on trading operations per head of population over the last 15 years has not been nearly so bad as the position in Australia. New Zealand is now in a similar plight and has found it necessary to introduce radical financial measures to bring about some kind of balance in her overseas trading operations. Yet her unfavourable balances of payments per head of population were not nearly as bad as those of Australia.
The cost of administering the Depart’ ment of Trade and Industry and its branches throughout the world has multiplied during recent years. Not very long ago it waa only a part of another Department. But now it is a separate Department and it sends representatives to very many countries. It is now an immensely costly Department. It costs more to run now than it has, cost at any time in our history. Yet every time it increases its expenditure by sending another representative to some other part of the world to negotiate some trading arrangement with another country which has not previously traded with us the result is that our trading operations are then in a worse position than they were before. As the cost of trading operations increased so did the value of imports of footwear,, furniture, manufactured clothing, canned fruits and unneeded and luxurious goods. Action must be taken at once to reduce unnecessary imports and to increase exports if we are to avoid greater balance of payments problems than we have already. We must either increase our exports or reduce our imports, or do both.
Action must be taken to establish an Australian line of cargo vessels to carry goods to and from Australia because a big proportion of our deficit is attributable to the cost of freight. If we were to establish a line of vessels to carry our commodities, to that extent we would reduce the deficit. The vast cost of insurance on goods coming into and going from Australia makes up a large part of the costs which are referred to as invisibles. We should encourage the establishment in Australia of an insurance company, operated either by private enterprise, by private enterprise together with Government enterprise, or by Government enterprise on its own, to insure the goods being exported or imported so that we can reduce the cost of the invisibles in our trading operations. Also we must, so far as possible, see that our interest component in the visibles does not keep on increasing as rapidly as it has in the past. I refer to the payment for dividends and interest on loans paid to other countries. If Australia continues, as it recently did, to go abroad and secure a relatively small loan at an interest rate of 7.11% in order to subsidise our overseas balances our outlook will not be bright. Honourable members opposite can ignore the increasing level of accumulated unfavourable balances overseas if they choose to do so, but if they do so it will be to our detriment and disastrous to the nation.
– As briefly as possible I shall try to deal with the main points which have been raised by honourable members. At the outset I should like to say that the policy of the Government on the orderly marketing of primary commodities has brought about a very stable and commendable position and has helped our economy. It has had a direct effect on trade and on our exports. Let us consider the industries in which orderly marketing schemes have been established. Perhaps I have forgotten some of them, but among the industries are wheat, cotton, dairying, processed milk, dried fruits, honey, tobacco and canned fruits, and also the meat board has been established to regulate our exports. Honourable members will be aware of the effect that those schemes have had on our overall export position. I feel quite optimistic about our trading position because we have achieved a stable economy. It would be to our detriment if we did not have such satisfactory results from our rural industries.
My views are in contrast to those of the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) who made what I thought was an awfully gloomy speech. He gave the impression that he felt the economy was so bad that his own salary was in jeopardy. He said that the situation is becoming worse and worse. I felt really sorry for him. I thought that if the situation became any worse then surely his salary would go. But I do not agree with what he said. If he examines our external credit balances he will see that they are quite satisfactory, despite what he has said. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) in leading the Opposition’s discussion on these estimates said that the Government should engage in a policy of forecasting. I will not agree with that suggestion and it is the last thing that I would do. I will not stick my neck out and say what should be done about tonnages and crops or suggest what markets we should supply. As an example, let me refer to the meat industry which has a very satisfactory market. If we urged everybody to produce meat because the market is satisfactory at the moment and there was a percentage increase in production - it would not need to be a large percentage increase - we would be exceeding our quotas in the United States of America. If we were to exceed our quotas there we would be in trouble in other markets also because we would have to resort to markets which were less remunerative than the American markets. I am not in agreement with the honourable member for Bendigo on forecasting or trying to suggest to the producers what they should grow. Although it is a State function to be responsible for production, I am not avoiding the argument on that score. He said that we should have better balanced industry. I believe I have indicated already that our policy of orderly marketing is creating a stable atmosphere for the sale of primary production.
The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) made some suggestions which interested me. He said that he does not agree that we should have a subsidy o.n wool and that this creates difficulties. He suggested, if I understood him correctly, that we should increase the subsidy on superphosphate and should allow a double deduction for taxation purposes on water conservation, fodder conservation, research and so on. If all the activities he mentioned could be expanded, they would help to keep down the costs of production. However, I think the Commonwealth Government, with its many industry research schemes, is acting fairly in contributing $1 for $1 with those industries that have a scheme.
The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said that we should increase our trade with Indonesia. I do not want to be unfair to him, but he did more or less skirt around our meat trade with the United States of America and our sugar trade. He gave the impression that he did not regard this as satisfactory. However, if we took those items out of our trade, our exports would look sick. I repeat that I do not want to misquote him, but he gave me the impression that he thought the meat trade was not satisfactory. Our agreement with the United States of America gives us a large quota and at the moment it is the market on which our export meats get the best price. It is therefore a very satisfactory market. The United
States Secretary of Agriculture, whom I met quite recently, told me, as Minister to Minister, that the American Government was very satisfied with the arrangement with Australia and wanted it to continue. America is satisfied with the delivery of meat, with our standard of hygiene and with our inspections. He was 100% on side. That gave me a sense of satisfaction, because we have a lot of work to do to bring various killing works up to the necessary standard of hygiene and so on. To have that report directly from him was very satisfying. Let us examine the position of our meat exports to America. The total imports from all sources - this is not the Australian quota - that America will accept would be about 995 million lb a year. Its imports for last year were 823 million lb. So we do not expect that the American Government will take any action to reduce the quotas while it has such a large leeway between the amount allowed and the amount received.
The honourable member for Cunningham referred to trade with Japan. He said we ought to be trading more with Japan. This is a change of attitude for him and for Labor, which opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement. I am glad that he at least and some others think differently about the large volume of export trade that we have with Japan. Of course, we need it. If we took away some of the commodities that we export in large quantities to Japan, we would create such gaps in our export trading position that we would immediately be in trouble. Japan is our biggest customer for several of our commodities. The Commonwealth Government is to be commended for having made the agreement with Japan.
The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) interested me. He said that we should create a new industry, namely, the soya bean industry. He said that we could probably export 200,000 tons to Japan. I think the type of soya bean has been improved, that a satisfactory variety is grown now and that production per acre is now quite satisfactory. However, it is not as easy to create a new industry as the honourable member says it is, unless we do as he suggested and subsidise the industry. The oil from the soya bean must compete with many other oils and the domestic market for it is very limited. A small amount is being produced in my district and the growers have difficulty in sen* ing their crop. I would like to know where the market is. We can import this commodity, even with the duty on it, more cheaply than we can produce it, and I should like to know how we could compete on the export market under those conditions. However, I will be glad to discuss the subject with the honourable member. I like original suggestions and I encourage honourable members to put them to me. However, I cannot see much hope for the establishment of a soya bean industry.
The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) dealt mainly with the sugar industry. He said that the Government had not treated the sugar industry as well as it had treated other industries. He instanced, in particular, the subsidies paid to the dairying industry. In recent years the sugar growers have been caught in a period of crisis, and the Commonwealth Government has helped them on the two occasions that they have asked it to do so. We have complied in full with their requests except, as the honourable member said, on the point of interest rates. The growers have asked for loans; we have given them loans. The honourable member said that they cannot bear the burden of interest and he estimated the amount as some $10m on the SI 9m loan and $5m on the other. The honourable member will probably remember the Act that was passed to enable the SI 9m loan to be made. The position is that no interest or redemption is payable by the growers until June 1970. The rural credits rate of interest, which was 4i% at the time of the negotiations - that was not an excessive rate - was applied for the first 12 months of the term of the $19m loan so that we could obtain the finance to pay it as early as possible to the industry. That will be added to the $19m. However, the Commonwealth Government carries the interest and no interest is chargeable to the industry until June 1970. It is not intended with the recent loan of $10m, with a guarantee of an amount up to $15m, that any interest be charged until 1970. This is mentioned in the Budget.
So the Commonwealth Government is assisting the industry. These loans should help the industry over the crisis period and everyone in this House hopes they will. We hope that we will have an international sugar agreement that will bring world wide -stability to the industry and that we will obtain a better price than the present price. In effect what the Government has done is really to guarantee that the producers will obtain $86 a ton. This was the figure they obtained 2 years ago and they thought that they could not go any lower. The Commonwealth Government accepted that figure and that is how the $19m was arrived at. The expectation this year is that the producers will be able to receive $86. The honourable member said that many of them are becoming bankrupt. I have heard him criticise the expansion of the industry, although today he admitted, as I have always said, that in the long run expansion is for the benefit of the industry because it is able to take advantage of world markets as they become available. In the last 3 years there has been an 18% increase in the consumption of sugar, so the market is expanding and as other developing countries improve their economy additional markets will become available. The increase of 18% in sugar consumption in the last 3 years portends greater markets.
In October and November of this year there is to be a conference of officers. This Government and the Queensland Government have never let up in trying to secure an international sugar agreement. Australian officers, along with other nationals, will meet in October and November to try to create the atmosphere for the completion of an international agreement at a higher level in April of next year. It is hoped that we will be able to secure an agreement then. This does give the industry some leeway. We hope that by 1970 the crisis period will have passed. If it is still a crisis period then, obviously governments at that time will need to look at the picture. However, the industry is not obliged to make any repayment until June 1971 when the first year’s instalment becomes due. The repayments will not commence to accrue until June 1970.
I think that is the picture. The fact that growers may have received assignments that they do not regard as payable is not the fault of this Government but of the system of expansion which they all readily accepted. There were plenty of demands for assignments in the sugar industry so that others might participate in the production of this commodity. I suppose the claim that sugar assignments are not large enough can be likened to a similar claim in the tobacco industry where a 26 million lb quota was established under a stabilisation scheme. Not every grower obtained a satisfactory quota, but growers still wanted to engage in tobacco production as fast as the States could allocate acreages to them. It does not necessarily follow that their incomes should be limited to the returns from tobacco production. They have land available so why cannot they grow other commodities? I think that the Commonwealth Government has measured up in full to the needs of the sugar industry and it cannot be charged with having been unconcerned about that great industry.
The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) referred to the continuing problem of increased costs in primary industry. It is not an easy problem to deal with, but I think the economic policies of the Government enable us to say that Australia’s economic position is very sound indeed. The honourable member said that we should look at handling costs and at the costs of superphosphate. He suggested that probably we would need to provide a greater subsidy on superphosphate. He said that it is not good enough for industry to have to do it by itself. I do not think industry is expected to do it by itself. Industry is a partner with the Government in these matters. If one examines the actions of the Department of Trade and Industry in cooperation with other departments in respect of bulk handling and containerisation, one appreciates that the Government is doing a commendable job. Bulk handling and containerisation will ease some of the problems arising from freight costs. I was able recently to see the bulk handling of wheat at Amsterdam where a 34,000-ton ship was unloaded in a matter of hours - in slightly over a day - by suction tubes, two into each hold. By this means seven or eight barges could be filled simultaneously or the tubes could be directed 10 or 15 chains away to a bigger vessel. By sending wheat overseas in bulk in big 34,000-ton ships the Wheat Board is saving considerable freight costs for the industry. We must continue this process in trying to meet freight costs.
Where an industry is prepared to see how it can better its production or supply markets by a better means - in other words where it engages in research - the Commonwealth Government is a partner, dollar for dollar. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) referred to the need for a national trade mark. Some countries have emblems or trade marks. Efforts are being made to determine a national insignia for Australia. However, we are already confronted with the problem, which the honourable member admitted, that individuals and States have a jealous regard for their own commodities. He will remember that when we sought to market our lambs under an Australian brand, Tasmania insisted on its lambs having the Tasmanian brand. This is indicative of interstate jealously. It also exists between companies. Each company wants to market under its own brand and wants to establish its own trade connections. So, this is not an easy problem. I give the honourable member the consolation that the question is being looked at.
The honourable member also referred to the insurance on the apples that are trapped in the Suez Canal. I agree with some of his remarks in this regard. While we, as a Government, have been kept informed about what is happening, since neither the Government nor the Australian Apple and Pear Board is a principal in the matter, I think we must not make statements concerning the legal technicalities of the position because such statements might assist the insurance companies to know our thoughts. An insurance policy does cover the fruit in the Canal. As a layman, I think the policy covers all aspects and that the growers should be protected. The policy contains a provision concerning an emergency, but this matter has to be decided legally and I want to leave it right there.
The honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) is interested in and is quite an authority on the fishing industry. I was very pleased with the atmosphere at the Commonwealth and State fisheries conference held in Perth a fortnight ago. The fishing industry is developing and I suppose that foremost of the States in such development is Western Australia. The fishermen there are doing a splendid job and our export income from their shipments of crayfish and prawns is amounting to a figure that really matters. I stand to be corrected, but from memory I think our export income from the fishing industry has reached an annual figure of about SI 9m; that is not to be sneezed at. Western Australia and Tasmania are both contributing to research. We had a full discussion on the fishing industry because we all felt we should lift it out of its present rut, as far as we could, and should assist it to develop. The States are looking at the possibility of making a contribution to research. I hope that the Commonwealth will be a partner in that move. The conference rose in the atmosphere that something will be done.
Arising from the earlier expenditure of Commonwealth moneys an overseas expert on trawlers visited Australia twice to advise fishermen on the types of trawlers they require. He is one of the world’s leading experts and his advice is proving very helpful. We sent experts to Hawaii and other countries to investigate long line fishing methods, and other procedures, and the equipment necessary. We have been able to help the industry in a big way. The fisheries trust fund has also proved helpful. The Commonwealth Government has entered the picture with various States. The honourable member for Batman referred to finds of prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria. That was a joint effort carried on over 2 years by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. It is pleasing to see that it has turned out successfully. Governments have a responsibility to do that sort of thing. I felt that all Government representatives left the conference prepared to measure up to that result.
I think that is all I need to say on trade matters. They are integrated with the activities of primary industry. The exports of primary products are integrated with the affairs of the Department of Trade and Industry. We have a very satisfactory picture. In rural matters it is not possible to give 100% satisfaction because of the dependence upon seasonal circumstances. There are always problems associated with costs. Primary producers are never free from worrying about the result of the crop. I have worked for many years with the primary industries on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, as a partner with those industries. I think we have brought about a very good economic result in the fields of primary industry and trade. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) dealt fully with the wheat industry. He is the authority in this House on that subject and I commend him for his work in that regard.
– Is he one of the Minister’s supporters?
– I do not know what he thought of me when he was a member of the Australian Wheat Board and I was his Minister. He is a jolly good supporter of the wheat industry and of all primary industries now. He has practical experience and can voice the needs of primary industry. I hope that we can continue our policy to even better advantage. Problems arising from seasonal conditions confront primary industries in certain areas of Australia today. I hope that we soon get good rain and that the showers will be showers of blessings, not only for primary industries but for the whole Australian economy.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Total proposed expenditure, $962,317,000, of which $300,000,000 is chargeable to Loan Fund.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $17,816,000
Department of the Navy
Proposed expenditure, $193,132,000
Department of the Army
Proposed expenditure, $366,102,000
Department of Air
Proposed expenditure, $297,711,000
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure, $85,726,000
Proposed expenditure, $1,830,000
– I want to take the opportunity to refer in this debate on the estimates for the Department of
Defence to a matter which gravely concerns the Opposition; that is, the evidence put before the Senate Appropriations Committee of the United States of America on the Fill fighter bomber, formerly known as the TFX or tactical fighter, experimental. At question time this morning I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) whether he would <table the testimony put to the Committee. The hearing was held 2 months ago in camera and the testimony, with heavy deletions, was released in the United States last week. The Minister said this morning that he had not received the evidence of the Committee. This is unfortunate, as I believe that it would have been of great value in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Defence. I hope the Minister will make the testimony available to honourable members as soon as he receives it.
I would like to refer to a question asked by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) on 19th September about reports that the Fill aircraft when delivered may not be as specified when the Government ordered it back in 1963, and that the United States Government was considering penalising the General Dynamics Corporation for failing to meet those specifications. I will quote the Minister’s reply in full. He said:
It appears that the honourable gentleman has rather complicated what is for us at this moment a relatively simple problem. He confuses the FU IB model, which is for the American Navy, with the F111C model, which is being built for Australia. The fact is that the bomber which is being produced for Australia and on which we will pay the same price as the United States of America, has already flown its full envelope of performance as required by the Royal Australian Air Force.
I wish to draw two conclusions from that answer. The Minister said that the criticisms of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee are directed only at the naval version of the Fill and do not apply to the Australian version, and that the F111C fully meets the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force. It is unfortunate that we do not have the testimony given before the Senate Appropriations Committee to test the honourable gentleman’s claim in this respect. I refer now to an article published in the issue of 18th September of ‘Barron’s’, an extremely responsible and respected national business and financial weekly published in the United States. The article is headed: “The Moment of Truth’. The sub-heading states: ‘It is time die nation cut its losses on the TFX’. The article quotes extensively from the testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee and in a masterly piece of understatement describes it as a ‘blockbuster’. The article lists at considerable length the technical flaws in the FU IB, the naval version. It quotes the testimony of ViceAdmiral Connolly, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air. It states:
There are some things that the Fill can do’, says Admiral Connolly, ‘it can fly’. Even though the speed brake is not what it ought to be we can fly without it. This can- and there is some deletion from the testimony here - on the deck with the same bum speed brake. It won’t serve the pilot’s needs like it should, and it ought to be fixed and fixed properly, but it still can fly.
Then there is some more deletion from the testimony. But this is the assessment of a top United States defence expert on the naval version of the Fill.
The Minister claims that the F111C ordered by Australia is free from technical flaws and is eminently suitable for Australian requirements. I quote again from the testimony of Vice-Admiral Connolly as reported in ‘Barron’s’:
Whatever is done for us is done for the Air’ Force. There is no difference. The problems we are discussing are the same for the Air Force.
The Chairman, Senator McClellan, then asked the Admiral:
So far as stalls are concerned?
The Admiral answered:
Performance, thrust, climb, everything connected with the airplane is the same.
