26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. j. Aston) took the chair at 3.20 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr MUNRO presented a petition from certain constituents of the electorate of Eden-Monaro praying that the House will request the Government to improve the Alpine Way, and other roads constructed in the Kosciusko State Park by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and used by the general public, to the standard set by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to a report in the ‘Australian’ of Friday, 22nd September, which claimed that the right honourable gentleman had warned Australia of an inherent threat posed by a restless Indonesia. The report stated that he had referred to a ‘threat from the north* and had pointed the finger at Indonesia. Is the report an accurate account of the right honourable gentleman’s remarks? If so, is he aware that a senior member of the Indonesian Government is expected to visit Australia in the near future and that this report could be gravely embarrassing for Australia? Are the statements attributed to faim an accurate account of his feelings towards a great Asian nation which Australia played a notable part in creating?
– Opposition members can be trusted to do what they can to make mischief in Australia’s foreign relations. I think it would have struck even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as significant that only one newspaper in Australia ran any sort of story of this kind although representatives of several newspapers were present at the meeting he has mentioned. I have become so accustomed to this kind of treatment that I now take the precaution of having a tape recording made of any public speech I make. Therefore, I am able to tell the honourable gentleman that when my attention was directed to this report, which no other newspaper saw fit to present in the same form or with the same inference, I made a transcript of the remarks made at the meeting available to the Parliamentary Press Gallery. A copy of the transcript was made available also to the Government of Indonesia through our Ambassador, and that Government has a complete understanding of the position. We have the warmest regard and respect for the present Government of Indonesia, and I make that clear. The fact of the matter is that over a period of years in this area of Asia in which we live we have had our problems not just with one country but with several countries. Some of these countries - indeed, most of them at the present time - are on the friendliest of relations with Australia. Our policy is one of continuing friendship and of assistance.
The honourable gentleman asks about our current relations with Indonesia. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, has been there twice in recent times and had the closest consultation with officials. A very considerable body of people with encouragement from this Government and with a personal message from myself went to Indonesia recently to participate in a discussion directed towards some assistance or improvement in the economic rehabilitation of that country. We included a novel element of aid to the extent of $5.2m in the last Budget for assistance to Indonesia.
The passage to which the honourable honourable gentleman refers relates to a statement that I was making about Vietnam, the reason why we were in Vietnam and the need for the countries of this area to pursue policies of co-operation for the peace of the area. In the course of that statement - which needs to be read in its full context to be put into perspective - I said:
It is not so long ago thai we were troubled by what was going on in Indonesia.
If the honourable gentleman was not troubled then he had reason to be troubled because there was a policy of confrontation against two fellow Commonwealth countries in Malaysia and Singapore. I continued:
There are 100 million people there and they were pursuing a policy of confrontation against Malaysia and Singapore. Well, matters have quietened down there, and I hope we shall always be able to live in peace and co-operation with the people of Indonesia.
But we cannot take any of these things for granted. And as we build up our own defences, and we have more than doubled expenditure on them in the last four years … as we build up the strength of our services and they have never been at a higher level of efficiency nor strength at any period in which we have not been involved in total war . . . as we do these things, so also must we keep our alliance strong-
Our alliance was our alliance with the United States and New Zealand. I would be delighted if the honourable gentleman opposite would attach the same importance to the strengthening and continuing of our alliance with the United States as honourable members on this side of the House do.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. The Minister must surely be aware that the backlog of postal traffic, particularly in Sydney, has reached the proportions of a serious crisis. Tens of thousands of articles - many of an urgent nature - remain undelivered through the deliberate action of the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The public cannot be expected to tolerate this position any longer. Will the Minister make a full statement informing the people what action he proposes to take to end this preposterous position?
– I think it would hardly be expected that I would make a full statement on this matter in answer to a question at question time. But I would say that we. within the Government, have been concerned at what has been taking place in the Sydney Mail Exchange in the last 2 or 3 months. This trouble, first appeared back in July with a claim by the unions that there should, in fact, be a 5-day week, thus closing all Post Offices on Saturday mornings. The Government considered this matter and its decision was conveyed by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and myself to a meeting comprising representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, the Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union and the Postmasters Association. Immediately following this the employees at the Sydney Mail Exchange, or perhaps I should put it more broadly and say the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union executive in New South Wales, decided on direct action. I want to give an assurance, Mr Speaker, that in no circumstances will this Government allow direct action to disorganise completely the services of the Post Office.
The honourable member has said that the situation of which he complains is in existence at the present time. We have believed throughout the relevant period of some 2 or 3 months that we should maintain the closest possible co-operation or consultation with the Disputes Committee of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, whose president, of course, is Mr Albert Monk, and almost daily either my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, or I have been in touch with Mr Monk. Indeed, as the House knows, members of the Disputes Committee of the ACTU and other officers of that organisation have condemned what is being done by the State Executive of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union at the Sydney Mail Exchange.
There has been a good deal of gross exaggeration of the situation. Notwithstanding suggestions by the General Secretary of the Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union that there is a work to regulations operation, there has been no delay in the delivery of telegrams except, on two or three days. This is a clear indication that postal officers throughout Australia are taking no notice whatever of the General Secretary of that Union. There has been no difficulty in the transfer of letter mail. Our real problem is associated only with the parcels section in Sydney. I indicated very recently that there was a build-up of some 300,000 articles which had not been distributed, but unfortunately there are elements of the Press in Australia which would much prefer to publicise what is said by some unionist as propaganda than to take notice of official sources, and so it has been suggested that the build-up amounts to as many as a million articles. I tell the House that this is completely untrue. Since last Thursday, when we decided to use our supervisory staff to cause the disruptionists within the Mail Exchange to accept articles which previously they had been rejecting, there has been a clearance of about 10% of the backlog of mail.
The Government is not viewing the position in any casual way, but we do believe that we have an obligation, first of all, to the Australian people. It was quite evident from the result of the election only 9 months ago that the Australian people had confidence in the Government, and while we are in fact obtaining such a high level of transmission of articles through the post I believe the public is being served better than it would be if we acted in any way to justify an accusation of provoking a complete stoppage of postal services, which in my view would completely disrupt the whole of the business activities of the Australian community. I assure the honourable member and the people of Australia that I will take all steps, in conjunction with my colleagues, to bring about a cessation of the difficulties. I indicated in a statement made last evening that there will be no discussions with us - that is with the Minister for Labour and National Service and with me - until the backlog is cleared and until normal working is resumed within this section of the Post Office. If the unions believe that by this action they are going to force us into an early meeting, I give them an assurance that in no circumstances will this happen. I also assure them that the delay in clearing this backlog is delaying meeting the Ministers in relation to the problems we discussed with them as early as 27th July.