The article goes on to say that heavily censored testimony indicated that the FI IIA, the Air Force version, was some 200 miles per hour short of the specified top speed and had less than one-third the specified range for its primary mission of low level approach bombing. From the testimony before the Committee, clearly the United States Air Force version is flawed and inadequate. Clearly the F111C ordered by Australia, which is a modification of the United States Air Force version, will have the same flaws and inadequacies. Yet the Minister claims that this aircraft meets the performance requirements of the Royal
Australian Air Force. What are the standards of our Air Force? Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us, when he speaks in reply, on the standards fixed for the Royal Australian Air Force. On the evidence put before the Senate Committee these standards must be substantially lower than the standards specified to the contractor in the United States. We have the evidence of a very senior United States Defence official that virtually all the Fill can do is fly.
Barron’s’, this very reliable periodical published in the United States, goes on to quote evidence of the results of actual flight tests. It claims that those pilots who have been up in the aircraft say it is ‘unsuitable for service’. A report by Navy flyers last June pinpointed 253 deficiencies, of which 100 were described as ‘mandatory for correction.’ Senator Mcclellan claims that these discrepancies were in the basic design of the aircraft, in the air inlet, the speed brake, the control system and the artificial stability system. This is an aircraft which Australia has an open-ended commitment to buy. This is an aircraft the costs of which have escalated beyond the Government’s control.
As the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) revealed in his question the other day, the testimony of the Senate Committee disclosed that the United States Defence Department would penalise the prime contractor, General Dynamics Corporation. There is a long list of financial penalties for not meeting certain specifications. The Deputy Secretary of Defence, Mr Paul Nitze, said that General Dynamics could be penalised by as much as 41% of the potential profit for failing to meet specifications. I quote briefly from his testimony:
With respect to all specifications, the contractor was under obligation to meet them and to retrofit until he did meet them. It is perfectly clear that he cannot do it It is not within the realm of being technically possible to build it
In other words the Pentagon admits that the Fill concept was never “within the realm of being technically possible to build*. Australia is buying an aircraft which on any interpretation of the evidence that has been given and which we have before use falls far short of the original specification. Yet from time to time in this House the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) and the Minister for
Defence (Mr Fairhall) have assured this Parliament and the people of the country, when questions have been directed to them on this subject, that the FI 1 1 will be everything that the Government expected when it placed the order in 1963. Every member of this House is fully aware that the order was placed in 1963 because of the general election then imminent. This Government gave a blank cheque by agreeing to purchase at the then contract price of $US120m twenty-one Fill fighter-bomber aircraft.
I quote again from the article in Barron’s’:
After years of bitterly rejecting all strictures on the biservice, swing wing, aircraft project - the costliest piece of military hardware in US history - the Pentagon now concedes that it is moving to penalise the Fill’s prime contractor, General Dynamics.
Surely heavy financial penalties against the contractor would not be necessary if the Fill even remotely approached the lyrical description of it given in this House by our defence Ministers.
– Wonderful, was it not?
– I think the Minister described it a few weeks ago as the Cadillac of the air, the greatest thing with wings since angels. This is the aircraft the Minister for Defence described in such a fashion. I quote the conclusion of the article in ‘Barron’s’:
The time has come for the nation to cot ito losses. The TFX should be phased out as fast as the national security permits. Congress should launch a fresh investigation of the programme that has gone from scandal to disaster to fla the blame and prevent a recurrence.
I emphasise that this is the conclusion of ;i responsible American journal on the evidence disclosed to the Senate Appropriations Committee about the Fill programme. I believe the evidence completely refutes the Minister’s claim that there is nothing wrong with the version Australia is buying. If there are serious flaws and inadequacies in both the US Navy and US Air Force versions, of course there will be serious flaws and inadequacies in the Australian version. The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air in the US has said that virtually the aircraft’s only capability is that it can fly. In speed and range it seems that the Australian version will fall as short of the original specifications as the
US Air Force version. If Australian standards fall far short of American specifications it is the Minister’s duty to explain why. The Opposition has been immensely patient in connection with the purchase of this aircraft, despite our alarm at the soaring costs. We have never claimed before that the aeroplane is defective, but on the evidence put to the US Senate Committee it is not possible to reach any other conclusion. The Fill project is regarded by informed and responsible persons in the US as disastrous. Senator Mcclellan has described it as a multi-million dollar blunder. How much more catastrophic will be the purchase of this aircraft by Australia? It seems that we have an openended financial commitment to a vast defence and technological blunder. The Government has never been frank with the Australian people on the Fill. It has never tabled the agreement to purchase the plane in this House despite requests by Opposition members. We do not know the terms of the agreement or whether there is any way to cut our losses. I suggest that, in the light of the evidence available, the Government should give serious consideration to cutting Australia’s losses on this ill-fated aircraft. The Fill’s moment of truth has arrived for Australia as certainly it has for the United States where there has been a full scale inquiry by a competent committee of the Senate of the United States. If there is no way out for Australia but to continue with open-ended commitment on the Fill, the Government has committed the most wasteful and reprehensible act in Australian defence history. The Government has poured millions of dollars into a seemingly bottomless pit. On the evidence put to a US Senate committee, the purchase of the Fill seems destined to be a great Australian tragedy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I understand that at any one time during the broadcasting of Parliament there are 10,000 people listening. I want to say that 10,000 people over the last 15 minutes have heard the most one-sided and unfair criticism of a government defence project that I have ever heard presented in this House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) quoted continually from
Barron’s Magazine. What he does, in fact, is to underestimate what has happened in respect of American aircraft industry lobbying in the United States of America. Firstly, the honourable member cannot divorce himself from types of aicraft involved. I point out to him that there is an FI IIA, an F111C, and an FU IB which is the Navy version of this aircraft. He quoted from inquiries about this model, statements that have been made about its adaptability to carrier operations and for naval use. He then applied this to the model that the Australian Government is getting. I would like to say that if tomorrow, by some strange freak of chance or miracle, the Opposition became the Government and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition became the Minister for Defence, I would guarantee that he would take no steps to cancel our contract to obtain Fill aircraft from America. The Deputy Leader would do exactly what the Labour Government has done in the United Kingdom. I will mention more of this in a few minutes.
Barron’s Magazine has published a series of articles about this plane. These articles begin from the time that the contract for the construction of these aircraft was given to General Dynamics Corporation. The Boeing Company, which was also a tenderer for the contract, failed in its bid. Barron’s Magazine, which was a little pro-Boeing, has carried out repeated attempts to rubbish this aircraft. The Opposition in this country has followed the same sort of course and it too is trying to rubbish this aircraft. The Opposition says that the aircraft should not be purchased for our Air Force.
– Is the honourable member happy about the escalation of costs?
– Let us have a look at this. The argument on escalation of costs has been used repeatedly. In the short time available to me I want to refer to this subject. However, before doing so I want to finish what I was saying about the Fill. This aircraft was chosen as the only aircraft which could do the things which the Royal Australian Air Force required of its bombers or all purpose aircraft. Let us assume that the arguments put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are correct - they are not - and we did not get this aircraft. What else would the Deputy Leader of the Opposition do? In England, the British aircraft industry had developed the TSR2 with the idea of selling this aircraft to the world. A tremendous amount of developmental money went into this project. This aircraft had reached a stage where it was almost ready for full scale production. However, there was a change of Government in the United Kingdom and the Labour Government came into power. What did this Government do? It cancelled the whole TSR2 project and said that it would not order the plane. The British Labour Government sent to America for a replacement bomber. I ask honourable members opposite what aircraft was selected? The British Labour Government selected the Fill. In making this decision it had to bring vast unemployment into the British aircraft industry. Do honourable members opposite think that this Government did that with the idea of buying some escalating-price failure type of aircraft with all its difficulties as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition alleges? I think once you face up to this you are inclined to think: What straw can be grasped?
– Did the UK Labour Government receive a firm contract price?
– The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) has spoken about what happened. I want to refer to other contracts which the Government has entered into with the United States for defence equipment. Credit for such action on the part of the Government is never acknowledged by the Opposition. The version of the aircraft that we have ordered and which the RAAF will by flying is at present in service with the United States Air Force in some numbers. Some of these aircraft are being used in a training role, training crews, so that these planes can be put into squadrons. It is ridiculous to say that these planes are not fit to fly and will not operate because that statement has been completely disproved in America today.
Let us take this a step further. Let us remember that the British Labour Government has ordered the same sort of aircraft and in doing so it gave its own aircraft industry a tremendous shock. Opposition members may say: Do not take much notice of this; let us get back to Australia; we should not have the Fill aircraft. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that we should cancel this contract and should not put it into service with our Air Force. I ask honourable members opposite what the alternative to this is. For years in this chamber in discussing the defence estimates we have heard honourable members opposite get up and criticise the Government because we still had the Canberra bomber and had made no effort to replace it. I point out that while the Opposition was acting in this way experts of the RAAF, who are the people who should be consulted on the type of bomber necessary for our Air Force, came down with the recommendation that we should purchase this plane. Of course, the Opposition might have said that we should not go out of Australia to purchase planes and that we should build a dozen bombers in this country. Members of the Opposition talk about the estimated final price of the planes we are purchasing. They should work out or ‘get some expert to work out, if they can, what it would cost Australia to build its own aircraft. They will soon find that this is not economically possible. They should consider that a country like Great Britain which has a background of aircraft construction has found it necessary to cancel its own project for building the TSR2. What chance would a nation like Australia have of even going half way to meet the demand for a dozen or so aircraft? I believe, and this Government believes, that we have acted extremely wisely in our decision to purchase the Fill aircraft for the RAAF.
– This is on a cost plus basis.
– The honourable member who interjects has interjected time and time again on naval construction because he is somewhat interested in that type of work.
The Opposition will never accept the fact that the Government acted wisely in purchasing DDGs which were ordered back in 1961. This action by the Government has been criticised by the Opposition. It can now be seen that there was no good reason for criticising that action. There has been no escalation in the price of these vessels. The price today is exactly the same as when they were the first ordered. These vessels were delivered on time and I understand that HMAS ‘Brisbane’, which is the third DDG to ‘be purchased, will cost less than the other two vessels. Members of the Opposition are eager to grasp the opportunity to use the term ‘escalation’. The Opposition will not acknowledge that when Australia has not had the capacity to construct the defence equipment that it needs it has got the best bargains overseas. The contract for the purchase of the DDGs was on the basis that the final payment could be made 3 years after the completion of the contract and all payments were to be interest free.
I notice that some criticism has been made in the Press concerning spares. This, in itself was an amazing deal. In fact, we have far more spares for the new destroyers than we contracted for at the same price. I would think that this in itself is a tribute to those who were responsible for the Cabinet decision in 1961 to buy from the United States of America the kind of ships that we need for an all purpose role. The Opposition, of course, cannot see ‘this. It fails to realise that we have obtained a bomber aircraft that nations other than our own ore looking to. It fails to acknowledge that the ships that we have purchased under first class financial arrangements are the equal of any in the world today.
I want to discuss in the few minutes that remain to me another aspect of defence that has been mentioned in many journals and many newspapers throughout Australia - integration of the three Services. It seems that anybody in Australia who looks at the defence situation and at reports on defence and defence expenditure, and does not give the matter a great deal of though, comes up with the idea that we should immediately integrate our defence forces. People quote Canada as the prime example of integration of the Services. Without much investigation, they say that the Canadian experiment has proved highly successful. I believe that there are some doubts about this. The Canadian scheme is very much in its infancy and I understand that many people in Canada are not as enthusiastic about it as is Mr Hellyer, the Minister of Defence. In March of this year, the
Melbourne ‘Sun-News Pictorial’ published an article by Douglas Wilke under the headline ‘AH for One and One for All . . .?’. In part, it stated:
Should Australia integrate its three separate armed services? Canada is doing so - to be the first nation in the world to combine its Navy, Army and Air Force in a single, mobile force. The Canadian Government believes the merger will enable it to save the equivalent of $800m over the next 10 years.
The writer went on to make other comments suggesting that this kind of arrangement should be adopted in Australia. At one point, he made a rather trite comment in these terms:
I suggest that anybody who closely studies the defence situation in this country and who looks at the composition of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Defence Committee would not level that sort of criticism at our defence planners. I do not believe that the senior Air Force officer, the senior naval officer, the senior Army officer or the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee attends a meeting with a fixed resolve that he will not bend one inch away from some requirement of his own Service. We in this country are extremely fortunate to have men of the calibre that we have looking at defence questions and determining them on their merits in the light of the likely effect on the overall requirements of Australia’s defence. There must be, of course, times when a particular Service chief does not get everything that he wishes he could get for his own Service. I believe that the final decisions on defence matters are made by men who work harmoniously together. They certainly should not be criticised in the manner in which the writer of the article that I have just quoted criticised them.
We turn from the Douglas Wilkie attitude, which holds that all that we need is for the Minister for Defence to announce that there will be integration and it will come about, to views of the kind propounded in a journal that goes by the title Australian Coal, Shipping, Steel and The
Harbour’. It summed up some of the difficulties and then stated:
Each kind of present variety of fighting man needs a different uniform, different weapons and different outlook. And competition whether between services and units is good for the soul.
I believe that whatever efforts at integration are made, we must not destroy the individuality of each Service, which has pride in itself, and the highly competitive spirit that exists between the various Services. I believe that the Government is looking at this question intelligently. Already steps have been taken to see whether it is practicable to start in the only way in which, I believe, a start can be made on the integration of the Services, by the establishment of an inter-Service college. A committee has recently been formed under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Melville to investigate the matter. I am sure that all honourable members know him, that he needs no introduction by me and that 1 need not describe all his fine qualities. The other two members of the committee are Lieutenant-General Sir John Wilton, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Sir Hugh Ennor, who is Secretary of the Department of Education and Science. This committee has been appointed to develop a plan for the establishment of a joint Services college to provide education at the tertiary level for cadets of all three Services in conjunction with their professional military training. The committee has already commenced its investigations and I hope that before long it will report to the Government. The significant feature of this proposal is the fact that, quite apart from proposing the establishment of a joint Services college, the three Services have themselves got the Government to agree that it is necessary to give the cadets in all three branches an opportunity to be university trained. This is one of the best steps forward in defence planning that we have made for some time.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, one of the things of which we can always be assured is that honourable members opposite who contribute to discussions on defence will never say what we are trying to defend ourselves for, with, about or against. They have no strategic concepts whatsoever. Let us take for a moment the arguments of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney). I agree with the points that he made about integration of the three forces. The task is exceptionally difficult and it is one concerning which this Government has dragged its feet for 7 or 8 years. Let us consider the aircraft that has been mentioned. I shall overlook the alphabetical and numerical designation that the honourable member for Perth applied to it. He said that it must be suited to our needs, because the British are buying it and, after all, there is a Labour Government in the United Kingdom. The honourable member said that this machine must be suited to our needs also because it is the best that the Americans can develop. Why should these considerations mean that it is best for us? Britain is an offshore island adjacent to one of the world’s most populous and industrially powerful areas, with one of the world’s most vigorous, aggressive and militaristic histories. The United States of America is one of the world’s largest industrial powers, sheltered by a couple of oceans, but with world wide commitments. Australia’s strategic needs have no resemblance to those of either Britain or the United States. Until we get to a stage at which we realise that this is a country in a special geographic and strategic context in which we need to apply ourselves to defence problems with the full intellectual capacity of the Australian nation, we shall never have any sort of commonsense approach to these problems.
Australia is in a particular geographic position. The surging hordes of Asia, about which we hear so much, are ill equipped to attack anyone beyond their own borders. The surging hordes, if one so likes to describe them, of Europe are the people who are most vigorous and who are most adequately equipped to attack anybody. To claim that the war machines and equipment that fit the needs of Britain fit our needs also is to exhibit an attitude of mind that ought to be denied access to any position of authority and power in this country. It is possible, of course, that the same equipment will fit the two needs, but it is highly unlikely, lt has been one of the tragedies of Australia’s military history that we have continually committed ourselves to the concepts, equipment and strategies of others and that until we have woken up to ourselves we have lost much of what we have committed. This was the history of the First World War and the Second World War. Until we brought our own men under our own commands and had them fighting for our own strategic concepts and our own causes, we suffered multitudes of casualities
What I am appealing for today is an Australian concept of defence. This has nothing to do with forsaking our allies or anything of the kind. I am arguing for a simple idea that we are a nation in our own right, with infinite capacity technically, intellectually and industrially and with the right to look at ourselves and say: ‘What are our needs?’ This Government has no strategy on defence. It has no effective defence concept. So far as I can see, it has no real policy. It merely exhibits a dependency neurosis towards the United States and a fear neurosis towards Asia. What are the real problems of defence? We on this side of the Parliament say that the Australian defence effort has three tasks. They are: To sustain ourselves against any possible aggressor, to assist in alliances and to support the United Nations.
I have insufficient time in the IS minutes allotted to me to discuss what this Government is doing about these things. I do not think the Government has trained the people of Australia even to examine the problem. What are the probabilities or possibilities? Let us assume that we have to make a military appreciation. Who are our potential attackers? In our part of the world there are only six nations with more people or more industrial potential - even if they do not have it now - than we have. In order of population they are China, India, the USSR, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan. I shall leave China till last. Does anybody suggest that India is likely to attack Australia and that she has the capacity to do that? Of course not. Even the DLP has stopped thinking that the Soviet Union is going to attack us in our beds at night. Japan has decided that the paths of peace are much more effective, and anyhow, this Government is selling Australia to Japan at sixpence a ton. Does anybody suggest that Pakistan is a danger? No. This leaves Indonesia, which is our closest foreign neighbour. I offer my apologies to the Indonesians for having to bring them into this context. I do not think they are aggressive.
So far as I can see, there are only two possible aggressors in the foreseeable future, China and Indonesia. What are the potentials of those countries and what are their problems? Let us assume the chief of the defence staff of one of these countries was called into his prime minister’s office and told that an attack on Australia was being planned. What would happen? First of all they would turn up the map and see where Australia was. In the case of China, Australia would be 3,000 miles away. Indonesia is 400 or 500 miles from the closest point of Australia but 2,000 miles away from the bases that it would have to attack. So the first thing is that Australia has a tremendous advantage because of the distances involved. Unfortunately we have trained our people to think that our greatest difficulty is isolation. But distance means logistical strength to us and imposes logistical disadvantages upon our enemies.
A potential invader would then have to assess the strength of this country. What is Australia’s strength? Let us examine first of all what is involved in an invasion anywhere. I know that some people believe that we will have to face rockets, then atomic bombs, and then the moon will fall on us. But what is the history of invasions by sea? They are the most difficult military operation that can be undertaken. At Gallipoli the combined might of the British Empire and France was launched against the sick man of Europe, and still the Allies did not get to Istanbul. In the Second World War, the mobilised might of the greatest empires and the greatest powers in the world took 3 or 4 years to organise a crossing of 20 miles of channel against a Germany already committed wholeheartedly against the Russians. I was with the Seventh Division in 1945 when 200 ships were required to launch one division against the defences in Balik Papan - 200 ships carrying about 20,000 men, with about 7,000 or 8,000 men to follow up. It took 2,000 ships to carry 250,000 American invaders to the Philippines.
What nations have this kind of strength now? What is Australia’s strength. We have the manpower. With a population of 1 1 million we have a mobilisation capacity of at least 1,250,000 people. In the Second World War 750,000 people voluntarily enlisted. I think Australia’s automotive industry is the ninth largest in the world and its steel industry is about the twelfth or thirteenth largest. Our general industry would be in the first nine or ten in the world and we are about fourth, fifth or sixth even in rocketry. Anybody who examines the position must agree that this country has a national morale and a homogenity second to none. Those people who talk about Australia’s incapacity and defencelessness and all the rest of it are producing a national inferiority complex which is a disgrace to our history. There is no truth or validity whatsoever in their statements. We have a social and administrative organisation which is first class - even under a government such as we have at present - and a high degree of intellectual and technical skills. Yet what we have done is to produce a national inferiority complex. We go shopping to the Americans for ships that we ought to build in Australia. We are imitative in every way. We have to shake ourselves free at every moment to get new equipment for the Army. We are completely dependent upon other people’s thinking. We are colonialists in the way that we go about these things. I believe we have to face a completely different future.
Why are we in Vietnam? We are there simply because we want an insurance policy for the future. Vietnam is not part of our defence. It is a piece of strategic folly to throw one section of our forces into Vietnam and another lot into Malaysia and then say as we did 2 or 3 years ago that somebody even closer is our enemy. We have to change our attitude and start looking at the internal organisation of Australia. How are we going to mobilise people into the forces and how many do we need? It would be presumptuous of me to say that I know exactly what the answers are. I agree with the Government that this is a difficult matter. I believe that by adopting a completely professional approach to the forces in the last few years we have turned away from the main strength of this country - the citizen forces. I raise my voice today, as I have so often done in the past, to protest against the attitude that makes the citizen forces the cinderellas of the Services. There are many countries, such as Switzerland and the United States of America, where the citizen forces handle the most sophisticated equipment possible. The Swiss Air Force is comprised almost completely of civilians. Of course Switzerland is a tiny country. But if honourable members go to the Library and ask for the report of the United States National Guard, they will find that this citizen force, which consists of men who normally serve behind counters, work in offices or lecture in universities, fly supersonic aircraft and train in armoured divisions.
I believe that the Government has done something to the Australian national spirit. Why cannot it fill the forces? I notice that the Citizen Military Forces in Australia number 40,000, and yet in 1939, when we had a population of 7,000,000, no less than 70,000 or 80,000 people were in 80 CMF combatant units. We ought to be attempting to develop a locally based citizen force complex. That suggestion may be scoffed at but I believe that it should be debated. For example, a place that is currently in the news is Rockhampton. It has a population of 40,000. That means that between 4,000 and 5,000 men are of military age. How many are in the CMF up there? Only a handful - like everywhere else in Australia. What do these people do? Ask them. They do nothing. The young citizen soldiers that I have talked to are completely frustrated because they are not supplied with enough equipment. Nobody has put enough energy into deciding how we should train young Australians in this modern age. Many honourable members, including myself, were in the CMF before the war and we did not need to be handed very much for it to be more sophisticated than we were ourselves. But today we live in an age in which young people are highly intelligent and highly skilled.
In an area such as Rockhampton why could not the same thing be done as is done in Hawaii where the National Air Guard maintains a watch over the Pacific Ocean? The National Air Guard consists of nonprofessional servicemen. A few full time people actually run it, but the apparatus and equipment are operated by the civilian component. We are completely disregarding the capacity of civilians to do these things. I understand that there are missiles in Darwin. Who mans the missiles? Is there any reason why this should be solely the task of full time people? Is this not work that citizens in this area could properly carry out? We live in the kind of community in which one can press buttons to send people into action to fight bush fires, to save people lost in mountains and to carry out many other essential services. 1 believe that we have to stop and take a look at the community and see the latent skills that are needed for defence because no matter how good the professionals are - I suppose it is chauvinistic but I believe that the Australian forces in Vietnam are the best in the business and that their training is par excellence - to rely on them completely is a wrong concept. Although there are 1,500,000 men of military age in Australia we do not have men to waste. In the jungle it is man to man and men need skill. Manpower means the most and fire-power and mechanisation mean the least. A community such as Australia should develop all its skills and place them in the hands of all our soldiers so that they may make the best of fire-power and mobility. To get yourself sunk into the jungle somewhere is a folly and a waste. So we must examine the whole strategic concept with a view to seeing what we can do.
It has often been said that every Australian must take a good look at the situation. The Swedes design and build thenown aircraft. Other people design and build their own ships. What is behind all this? Let us assume that if we built our own aircraft they would cost as much as the Fill. What does it matter? What is the bonus if we build these things ourselves? One of the great bonuses is the intellectual development that comes from doing that job yourself. For the people who design and modify the aircraft, who get it in the air and continue to study its operation, this continuing intellectual challenge is the unspecified and invisible bonus in this kind of operation. What we are doing by our imitative and shopping concept of defence and our neurosis about the Americans and the Asians is to abdicate our responsibility for Australia’s defence. I believe that in the foreseeable future Australia is unassailable by anybody. But we on this side, as well, I think, as honourable members opposite, want to ensure that Australians will fight with the best that the world can supply. We believe it is possible to develop these things ourselves and to ensure that no young Australian goes into battle flying a Wirraway. Let us show our neighbours that this country can look after itself. One of the tragedies of the last 15 years is that we have painted a picture of helplessness which has damaged our national morale and made us appear idiots in the eyes of the rest of the world.
– It is always a great pleasure to follow the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in a debate because I do not think many people take him seriously. So it is not necessary to spend a lot of time arguing with him. A report which appeared in the ‘Austraiian’ on 15th February 1965 typifies the attitude of the honourable member towards defence. The report of remarks made by the honourable member appears under the headline If We Get Organised 500,000 Invaders Couldn’t Win’. The honourable member gives his expert knowledge of what is necessary for the defence of Australia and the Australian people. He has given it again today. He gives an assurance that nobody could successfully attack Australia. I hope that this opinion gives him and his family some confidence, but it does not give me and my family any confidence at all. I suggest that it should not give the people of Australia much confidence either because there are people with perhaps superior knowledge to that possessed by the honourable member, with perhaps a slight knowledge of what is happening in the world and what is required in defence who may not agree with him.
If the honourable member is correct, let us suppose that we could protect ourselves against 500,000 invaders. If we look at Australia’s position in the world there can be no doubt that our trade is dependent on sea routes and free access to many other parts of the world. If those sea routes are closed and if we are not able to play any part in keeping them open, we will be in a very parlous plight. If we wish to obtain some idea of Labor’s defence outlook perhaps we could see what is happening in the United Kingdom at the moment. I propose to read from a speech made in the House of Lords by Earl Jellicoe, a very distinguished serviceman and a former Minister for Defence. Speaking of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom Earl Jellicoe said on 25th July this year:
They went to the country then claiming that in defence their emphasis would be on strengthening our conventional Regular Forces.
That sounds like the honourable member for Wills. Earl Jellicoe continued:
Some people, unfortunately, took them at their word. What do we now see. We see a 20 per cent cut across the board in Service manpower. We see a 10 per cent cut in the vital area of research and development. We see the Army reduced to a bare 44 teeth infantry units. We see a Navy which by the mid-70’s will have had its sharpest weapons extracted from it. We see a depleted Royal Air Force with its operational core torn out and with its front line strength drastically reduced.
For the benefit of the honourable member for Wills I will quote what Viscount Monkton of Brenchley said in the same debate because I think the honourable member will understand what is meant by these words. Referring to the Labour Party Viscount Monckton said:
I would go further and say this. According to this Paper, it has taken three years of gestation to produce not a toothless lion for teeth can be replaced (and by the grace of the Duke of Norfolk we have at least a fourth set of reserve forces to replace those teeth); but a eunuch, and there is not much you can do about putting that straight afterwards. That is what worries me.
That is typical of the Labor Party’s outlook on defence. I question whether it has any interest whatever in the defence of Australia or in doing the things which the honourable member for Wills said were essential. One of those things was to sustain ourselves. I agree with some of the things which the honourable member said about the spirit internally in the country; about the use of citizen forces. I agree wholeheartedly with those things, but he is quite ridiculous if he thinks that we can sustain ourselves by pulling down a blind and not seeing what is happening around us. He said that we must assist with alliances. I do not wish to go into the motion moved by the Adelaide Conference of the Labor Party, which would tell our allies what to do otherwise we will pull out and leave them for dead, but if the honourable member thinks this is assisting our alliances, let him go ahead. He said that we must support the United Nations. This is worthwhile, but in addition to supporting the United Nations we must be able to play our part with our allies in the defence of this area.
I have just had the privilege of being in the United Kingdom and having discussions with various people there, not necessarily official discussions but discussions with defence and service people at varying levels. I returned to Australia very concerned about the situation building up around us and the adequate preparations that we may or may not be making for our defence. I cannot see how anybody can be expected to discuss defence effectively when he is given the Defence Report’ for 1967 only this morning. This does not give an honourable member time to analysethe report. The report states:
Australian defence policies, and the defence and assistance programme that support them, derive basically from two central propositions: that the extension of hostile influence and control over wide areas of South East Asia, particularly by militant communism, would create a situation that would undermine the security of the countries in the area and present a threat to the strategic interests of Australia;
This is a vital matter that we must now consider in this country. In my opinion we do not have much time to make decisions. If the United Kingdom vacates South East Asia as it has said it will, there is no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of the people with whom I spoke in the United Kingdom, that a vacuum will be created. I have no doubt that the presence of the United Kingdom in this area has had a stabilising effect on the security of the area as a whole. With the Americans in Vietnam and the British in Malaysia and Singapore, the small nations of South East Asia have seen that others are prepared to play their part. With the new announcement that the United Kingdom intends to withdraw it would not be surprising if certain nations decided, considered or had concern, that this was the beginning of the withdrawal from South East Asia, perhaps leaving those countries to make whatever deal they could or face up to whatever threat there may be should Communist China at some time in the future make a move.
We may well ask ourselves what effect the British withdrawal will have on the outlook of the American people towards
South East Asia. Could they not perhaps say to themselves: ‘If the British can get out, perhaps we should do the same’. I do not think they will, but there is political pressure and there is a propaganda effect in the British withdrawal. I do not propose to read from the defence statement as I have not time, but it uses words to this effect: Now that we know more definitely what the British propose, we have time to plan’. I question the amount of time that we have to plan and I question the time factor in the supplementary statement on defence. Mr Healey said in his statement about the withdrawal from South East Asia that it could be later and it could be sooner. The opinion that I heard on all sides in the United Kingdom was that it was more likely to be sooner than later. Therefore, I do not mind what we are spending on defence or what we are paying for equipment, so long as that equipment is what is required to keep this country safe and to enable us to play our part in protecting Australia against any dangers that may emerge.
I am not necessarily impressed with the great amount of money that we claim to be spending on defence at the moment because - this is not a criticism - there was a period when the Government, I think rightly, decided that the important matter was development and used money for that purpose. At that time we neglected the defence vote or allowed it to stay at the same level for a considerable number of years. Nor should we forget that in the figure which is now being spent is provision for the replacement of barracks which should have been replaced years ago, for the building of ordnance stores and other things which, if the defence vote had increased as it should have year by year, would have been in a better state than they are in now. This is something that we have to realise. I found difficulty in the United Kingdom when I suggested that the political presence of the United Kingdom in South East Asia was of greater importance than the number of troops she had stationed there, and that indeed it was her presence which was important. I was told that although they agreed that there was a threat and a danger in South East Asia, although they agreed that South East Asia was likely to be the spot where a world war could originate, the question came: ‘What are you doing in Australia? You have a limit of approximately 40,000- perhaps going up to 42,000 - troops in your Army. Do you consider that this is enough to meet a situation which you tell us is becoming dangerous?’ I do not think it is.
I think that as a matter of urgency we in Australia should be out recruiting as many as possible of those officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, and even other ranks, of the United Kingdom Army who are about to be declared surplus. They aire keen to come here. They have been trained in Malaysia and Borneo. They are trained personnel whom we could well use. I think also that we should increase our forces now. We should not talk about what is going to happen or where we will be in 5 years time. We are now talking about one regular division, but how long will it take that regular division to be fully equipped on a war basis? At the present rate of expenditure I suggest that the answer is that it would take some years. I question also the follow-up force in respect of the Regular Army which may ‘be committed in Malaysia, Vietnam or New Guinea. I would say that at the bare minimum it takes approximately 6 months to prepare a Citizen Military Forces soldier for action at the present time, even if we have them in numbers. But we do not have them. We have only a framework. It would take at least 6 months for the ordinary solider and 12 months to prepare a specialist to go into action. We should start now to look at the CMF and at the follow-up force because I can assure honourable members that I have never seen or read of an enemy which has been scared by how much per head of population is being spent on defence. The only thing that stops an enemy is that a country has efficient and capable forces which can do what is required.
I should like to say more on that subject but I have not time to do so. It is farcical that we should be limited to 15 minutes in a debate on defence. I refer now to the Indian Ocean. When coming back by ship from the United Kingdom, because the Suez Canal was closed we had to go via the Cape. We are dependent on South Africa for bunkering. If Singapore went we would be dependent on Simonstown as a base. The possibility of ingress to egress from Europe and England with free entry through >the Suez appears to me to be becoming more difficult. We must be making provision to do the things that are necessary for the trade, defence and the security of this country in the future. I believe that we have to do more and that the people have to be prepared to do more. I do not say this as a criticism of the Government, but I think we should tell the people frankly what is happening and what we need to do and to plan1 for it. I congratulate all those in the Services.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would value the comments of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) on a statement which appears in the latest issue of ‘Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft’, which I believe is regarded as quite an authoritative journal. I realise that authoritative journals may very easily express the sour grapes of certain aircraft industries located in certain countries. The publication states:
The vicissitudes through which the pioneering variable geometry Fill combat aircraft has been passing are hardly likely to have helped Boeing, although most of the Fill’s troubles have been uncorrected with the ‘swing-wing’, which might have been expected to bring the greatest headaches.
The problems are such that the Fill may never fulfil its original promise of dual service acceptability by meeting the requirements of both the U.S.A.F. and the U.S. Navy.
It is also becoming increasingly apparent that the R.A.F.’s Fill’s will be incapable of doing the same jobs as the late lamented TSR2 tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft, and that, in the end, they will be just as costly, quite apart from the fact that cancellation of the TSR2 and other military programmes almost wrecked the British aircraft industry.
This is a responsible comment from what is ordinarily regarded as a responsible publication. It would be interesting to know whether the Government has made a better buy on the Fill when we remember the controversy about the TSR2 earlier. Has the decision to continue to purchase aircraft capable of flying off our small carriers really been wise? Is the limitation of type imposed by the necessity of flying off really giving us the best anti-submarine aircraft? In other words, are we really keeping with it if we are pre-supposing that small aircraft carriers are still anti-submarine escorts? Can we really get the most effective anti-submarine escort from aircraft carriers? Do we really envisage only conventional warfare from submarines attacking ships? If trade interference is really envisaged in our strategy as a naval tactic, will the aim not be the total destruction of ports? This would be better carried out by aircraft, by missiles or by Polaris type submarines. The comment today of a United States Defence chief that the proper tactic is to destroy the port of Haiphong, and presumably the shipping in it, raises this question: If we are really thinking of naval warfare as a means of intercepting trade, is this not the way it will be done and are we not thinking in terms of the past when we have in mind convoys and ships being picked off one by one by submarines? I realise, of course, that the destruction of ports is a type of warfare that would be beyond the capacity of any of the South East Asian powers.
If we envisage only confrontation type or Vietnam type military action, is the kind of Navy and Air Force we are developing suitable? Why do we choose conventional submarines instead of the true submersibles of the Dreadnought type? Are Australian crews really incapable of handling a submarine if it has a nuclear powered engine and can stay under water for long periods of time? I realise that this is a far more expensive type of submarine, but are we wise in going back into the past and buying conventional submarines? Now that we have experimented and have waited a long time for aircraft types off the drawing board, can we not more intelligently revert to the practice of most air forces outside the extremely wealthy air forces of the major powers? These minor air forces prefer to buy aircraft that have already become well established instead of waiting indifinitely for the drawing board types to come forward and instead of living in a world of guess work about their cost. We have done this: we have bought the proven types of transport and naval aircraft almost to the point of buying obsolete types. The Neptune as a maritime patrol bomber is likely to be used by most powers for years, but it is not entirely certain whether in this instance we have not gone too far back into the past.
What aircraft are adapted to the Vietnam type of warfare anyway? From the descrip tions I read of activities outside North Vietnam - I do not profess to be an expert - I get the impression that in jungle warfare an air force would probably be just as well off with World War II types of aircraft as with highly sophisticated aircraft. A commendable feature of our defence programme is that the Government Aircraft Factory is responsible for the production of the Dassault Mirage 111-0 fighter and the 111-D operational trainer, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. However, we need self-critical comments from the Minister regarding the rate of delivery of these aircraft. It will also be interesting to know how much the programme could be expanded in a defence emergency. This is the most interesting advantage of having our own aircraft production anyway.