– I direct a question to the Acting Treasurer. It arises out of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting in Jamaica. Firstly, can he indicate what were the proposals emanating from the Commonwealth Secretariat concerning the development fund? Secondly, what were the counter proposals of the Commonwealth Treasurer? Thirdly, is Mr Maxwell Newton on the staff of the Australian Treasurer or does he represent a newpaper or newspapers?
– The general proposals which were submitted to the conference by the Commonwealth Secretariat are, I believe, fairly well known. Certainly, they are well known to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports who keeps himself particularly well informed on these questions. As far as Mr Newton is concerned, my understanding is that he is not on the staff of the Commonwealth Treasury, although there was a period in bis youth when he was. He is now a free lance journalist and is well known, I am sure, to a number of members of this House. I did see an article by him in the Melbourne ‘Age’ and in general terms this coincides with the information I have myself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy in his capacity as Minister-in-charge of Tourist Activities. Is the Minister aware of a plan in the United States of America whereby tourists may travel around the country on a Greyhound bus at a special concession price of $99 for 99 days on a ticket which can be purchased only outside the United States? Will he suggest to the Australian Tourist Commission that it consider the feasibility of adopting this idea in Australia for overseas visitors?
– This particular plan has great merit as far as promoting tourism in Australia by overseas visitors is concerned. As the honourable member has said, one of the features of this plan is that it is restricted to foreign tourists. While it might have something to commend it from a tourist promotion point of view, my personal view is that it would draw some understandable criticism from Australians who might feel that they were being discriminated against. Notwithstanding this, the matter was considered at the latest meeting of the Tourist Ministers Council. The Council agreed to put the matter to the Australian National Travel Association for consideration of it in depth.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. I preface the question by. reminding the Minister that on 17th August last, in reply to a question I asked relating to the entry into Australia of some sixty Japanese to work on a Japanese dredge at Port Hedland, he said he would provide me with a full and detailed answer. As it is almost 6 weeks since he gave me that undertaking I now ask: When does he expect to provide an answer? What is the reason for the delay? Is it correct that the State Government of Western Australia was not consulted about the entry? Will the Minister now tell the House whether the terms of entry permitted those Japanese to work only on the Japanese dredge ‘Kokui Maru’? If they are not restricted to this vessel, what other work are they permitted to be employed upon?
– As the honourable gentlemen correctly said, I did, many weeks ago, indicate that I would give a full answer. Since then there has been a great deal of discussion about this matter between the Department of Labour and National Service and employer organisations and unions in Western Australia. The Western Australian State Government is aware of this. The unions have different views. The honourable gentleman will be perfectly well aware, from his own personal knowledge, that different views are being manifested in Western Australia by different union groups. As to the exact terms of the permission to enter Australia for this purpose, I would not like to state them because I would not like them to be said incorrectly. I will undertake to give the honourable gentleman the exact terms, but I would like the honourable gentleman to understand that while there are terms on which persons enter Australia the terms are capable of alteration while they are in Australia, and they will be altered to suit the arrangements that are worked out between the responsible authorities, the State Government and the unions.
– Some weeks ago the Minister for Trade and Industry announced that a conference was being called to discuss the future transport and handling of wool. Can the Minister indicate the outcome of the discussions and any decisions taken at the meeting?
– The Government and the Department of Trade and Industry are concerned with any element of cost in the production and sale of wool that would reduce the return to the Australian woolgrower and the wool industry. On the initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry a close study has been made, over some months past, of all the transport and handling costs which bear upon the movement of wool from the wool shed to the place where it is sold by auction and thence to the place where it is finally consumed overseas. Any costs that occur up to the point of sale represent a deduction from the woolgrowers’ receipts and any costs that occur between the point of sale and receipt in the wool processing plant overseas represent a reduction in the buying limits which the buyer in the auction room has. This close study, the first to be conducted, I think, by any authority, revealed that the actual costs on the average from the wool shed to the overseas mill are of the order of $28 to $30 a bale. This represents, in many cases, more than 20% of the net return to the woolgrower. While the woolgrower owns his wool - that is up to the point of sale at auction - its handling and everything else is within his own power to control. Beyond the point of sale, of course, it passes into new ownership and the handling of the wool then is within the discretion of the buyer.
The Department informed the interested parties of its investigations and suggested to those interested parties - the Department having no authority in this matter - the various areas where it appeared that cost savings could be achieved. This having been done, a general conference was then called which someone - I do not know who - christened a ‘wool workshop’. The conference took place on 24th and 25th August and provided an opportunity for all concerned to learn what had been discovered about the detailed costs. It provided an opportunity for discussion on any new proposed methods of handling which it was hoped would result in cost savings. The cost in each step of wool handling was determined and analysed, and the potential for any savings was examined.
I am informed that all of the grower organisations which were present endorsed the idea that had been conceived of establishing in each capital city what someone has christened a ‘wool village*. Here, all the broking houses would be in the one spot, the railway sidings would literally come into and out from the wool floors and, by this aggregation of handling facilities, costs could be saved. I am advised that the grower organisations were so attracted by this idea that they have been asking what opportunity there is for grower organisations or growers to participate financially in this concept of the handling of wool. 1 am advised that all were convinced that savings are possible from the central location of wool stores, dumps and wool pressing facilities, the unit load or container system of shipping, better handling systems and the reduced volume of cargo due to high density dumping. These matters will be followed up in commercial negotiations by the parties who are interested in this. The wool industry is part of the exporter shipping organisation which negotiates freights direct with the shipping companies.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he will make an early announcement of a financial grant to the New South Wales Government now that that Government has approved the establishment of a college of advanced education at Bathurst. I remind the Minister of the promise of the former Prime Minister of an initial grant of $200,000 for such colleges and ask that this promise be honoured and that the Bathurst institute be included in the financial provisions for the current triennium.
– I will be very glad to refer the honourable gentleman’s request to my colleague in another place.
– I direct my question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities and I refer to the news bulletin issued by the Queensland Government Tourist Bureau in which he is reported as saying that Queensland has the lot of the five attractions listed by the report of Harris, Kerr, Forster and Company as being the reasons why overseas tourists want to come to Australia. Will the Minister ensure that the Australian Tourist Commission gives proper emphasis to the tourist attractions of Queensland in its overseas promotional activities?