It seems pretty clear that the defence weapon to which sufficient consideration has never been given in Australia is the helicopter. It has been a major weapon in confrontation; it is apparently significant in anti-submarine work, especially in location, and it has proven an outstanding weapon in the circumstances of the Vietnam type war. I cannot help thinking about the Charles F. Adams class of destroyer, which has quite a high speed. According to all the information that one can read, this destroyer is not as fast as the modern nuclear powered submarine is. It was usually assumed in the past that the destroyer on the surface, as a hunter of the submarine, was far faster than the submarine it was hunting below the surface. That is why the destroyer was such a powerful anti-submarine weapon. However, in a situation where the submarine below the surface is faster than the destroyer on the surface, it may very well be that the helicopter operating from ships, with devices that can periodically listen for the under-water vessel and with other protection devices, would be better.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that the weapon to which it appears insufficient consideration has been given is the helicopter, and I spoke about its significance in anti-submarine warfare in a period of time when submarines have developed very high speeds below the surface and, in fact, are faster than destroyers on the surface. Australia has very small numbers of helicopters and it depends on allies even when we have such small forces involved as are involved in Vietnam. The type of helicopters we have are in need of review. The Boeing company for instance, produces the Chinook helicopter, which can transport a fully equipped combat platoon, combat vehicles and a complete howitzer section or it can transport 107 civilian refugees, indicating its value in civil emergencies such as bushfire and flood. An armed version is being developed which has automatic grenade launchers, machine guns and armour to protect crews and vital components. It can act as an escort for troop carrying helicopters and it can provide protection during disembarkation. It is pretty clear that in all the zones where Australian forces are likely to be involved the helicopter is a major infantry weapon and transport system, and that it has been underestimated. It is in fact, in the circumstances of jungle warfare far more important than the tank.
Defence is constantly changing. Patrol boats and mine sweepers, bought for confrontation, may no longer be particularly relevant. It is no disgrace to have bought them. What one wants to hear, however, is the Government’s thinking which might indicate its flexibility of approach. No-one has to pretend to infallibility. The Royal Australian Air Force has been provided with twentyfour model 204B Bell helicopters for search and rescue, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and logistic support for the Australian Army, but this is relatively small scale thinking and is not a sufficient support for Australian forces. It would be interesting to know whether the Government is following the new military thinking carried out by the Lockheed company in developing the advanced aerial fire support system all-weather combat helicopter.
I wanted to make my last comments about the Pacific Islands Regiment, which is an extremely impressive body of men. The Commonwealth recently has spent $40m on this force in Papua and New Guinea. It is quite clear that $40m is a level of expenditure that an independent Papua and New Guinea could not maintain. New Guinea this year gets $70m from the grant from the Commonwealth and it will raise $55m, so we estimate, internally. In addition there is this tremendous defence expenditure, some of it non-recurring, on defence construction works. There has been built up a magnificent body of men. The army in New Guinea - the Pacific Islands Regiment - gives a native soldier his dignity, pay better than civil pay, a house in which his family have room and privacy, and the same food as European officers. The Department of Defence has ignored entirely the cuts in salaries carried through by the civil administration of Papua and New Guinea - the low salaries that have existed since the Matthews award. There are clearly conditions for the soldier in Papua and New Guinea superior to those foi the civil servant. In these circumstances the army is able to attract, in a market with a shortage of literate labour, a disproportionate share of educated men. The present defence expenditure and quality of forces will be difficult for an independent New Guinea to maintain.
What are we envisaging in Papua and New Guinea? I do not make any complaint about the adequate level of pay for the soldiers or for the fact that almost alone among the people employed by the Commonwealth in New Guinea at present they are being given their full dignity. One has only to look at their houses as compared with the huts that are provided for others employed by the Commonwealth. But, of course, the army is attracting a very large percentage of the mission educated men. I repeat, what are we really envisaging in Papua and New Guinea? One Commonwealth department is saying that there must be cut levels of salary because an independent Papua and New Guinea will never be able to sustain the old civil service rates of pay yet another department ignores this entirely. I am not advocating cuts in soldiers’ pay, but I am saying that a strange situation is developing up there. As far as the Pacific Islands Regiment is concerned, until it has an air force New Guinea will always be heavily dependent on outside assistance. What exactly, therefore, is the role of this rapidly expanding Pacific Islands Regiment? Is it prepared for keeping order in independence? Is it regarded as a combat force? At the moment it certainly is being treated as virtually, in my opinion, the only group of civil servants - if we can regard soldiers as civil servants - that is being given what I would call a completely fair deal.
This is because the Department of Defence is running an entirely different policy from the rest of the administration. It is, in fact, arousing some resentment in the rest of the administration. But the role that is envisaged by the Commonwealth is something about which we have yet to learn.
– The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), as always, gave an extremely thoughtful speech on important topics. I will not deal with the last matter he raised - that relating to the Pacific Islands Regiment - because that is not within my own responsibility, but the matter he dealt with immediately prior to that was the need for flexibility in the ordering of defence equipment. He did not criticise the Government for equipment previously ordered but he said, as I understand him, that the strategic situation having changed there should be a flexibility in the ordering of new defence equipment. I take issue with him here because the problem is not as simple of solution as all that. With equipment like aircraft and ships one cannot suddenly change one’s mind and completely get rid of previous concepts and change with every change in the strategic situation. This is the difference between a small nation like Australia and a large nation like the United States of America. He referred to the Lockheed advanced aerial fire support system helicopter to which we have given attention and which the Air Staff has been considering, but it has to be fitted in with the whole concept of expenditure and need. What we as a Government have to do is to endeavour in our ordering to be flexible and to realise that we cannot change our policy with every change in the strategic situation. This is a matter that the Opposition is finding it difficult to comprehend.
Earlier in his speech the honourable member for Fremantle stressed that we should, in his opinion, buy proven aircraft at costs that were already known. I think, if I have paraphrased him correctly, that that is what he was saying. As I said in the House 4 weeks ago, over the last 3 years the Royal Australian Air Force has purchased 271 aircraft at a cost of over $509m. All are proven aircraft and were purchased at fixed prices. As a total, the delivery prices have been less than the esti mated prices given to Parliament. The honourable member for Fremantle will find if he examines the list that it includes Hercules A and Hercules E aircraft, Caribous, Mirages, Iroquois helicopters and Orions. Equipment has been purchased such as control and reporting units and special radar for the guidance of Mirage aircraft. In all these cases when aircraft were available to meet the Air Staff requirements of the RAAF, we purchased proven aircraft at fixed prices. If the honourable member makes a detailed examination he will find how true is everything that I am saying in this respect.
In only one case have we diverged from that policy; that was when we needed a. replacement for the Canberra aircraft. TheAir Staff laid down Air Staff requirements for the aircraft required to replace the Canberras. It laid down specifications for height, speed, range, bomb load, a need” for terrain avoidance radar, ability to fly at low levels in all weathers with modern inertial navigation equipment, and the capacity to take off from runways that were short in length and possibly not always as level as might be desired. For obvious reasons I am not able to divulge te the House the range and the bomb load laid down in the Air Staff requirements. We required the speed performance to be in excess of mach 2, with a height of up to- 50,000 feet and ability to fly low down on the deck. All these things have been clearly laid down and I have declared them to the House more than once. We required a tactical strike aircraft carrying conventional weapons. As I have also said to the House, we sent overseas a mission to endeavour tofind a suitable aircraft. Had one been in production and available it would have been purchased, but there was no suitable aircraft measuring up to our requirements at that time. Nor is there any aircraft other than the Fill that even today measures up to those requirements.
Now I come to the actual performance of the Fill as it is flying at the present time. I will deal with the performance as described by our own pilots who are in the United States, have flown the aircraft and have been obtaining performance data from the development trials carried out day by day. I am not referring to information relayed at second hand to Senator
Mcclellan or repeated ‘in a series of magazine articles. I am reporting from people who have flown it, from my own experience of flying it, from the Chief of the Air Staff and from our own pilots who are in the United States watching the development of the aircraft day by day. In every one of the requirements laid down by the Air Staff the Fill today is exceeding those requirements. We know that it is flying at a speed in excess of mach 2.3 and we know that it can reach the height we require. We know that it has terrain avoidance radar and that it can fly low down on the deck in all weathers. We know that it can take off from the airfields specified in our requirements. We know also that we shall get delivery of the aircraft in the months in which we specified delivery. All these things are being achieved.
I think it is also important to note that the requirements that the Air Staff laid down, when it foresaw the sort of aircraft we would need - -not in 1963 when We wrote the requirements, but in 1968 and in the 10 years thereafter when we would have this aircraft in service - are being borne out by operational experience in other parts of the world at present. Only two criticisms have been made by Senator McClellan at present regarding the FI IIA. They deal firstly with the compressor stall that has been experienced at certain speeds in excess of mach 2.3 above 55,000 feet. If we were to use the aircraft in the interceptor role, that might be a problem. But we did not order the Fill for the purpose of using it in the interceptor role. Some squadrons of the United States Air Force may use it for that purpose, but we do not plan to use it as an interceptor. We have ordered it as a tactical strike aircraft and for that purpose we do not need to fly at speeds in excess of mach 2.3 above 55,000 feet. Secondly, there have been some problems with drag. We knew there were problems with drag and for this purpose we ordered longer wing tips to get increased range with the same aircraft. The problems of drag are being overcome. They have been well publicised. As I have seen for myself on two separate visits to Fort Worth, the drag problem is very much less today than it was 12 months ago. Even with the present drag we are still getting the range and the bomb carrying capacity that were laid down in our Air Staff requirements.
I am not taking this evidence from the manufacturers. I am taking it from our own pilots who know our Air Staff requirements and have flown the aircraft. We are not buying the Fill to be used as an interceptor and we do not plan for it to be landed on aircraft carriers. We are not buying it for the purpose for which the Strategic Air Command may use its version. We are to use it as a tactical strike aircraft. For this purpose it fulfils every one of our requirements. There is no other aircraft anywhere in the world that meets all the Air Staff requirements. They are not met by the Phantom or Vigilante. There is no French, British or Russian aircraft that performs as well as the Fill that is now flying.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said only a month ago that the Opposition had no criticism of the aircraft’s performance. Now he has completely changed his mind and says that he has a criticism. As I understood him this afternoon he said that he would invite us to cancel the aircraft order and leave Australia without any strike aircraft capacity. On this point we must take issue. He is prepared to accept one piece of evidence given by Senator McClellan, as compared with all the evidence of our own pilots who are flying the aircraft On the basis of what he gets from a magazine report he is prepared to change the whole of our defence capability. I invite the House to say that we surely need much more reliable evidence than that provided here this afternoon. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) has referred once again, as he does so frequently, to the cost of the aircraft. We have a fixed price for the aircraft itself - a ceiling price of $US5.95m. I think the honourable member for Bendigo asked some time during this week what would happen if penalty provisions were invoked by the United States Air Force. If it should happen that the FI IIA did not conform to the specification laid down by the United States Air Force and if it should happen that the United States Air Force did invoke penalties and thereby paid a lower price for the aircraft than that which is at present laid down in the specification, then, because of the agreement which I have already told the House about, we would pay the same price as the United States Air Force paid. So we will get the benefit of any lower costs incurred in that way. But I do not believe for a moment that penalties will be imposed because, as I have already said, our requirements as to performance are being satisfied.
– Are there any detailed provisions about the resale of the aircraft that we purchase, as there are in the case of Great Britain?
– We have bought these aircraft for the purpose of using them here in Australia. We have not bought them for the purpose of trading them in.
– But surely you will eventually sell them.
– If the honourable member for Bendigo will reflect on other aircraft that we have purchased during the last 50 years he will realise that as soon as an aircraft goes out of operational service it is used- for training purposes. This is what has happened right from the days of Hawker Harts and Demons back in the 1930s. The Vampires went from an operational role to a training role. As the Sabre aircraft are replaced by Mirages they assume a training role and carry on flying in our own country. When the Canberras are replaced by the Fills they will be given a training role in the operational conversion units. In due course when the Mirages and Fills come to be replaced by their successors they will be used for training purposes. I cannot think of any Service military aircraft that has not finished its useful life in some role or another in our own Air Force.
Finally, on this question of cost, the only cost that is still undetermined is the cost of the spares and the ground handling equipment. But I remind the House that in this field, as in all others, we are paying the same price as the United States Air Force pays and as the Royal Air Force pays. We are all buying the spares on exactly the same price basis. Of course we select the kinds of spares and ground handling equipment that we need to operate these aircraft ourselves in our own continent and In the Australian sphere of Influence.
The criticism tonight by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was based solely on performance. He did not tonight criticise the purchase of the aircraft on any ground other than that of performance, and he based his criticism on one thing only, an article in ‘Barron’s’ which quoted Senator McClellan’s statement at a hearing of a Senate Committee. On the question of performance I honestly believe that the testimony of our own pilots who are on the scene and watching the aircraft from day to day is much more reliable for the purposes of this House than the evidence quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I believe, as I have said so often, that we will get this aircraft on the date that was specified and that it will perform in complete conformity with what we asked for. As to the price, I have already told the House that we have a ceiling price for the aircraft itself, and within a few weeks we shall have a ceiling price for the spares and the ground handling equipment. That price will be determined on the same basis as the price quoted our allies.
– I agree with what the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) has said about this aircraft. The criticism of it has been prolonged, but the fact is that it has had much less in the way of teething troubles than the FI 04 and other aircraft which have preceded it in America. As the Minister has said, this aircraft has five times the range and five times the speed and carrying capacity of other aircraft of similar type. It is a fantastic weapon with its sophisticated electronic controls. We already have Mirages here. This aircraft was eminently successful in wiping out the Egyptian Air Force recently when the Israelis realised that the big powers were only bluffing in that area and that they had to do the job by themselves. We have a fine force of Mirages and when we get the Fill we will have probably the best aircraft in the world. If they were armed with nuclear weapons I believe that most people would be quite happy to leave us alone. I hope that some day we will have this deterrent weapon, because if we do not we are liable to be held hostage by the threat of a Red Chinese nuclear attack. This would force the Americans to take certain action, as they were forced to take action when Western Europe was under a strong threat from the Soviet Union, with 800 weapons pointing towards the West.
But it is not much good having a fine defence force when our alternative government is in the frame of mind of the Labor Party today. The Labor Party’s defence policy was published after the recent Adelaide Federal Conference, and what the Labor Party said was that it would not allow our troops to remain in Asia. I do not know how the members of the Labor Party regard the vacuum that is going to be left by the British withdrawal from the Far East or what they would tell the Australian people if the British quickly got out of Malaysia. I do not know whether it would say, as it did at the Hobart Federal Conference in 1955: *We will withdraw our troops from Malaysia.’
How could the Americans possibly accept the kind of ultimatum issued by the Labor Party after its vaunted Adelaide conference of last July, which was preceded by weeks and weeks of big headlines about what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was going to do about defence policy when he got to Adelaide? We must remember that the Labor Party would form Australia’s Government if the dreadful day ever came when we were at its mercy. This is what emerged from the Adelaide conference: First of all the Labor Party says that the bombing of North Vietnam must stop. Admiral Johnson said here a few days ago that this bombing was weakening the ability of the North Vietnamese to supply the Vietcong. Yet this is what the Labor Party says the Americans must do. They must turn the war into a holding operation. The napalm fire bomb must not be used. Then the champion requirement of all - the Americans must recognise the Vietcong.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition. (Mr Barnard) has been to Vietnam. I think I read somewhere that he has been there five times. I have been there only twice, but I have never seen men so convinced that we are doing the right thing as the Australian troops there. They have decided that this job has to be done, and they wonder what is wrong when the people in Australia do not appreciate this.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition agreed with that when he was there.
– Well, if we can accept newspaper reports the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did say something along those lines, and at that stage we honoured him for it. He said: ‘We must re-think Labor Party policy on Vietnam*. He is indicating that be did not say this. But this is what we read in this place, if we read this and it is untrue then the people of Australia are getting a false view of the Labor Party. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition . did not say this, then the people of Australia are being fed this by people who want to make a false front for the Labor Party. Of course, we saw the fifth result of the Federal Conference of the Labor Party in Adelaide. The Opposition’s hands are much more firmly tied than Mr Calwell’s were at the general election in 1966. He is tied to the policy by people outside Parliament - the thirtysix faceless men. Very distinguished Australians believe that the position in the Labor Party has not changed. All that has happened is that- the four leaders of the Labor Party in this Parliament - two of them are left wing - are now on the Executive. Two are from the House of Representatives and two are from the Senate. The six Stat? leaders are added to this for the Federal conference. What really is the Labor Party’s policy on defence?
– I will bite.
– The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) is a bit of a joker. I think that the honourable member was a very shrewd campaigner in keeping out of the defence fight in the last elections. He was one of the only members of the Labor Party whose majority did not fall. There is no need for him to joke about this. I want to find out what the Labor Party’s policy is. We need weapons such as the sophisticated Fill aircraft and we need the Army that we have forged with the same courage and leadership that this Government demonstrated when it had to bring in conscription. We will have to have this kind of defence force which will be poised and ready if the British leave a vacuum - and who doubts that they will - when they leave Malaya. The British might even move their Naval forces. Honourable members sitting, opposite offer themselves as an alternative government. Who will run their defence policy? Who will decide what will happen to this fighting force when the people of Australia say that we have got to keep the war out of Australia? That is a simple proposition. How do we keep the war out of Australia? By whom are members of the Labor Party dominated? I suggest that they are dominated by the powerful organisation of the left wing trade unions. Who are the left wing?
– You tell us.
– Does the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith know who they are? I know what Labor men say when they go round the country. I know what they were saying at Exmouth. Except for the local member and a few State members, other members of the Labor Party were not game to go to Exmouth. I know of the sneers about the Americans that were made in this place where, for the first time after Singapore, we have had a magnificent base which can control the most powerful Navy in the world with its fantastic striking force including the carrier Enterprise’. America is paying rent on Australian soil. This base would not be here if the Australian Labor Party had had its way. 1 asked some of these men how they would like it if another government took over and insisted that it had joint control of what went out of that station if a crisis arose. All honourable members know the funny story of how a Labor Cabinet has to meet and consult the Federal Executive about such a decision. The Labor Party would forbid the Americans to regroup their forces and to send messages out to defend peace and freedom in the world. When we contemplate this Party that has no defence policy except that formulated by the left wing trade unions, who have achieved control because of their superior organisation and who decide what is said in this place by the front men who occupy the seats in this Parliament we know the kind of policy that the Labor Party would adopt. It would be the kind or thing that would threaten our civil aid teams in Vietnam. How on earth can the medical teams, the engineering teams and the building teams operate in Vietnam if they cannot receive the assistance of military guards that Australia has put into that country? Of course, the Vietcong are murdering cut throats and bandits. There is no better example of this sort of thing than what happened at the Bien Cat dairy farm which supplied the only milk in the whole area. The Vietcong went to this farm and beheaded the people who were working on it and hamstrung the cattle. Someone on the Opposition side - we all know who it was - said that this had been done by American bombing. This is the attitude of some members of the Opposition.