– I do not know whether I actually used the words that Queensland has the lot’, but I certainly would agree that Queensland does have the five magnets enumerated in the management survey that was carried out of the tourists attractions in Australia. This survey was taken from prospective tourists to Australia. In the order of popularity the five main attractions were: The Australian outback; the Great Barrier Reef; Australian flora and fauna; Australia, the land of opportunity; and the friendliness of the Australian people. I think that the House will agree that Queensland certainly has those five attractions. However, having said that, I would add that with the exception of the second one, which for geographic reasons is limited to Queensland, every other State and every other region in Australia has the other attractions in abundance. The success of a campaign to attract tourists to this country will not rely entirely on the enthusiasm of the Government and of the Australian Tourist Commission; a great deal will depend on the initiative, vigour and drive of the local groups in each community. It is very pleasing to me to see vigour and enthusiasm being engendered in many groups right throughout all States and regions of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask whether the right honourable gentleman has seen the report that several British merchant seamen who quit their ship in Sydney and flew back to London have complained that they saw grain that had been shipped from Australia to China being immediately loaded into bags branded for shipment to North Vietnam? If he has not seen this report will he cause an inquiry to be made into the allegations made and the disgust expressed by these British seamen?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry will answer the question.
– The question was not initially addressed to me and I apologise for not hearing clearly the early part of it. However, I comprehend its general purport. I have seen the London report that British seamen who left their ship said that in part their reason was that they had seen Australian wheat being transhipped to North Vietnam. I do not challenge their statement; I do not know the facts. What I do remember vividly is that when these seamen left their ship in Australia the matter received considerable publicity. Statements in the Australian Press at the time contained not one word about the seamen seeing Australian wheat transhipped. This claim seems to have been an afterthought which occurred to the seamen when they reached London. The reason that they gave in Australia for leaving their ship was quite explicit. It was the intolerable maltreatment, as they described it, of themselves, their captain and the ship’s officers in various Chinese ports. They said that they would not go back to those ports. They implied that they were fearful about going back.
All these things were repeated in London, but for good measure the story about seeing wheat transhipped for North Vietnam was added. I do not challenge their story because I am not in a position to do so. All I can say is that it is the policy of the Western powers and other countries which do not fall within that description, except the United States alone, that only certain proscribed items shall not be sold to mainland China. No item of foodstuff is on the list of proscribed items. Australia conforms to this policy. The Australian Government does not believe that to set out to try to starve the Chinese people would contribute anything to the ultimate wellbeing of Australia or to our immediate wellbeing. Nobody believes that such a policy would contribute either to an end result in military terms or to Australia’s reputation internationally. The quantity of wheat purchased in Australia by mainland China represents approximately 1.2% of the total grains available to mainland China. This amount is less than the quantity of wheat which mainland China has purchased in recent years from Canada and Argentina.
– Does it represent 40% of our exports of wheat?
– The honourable member should look at the statistics and he will see what it represents. What is his point in opposing this sale?
– I was just asking.
– I judged that the honourable member merely wanted information. In conclusion let me say that so long as v/e permit Communist China to purchase wheat from us, it is physically and 01 gamsationally beyond our control to ascertain what ultimate use is made of that wheat.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs noted reports that one candidate in the recent elections in South Vietnam has been arrested and charged with offences and that another candidate has been interviewed and, it is reported, intimidated by the police? Has the Minister expressed any attitude on this matter either in Siagon, through our representatives, or here? If not, will he inform the House of the Government’s attitude in this matter? If no expression of opinion has been made in Saigon, why has it not been made?
– I am aware from reports received’ from Saigon that one of the candidates in the recent elections has had charges laid against him and that the charges have been heard in the courts of South Vietnam. I am also informed that the offences which are alleged to have been committed and which now have been shown to have been committed took place before the elections and the charges were pending at the time of the elections. I know that the honourable gentleman who asked the question is a seasoned political campaigner and, through you, Mr Speaker, I would ask him: If he wanted to discredit a person who was a candidate for an election, would he wait until after the election was over to publish things to his discredit? I think the South Vietnamese Government in not proceeding until after the elections were over with charges which had originated before the elections gave an indication of the way in which it wanted the elections to be carried out in a fair manner. If it had wanted to discredit this candidate it would have proceeded with the charges before the elections took place.
The second case, if I have understood the honourable gentleman correctly, refers to a person who wanted to be a candidate but whose application, when it went before the Constituent Assembly - not before the Government, but before the Assembly - was disallowed for reasons which seemed to that elected body to be sufficient. I am also informed, if I have identified the person correctly, that no arrest took place but that he had been implicated in statements made by another person who is under trial and he was called in for interrogation but, after interrogation, no further action was taken.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that some 3 or 4 years elapse between applications for and the granting of patents? Is this period growing and is this trend apparent not only in Australia but also overseas? If so, what is being done here and overseas to reduce the length of time between applications for patents and the granting of them? Finally, how are plans proceeding for the programming of technical information on computers, both here and overseas, in this patent field to reduce this time lag?
– It is correct that there is a very substantial time lag of the order of 3 years between the time of making patent applications and the time when they are examined and dealt with. This has caused considerable concern. This is a feature common to industrialised countries and, with our very great industrial growth, is particularly marked in Australia. It is difficult also to get competent examining staff as there is a shortage of them. To meet this particular problem we have devised a system of deferred examination. At present this is in the process of being incorporated in legislative form. It is now at the stage of a draft bill which is being considered by my Department, and it is hoped to bring this bill forward before the House rises at the end of this sessional period.
Because this is an entirely novel method of dealing with the matter so far as Australia is concerned we have struck quite a number of problems. I doubt whether the bill can be advanced beyond the second reading stage in this session. Indeed, I think it might be advisable to allow patent attorneys and others interested in this field to have an opportunity during the recess to make representations about it. I do not want to express a view on the situation in other countries because they are very numerous. It is interesting to see that Holland has adopted a deferred examination procedure which to some extent has been used as a model.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation I refer to the new plans for baggage to be operated by both Australian airlines from next Mon day. Was this plan put forward with the approval of the Minister’s Department? What is the purpose of the plan? Are aircraft loaded on a weight system? If expediency in the baggage section is to be considered, is it more expeditious to put a measure over a passenger’s suitcase or other luggage than to put the luggage on the scales and to read the registered weight?
– This proposal was not referred to my Department for approval before being implemented, although the Department was advised before the decision was finally made by the airlines. The Department holds no authority that would allow it to interfere in this decision, which is purely a matter for the administration of the airlines. My understanding is that this principle applies in quite a number of other countries. The main reason for its adoption is that it is more suitable than the old system for the new types of aircraft. With the configuration of jet aircraft, it is more suitable and desirable to have size rather than weight as the primary consideration in baggage handling. A person taking one piece of baggage now can carry far more weight than he could previously without incurring a surcharge. At the moment the system is under trial. We have asked the airlines to keep a careful check on it to see whether any problems do arise. If the situation becomes difficult it can be reviewed in the future, but my understanding is that, on the basis of overseas experience, it should work satisfactorily here. The point being considered is not one of economics, but rather service to and the convenience of both passengers and airlines. However, whilst we in the Department of Civil Aviation do not have any direct authority in the matter, we are certainly watching it very carefully and if any problems do arise we will discuss them with the operators.
– I address my question to the Acting Treasurer. Does a co-operative milling association operate at a tax disadvantage if wheat is supplied to it by a State wheat board instead of being supplied directly to it by the growers?
– First of all, the company would have to meet the description of a cooperative company given in the Income Tax
Assessment Act. The main advantages are that it will pay a lower rate of tax on its first $10,000 of income and may deduct from its assessable income amounts distributed to its shareholders as rebates, bonuses, dividends and interest. It would have to be a company engaged in acquiring either the commodities or animals of its shareholders for marketing, storage, processing, distribution, packaging and so on or providing services. At least 90% of this business would have to be done with its shareholders. If the association or co-operative company acquired its wheat from a State board, which had itself bought the wheat from the growers, it would not conform to the definition of a co-operative. On the other hand, if it acquired its wheat directly from the growers it would be in a different position. If the honourable member has any specific co-operative in mind, I will make inquiries for him and let htm know the result of them.
– My question is directed to the Acting Treasurer. Is he able to say whether the £1 sterling is about to be devalued? What effect would such action have on the Australian economy?
– This would be a very valuable piece of information, if I knew the answer. When I was on the Board of the International Monetary Fund, which finally pronounces on exchange rates, my experience certainly was that no government ever devalued unless it was compelled to do so by force majeure. Although an intellectual ferment may be evident in the country, as there always is in these circumstances, I have never known it to have any pronounced effect on what happens. Broadly speaking, Australia’s assets and liabilities in sterling are in balance. Our liabilities, of course, are long term and our assets are short term. If sterling were devalued, the immediate effects would be very different from the long term effects. Immediately, devaluation of sterling would reduce the monetary receipts of all our exporters and cheapen Australian imports from Britain. It is a cardinal plank in the policy of the United Kingdom Government, for which at present it is paying a severe price in political terms, to maintain the value and integrity of sterling. The real question is whether Britain has the capacity to do this. Current events give no indication of any crisis, but determination to maintain the par value of sterling is manifest everywhere.
– by leave - I thank the House for having given me leave to make a short statement concerning discussions between the Australian and New Zealand Governments. I inform honourable members with pleasure that arrangements have been completed for a brief visit to Canberra next week, at my invitation, by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Holyoake. The New Zealand Minister for Defence, Mr Thomson, will accompany him. Australia and New Zealand have a great many problems of common interest and talks between Mr Holyoake and myself, between New Zealand Ministers and Australian Ministers and between officials of our respective Governments take place from time to time. It might be said that we are in almost constant touch. But a visit by the New Zealand Prime Minister to Australia is an event of significance out of the ordinary run of discussions and we welcome it wholeheartedly. The visit will provide the occasion to discuss a number of matters, but consultation on defence policies in relation to South East Asia will be a particular purpose.
The visit will be timely in that it will provide the first opportunity that Mr Holyoake and I have had to discuss at first hand the British Government’s Defence White Paper of July, with its profound implications in relation to British forces in Malaysia/ Singapore. Both Australia and New Zealand have troops in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaysia/ Singapore, and since the British decisions, Australia and New Zealand are both in a new situation in which foreign policy as well as defence policy aspects come up for review. As I have already indicated to the House, I contemplate discussions with a number of governments before completing our re-examination of Australian defence policy. It will be clear to honourable members that a major first step in this reappraisal at government level is talks with New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand have forces engaged and working together in Vietnam also. By means of exchanges at diplomatic and defence level there is at any stage a close understanding between the two Governments about Vietnam, but it will be extremely useful for us to review together the situation there. Perhaps I should add as a further word of explanation that I do not expect to be making any early Government announcements as a direct result of these discussions. The talks with Mr Holyoake and Mr Thomson will be, as I have said, part of our continuing close consultation and we are neither at the start nor at the end of this process.
I expect Mr Holyoake to arrive in Canberra on Monday, 2nd October. Most of Tuesday will no doubt be taken up with discussions. These will be with myself, senior colleagues and members of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) has deferred his departure for the United Nations General Assembly at New York in order to be present for Mr Holyoake’s visit. Mr Holyoake will return to Wellington on Wednesday, 4th October. My ministerial colleagues and I are looking forward to seeing Mr Holyoake and Mr Thomson in Canberra. They will receive a warm welcome from us, as I am sure they will from all sections of the Parliament.
– by leave - Honourable members will be aware that under the provisions of the Constitution the next Senate elections must be conducted and completed by such time as will allow the newly elected senators to commence their term of service on 1st July 1968. Accordingly, the Government has decided to invite His Excellency the Governor-General to communicate with the State Governors proposing that the next Senate elections be held on Saturday, 25th November 1967. When a reply has been received from the States, I shall inform Parliament of the full time-table proposed for the elections.
– by leave-Mr Speaker, the House will be interested to know the main features of the Migration and Settlement Agreement signed today between Italy and Australia. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), will be making appropriate arrangements for the presentation to the Parliament of the Agreement. The first migration agreement with Italy was signed in 1951 and was to be in force for 5 years, with provision for extension. In fact, it was extended year by year until 1964. It was essentially an agreement for assisted migration. The new Agreement both takes account of the changed circumstances since 1951 and establishes a broad pattern for all Italian citizens who migrate to and settle in Australia.