The position is simple. If we are going to defend and keep the enemy out of Australia and keep the Americans in this region whether in Vietnam or somewhere in the western Pacific then we cannot afford to have the alternative government.
– We did in 1941.
– It was a very different Labor Party at that time from this one. The Reds were not in charge then. But the left wing trade unions very quickly got to the Hobart conference in 1955. What happened at the Hobart conference? Was it seventeen members that walked out or was it sixteen? The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) will be able to tell us what happened. The ‘Red’ Hobart Conference decided that Australia would not send troops to Malaya and that we would not risk annoying the Asian people. This Conference said that we would stay at home. This was the beginning of isolationism in the Labor Party. We saw seven men leave the Labor Party over defence policy. We have never seen and never will see in the Labor Party an exhibition of courage such as that displayed by Keon, Cremean, Bourke and the rest of them.
– Where are they now?
– They are on the outside and so is the Labor Party. These are the men who represented Australia and Australian feeling. These are the men who were sworn to keep this kind of Labor Party - not the Labor Party of 1941 - out of office.
– Order! I might suggest that the trend of the debate has been towards external affairs rather than defence.
– I demand a withdrawal.
– Order! 1 point out to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) that he has not spoken in this debate.
– I have the right to demand the withdrawal of something that I consider insulting to my Party.
– If the honourable member claims that he has been misrepresented
– You can put it whatever way you like. You know very well that I have the right to do this at the end of a speech. I have the right to ask for a withdrawal.
– The honourable member, if he claims that the honourable member for Macarthur made a statement about him in unparliamentary terms, should have taken up the matter immediately the words objected to were used. If the honourable member for Wilmot claims that he has been misrepresented he will have the right to inform the Committee about the alleged misrepresentation.
– You have made it impossible for me to do now what I wish to do, Mr Chairman. I shall do it at some other stage.
– The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has been smearing members of the Australian Labor Party for what he has described as their lack of patriotism, and has claimed that the Government that he supports is determined to used our defence forces forcefully and effectively in the defence of this country. The honourable gentleman’s memory is short. Apparently he has forgotten the way in which John Curtin, when the Japanese were thundering at the doors of Australia during the Second World War, had to take over control of this country from the ineffective grasp of a government of the political complexion of the one that the honourable member now supports. Perhaps I should not blame him for not being able to remember events that occurred so far back.
The honourable member, apparently, is not conversant with the fact that the Government which he supports and which he claims is determined to organise all the resources of this country and use them properly in our defence is taking out of the defence vote this financial year $21m for the purchase of a fleet of aeroplanes to carry VIPs from one end of Australia to the other and perhaps even to transport them overseas.
– Why does not the honourable member let his leader say this?
– I am saying it for myself. This Government is acquiring a fleet of planes that is to be used on the least provocation to take those whom the Government regards as very important people on all kinds of journeys throughout Australia and perhaps even to transport them overseas. This fleet will cost about $21m and its operation and upkeep will cost many more millions a year. I believe that the capital cost and the cost of operation and upkeep are to be made a charge against the defence vote. The Government attempts to justify this by claiming that these planes, when not needed for the transport of VIPs, can sometimes be used by the Air Force for training purposes. Surely, instead of the training of Air Force personnel being promoted, the use of pilots and others in the Service to transport VIPs and their families about Australia and to look after them on these journeys will be a hindrance to the training of Air Force personnel and .to the most effective use of aircraft that the Service has to pay for.
The defence vote certainly should not be saddled with the total cost of these planes and all the other considerable charges that will arise from their use. We have in the Department of Defence and the Treasury technical and financial experts who can estimate how much of the cost, if any, should be charged to the defence vote and how much should be charged against the Treasury or other departments that make use of the aircraft for the transport of VIPs. It is suggested that the transportation costs of VIPs will be so tremendous that the Government is anxious to hide the cost in the defence vote. It dare not let the people see clearly what will be the total of the initial capital expenditure and’ the cost of operation and upkeep. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) why it is necessary to hide the immense cost of these aircraft and their upkeep in the defence vote? Is there any legitimate reason why this charge must be imposed on the defence vote?
I admit that I do not like Air Force personnel to be used for the purpose of transporting VIPs and their families. However, exceptional circumstances sometimes arise and only then should transport facilities other than the ordinary civilian ones be used for travel through this land by civilians, whether they be Ministers of the Crown, distinguished visitors to our shores or anyone else.
– Or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
– Or the Leader of the Opposition. I have not the slightest doubt that he would not want $21m plus the cost of upkeep and operations charged against the defence of this country, to a total of $30m or more, for VIP aircraft, when that sum could provide an increase in pensions of almost 50c a week for every pensioner in Australia. This is not just a question involving the Leader of the Opposition. Government supporters continually chide Opposition members for an alleged lack of patriotism. I suggest, however, that those who support the Government in using the country’s resources to the disadvantage of its people in peace and war and in charging the cost of these VIP aircraft to the defence vote to the tune of $30m, or perhaps even $40m, acquiesce in a completely unjustifiable and non-legitimate charge against defence. No honourable member opposite can truthfully claim that the capital cost of the VIP planes and the cost of their operation and upkeep should legitimately be charged to defence. To people who believe that Australia can afford to meet a capital cost of $21m and operation and upkeep charges of at least another $10m a year for aircraft to transport a few Ministers and others, I say: ‘Nail your colours to the mast’. The Government should make clear the provision made for expenditure on this means of transportation. It should not try to hide the cost in the defence vote. Honourable members opposite should not parade their patriotism and laud it to the skies while they acquiesce in the sneaking of this sum out of the defence vote. The Government wants to keep this expenditure hidden so that the people will not know exactly how much is being taken from the defence vote for purposes that have no more relationship to defence than any other normal civilian government activity has.
– You picket your Party room and I will picket mine.
– The honourable member for La Trobe is always vocal and he is always wrapping the flag around himself. He should do something about this to show that he really believes the things that he says. It has always been the practice of members of conservative and reactionary governments throughout the world, whether they be here or elsewhere, to question the patriotism of progressive parties that are seeking to alter things and to improve the conditions of the vast masses of people. I remember - and it was not so many years ago - that that charge was levelled against the Labour Party in England. I think it was Lord Halisham who, replying on behalf of the Labour Party said that the Labourites of England loved their England as the Athenians of old had loved the city of the purple crown. They wanted to work and serve their country and not to make their patriotism something to serve their own personal or political interests. What was true then of the Labour Party of England is true today of the Labor Party of Australia.
Mr STREET (Corangamite) fS.52] - The estimates that I propose to speak on tonight are those for the Department of Air and I do this because I firmly believe that there has been more uninformed criticism of this proposed vote than any other in the Budget. Principally this criticism has been directed against the purchase of the Fill. I propose to deal with that in detail in a moment. Critics of our defence policies, and particularly critics of the estimates for the Royal Australian Air Force, seem to have failed to ask themselves the vital question: ‘What are the duties of our Air Force?’ Yet it is upon the answer to this question that the whole of our air strategy is based and it is because the answer is complicated that there has been so much misunderstanding of the Government’s decisions.
Probably no country has such difficult defence problems as has Australia. We have a country as large as the United States of America, with an enormous length of coastline and with a population of less than 12 million. It is against such a background that we must consider the requirements of the RAAF. If there is one fact that stands out it is that in the circumstances outlined above we must have the best equipment of its type available. This is precisely what the Government is getting and has been getting for the RAAF. I do not think there has been sufficient recognition of the extent of the RAAF re-equipment programme that is under way at present. In fact it could be more accurately described as a complete replacement programme. In the space of about 2 years every RAAF aircraft type in service from ab initio trainer to front line fighter and strike aircraft will be replaced by the most modern equipment available. This highlights not only the Government’s awareness of our vulnerable position but also its determination to do something about it as quickly as possible. It has also put extraordinary strains on the RAAF itself in the provision of workshop and repair facilities and in the training and conversion of air crew.
We now come back to the question I posed earlier What are the duties of our Air Force? If we knew for certain just when, where and under what circumstances it would be called upon to operate, perhaps even honourable members opposite would be able to make a reasonable assessment of our type requirements. But, of course, we cannot know for certain the answer to this question and therefore we have to be prepared to deal with an extremely wide range of possibilities. This in turn means we need, above all, versatile aircraft. This is the key to our whole strategy in the R.A.A.F. re-equipment programme. We see it in the choice of the Macchi as the new training aircraft. The Macchi - from all accounts a delightful aircraft to fly and therefore an ideal trainer - also has provision for fitting multi-barrel mini-guns and other weapons which also makes it capable of acting in a counter insurgency role.
With our extensive coastline and long lines of communications we have an obvious need for long range reconnaisance and anti-submarine aircraft. The Lockheed Neptunes, which have given such good service for many years, are to be replaced next year by the Orions. Apart from the highly sophisticated electronic equipment carried by these aircraft, including sonar, their greatest attribute is their quite extraordinary range and endurance. This means that they are capable of covering huge areas of ocean on each sortie. They will make a significant addition to our capacity in maritime defence. Although perhaps not directly concerned with the estimates for the Department of Air, the decision to reequip our Fleet Air Arm with modern tracker and attack aircraft is part of our general policy. Our transport aircraft, the Caribou and Hercules, which provide the essential mobility for the ground forces and their supplies and equipment, have now fully proved themselves under operational conditions and have been an outstanding success as have been the Iroquois helicopters. In the case of our first line fighter aircraft, the Mirage, the story is even more dramatic. Those in the best position to know were quite sure that we had an excellent aircraft, but just how good it would be could not have been foreseen. As was explained by the Minister tonight, the Middle East war provided ample proof that the Mirage is undoubtedly a magnicent machine. It is probably of direct interest to Australia that they fought in the Middle East in an extremely hot, tough environment and came through with flying colours both in performance and reliability. It is worth remembering that all these aircraft were decided on by the present Government from among many types on offer. In every case the choice has been clearly vindicated and this surely is a remarkable tribute to the technical competence of our defence advisers and the wisdom of the Government.
This brings me to the most critical item in the estimates for the Department of Air, and I refer to. the Fill aircraft. 1 referred briefly to this aircraft in my Budget speech and I remind honourable members of what I said on that occasion. The rapid advance in technology and the complexity of modern defence equipment make it absolutely essential that orders be placed at an early stage of development of the relevant weapons system, otherwise we will h: ve a large amount of admittedly proved equipment, but equipment which was obsolete or at best obsolescent when delivered to our armed Services. This aircraft - or, more accurately, weapons system - was ordered in 1963 and far from criticising this decision I consider this country owes a debt of gratitude to the men courageous enough to make the decision at that time. ‘Barron’s* magazine has been quoted often tonight. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) explained how and why the magazine has attacked the Fill on more than one occasion. As this criticism was on a highly technical subject, it would be assumed that the writer was technically competent, but we find in one article statements which show quite conclusively that the author was quite incompetent to write such an article. He made errors which would not have been made by anyone with the slightest knowledge of aerodynamics. We find statements such as: ‘A plane at any weight is supposed to be designed to travel at zero drag’. Anybody who has got past lesson 1 in the principles of flight knows that the only way an aircraft can operate at zero drag is when it is at rest in still air or operating in a vacuum. Wide as are the performance and capability of the Fill, it was not designed to operate in either of those conditions. Of course, with an aircraft in a state of equilibrium thrust balances drag and lift balances weight. So we are asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) to take note of an article published in a magazine that apparently has an axe to grind in the matter and written by an author without any knowledge of the subject.
From memory, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said the aircraft was 200 miles an hour too slow and had only i of its required range - I am not sure of those figures. In fact it has already flown several times at mach 2.5 and it recently flew nonstop, with no in-flight refuelling, from the USA to Paris, with li hours fuel in reserve. Certainly the Fill is expensive and certainly it is costing more than the Government would like to pay, but what seems to have escaped honourable members opposite is that in this case we are dealing with an entirely new concept in aeronautical engineering. Nothing like it has ever been attempted before and it is pioneering many new areas of knowledge. It must be remembered that following the abandonment of the TSR2 - an aircraft which, if the Opposition had its way, would have been ordered for the RAAF - the British Labour Government came to the same conclusion that we had already reached and also ordered the Fill. The British
Government, too, is confident that it made the right decision, and it has said so on on many occasions.
In view of the Labor Party’s criticism of the financial arrangements for tha purchase of the aircraft, I should like to quote the opinion of the responsible Minister in the United Kingdom Labour Government, Mr Stonehouse. In May of this year he said that the agreement with the United States on the Fill was: the best agreement for purchasing equipment from the United States that Britain has ever achieved.
I remind honourable members opposite that Australia is paying the same basic price as the United Kingdom but on published figures would seem to have even better credit arrangements.
Let us look at this aircraft, ordered by three governments with widely differing requirements, and see what makes it so outstanding. Its most obvious advantage is the one I mentioned earlier as being so vital to Australia’s requirements - versatility. Its performance parameters include an ability to perform tasks previously needing several types of aircraft, such as first line all weather fighter, strike and close support operation, reconnaissance and long range bomber. Most important is its ability to undertake all these tasks from unimproved strips of 3,000 feet and with a minimum of maintenance.
A fact which seems to have been entirely overlooked by the Opposition is that the version of the Fill ordered by the RAAF - the FI 1 1C - embodies the best features of the other versions of the aircraft. It has the F111A fuselage but is fitted with the extra span wings of the FU IB, giving added lift for a greater load carrying capacity and increased endurance, as explained by the Minister. It also has the strengthened undercarriage of the FU IB to enable it to operate with heavier loads from unprepared strips. Another most important aspect of the Fill is its ability to land under instrument flight rules conditions on runways not equipped with an instrument landing system.
What I would like to hear from the Opposition is its choice of aircraft to perform all these tasks, even assuming that equality of performance could be achieved, which it cannot. The cost would be phenomenal and the extra types needed would impose impossible burdens on the RAAF. From time to time we have heard the Opposition criticise the Government for its alleged lack of an independent foreign policy. This is a quite unwarranted criticism, but it is constantly reiterated. Yet now, when we are about to take delivery of an aircraft which, above all, gives us a capability sufficient to guarantee control over our own destiny, the Opposition bitterly attacks it. The Opposition’s attitude towards the Fill has exposed at one stroke the insincerity of the Australian Labor Party both in its criticism of our foreign policy and its criticism of the aircraft itself. If the Opposition were sincere in its criticism of our foreign policy it would welcome the acquisition of a means of ensuring our independence, yet it opposes this. So the criticism of our purchase of this aircraft is exposed as mere political expediency.
No doubt considerations similar to those which influenced this Government influenced the United Kingdom to purchase the aircraft. I was most interested to learn that the RAAF and the RAF may be able to use a common spares pool with the economic advantages that such an arrangement would make possible. The choice of the FU IK for the RAF also has important implications when considered in conjunction with the British decision to withdraw from South East Asia. The United Kingdom has always stated that the increased mobility of air power enabled considerable forces to be moved to trouble spots very quickly. The Fill, with its transoceanic range, will play a major part in this strategy - a part made much easier by having the necessary facilities for its operation in Australia.
So much for the aircraft which are to equip the RAAF. We are also rapidly gaining a comprehensive system of aerodromes and navigational aids. Many of these are also used by civil aviation, so that greater utilisation is obtained from these expensive facilities. Examples in this category are Darwin and Townsville, but of course the special needs of the RAAF require some specialist bases. Chief amongst these will be the greatly enlarged Amberley base. There is also the Tindal strip in the Northern Territory and Learmonth in north western Aus tralia. Gradually Australia is being ringed by aerodromes of adequate runway length, with modern navigational aids, and equipped with aircraft carefully chosen to fulfil the function of protecting this country. I find it quite extraordinary that this policy and the aircraft to implement it have come under such criticism in this place.
– I think it is true to say that because of America we are here tonight, able to debate in a democratic way and say just what we like. If America had not come to Australia’s aid in 1942 our way of life would today be far different from what it is. I am not one who says that every five minutes we should bow down and give thanks to America. America does not want this, but we must be realistic about things. I am saddened, as are most people, to learn that Britain is withdrawing from east of Suez. What are we to do in these circumstances as far as defence is concerned if we look matters straight in the face? Our nearest ally becomes America. American weapons and our weapons must be interchangeable. If we are not prepared to understand these things and to build our defences in line with what America has, we are being very wasteful.
When our troops returned from the Middle East during the Second World War and the Americans came to this country we found that our equipment was different from theirs; none of it was interchangeable. So we had to continue to make our type of ammunition and America had to continue to bring her type of ammunition and armaments to this country. How much better it would have been if we had had an understanding on this matter. It is good to see that today our armaments are interchangeable but at the same time I would like to see Australia taking a more forward step in the development of her own equipment. I have said this before: We must build our own equipment and not rely on other people. Defence must be built and not bought. This we must understand. But while we are building up and while we have America by our side we are a very fortunate nation.
Asia is in a turbulent state at the present time - not South East Asia, but the whole of Asia. We see riots in Aden. Once Britain gets out of South East Asia and we get into trouble here Britain has said that she will come to our aid, but it will not be so easy to do this. It is a long way to fly out here. No matter how sophisticated aircraft may be, in many cases they want somewhere to land and somewhere to get stores and provisions. We are distressed to know that Britain is going. We do not want to humiliate Britain and know the reasons for her withdrawal. We have our own opinion as to why she is getting out. I think it is because financially she cannot afford to stay, and I would rather leave the matter there. The whole of Asia is in turmoil and at the moment I cannot see things getting any better. We must be alert to changing events in order to safeguard our national security. Britain’s withdrawal from places east of Suez will place a much bigger load on Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. It is the smaller countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia, which now look to us for aid, just as we look to America. They look to us and ask whether we will stand by them. I am glad to know that we will stand by them, but we cannot do so without being prepared to make sacrifices.