The new Migration and Settlement Agreement thus has the following principal elements. It defines the forms of migration between Italy and Australia, including nominations by residents of Australia, direct agreements between Italian citizens and Australian employers, direct application lodged in Italy whether with Italian or Australian authorities and special migration programmes. It describes the facilities for settlement of Italians. It records the rights they enjoy and the obligations they undertake in common with Australian citizens and other migrants, and their eligibility to share in official accommodation and housing schemes. It provides for advice to Italian migrants on the likelihood of the acceptance of vocational qualifications in Australia. The Australian Government also has agreed to use its best offices to advance the acceptance of Italian qualifications in Australia within the framework of Australian legislation and practice. The rights of the new settlers as residents as well as workers are described and some provisions concentrate on matters in which the positions of Italians in Australia and of Australians in Italy are essentially reciprocal.
When the Migration and Settlement Agreement becomes available I direct the attention of the House to Article 14 which provides that the Governments shall give joint assistance to such special migration programmes that may be mutually agreed. Under this clause a supplementary arrangement has been concluded which deals with details of assisted migration. In its nature it adds to and in no way subtracts from the principal agreement. It extends its scope by focussing on and developing important detail.
It is to be noted that this arrangement provides for co-operative action between Italian and Australian authorities in Italy. Various categories of people will be eligible for assistance pursuant to it. Italians who apply direct to the Australian Migration Office in Italy, or who apply to the Italian authorities, or persons contracting directly for employment with approved Australian employers will be eligible for consideration for assisted passages. Another important category of eligible people is unmarried sister, fiancees and wives who have contracted the proxy form of marriage with Italians already resident in Australia.
The resumption of assisted migration from Italy to Australia is in my view most important. In its general form it will revitalise the flow of people from a very significant country with a long and successful record of integrated settlement in this country. In the social and family reunion context the granting of assistance to fiancees, unmarried sisters and wives married by proxy will provide joy and comfort to families and real help to many young Italian men already here.
The new financial arrangements for Italian assisted migrants will place them on the same basis as those elsewhere in Europe who come under the Special Passage Assistance Programme inaugurated in 1966, and financially in a comparable position with those moved under older assisted passage schemes such as the British. Persons 19 years of age and over will contribute $A25 towards their passage costs while those under 19 years will be carried free of charge.
In order to secure the fullest benefits from the agreement and to provide the most efficient assistance for all types of migrants coming from Italy to Australia, I have directed that new administrative arrangements in Italy be undertaken to facilitate the consideration of applications and medical examinations and selection interviews for applicants. One result will be to reduce significantly costs and inconveniences to all applicants. Additional offices will be opened as necessary, including offices in Milan and Trieste.
Altogether I believe that the provisions of the new agreement, the arrangement for assisted migration and their administrative consequences will provide a very wide basis for increasing attraction of Italians to Australia in the future. They will, the Government is sure, add to the great contribution which men and women from Italy have made to Australia over the past years, especially since 1945. The new agreement clearly marks a great step forward in the history of Italian migration to Australia.
I present the following paper:
Migration and Settlement Agreement between Italy and Australia - Ministerial Statement, 26 September 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the debate on this, matter going to be adjourned? Will the House have an opportunity to debate the paper and its contents? If not, the motion would appear to be pointless.
– Order! I have already put the question and it has been resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-66 I present the report relating to the following proposed works:
Development of Airfield Pavements at Rockhampton Airport, Queensland.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a matter of definite public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide financial assistance to Queensland for urgently required power and water development projects.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I rise on behalf of the Opposition to condemn the Government for its constant refusal to grant to Queensland Federal funds for water and power - the two most urgent developmental requirements in Queensland. No doubt the Government will argue that this is an attempt, on the eve of a by-election in that State, to highlight the Government’s apathy to Queensland. Let us make no mistake about it. The Opposition will hammer the Government at every opportunity before an election, during an election or after an election for its neglect of development of this State, particularly in the field of water and power. It is a fact that the Capricornia by-election is vitally concerned with the development of water and power. This is the No. 1 issue. It has been so accepted by the Government and the Australian Labor Party. It is the most important issue for central Queensland. The Government is on trial with respect to the development of water and power in that State. In its defence, the Government has employed all kinds of peculiar statistics to try to justify its apathy towards that State and to get away from the trenchant criticism of its neglect of water and power development in central Queensland.
In the last 2 weeks we have seen in central Queensland the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann), the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) and probably a few other Ministers. They have visited central Queensland to try to justify the Government’s apathy and deplorable record in the field of water and power. But where was the Minister who really counts in the development field? Where was the man who is charged with the development of northern Australia and who, because of the issues involved, should be the Government’s principal campaigner in the field of development in Queensland? I refer, of course, to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) who is at the table. He has gained notoriety because he has not been in central Queensland to defend his Government against the charges being made in that area. He has gained notoriety by his absence. Why is he not there speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party? He is not there because if he appears the cat will be out of the bag, and he will have to answer for the Government’s shocking neglect of water and power. Perhaps when the Minister gets on his feet he will tell us why he has not been in central Queensland campaigning in this most vital issue. I am sure that the Minister himself will admit that water and power are of vital importance. When he was last in central Queensland - perhaps this is the reason why he will not go there again - he incurred the wrath of the central Queensland people by refusing to see Councillor Hartwig, the Chairman of the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board. If we like to read the papers we can get the full story of the power crisis in central Queensland. This is a very significant issue. The Government is on trial and the jury will be the people. The most important witness for the Government has disappeared so far as- central Queensland is concerned.
So complacent and arrogant has this Government become that it believes that not only can it ignore the Opposition, but also it can make promises to the Australian people which, from its actions to date, it has no intention of fulfilling. After 17 years of refusing, as the Government of Queensland admits, to recognise the needs of the Queensland people and to provide Federal funds to enable the Queensland Government to commence urgently required water development projects in that drought devastated State, the Government finally yielded to mounting pressure on the eve of the last Federal election. It provided funds for urgently required water projects. Last November on the eve of the elections the Prime Minister made a now celebrated statement of insincerity to the Australian people. It has now been labelled as nothing more than blatant vote-catching, based on shallow promises. The Prime Minister said:
One aspect of national development is vivid in our minds from the recent drought. This is the conservation of that precious commodity - water . . .
We have in mind a national water resources development programme. Its purpose would be to increase water conservation actively, to reduce hazards of drought and expand primary production.
We contemplate that the contribution to be made by the Commonwealth for selected additional works could amount to $50m over the next 5 years.
This was an admirable statement. However, what has happened? Since that date nothing public has been done to illustrate even remotely the Government’s sincere wish to honour its promises to the people. Disillusionment and annoyance amongst the people throughout Queensland are mounting, and this Government is being condemned for its deceitfulness. Despite the fact that Queensland has the richest water and contiguous, arable land resources in the Commonwealth, it is so devastated by recurring droughts that the combined drought losses, according to the statistical figures for Queensland, in the 23-year period from the 1944-46 drought, have been greater than the total losses experienced by the rest of the Australian States. Never in this Parliament do we see Queensland supporters of the Government get up and take this Government to task for its neglect of Queensland’s water and power resources. Some of them, of course, talk big in their electorates when they are well away from the Parliament and from their party scrutiny about how they will fight the Government tooth and nail in the Parliament to get a better deal for northern Australia. But, in this Parliament such members are like mice; we hear nothing from them but praise of the Government.
I have always acknowledged the technological fact that in the pastoral areas and semi-arid areas of Queensland it is extremely hard to mitigate economically the ravages of drought. But the tragedy of water conservation in Queensland is that the cumulative bulk of these drought losses in terms of value has occurred in the proven and established coastal and near-coastal regions ot Queensland where millions of acre feet of water are flowing waste fully to the sea. These are the same regions in which huge areas of land are parched every year in the long dry season for want of moisture. In drought years the results are calamitous. Continuous financial and personal misery are becoming a permanent legacy in these drought susceptible areas of central and north Queens land. This Government can afford the luxury of spending millions of dollars on constructing and maintaining an artificial lake in Canberra with two magnificent bridges to cross it. Yet, the Government cannot afford to give the people of Queensland any funds whatsoever for water conservation to alleviate the dreadful scourge of drought - not one cent in the last 18 years. Water and power development are the key to the awakening of Queensland’s latent resources. It is the most effective action for attracting permanent settlement and it is the nucleus on which further development and settlement can be founded. The shortage of people in Australia is surely our greatest national problem. The Government talks glibly about decentralisation. Give central and north Queensland water and power and this sleeping giant will come to life. The tragedy of the neglect of Queensland’s water development speaks for itself. The tragedy of the neglect of Queensland’s power needs is vividly illustrated by the inability of Queensland to support an aluminium smelter because of the high cost of the small reserves of power. The loss of the aluminium smelter in Queensland is a scandal which should never be repeated. Could anyone imagine any other State in the Commonwealth being forced to give away to another State a most important employer of labour? Such a works in Queensland would provide employment for a State which is plagued by serious seasonal unemployment. This is the sorry state of affairs in Queensland.
Queensland has the water and it has the coal for the formulation of tremendous reserves of power. Reserves of soft and hard coking coals are in the vicinity of 30,000 million tons in central Queensland. The exploitation of these vast Australian reserves must not be confined to this wild race to ship our raw coal material overseas. It must make provision for the establishment of basic iron and steel works utilising, if necessary, some of the iron ore of Western Australia which is being shipped to Japan, if known Queensland deposits are not of an acceptable economic grade. The Government, in its defence of its neglect of Queensland, tries to make out that although the State has never received any Federal assistance for water and power it has received financial assistance for such projects as beef roads, brigalow development and the Mount Isa railway, and even for the sugar industry. It conveniently neglects, however, to state that with the exception of a small proportion of the funds allocated to beef roads and coal ports all assistance for development projects has been by way of loans at crushing interest rates. In respect of the Mount Isa railway $34m has been loaned to Queensland, attracting $23m interest. For the brigalow development $9m has been advanced involving an interest bill of $4. 8m. For beef roads $8. 5m has been advanced and this has involved a total interest burden of $4.1m. The Government conveniently neglects to state that it has given huge sums of money to other States for railway gauge standardisation, hydroelectricity investigations, roads and so forth. No matter what measure we examine, the inescapable conclusion which must be reached is that so far as this Government is concerned Queensland is the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth and it has been blatantly discriminated against.
Another defence which the Government employs is to claim that the State has not advanced proposals for water conservation, irrigation and power or that insufficient technical knowledge is available. This is nonsense. The Fitzroy and Burdekin River basins are crying out for development in terms of water and power. A proposal for the Burdekin River was put before the Government in 1949. In the 1949 election campaign Sir Arthur Fadden promised that he would get on with the job immediately if he were elected. He was elected and he pigeonholed the Burdekin scheme. The Fitzroy River basin is a potential food bowl of the Commonwealth and plans for its development have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government time and time again. In 1962 a proposal relating to Nathan Gorge on the Dawson River was submitted to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance but it was completely ignored and there was no investigation. The Commonwealth Government, in effect, gave a flat No. The Nogoa Dam proposal was submitted in 1963. Investigation after investigation has taken place. Proposals relating to Maclntyre Brook and the border rivers were submitted to the Commonwealth Government jointly by Queensland and New South Wales. The
Kolan and Burnett Rivers scheme has been submitted. This is an area that was devastated by 2 years of drought which bankrupted one sugar mill and scores of farmers. The Mareeba-Dimbulah scheme also was submitted to the Commonwealth Government.
Let us not have this argument - this nonsense - that the Queensland Government over the years has not submitted proposals for financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. It has done so. Queensland is in a desperate state as regards water. The Government seems incapable of appreciating that water is the most precious long-term asset that we have. I thought the Prime Minister had got the message last November, but after he was returned with a large majority he appeared to have completely forgotten the urgency of water to Queensland. If the Government is honest about its desire to provide funds for Queensland and Western Australia, I point out that projects are waiting to proceed immediately. In Queensland the development of the Fitzroy and Burdekin basins should have the most important developmental priority as far as water development is concerned. The longer this Government stalls and refuses to act the more it will be condemned by the people of Queensland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Before 1 apply myself to the subject of this urgency motion let me say something about the purpose of the motion. It is perfectly plain that this is just a political stunt. It is quite incomprehensible that the time of the House should be wasted at a time like this just to try to relieve the pressure on the Australian Labor Party candidate in the Capricornia electorate. It is perfectly obvious to everyone in the House. I have never seen a more blatant political stunt in my 18 years in this chamber. It is perfectly obvious that things are not going well in Capricornia. The Labor Party has a candidate there who is so left wing that it has to take the pressure off him. The Opposition is trying to get out of saying what his views are and what the Labor Party’s views are on Vietnam, and members opposite are trying to get out of it by drawing attention to some other aspects of politics. They are trying to get away from referring to this most unpopular candidate and the unpopular policy he is putting forward, so they have taken this most unusual course. First of all, they are breaking an agreement that has lasted here for a long time- that when the Budget is being discussed there should not be urgency motions.
– What agreement?