I think that we in Australia are getting our defence far too cheaply. “We pay 5% of our gross national product towards the defence of this country. Even if we paid twice as much we would still be getting defence on the cheap. We must be prepared in the years to come to pay more. It is our duty in this place to look after the people who will come after us. Those who follow will not think much of us if we say to them: There is not much left here so get on with it yourself. We must lay down good foundations for those who come later.
Not so long ago I was the source of a document and reports on what happened in the Middle East so far as the naval war was concerned. I should like to say something about this because our small Navy is training in one department in a manner similar to the training in the Israeli Navy. Very little of this has appeared in the Press, but Israeli frogman commandos using limpet mines in one of the most audacious operations of the war prevented Egypt from using her sea to ground rockets. Israel dealt the most powerful navy in the Middle East a paralysing blow. All but two of Egypt’s submarines and all other ships of the fleet were crippled. A whole flotilla of high speed missile carrying patrol boats, which had been supplied by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was destroyed. Also ten Soviet Komar class patrol vessels, each equipped with two 15-mile sea to ground missiles, four OSA vessels equipped with missiles and forty motor torpedo boats were crippled. That was a staggering loss which I mention for one reason: It was brought about by frogmen. Recently in Australia we had the very sad death of two very gallant young men, to whom I pay a tribute, who died at sea just off Jervis Bay while carrying out an exercise which was similar to this. The details I have outlined show how a nation must be prepared. Israel was prepared and her frogmen swam in, attached limpet mines to practically every vessel of the Egyptian Navy and left it helpless. A nation must be prepared.
I should like to refer now to air training. The Department of Defence should consider a national air training scheme. I believe it is wrong that Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines, Ansett-ANA and the Royal Australian Air Force should all have separate training schemes. I have mentioned this subject before. “When war breaks out the Government takes over the whole air fleet, just as it takes over the whole of the merchant navy. I believe it would be much simpler if everybody who wanted to fly a commercial aircraft undertook basic training from the RAAF at Point Cook, instead of being trained by either Qantas, TAA or AnsettANA which now all have their own training schemes. All these people who have been trained should become members of the Air Force reserve. I hope such a scheme would be considered.
I am very proud of the Royal Australian Navy and I hope that the Minister will give some thought to expanding it in various ways. I hope that he will consider the building of icebreakers because we own in the Antarctic region about 51% of the land area. That area will become very important. Every year we bring icebreakers to Autralia from Denmark whereas in my opinion we should have our own icebreakers manned by the Royal Australian Navy and carrying out survey work in the Antarctic. In the early years of the 20th century our naval men were in that region and carried out much survey work. But this work has now stopped. We should be down there and finding out all that we can. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to the matter of getting for Australia our own icebreakers for work in the Antarctic. The former Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) was very impressed with the USS ‘Vancouver’ an amphibious landing ship or assault craft which came out here. I believe that the time has arrived when thought must be given to having this type of vessel. We must have vessels which are suitable for carrying our troops and other personnel into the South East Asian area. At present we are fortunate to have an aircraft carrier which can be used for this purpose. It is not divulging defence secrets to say that that type of vessel is not really suitable as a motor transport. We must have ships specially built to do this type of job.
At the moment we have a merchant ship running between here and Vietnam. It is manned by eighteen men of the Royal Australian Navy. I hope that the Seamen’s Union of Australia will see the folly of its ways and carry out the instructions given to it by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and will abide by the wishes of other unionists on the ship to allow it to become a merchant navy vessel again. It is very sad when a country is so sick in some spots that a situation like that can occur. Some of our men are overseas, but a small section of our community has disregarded the instructions of the Australian Labor Party as laid down and agreed to by Conference. When the ACTU asked them to man the ship they said no. Sometimes this sort of thing can happen, but we cannot afford to allow it to continue. This action forces the Navy to build its own auxiliary vessels, and instead of merchant seamen being employed in them naval seamen are employed.
We all heard with great sadness about the bad sailing of ‘Dame Pattie’ in America. In the United States of America they have all sorts of testing devices for ships. In England they have what is known as a Teddington tank in which ships of all shapes and sizes are tested. At present Australia is building ships up to 55,000 tons. The time has arrived when we must build our own tanks for experimental purposes and they must be under the control of naval scientists. I hope that the Minister for Defence will give consideration to this suggestion so that we can test our own ships and so that in Australia we can build the best ships in the world. It is this greater technical knowledge and improved data which the Americans are able to get which puts them so far ahead.
On other occasions in this place I have asked for the establishment in Victoria of a dry dock. In my view we must give consideration to this as soon as possible. Naval ships and mercant ships are becoming bigger and it is wrong that ships coming to Victoria and needing docking have to go either to Sydney or elsewhere. Sometimes they cannot get into the dock in Sydney and have to limp to some other part of the world. Room is available at Williamstown to build a dock. I know that it would be expensive to construct, but the longer we leave it the more expensive it will become. I hope that my friend, the Minister for the Navy, will pass on my suggestions to the Minister for Defence and that he will consider what can be done about establishing a dock and building a proper testing tank in which naval and merchant ships can be tested.
– No matter how we look at our defence requirements, from the strategic point of view we must conclude that all our armed forces must have the most sophisticated weapons that we can possibly obtain and the most up to date means of utilising these weapons. This is obviously the need of a nation such as ours with a limited population that is expanding rapidly, and it is not easy to strike a balance between all the demands that are made on our resources. Certainly we need strong armed forces to justify the confidence that our allies should have in us and to deter anyone who may think that this country is here for the taking. We know with certainty who our friends are; but political circumstances change rapidly and we are not always certain who our enemies are. We know some of our probable enemies, because we have been told in very plain terms, by both spoken and written word, what certain communistic powers intend to do if ever they have the opportunity and the strength to fulfil their aims.
It is very interesting to listen to a debate of this kind. We hear a lot of speculation about the capabilities of prospective enemies. Before we say that -we are not in danger from this power or that another power does not have any warlike intentions, we should reflect on the events before World War II. In the 1930s we knew that Hitler had written a book and we were aware of his utterances. Many of us will recall that people who should have been well-informed said that any suggestion of war was complete and utter nonsense, that the Germans did not have the material capability to go to war or the economic strength to sustain a war. We know that Hitler built the most mighty war machine that the world had ever seen up to that time. We should also remember that just before and just after the Japanese came into the war in the Pacific, we were assured that they would not be a very dangerous enemy. We were told that the Japanese airmen were so shortsighted that some of them could not see more than a chain away. Information of this sort is extremely dangerous, if the Government’s advisers believe it. Thank goodness that this Government does not pay any heed to such opinions. We are fortunate to have top advisers by world standards in all our three Services.
The Army is still the basic force that occupies territory and defends territory. Although members of the senior Service may not like to hear this, it is true that the Navy and the Air Force are protection and support arms. They play a very important and very necessary role, of course, but strategically it is true that they play a protection and support role. The Air Force is integrated with the Army to a much greater extent than it was in the last war, and this is a most important factor. In fact, the tactics in jungle warfare have completely changed. I was interested to hear the comments of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) about helicopters. They are a very important support arm for the infantry in jungle warfare. As well as engaging in support operations, they perform a function that boosts the morale of the infantryman in the jungle, and that is the evacuation of casualties. In Vietnam the average time that elapses between one of our men being wounded and his being on the operating table is about an hour. Irrespective of the courage, training and experience that an infantryman in the jungle has, his constant fear is that he may be wounded and may not be able to get medical attention within a reasonable time. In the limited Army that our population and economy enables us to have, every member is virtually a specialist when judged by past standards. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to see our servicemen in Vietnam has been struck by the fact that they are virtually specialists. Their type, demeanour and character is also striking and nearly everyone of them is a prospective officer.
The Navy has the very important role of protecting our trade routes. This is very necessary for a country that is as dependent on trade as we are. A good deal of criticism has been revelled at the naval craft and aircraft that we are purchasing. But it is true in this highly technological and scientific age that an aircraft must be assessed 4 or 5 years before it comes off the production line if the purchasers of it want to keep abreast or get ahead of other nations. Despite all the criticism that has been levelled at the Fill aircraft, when it becomes operational it will be the only aircraft in the world able to carry out the tasks for which it was specially designed. In my considered opinion we are extremely fortunate that we will, for the first time in our history, be able to give our Air Force the best aircraft in the world. We will have the benefit of all the technological and scientific experimentation and knowledge of the great United States of America. It may be a costly aircraft, but the most important factor for us to consider is whether we can afford to be without it. If the Air Force is to support the other Services and play the role that it should play, we cannot afford to be without it.
During his speech this afternoon, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said that fire power and mechanisation mean least of all in the jungle. Nothing could be further from the fact. This was amply demonstrated in the early days of the war in the Pacific. The Japanese had a tremendous number of automatic weapons and our forces had weapons of limited fire power. Frequently, the situation precluded the use of artillery and we did not have air superiority. It was not until the importance of all these factors became apparent that the early misapprehension was revealed. Fire power is vital in the jungle. Ground forces in the jungle need as much support as they can get. The honourable member also said that there is no need for us to build up our defences, because it took an overwhelming superiority of naval craft to effect a landing during the war in the Pacific.
– I did not say that.
– Yes* The honourable member mentioned Balikpapan and the Philippines. He mentioned the number of craft needed to effect landings there. In fact, this argument demonstrates that we should have adequate forces. This is demonstrated by the fact that little resistance was offered to the Japanese at Rabaul, Buna and Lae. It would be a betrayal of trust if we permitted a situation to arise in which we were not prepared. This Government must do all it possibly can in the time at its disposal adequately to arm its forces and to provide the support for them. It would be failing in its duty if it did not do so. Many things have happened to shape our thinking and to discuss any one of them would take 15 minutes. The honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) mentioned the highly explosive situation throughout all Asia. We must also have regard to the proposed withdrawal of British troops from cast of Suez. If we did not take these matters into account and make adequate provision for them within the bounds of our economy and population we would be failing in our duty. In diplomatic circles we must make as many friends as possible among those nations who support our way of thinking and who are prepared to resist the onslaught of Communism.
I do not want to occupy any more time than is necessary, but I want to correct a misapprehension that seemingly exists in the mind of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). I am quite sure it is only a misapprehension because we are all familiar with the degree of reliability that h placed on anything he says. In fact, the pay of the New Guinean soldier in the Pacific Islands Regiment is related to the pay of the Police Force. The commissioned officers enjoy exactly the same messing and housing facilities as Europeans. Their pay is related to New Guinea standards. I think the honourable member was labouring under a misapprehension.
– I said that the soldier got the same food as Europeans.
– If I misunderstood the honourable member, I am sorry, but I have given the facts. We should remember clearly in our thinking that men on the ground represent our most expensive weapons system and we should spend as much as we can afford on support weapons for them to offset any situation that may arise. To have an inadequate defence force, as related to our present capabilities, would be to endanger this nation in the short run and to invite disaster in the long run.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I claim to have been misrepresented.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! Has the honourable member already spoken?
– Yes, sir. During the course of his speech the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) remarked that I had said that Australia had no need to build up its defence forces, or words to that effect. This, of course, is completely opposite to the whole theme of my speech which was that Australia would be extraordinarily difficult to invade, that Australia had great capacity and that Australia ought to modernise itself to use its capacity. That is a summary of what I said, but the honourable member for Riverina did not, I suppose, misrepresent me so much as simply misunderstand me, because some of the words I used were of three syllables.
– In speaking to these estimates I regret that I have to raise three main points of criticism. The first relates to the Navy and, in particular, to the decision to equip the Navy with patrol craft. This decision was announced on 17th August 1965 by the then Treasurer, now the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), in his Budget speech. He said that fourteen patrol vessels would be built in Australia, five of which would be for use in Papua and New Guinea. Later, on 26th October 1965, the then
Minister for the Navy said - and I quote from Hansard of that date:
The patrol craft project has therefore been accelerated in the naval programme to provide the earliest possible relief for the minesweepers.
He was referring to minesweepers which were carrying out patrol duties in the Malaysian waters. He went on to say:
The employment of six of the craft for this purpose will leave a deficiency in the programme for replacement of overage search and rescue craft, genera] purpose vessels and seaward defence boats.
He then announced a further decision to build an additional six to the fourteen already proposed at a cost of $6.4m. Later he said:
It is intended to place four minesweepers into reserve as the patrol craft come into service and to delete from the programme the two new minesweepers which it was planned to purchase in the United Kingdom in 1968.
I mention this statement by the then Minister because he stressed the need for these patrol craft and stated that they would receive an advanced priority under the amended programme. On 17th August 1966, in answer to a question in this House, the then Minister for the Navy said, referring to these vessels:
The first two will be delivered early next year, and the others will come off the assembly line at regular intervals.
This statement was made 12 months after the first announcement. Despite the need for them, and despite an advanced priority in the programme, only five of these vessels have been launched in 2 years. Two were launched earlier this year, about March, and the other three more recently. However the first of these boats, which have to be fitted out after launching, will not be ready for the Navy until some time next month. This means that if the Navy does not take delivery of the craft until some time next month, its trials will not be undertaken possibly until November.
My criticism in respect of these patrol craft falls into two categories. Firstly, that it has taken over 2 years for the first of these twenty craft to be available for trials and, secondly, that we are losing an opportunity to bridge the gap, which has been caused by the shortage of escort vessels, in not bringing some of these craft up to a higher standard of performance. This can be done by increasing their armament and speed and by giving them an anti-submarine capability.
I have referred to the acute shortage of escort vessels. According to the Defence Report, which I received today, we have four type 12 escort ships, and two type 12 escort ships are due for completion in 1969. So we have a deficiency in the number of our escort vessels. I criticise the delay that has taken place in the building of these twenty patrol craft in the face of the urgent priority accorded to the programme by the naval authorities. A contract for the building of these vessels was let to a consortium consisting of Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd and Walkers Ltd, both Queensland shipyards. One cannot understand the reasons for the delay. These boats are of simple and uncomplicated design. They are of under 150 tons displacement and the contract calls for a repetition of twenty identical craft.
Surely in Australia at this stage we should expect a performance capacity greater than five craft of this type launched in over two years. It should be remembered that after launching it takes some months before the craft are fitted out for delivery. In fact, at present, after more than two years, none has been delivered to the Navy. The Defence Report states that eleven will be completed and entered into service progressively during 1967-68 and the remaining nine will be entered .into service by mid- 1969. If the first boat is delivered on schedule and carries out trials in November next, fifteen of these craft will have to be launched and nineteen of them completed for delivery in a period of nineteen months. This means that one will be completed about every 4 weeks. Even allowing for the normal delay in tooling up and so forth in the initial laying down of keels, and for the more rapid turnover in repetitive building of identical craft, past performance docs not justify any great optimism that the programme will be carried out. 1 hope I may be forgiven if I doubt the capacity of the contractors to complete this contract on schedule, lt is hard to accept that in this country it takes over 4 years, even on the announced schedule, for twenty small craft to be built. It does not impress one with the shipbuilding capacity of this, country. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has stated in the Defence Report that the contract will be completed, I would like him to satisfy himself that my doubts are groundless. If he can, I would like him to make a statement accordingly.
The second matter I wish to raise concerns the Royal Australian Air Force. I refer to single personnel who are stationed at Headquarters, Department of Air, at Canberra, or at Support Command, Victoria Barracks, at Melbourne. These people are not provided with Service accommodation and are compelled to seek private accommodation within a reasonable distance of their places of employment to carry out the duties required of them by the Service. They have to provide their own meals. Their base rate of pay for equivalent rank is the same as that of their counterparts who live in. People living in are provided with meals and quarters in respect of which deductions are made from their pay. The amount assessed to cover rations and quarters is $1.12 a day. This amount is understandable, because the Service is paying nothing for the quarters and when messing for a large number of personnel - buying in bulk and so on - the cost of providing meals is not as great as it is in the civilian world. All that the Air Force does for these people who are living out in Melbourne and Canberra is to bring up their pay to the equivalent of the pay of the personnel living in and grant these poor unfortunate fellows $1.12 a day allowance. Will somebody tell me where on earth in Canberra or Melbourne it is possible to get full board for a week at $7.84? The cost is more likely to be $25 or $30 a week. In other words, the salary of these people is being whiteanted, possibly to the extent of $800 a year. These young men are posted to Canberra or Melbourne because of special skills but they are compelled to accept substantially lower salaries than are paid to their counterparts who are living in. This type of pettiness causes dissatisfaction and friction in the Services.
I appreciate that the Services are reluctant to approach the Treasury for an adjustment. I know of the attitude adopted by the Treasury, lt will say: ‘If this is the case let us make a greater charge all round for the living in allowances’. Even if that were done, there could be no compatability between the Service quarters, cheaper ser vices and cheaper meals provided through bulk buying, and paying for accommodation and meals outside the Service in the two capital cities. I hope Treasury will not persist in that attitude. It may be said: ‘Let us wait until we can build hostels that can do the job and accommodate extra Service personnel? But the plain truth is that these people have lost for a few years and still are losing a considerable amount of their salary because of their postings to do a special job. I ask the Minister for Defence to take this matter up with Treasury to see whether a special interim allowance can be paid until a solution is finally achieved for these single personnel.
I wish now to refer to the position in which Australia will find itself consequent upon the decision of the United Kingdom Government to withdraw its military forces from east of Suez. Our main deficiency in any defence effort is manpower. We have been forced to find additional manpower because of the ever increasing pressure to develop our great national resources at a time when we have overseas defence commitments. Even now our defence expenditure is running at 17% of our total budgetary expenditure. A large force of well trained professional soldiers is in Malaysia as part of the present British force there. Possibly those soldiers could be used by Australia, but we are told that the use of mercenaries is against the Australian tradition. Let us face facts. Tradition has not a darned thing to do with it. The plain truth is that we have never before been faced with such a situation.
The Minister for Defence has referred to the difficulty of recruitment conditions, but these soldiers could be formed into a separate force and we would need only to pick up the tab. They could be maintained separately as a special overseas force. Anybody who has served with Gurkhas knows what great troops and fighters they are. They represent manpower sufficient for our needs and ready to our hand. I think we should make some endeavour to start a feasibility study and discuss the matter with the governments of the United Kingdom and Nepal. These professional soldiers will be disbanded and sent back to their own country as civilians to be a further drag on the already depressed labour market in Nepal. In view of what the Minister said yesterday in answer to a question, I hope he will have yet another look at the possible use by Australia of perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 of these Gurkha troops.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– A number of matters have been raised during the debate about which I think I should give a few words of explanation. First, I think I should tell the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) that there is nothing I can add at present to the answer that was given by my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to the question the honourable member raised.