– This is an agreement which has applied for a number of years. Of course, we know perfectly well that the Opposition could wait until after the end of next week when the Budget debate will be completed to bring forward an urgency motion, but this does not suit the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) because the by-election will be over by then. I am not surprised at the honourable member for Dawson putting on a stunt like this, but I am surprised at the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) lowering himself to come into what is just a plain political stunt of this sort. Important Bills are being delayed. We have, to come before the House, Bills of great importance and great urgency relating to repatriation, increasing repatriation benefits. We have Bills relating to housing, State grants, exemption from sales tax and other matters, yet here we have this futile stunt by the honourable member for Dawson to try to delay the House so that he can do a little bit of campaigning for the Capricornia byelection.
Let me come to the topic which is before us. The honourable member for Dawson, says that the Commonwealth Government ought to have given finance to the Queensland Government to enable it to proceed with power and water projects. Let me refer, firstly, to the financial problems of Queensland in the broad and then to the water and power development projects that are under way in Queensland. Basically, Queensland receives its funds from four different sources. These are, firstly. State taxes; secondly, loan funds, and of course we know that the Commonwealth which has the right to 20% of the loan funds has waived that right and made all the loan funds available to the States; thirdly, the financial assistance grants which this year in Queensland will amount to $138.5m; and, fourthly, specific purpose payments made by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government which this year will total $65. lm.
It might be of interest to honourable members to know of some of these specific purpose payments which are being made by the Commonwealth to the States. They comprise payments for beef roads. Commonwealth aid roads, brigalow development, natural disasters, universities, teachers colleges, colleges of advanced education, science laboratories, teacher training, the new softwood forestry loan to enable the States to step up their planting of softwoods, water resources assessments, stream gauging construction and so forth. I could also mention a number of smaller projects. But here are four different ways in which the Queensland Government obtains funds. With the first three ways it can spend the money in any way it likes. This has enabled it to provide a vast number of water and power projects.
I mentioned that there were seventeen water conservation projects now under way in Queensland where the expenditure exceeds Sim. In fact I was wrong because there are twenty projects. Admittedly many of these are water supply projects for cities and towns but a number of them are also irrigation projects. As a result of this wise use of its very considerable resources the Queensland Government has an area of well over one quarter of a million acres under irrigation. In fact the figure is 332,534 acres.
The Queensland Government has not asked for assistance for power projects during the time that I have been Minister for National Development. The State’s installed power capacity has increased by 32% since 1963. This has been done out of the very large funds available to the Queensland Government. It is true that the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth Government, through me, for two leans for water conservation. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson. It is of interest to me that he mentioned the Nogoa scheme because in 1963 the State Government approached the Commonwealth Government and asked for a report from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on the economics of the Nogoa scheme. The honourable member for
Dawson was in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at that time. I do not know whether he was asked to do any work on this scheme, but the net result of the investigation was that the Bureau reported unfavourably on the scheme. Since that time further studies have been carried out by the Queensland Government using the same figures that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics used except that the Queensland Government incorporated some later estimated results on the growing of various crops and found an economic result.
– Perhaps the honourable member for Dawson was still in the Bureau.
– That is the only project which has come forward until fairly recently when the Commonwealth made an announcement that it would devote about $50m over the next 5 years for additional water conservation in the States. That amount was over and above the amounts the States were already using. I would be the first to admit that the Commonwealth Government could perhaps have been a little bit quicker in getting its letters off to the States asking them for particular projects. It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who seems to be interested in this matter, has said that the delay was 9 months but in fact after about 6i months the Government was in touch with the States and asked them for their projects. Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the honourable member for Dawson ever spoil a good story by sticking to the truth. We are now awaiting the requests of the States. We have already seen some of them.
An additional project that has been requested by the Queensland Government besides the Nogoa scheme is the Kolan scheme. We are looking at both these projects in the context of the $50m water conservation programme over 5 years. While we are pressing ahead with the greatest urgency, it is quite impossible to proceed until we have all the requests from the States. So far only half of them have come in. I have done my utmost and so has my Department but naturally the States want to be sure that their cases are properly documented when it is presented. It is easy for the Opposition to say that the Government has not done enough, and to single, out some individual project in this regard. We were told in the Press recently that we have a promising Opposition. Well, it certainly promises. It promised the world during the last general election. It is most interesting to note that despite extravagant promises, implementation of which would have involved raising hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue there was practically no mention of water conservation in the Opposition’s policy speech for the last election. There was a very pious and wishy-washy statement that it was a tragedy to see water rushing out into the sea in Queensland. That statement meant absolutely nothing. The Opposition did not promise that Labor government would spend $1 extra on water conservation. The only thing it did promise was construction of the major dam on the Ord River and we all know that was done for political purposes to try and increase Labor’s support in Western Australia.
We have been discussing specific purpose payments. Specific purpose payments are only one way - and perhaps not even the major way - in which the Commonwealth assists the States. As a Government we believe in private enterprise. We believe that the basic way to assist development is to discover and assess resources, and then carry out research into their development. For example, the Commonwealth Government is giving a forestry loan to the States to enable them to expand their plantings. This will amount to $20m over the next 5 years. These are the important ways in which a nation progresses. We have spent large sums on assessing and mapping. National mapping by my Department alone is costing nearly $3m per annum and work of a similar value is being done by the Army survey team and the hydrological units of the Navy. The Navy’s work is subsidised by the Commonwealth Government if the Navy is unable to finance it.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources has made a great contribution in discovering and assessing the resources of this country. In some cases that Bureau has been directly responsible for discovering vast deposits of minerals and in other cases the work it has done - particularly with geological mapping - has led companies to these discoveries. The Government is contributing $5.7m per annum to the Bureau. It is also contributing $ 11.8m in oil search subsidy. This amount has not only helped to discover oil but also it was instrumental in the discovery of vast phosphate deposits in. Queensland. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been allocated $56m this year for improving the standard of farming in the north as well as the south of Australia. This work is done in close consultation with the State departments of agriculture. The money is raised through the beef research levy and other means. I have mentioned that we are making $20m available over the next 5 years to the States in order to step up forestry planning.