A little earlier this evening the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) paid a tribute to the helicopter pilots who do a great deal to boost the morale of members of the Army serving in Vietnam. I would like to add my thanks and appreciation of what the members of the Australian Air Force and the American dust-off pilots, as they are called, are doing in medical evacuation. It is not generally realised what advances have been made in the present conflict as compared with previous conflicts in military medicine and treatment of wounded soldiers. The use of the helicopter in medical evacuation has been largely responsible for these advances. The pilots concerned take enormous risks. They land their helicopters under the most difficult circumstances at any time during a battle and at any time during the day or night in order to get wounded soldiers to hospital in a short space of time and give them the benefit of skilled surgical attention. This has meant a great deal to the American and Australian Armies and to the other forces in Vietnam. It is a service that certainly engenders a good deal of goodwill between the Air Force and the Army.
Before the last suspension of the sitting the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) raised one or two matters concerning the Citizen Military Forces. The way in which he spoke led me to believe that he wanted to return to the days when Australia relied almost entirely on a volunteer army called’ to the colours after an emergency had arisen. He mentioned the 80,000 or 90,000 people who came to the colours in 1939. This was after the imminent disaster of the Second World War had become evident. Of course throughout most of the 1930s period the numbers of personnel in our forces were small. The Australian Regular Army was numbered in hundreds as opposed to the tens of thousands in which it is numbered today. In those times we believed that a standing army was not necessary. We were Irving under the United Kingdom umbrella and we believed that there would always be time after an emergency had arisen, using the Regular Army as a corps of instructors and not much more than that, to train a large number of people to serve overseas wherever the emergency required them to serve. But those days have gone. It has been made quite clear in recent times that the United Kingdom umbrella, which we all took for granted, is not going to remain forever. The circumstances of the last 15 or 16 years have made it quite clear on a number of occasions that we cannot rely on raising an army after an emergency has arisen. We need a standing army that can provide immediate response to any one of a number of emergency situations. It is not merely a question of having forces that can be sent to Vietnam. In the early 1950s there was the emergency of Korea. Later there was the emergency of the Communist insurrection in Malaya, and later than that there was the emergency of confrontation. Now we have Vietnam. Events in our own part of the world have made it quite plain, to most Australians at any rate, that this country needs a standing army which can be used instantly, which is readily available, which is hard hitting, which is well equipped and which can respond to the security needs of this country.
This is not to say that the Citizen Military Forces in the traditional sense are not still vital and are not still required as they always have been. The Citizen Military Forces have a dual role, a vital role, which only they can play in the Australian environment. I think most members of the CMF understand this, but with the attention which as a result of the Vietnam conflict naturally flows to the Regular Army, I think it does not do any harm to emphasise it. In a situation of defence emergency beyond the capacity of the Regular Army to cope with, the
CMF would be able to provide back-up forces of reasonable strength in a much shorter time than that envisaged by my friend, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). The first Citizen Military Forces would be available not in 12 months as he suggested but in something considerably less than half that time. Then, of course, if the country were forced into a more acute emergency the CMF would provide the vehicle, the framework, for general mobilisation if that were ever again forced upon us. Thus the CMF has its own unique and vital role and it is pleasing to note that the enthusiasm and membership of the Forces are much higher now than they have been for a number of years.
These estimates raise the ceiling numbers for the Forces to 37,000. A very few years ago the numbers were still under 30,000. The membership today is more effective, more hard working and, I think, more enthusiastic than was the case a few years ago, and we have every expectation of achieving the new. ceiling during or at the end of this financial year.
Over recent years the honourable member for Maribyrnong has mentioned from time to time and with particular enthusiasm the quality, durability and. effectiveness of the 25-pounder gun. He may well be pleased to know that as a result in large measure of requests from the CMF themselves the 105-millimetre guns on issue to the CMF wm be recalled and will be replaced by 25-pounder guns, and this situation is likely to endure until the early 1970s. When the 105-millimetre was first introduced in 1960 there was a natural wish for the CMF to be issued also with the 105. In 1965 the CMF were issued with 105-millimetre guns in addition to the 25-pounders. This immediately established a number of training problems and difficulties because the two items of equipment are not exactly the same. The sighting systems are different. Different units of measurement are used in respect of certain parts of the two guns and different techniques are required in the command posts. With the relatively limited time available for CMF training, the two different gun systems led to some difficulty and some confusion. It is largely at the request of the CMF themselves that the 105s are being recalled and are being replaced by increased issues of 25-pounders. Apart from being good sense from a training point of view, this is also an economical solution, because there is enough 25-pounder ammunition available to last for a large number of years, and if the Citizen Military Forces were called to action in a more severe emergency than the Vietnam war in which we are now involved, transitional training from the 25-pounder to the 105-millimetre would take only a very short time indeed.
Before the suspension of the sitting the honourable member for La Trobe spoke of the run down in the British Army and the need for the Australian Army to do what it can to relieve its acute officer shortage, especially in the ranks of captain and major, by using those who become redundant in the United Kingdom Army. We have been watching the position closely and have been negotiating with the United Kingdom Government. My present information is that at the end of this month redundancy notices for the United Kingdom Army will be issued and members of that Army will be able to work out their chances of future promotion in the reduced Army. Certainly the chances of promotion for officers in that Army will be a good deal less than many of its members thought they would be when they joined the Army, or thought they would be even 6 or 9 or 12 months ago. It is our belief that a number of first class officers will apply to join the Australian Army. This has happened in similar circumstances in the past. Special selection boards will be established in the United Kingdom and in Singapore. The membership of those boards has already been determined, and we hope to receive a number of inquiries from people wishing to join the expanding Australian Army in which the opportunities for promotion for men of the proper quality and calibre will be very good indeed.
There was only one other matter I wanted to mention. It concerns the capital equipment objective for the Australian Army. Some years ago this objective was established as modern equipment for a division, for the forces in Malaysia, for a training reserve for the CMF and appropriate levels of war reserves. This was announced by the former Prime Minister some considerable time ago.
In one sense, a capital equipment objective is an illusory objective that no-one will ever reach because the objective is to have equipment of the most modern kind to meet all the needs which I have stated. However, if we buy a vehicle at this particular moment, in 2 or 3 years time a more modern vehicle will be available. This, therefore, puts the fulfilment of a capital equipment objective further into the future. Instances can be given of this concerning modern equipment at the present time. One example is Redeye, which is a ground to air missile that will be issued to the Army. It will be purchased from the United States provided the United States itself decides to order Redeye for its own Army. However, the number of Redeye missiles that we are going to order will be limited to a reasonable degree because there is a real possibility that future weapons system of this kind will be more effective. Therefore, it would be unrealistic when there is no immediate requirement for this particular weapon to purchase too many of this type.
The Government is spending much larger sums of money than ever before on capital equipment for the Army. In 1963-64 the Government spent $29m. This year it is spending $60m together with $33m for equipment maintenance to replace equipment that is worn out in service and training in Australia or in service in Vietnam. So this year we are spending a total of $93m in buying the latest, best and most modern equipment for the Australian Army.
The only other point I would like to mention is that I believe that the Government, the Parliament and the Australian people owe some debt of gratitude to all members of the Australian Army who over recent years have worked very hard under quite difficult conditions to encompass what is virtually a doubling of the Army in a period of 2 or 3 years. In this sense, the Army is quite unlike any private corporation or public company or the Public Service. These organisations can go out and compete in the community for skilled and trained personnel. With the exception of occasionally attracting officers from the British Army, the Australian Army has to train its own men. whether they be of the non-commissioned or commissioned rank. This means that the officer shortages that a rapid expansion involves must be managed in a way that does not in any sense reduce the training standards or effectiveness of the field forces. The record in Vietnam has demonstrated quite clearly that this has been achieved. However, it has only been achieved because of the real dedication of all members of the Regular Army. As a result of this and Government decisions, Australia now has a regular standing Army backed by the CMF that is more effective than any force we have ever had in our history, short of periods in the First and Second World Wars.
– I was highly amused at the antics of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and his remarks in relation to the Australian Labor Party’s policy on defence. I would like to advise the honourable member, who gained notoriety in the early days of the Second World War by his guerrilla attack in company with tha honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on the Garden Island naval base. The honourable member and his colleague were arrested and cast into prison for the weekend. If my memory serves me right it was a Minister of his own party, the Honourable Josiah Francis, who declared that the honourable member should be court-martialled and executed for his foolishness. However, the wealthy relatives of the honourable member intervened and the matter was hushed up on the advice of a psychiatrist. The honourable member for Macarthur must never forget the occasion of the outbreak of World War II when the Japs were hammering at the doors of Australia, when bombs were falling on Darwin and the Liberal-Country Party Government leader at the time of this great crisis - Mr Menzies as he was then - walked out and left Australia to its fate. Who was it that stepped into the breach and rallied the people of Australia round him and led them to a glorious victory? It was none other than the great Australian Labor leader and patriot, John Curtin. The honourable member for Macarthur and all Government members opposite must never forget that Australia is always in safe hands when the Labor Party is in office. Was it not Dr Evatt, the Labor Party Attorney-General, who took his life in his hands at the time and went to America to interview the President of the United States to obtain the services of the great Douglas MacArthur and thereby forged the great AustralianAmerican alliance.
I would like to confine my further remarks to the estimates of the Department of the Navy. I suggest to the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp) that the closing down of the Royal Australian Navy workshop at Bunnerong, which is in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith, is a political misadventure. I would like to ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the consensus of Navy opinion is against this move and they are now aghast at the whole mess. Does he know that the . operating executives of the Department of Supply do not want the additional work and complex problems complicating an already onerous responsibility? This is a classical case of bureaucratic confusion at the political level and confusion confounded in the administrative levels of the Commonwealth Departments of Navy and Supply. But this is not the whole picture. Historically, the Navy did not want to trade its responsibility while it had loyal and trustworthy executives and civil officers. However, as soon as someone dies and an element of self-interest and corruption intrudes into a previously integrated organisation, disintegration, like cancer, progressively changes what was previously a healthy situation into something inviting amputation. The destruction in my electorate of a defence department establishment which is a vital technical support service of the RAN motor transport workshop in Fitzgerald Avenue, Maroubra, was not the result of damage by an intercontinental ballistic missile fired by the Vietcong. It was the work of amateur political saboteurs and political opportunists seeking profit and indulgence by channelling -or leaking-off public moneys into lucrative secondary channels.
The Navy did not want this action and bravely resisted the intrusion whilst it had loyal and trustworthy executive officers. The Minister for the Navy made a point concerning greater efficiency which is recorded on page 508 of Hansard on 29th August 1967 in response to my question of that date. Rationalisation is a blessed word. Are we to assume that all things being equal lb*- Department of Supply can attend to the transport activity cheaper than the Navy? The Government’s attitude seems to be that price and lowest cost are the only items in the specification. Surely this is an oversimplification. This attitude is quite naive. The proposition brings to mind the astronaut’s dilemma. An astronaut, when asked what was the last thing he thought of before blast off, said that not everything in the capsule was supplied by the lowest bidder at the cheapest price. If there are problems in management and administration in the Department of the Navy and its echelons, the same may be said to be true of other government departments where Michael Shank’s heroes are entrenched. Here let me quote, as follows:
The English scene contains two traditional folk heroes who, between them, have done untold harm to the image and performance of British industry in recent years. One is the inspired amateur - the scholar-gentleman, who, on the basis of native genius and a good classical education, can solve any problem and surmount any obstacle with effortless superiority. The outer is the wise craftsman, possessor of a mysterious skill which nobody else can master and which he himself cannot explain and can barely communicate.
Surely the Minister for the Navy is confronted with this sort of problem.
The Navy Central Office should have been asked the following questions: Why have operational policies and performance standards not kept up to date with the latest technological advances? Why has vehicle selection- and replacement not been placed on a scientific basis to increase output and decrease maintenance costs? Why has the records and reports system failed to produce the required results? Why have the preventive and controlled maintenance systems failed to produce the required results? What is the trouble with the work measurement - performance standards - programme? Are despatching procedures inefficient? Is the personnel training programme inefficient?
The problem, of course, is that the workshop is administered not by professional engineers of the Department of the Navy who are recognised only by appropriate engineering qualifications but by clerks elevated by seniority to administrative positions. Surely this entire matter should be reviewed by the Naval Board and the Navy Office immediately. I ask the Minister: What is his reply to these questions?
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks made by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Curtin). I believe that he did his Party and this Parliament no good in making his early observations. He seems to have written his own history of the early events of World War II. It so happened that I enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in 1941 just about the time when Russia became our ally, and I remember quite well the support that Mr John Curtin, the then Prime Minister, received from the Communists as a result of Russia’s entry into the war. I suggest that my assessment of the history of those days is perhaps more accurate than that of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, and I claim that one can never trust any Labor Party while it is riddled with Communism.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I ask for a withdrawal of the statement just made by the honourable member for Boothby.
– On the point of order, Sir: The Australian Labor Party is definitely riddled with Communism in its organisation, and there is no reason why that fact should not be stated in this chamber.
– 1 demand that the statement that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! That was a general statement. I call on the honourable member for Boothby to proceed.
– ‘Earlier in the debate tonight-
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise to order. The honourable member for Mackellar has just made a disorderly interjection and I ask that it be stricken from the record. He has just said that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism. To start with, he had not the floor and he had no right to make that remark. I simply ask that he withdraw it.
– In point of fact, Mi Deputy Chairman, I was speaking to a point of order and had every right to be on my feet. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has entirely misstated the facts.
– With all due respect, Sir, I want a withdrawal of the remark made by the honourable member for Mackellar, whether orderly or disorderly, to the effect that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism. That statement has been made, it has been heard and I want it withdrawn. I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw those words.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, let me withdraw anything that I said about the Labor Party. Let the facts speak for themselves.
– With all due respect, Sir, I want an unconditional withdrawal of the statement that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism. Those were the words that the honourable member for Mackellar spoke. I now want an unconditional withdrawal in the terms in which an unconditional withdrawal has to be made. I ask tha honourable member to withdraw unconditionally his statement that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw those words.
– I am sorry, Sir: Tha Labor Party is riddled with Communism.
– I suggest that the Minister in charge of the business move that the honourable member be suspended.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order!
– Move for his suspension and have a bit of guts. He is just flouting tha Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I ask the Committee to come to order.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, with all due respect I have asked for an unconditional withdrawal of the statement by the honourable member for Mackellar that the Labor Party is riddled with Communism.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I have asked the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the words that ha spoke.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Unconditionally. Will the honourable member Tor Mackellar please withdraw those words.
– I am sorry, Sir: Those words are proper in this Parliament. They are the very essence of politics in this Parliament. They are true, and you should not ask me to withdraw them.
– I say that the member for Mackellar is a filthy liar.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar again to withdraw the words that he spoke.
– The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that I was a filthy liar. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will come to order.
– That is something that
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will come to order.
– You have to name him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I have asked the honourable member for Mackellar twice to withdraw the words that he uttered. Will he withdraw?
– I told you, Sir, that they are true. I cannot in accord with my conscience, withdraw them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I name the honourable member for Mackellar.
In the House
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Mr
Speaker, I beg to report that I have named the honourable member for Mackellar for failing to withdraw a remark.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the honourable member for Mackellar be suspended from the service of the House.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would–
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I would like to move–
-Order! There is a motion already before the Chair and the honourable member is out of order. The question is: ‘That the honourable member for Mackellar be suspended from the service of the House*.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The honourable member for Mackellar is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours. (The honourable member for Mackellar thereupon withdrew from the chamber)
– Immediately before the Committee resolved itself into the House the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, by way of interjection or perhaps speaking to a point of order, I do not recall which, made a statement which reflected upon the honourable member for Mackellar. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Ask what words I used. ‘Filthy liar’.
– The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that the honourable member for Mackellar was a filthy liar. These are unparliamentary words and I ask for them to be withdrawn unconditionally.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - The words are unparliamentary and I ask the honourable member for tha Australian Capital Territory to withdraw them.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, there is no withdrawal.
– I ask for a withdrawal of the statement.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I appeal to the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory to withdraw the words, otherwise I shall have to take action.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I regret that there is no withdrawal.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I ask for a withdrawal of the words.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- If the honourable member will not withdraw the words I will have to name him.
– Once again, Mr Deputy Chairman, there is no withdrawal.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I name the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
In the House
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Mr
Speaker, I beg to report that I have named the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory for failure to withdraw an unparliamentary expression.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours. (The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory thereupon withdrew from the chamber).
– Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Boothby is a liar.
– I ask for a withdrawal by the honourable member for Darebin of his remark that the honourable member for Boothby is a liar.
– Order! If the honourable member for Darebin made that remark I suggest that he withdraw it.
– Did I make that remark?
– Order! I suggest that the Committee come to order. I myself did not hear the remark. I have suggested to the honourable member for Darebin that if he made the remark, he withdraw it. The honourable member knows whether he made the remark. That is the position as far as I am concerned.
– Did I make the remark, Sir?
– I have already explained the matter to the honourable member. If he does not admit making tha remark he should resume his seat.
– Shall I resume my seat. Sir?
– I suggest, Mr Chairman, that the honourable member for Darebin, by his actions, is not paying due courtesy to the Chair. The matter having been apparently resolved I would hope that the Committee might now proceed with the business before it, which is the estimates of the Defence Departments.
– Order! The honourable member for Darebin will resume his seat. On two occasions I have reminded the Committee that the matter before it is the estimates of the Defence Departments. I suggest that the Committee resume the debate on those estimates.
– We will not resume the debate until the honourable member for Boothby has withdrawn his statement that the Labor Party is riddled with Communists. You, Mr Chairman, were not in the chair when the honourable member for Boothby made his remark, which started the whole business tonight. I demand withdrawal of that remark. .
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Wilmot and to the Committee that the matter has proceeded far enough. Two honourable members, one from either side, have been named. I suggest that the question of who started this business should be forgotten and that the Committee proceed with the business before it.
– The difficulty that arises in this chamber tonight has been caused by the honourable member for Boothby. He said that the Labor Party was riddled with Communists. That remark is offensive to members of the Opposition and I suggest that the honourable member for Boothby should be made to withdraw it.
– May I suggest, Mr Chairman, that the desirable thing to do would be to ascertain what the honourable member for Boothby in fact said. Without calling him, as his time has now expired, it may be desirable for you, Mr Chairman, using your discretion, to ascertain what the honourable member in fact said.
– The honourable member for Boothby might indicate whether he in fact made the remark purported to have been made by him.
– I was referring to remarks made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. They dealt with the state of the country in 1941. The remark which we are now talking about was precisely: You cannot trust any Labor Party which is riddled with Communism. I did not refer to the present Labor Party.
– Order! Honourable members will come to order. I suggest again that it is advisable for the Committee to proceed with the debate on the estimates for the Defence Departments. After hearing the honourable member for Boothby I still stand by that suggestion. I think it would be wise for the Committee to proceed with the debate.
– I rise to order, Mr Chairman. I do not believe that the honourable member for Boothby has recounted the exact words he used. There was no qualification about his words applying to the situation in 1941. He said that the Labor Party is riddled with Communists. That was a definite statement.
– Order! The honourable member for Watson will resume his seat. I have already ruled on this matter. I suggest again that the Committee come to order and proceed with the debate.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– As some heat has been engendered this evening in discussions in Committee I think it appropriate that on the adjournment debate tonight I. should bring some facts before the House. I hope that I will be given the courtesy of a hearing on this in view of the limitation of time. I propose setting out the Australian Labor Party’s Federal platform in regard to affiliation with the Communist Party and to compare that with the attitude taken by the endorsed Labor candidate in the Capricornia by-election. I do so because, as the House is aware, every ALP candidate is required to sign a pledge that he will abide by the Party’s platform.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat for a moment. There is too much noise coming from the far left hand corner of the chamber and the honourable member for East Sydney is a persistent interjector. I ask him to restrain himself.
– I was saying before the far left interjected thatevery member of the ALP who is a candidate is required to sign a pledge that he will abide by the Party’s platform. I feel that the people of Capricornia are entitled to know what the Labor Party’s official platform is and how far their endorsed candidate has deviated from this platform. Under the heading Repudiation of Communist Party’ the platform states:
Let us see tonight whether, according to bis Party’s platform, Dr Everingham is cooperating with the Communist Party or opposing it. It is a matter of public record that in 1959 he was a Queensland delegate to the Australia and New Zealand Peace Congress in Melbourne, and in 1961 he wag Chairman of the Rockhampton Congress for Peace and Freedom. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was asked to comment on the document to be presented to the Twenty-first National Congress of the Communist Party of Australia. His contribution was printed in the 2nd April 1967 issue of the Communist journal Discussion’. Moreover it is not surprising that he began by saying: 1 am grateful for the invitation to comment on your June 1967 Congress documents.
Under the heading ‘World Outlook’ at page 18 of the document appears the following passage:
Significant changes are taking place in religious circles and many religious leaders, conscious of the big social problems today, are active in the defence of peace and in the promotion of progressive social and democratic causes. These trends should be studied and supported. Differences on philosophical questions, religion and atheism, should not be made a barrier to co-operation and joint actions and public dialogue on urgent issues of our times.
At page 20 of ‘Discussion’ Dr Everingham writes:
I would add ‘Renunciation of belief in any god is not a requirement for Party membership, provided the member does not give any organised religion authority over his own or the Community’s education, belief or practice, and provided the aims of any religious organisations he belongs to are nol in conflict with Party aims.’
This would remove perhaps the largest barrier to mass support for your Party, and would certainly remove one of the most powerful weapons of your opponents. I think it is not inconsistent with the rules of Communist Parties in Italy, France and Poland. It may be the largest single step in achieving a united Labor movement.
Can the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) with honesty say that his endorsed candidate is ‘carrying on an increasing campaign directed at destroying the influence of the Communist Party’, to use the words of his Federal platform, when he is openly advocating a united front between the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party? Indeed, can the Leader of the Opposition say that he himself is ‘carrying on an increasing campaign directed at destroying the influence of the Communist Party’, when he is actively campaigning for this man.
In his written views Dr Everingham goes even further than the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) who, as is well known, stated:
We are situated in the political spectrum next to the Communists and they will stand for many things for which we stand.
Apparently Dr Everingham believes that in his political spectrum the pinks should be merged with the reds. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Rockhampton ‘Bulletin’ in an editorial said:
It is no disrespect to the Labor candidate, Dr Everingham, to say that his public pronouncements have shown a heavy bias in favour of left wing international affairs.
It is no disrespect to the Leader of the Opposition when I ask him whether he really thinks he can soft soap the electors of Capricornia by supporting Dr Everingham. The honourable gentleman knows his own platform and he knows his candidate’s public record.
The Melbourne ‘Age’ of 31st July 1965 reported:
Mr Whitlam walked out of the ALP Federal Executive in Sydney, and threatened to resign. his position. He told the Executive that he would resign if the Party’s Federal Conference took no action against collaboration between ALP and Communist unionists in Victoria.
Are we to assume that this was just play acting? Are we to assume that the Australian Labor Party platform on repudiation of the Communist Party is not worth the paper it is printed on? Are we to assume that the Leader of the Opposition is only interested in exposing the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party and is prepared for his own self-interest to ignore the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labor Party? I hope these questions will be answered.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) last night during the adjournment debate established by his comments that he is a member of the Communist witch-hunt brigade that exists in the Government ranks. He spoke for 7 minutes but did not say anything, a feat for which he is becoming renowned in this chamber. The honourable member has developed a convenient debating technique - that is, convenient for himself. When he is about to set off on some not particularly commendable purpose, he first of all criticises such a dishonourable course of action and proclaims his repugnance at the thought that anyone would sink so low as to follow such a course. So we have been saying last night:
I have never associated myself with Communist witch-hunts. I do’ not see red every time an industrial dispute takes place.
After proclaiming his virtue, he proceeds on a Red witch-hunt. He experiments with an emotional smear against what was in the circumstances legitimate trade union action. On the first point this is evidenced by his spying out Reds at the scene of the dispute. His spying out of Messrs Fahey, Dawson and Macdonald was a brilliant effort, obviously beyond the capacity of any ordinary mortal, for Fahey and Dawson were not within 100 miles of Collinsville during the dispute. Macdonald is State Secretary of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council. He was elected to that position by procedures provided for in the arbitration laws of the State of Queensland. Queensland is governed by a Country-Liberal Party Government If Macdonald had not been at Collinsville he would have been shockingly recreant in the discharge of his respon sibilities as an elected trade union official. That he is a Communist is incidental. So far there is no law to prevent a person who wishes to become a Communist from doing so. Does the honourable member for Kennedy, who loudly but as yet not convincingly lays claim to upholding democratic principles, wish to institute a law denying the basic right of political freedom of choice in our society? If so he will join company with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) who is now trying to interject.
On the point in relation to the emotional smear I refer the House to the honourable member’s description of the strikers, who were really locked out, as ‘Fascist-like Red Guard Communists’. Really, someone ought to take the new but enthusiastic member for Kennedy aside and talk to him on basic elements in political theory. Who has heard of any congruity between the theory of Fascism and the theory of Communism? Perhaps in the honourable member’s mind congruity does exist between those two polar opposites. But surely neither this House nor the honourable member can accept responsibility for what goes on there. The honourable member claims he has the virtue of understanding where industrial issues are involved. He said, to justify that claim:
I have learned that far too frequently the men concerned are unable to express their side of the story and are unjustly condemned because, having failed by every other device to press their claims, they have been obliged to take direct action.
The honourable member then wilfully and with premeditation set about doing the very thing to which he objects. He has not crossed one ‘t’ or dotted one ‘i’ concerning the trade unionists’ case for their action at Collinsville. Not one small word in their favour does he state. Not only that but he unjustly condemns them, knowing full well that he can have his criticism of them brought before the public notice whereas they will be lucky if one line of their case is presented to the public. The honourable member for Kennedy fails, either wilfully or through ignorance, to report the following pertinent facts on behalf of the trade unionists involved in the dispute:
Surely that decision justifies the action of the unionists in striking and establishes the legitimacy of their claims. Surely the court judgment establishes this in the unionists’ favour. The honourable member for Kennedy does not deal with the fact that the workers at Collinsville decided, according to the requirements of State law, to hold a strike. A ballot was held and the result supported a strike of the workers to press their reasonable requirement that Queensland workers should not be treated any worse than workers in New South Wales or Victoria in regard to the payment of construction site allowances. All this was done according to State law, a State law under a Country-Liberal Party Government.
In retaliation John Holland and Co. Pty Ltd, the construction company involved in the dispute at Collinsville, sacked the workers; that is, the company staged a lock out. It can be termed nothing else. John Holland and Co. then employed scabs, despicable strike breakers, in an attempt to undermine the determination of the workers. This was a vile, provocative act which marks John Holland as the source of succour for blacklegs. John Holland was anti-worker and anti-union. Where does the honourable member for Kennedy deal with the scab workers who were urged and agitated by a senior, responsible officer of John Holland - a Mr Pethridge - to intrude into a meeting of the striking unionists and to disrupt that meeting? That was a provocative action in the extreme. Surely those scabs did not think they would be treated with kid gloves for such a flagrantly provo cative act. Where does the honourable member-
– Does the honourable member support the bashings?
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting.
– The laughing boy from Griffith finds great humour in this, but I would expect that even he, in a situation like this, would find the minute intelligence to realise how flagrantly provocative actions such as this would be. Where does the honourable member for Kennedy refer to the fact that members of the scab group of workers were arrested for assault and for interference with private property? Indeed, it is fair to ask why the Queensland morning paper the ‘Courier Mail’ has submerged these facts. Could it be that the “Courier Mail’ is biased? Is it, in fact, practising restriction of the Press and therefore making a mockery of Jefferson’s quote on Press freedom which appears above its editorials? Perhaps the ‘Courier Mail’ ought also to look at Jefferson’s later statements, made after he had had some experience with the Press. He was rather critical of it then. Incidentally, the honourable member would be interested to learn that John Holland has sacked two scab workers for their continued wilful and provocative behaviour to legitimate trade union workers on the job site. This has occurred since the strike finished. Both the Queensland Trades and Labour Council and the Queensland Government have been working to clear up this industrial dispute. The comments of the honourable member must be seen as making their task more difficult. They must be seen as provocative and as unnecessarily opening up old wounds. His action in bringing this issue, clearly a State one - in no circumstances can it be regarded as a responsibility of the Commonwealth - into this Parliament must be interpreted as a forcefully presented vote of no confidence in the handling of the dispute by the Queensland Liberal Party and Country Party State Government. One can see it in no other light.
The honourable member for Kennedy is a Country Party member. His action must be seen as a Country Party attack on the sitting State member for Bowen, that is, an attack on the Queensland AttorneyGeneral, Dr Delamothe, a Liberal Party member because Collinsville is in his electorate. Might I conclude by drawing attention to the statement by the honourable member for Kennedy that the trade union leaders who visited Collinsville did not have to share the misery they fomented there because they were able to go back to the comforts of the capital city. I am sure the workers of Collinsville and the people of the Federal division of Kennedy will be interested to know that their honourable member can always retire from the rigours of his country electorate to his huge, palatial and quite expensive holiday home at Surfers Paradise.
– As the Whip of the Australian Country Party I state that late this afternoon I granted leave to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) so that he could fill an engagement in the Kennedy electorate tomorrow. No doubt next week he will reply to the personal attack just made on him in his absence by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In what instances are Aboriginals exempted from the provisions of current Commonwealth Industrial awards, agreements and determinations?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginals were excluded from the scope of the Cattle Station Industry (NT.) Award 1951, but the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided in March 1966 that this exclusion should cease to be operative as from 1st December 1968.
In the Pastoral Industry Award 1965 Aboriginals are excluded from the definition of ‘station hand’. A claim in relation to this question is presently awaiting a decision of the Commission.
The Northern Territory Pearl Fishing Award 1966 excludes fromits provisions those employees whose wages and conditions are fixed by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Ordinance’ and there is a similar restriction, although expressed in different terms, in the Aircraft Industry Award 1966.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Will he give consideration to establishing a commission on the status of women similar to that established in the United States of America?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member has raised this matter before. On that occasion my predecessor indicated that the circumstances in Australia did not call for the establishment of such a body. I am unaware of any new circumstances which would warrant changing this view. It should be kept in mind that the conditions in the United States which led in 1961 to the appointment of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women were markedly different from those to be found in Australia. One major difference between the two countries is that in the United States there were and are no bodies comparable with our Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the various complementary State industrial authorities to deal with wages and conditions of work for women.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Mr B. F. Jones., O.B.E. (Vice-Chairman)
Mr A. H. Petfield
Mr G. B. Kater
Mr J. H. Garrett, O.B.E.
Mr A. H. Petfield is Chairman and Managing Director, United Packages Ltd, and a Director of Queensland Insurance Ltd, National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Ltd, Insurance Brokers (Queensland) Pty Ltd, and Vinlon Pty Ltd.
Mr G. B. Kater is Chairman, Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd, and a Director of Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. Electrical Equipment of Australia Ltd, Oil Search Ltd, Permanent Trustee Company of N.S.W. Ltd, Vickers Australia Ltd, Mercantile and General Reinsurance Company of Australia Ltd, H. E. Kater and Son Pty Ltd, Egelabra Pry Ltd and Katkin Pty Ltd.
Mr B. F. Jones, Deputy Director General of my Department and Mr J. H. Garrett, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, are public servants and as such are not permitted to hold any paid office in connection with any company.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What progress has been made in preparing a new model Radioactive Substances Act and Regulations since his answer to me on 26th October 1966 (Hansard, page 2254):
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
During the past year, the work of the Radiation Technical Sub-Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council was transferred to the Radiation Health Committee of the council. This Committee has now assumed the responsibility for the preparation of the model Radioactive Substances Act and Regulations.
Recent developments overseas, in particular the revision of the requirements for transportation of radioactive substances by the International Atomic Energy Agency, have necessitated the complete revision of certain parts of the draft.
Proposed amendments to the draft will be discussed at a meeting of the Radiation Health Committee later this month.
The National Health and Medical Research Council and my Department take action in other ways to improve the standards and practices of those using’ radioactive substances and irradiating apparatus. Within the past year, two further codes of practice, aimed at minimising radiation hazards, have been distributed by the council.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What progress has been made in implementing and introducing Commonwealth and State therapeutic substances legislation since his answer to me on 14th September 1966 (Hansard, page 914)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question ls as follows:
The drafting of regulations and basic determinations to be made under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1966, whilst taking longer than at first expected, is well advanced. As soon as practicable after the few remaining problems are overcome, the Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 will be proclaimed to come into operation.
My reply of 14th September 1966 (Hansard, page 914) indicated that an expert working party of Commonwealth and State officers would be set up. This working party met on 18th-19th October 1966 and 31st March 1967, and unanimously agreed that there is a need for a uniform approach to standards for therapeutic goods. At their Conference at Perth on 13th and 14ti April 1967, the Commonwealth and State Health Ministers agreed upon the formation of a National Therapeutic Goods Committee as a permanent body to advise on action necessary to bring about the co-ordination of legislation and administration.
Work is also progressing towards a draft cods pf standards of manufacturing practice and agreement has already been reached on a set of principles upon which licensing and inspection activities are intended to be based.
The States, I understand, intend to handle tha matter in different ways, depending partly upon the powers conferred by existing legislation. It appears that New South Wales and Tasmania will enact specific legislation and that Queensland will amend its Health Act. In the remaining States it seems that the desired effects can be achieved by new or altered regulations.
Each State is responsible for the preparation and approval of its own legislation. The honourable member will appreciate that the timing of the introduction of State legislation will depend upon how the matter ranks for priority amongst the demands competing for the attention of the authorities concerned.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Which States have implemented the systems of (a) indexing hospital records and (b) classifying mental disorders, agreed upon at conferences in June and November 1963, respectively (Hansard, 13th September 1966, page 832)?
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
All States are in the process of implementing these recommendations. Some progress has been made, but because of the complex steps that have to be taken it may be up to 2 years before the recommendations are fully implemented in all States.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) Payments made to registered hospital benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1965-66 amounted to $66,331,656. Figures for 1966-67 are not yet available.
The average amount of Commonwealth benefit paid per claim during 1966-67 was $16.94.
Information to permit a calculation of the percentage of claims refused for each of the reasons mentioned is not available. However, during 1966- 67, fund benefits were not paid for 3.1% ofthe total number of days for which Commonwealth benefits were paid for insured patients. Hospitalisation during a waiting period accounted for approximately two thirds of the total number of days for which fund benefit was refused, and the balance was attributable to other reasons for which proportions are not available. 7. (a) The aggregate reserves of registered hospital benefits organisations, including provisions for outstanding claims, were $58,717,566 at 30th June 1966. The figure as at 30th June l967is not yet available.
The operating expenses incurred by registered hospital benefits organisations for the financial year 1965-66 amounted to $7,944,207. This represented12% of members’ contributions. The figure for 1966-67 is not yet available.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) Payments made to registered medical benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1965-66 amounted to $59,176,825. Figures for 1966-67 are not yet available.
Claims were rejected by the organisations in respect of 275,507 professional services.
These figures do not include payments in respect of contract medical organisations.
The principal reasons for refusing payment of fund benefits were:
Information to permit a calculation of the percentage of claims refused for each of the reasons mentioned is not available. However, during 1966-67 the number of individual services for which no fund benefit was paid represented only 0.93% of the total individual insured services. 7. (a) The aggregate reserves of registered medical benefits organisations, including provisions for outstanding claims, were $28,024,180 at 30th June 1966. Hie figure as at 30th June 1967, is not yet available.
The operating expenses incurred by registered medical benefits organisations for the financial year 1965-66 amounted to $8,616,482. This represented 14.6% of members’ contributions. The figure for 1.966-67 is not yet available.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: l -
All of these rates are related to the traffic problems associated with each of the airports.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What air routes in the State of Victoria are subsidised by the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No air services operating within the State of Victoria are subsidised by the Commonwealth Government.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670921_reps_26_hor56/>.