There are four ways in which the Commonwealth assists the States in expanding and developing. The first is in the mapping, assessment and development of basic resources. The second way is the provision of services and facilities which act as a catalyst. Here we have such things as beef roads, on which we have expended vast sums in the north, particularly in Queensland. Any honourable member who has been in this area will know that this scheme has made a tremendous difference to the development of Queensland. We have the brigalow scheme now coming into operation and we can already see a greatly improved turnoff there. I was interested when I recently visited Rockhampton to discover that the two meat works there are now working full time. Admittedly they have their peaks and troughs but the interesting thing is that they are working the whole time whereas a few years ago they worked only for a few months and in the intervening period the people employed there would either drift down south to get other jobs or else receive social service payments. We have had a very big programme for the improvement of harbours, railway facilities, and port facilities. For example, the coal loader at Gladstone, in the electorate of Capricornia, was a project that was assisted by the Commonwealth.
Then we come to the provision of the right climate for development. Let me list the kinds of things that go towards making the right climate. They include working with the knowhow and skills of overseas companies, accepting overseas capital in combination with Australian capital, paying bounties on cotton, giving the tobacco grower access to a market, development of iron ore deposits by lifting the ban on the export of iron ore, granting tax concessions and granting loans to the sugar industry. They include the Government’s vast and direct expenditure in civil aviation, defence and telecommunications and the payment of a subsidy on the production of superphosphate.
What I have said is sufficient to show that what we have heard has been nothing more than the familiar bleating of the honourable member for Dawson. He is trying to tell the people of Queensland that they do not know how to run their State. Of course everybody could use more money. We could, but there is a limit. The initiation of this debate is an example of politics at its lowest ebb.
– I rise to order and- refer you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to standing order 321 . The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) referred to the Nogoa irrigation project. He referred to my having had something to do with that project when I was an officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I did have something to do with it. I was Assistant Director of the Bureau at the time and I organised the commencement’ of the investigation before leaving the Bureau for the Department of National Development. The Minister has stated that the Bureau has reported unfavourably on the project. Under standing order 321 I now ask the Minister to table the Bureau’s report.
-Order! Is the Minister prepared to table the document?
– The document is a confidential one between the Commonwealth and Queensland. Queensland has said that the Commonwealth referred unfavourably to the project. This is a document which I will not table.
– Speaking to the point of order, surely-
-Order! The honourable member for Wills is out of order. The honourable member for Dawson has asked that a document be tabled under standing order 321. That standing order provides that if the Minister claims the document to be confidential there is no responsibility on him to table it. The Minister has said that the document is confidential, so that is the end of the matter.
– It is very improper for the Minister to refer-
-Order! The honourable member for Dawson cannot canvass the ruling of the Chair regarding the interpretation of the Standing Orders.
– Over a long period of time the Commonwealth Government has failed to provide proper assistance to Queensland for the development of water and power supplies. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has seen fit to label this debate as a political stunt. We come into this place for the purpose of politics; to stand up for our constituents and the State we represent in the field of politics. At no time did the Minister endeavour to refute most of the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Indeed, the Minister recited a long list of projects undertaken by the Government, such as forestry projects. The Minister said that we on this side of the House were wasting time in initiating this debate. I am sure that statement will go down well in Queensland. The Minister described the debate as a futile stunt. He said that there are more important matters to debate. He took the liberty of mentioning such matters as repatriation, housing, States grants and sales tax exemptions. We do not dispute the importance of all those matters but we do refute the accusation that this debate is a political stunt occasioned by next Saturday’s by-election in Capricornia.
– Is it just coincidence?
– It is not coincidence. Today is only one of many occasions on which this matter has been raised. In my maiden speech in this place in 1962 I dealt with this subject. If the Minister is right it may be contended that all the arguments advanced on this subject over a great many years by the honourable member for Dawson and other honourable members on this side have been political stunts. The Minister has not seen fit to come to Capricornia and explain the activities of his Department. The Government has been anxious to steer clear of this issue in the by-election. Those of us who represent Queensland consti tuencies and other northern constituencies would be recreant to our duty if we failed to pursue this matter, which is of such vital importance to Queensland at this stage.
The Minister referred to the various sources from which Queensland and other States raised money. He made some interesting statements. One was that the Queensland Government has not sought assistance for power projects. The Minister’s statement contradicts the statements that have been made from time to time in the Queensland Parliament. As a representative of a Queensland electorate I ask the Minister now to look at this matter. In its report for 1966 the State Electricity Commission of Queensland refers at some length to the problem of finance and states:
It is clear that until the State’s generating capacity can be integrated into one system, the maximum benefits on large scale generation with large sets cannot be fully realised.
On capital alone, without allowing for the increased efficiency of larger plant, the generating sets at present being installed in central and north Queensland are costing nearly double the cost per kilowatt of the largest sets at present being installed in New South Wales.
Unfortunately the high cost of extra high voltage transmission lines required to transfer electrical energy from the cheapest sources of fuel in central Queensland continues to be a bar to the integration of south, central and north Queensland’s electricity supply systems.
In addition the availability of capital for such development constitutes a major problem.
There is already a severe shortage which is retarding the extension of electricity into new areas in the current financial year.
The Minister referred to the increased generation of electricity in Queensland, but in its latest report the State Electricity Commission states:
There is already a severe shortage which is retarding the extension of electricity into new areas in the current financial year.
If it is correct, as the Minister has claimed, that the Queensland Government has made no approach for finance for power development, this is an indictment of the Country Party-Liberal Party Government of Queensland and is an important matter that should be placed on the record of this Parliament.
We Queensland members, in activating ourselves in this matter, can point to what the Commonwealth has done in other Stales. We are grateful for what the Commonwealth has done in certain avenues in Queensland. We know that the beef roads scheme, which was established by the
Chifley Government and discontinued by this Government, was instituted after the 1961 general election. We do not seek to take anything from the Government for what it has done for Queensland. It is our purpose to point to the assistance that is being given to other States in this financial year where no such assistance is being given to Queensland.
Let me refer to that interesting document tabled with the Budget Papers and entitled Commonwealth Payments to or for the States 1967-68’. Under the heading ‘Power and Fuel’ the document shows that the Commonwealth has offered to provide $47m to Tasmania for the purpose of power generation. The document says that pending finalisation the Commonwealth is providing $6.3m in 1967-68. I submit that the significant words are ‘pending finalisation’. Other States are not kept waiting. South Australia is to receive from the Commonwealth $15m for the construction of s gas pipeline from Gidgealpa-Moomba to Adelaide, $5m of which will be provided in 1967-68 by way of an interest-bearing loan. In the case of water conservation, I refer first to the Blowering Reservoir. Payments up to 30th June this year amounted to $16,146,000, which included a payment of $6,233,000 in the last financial year. It is estimated that $4m will be provided for the current financial year. The Commonwealth provides half the cost incurred by the States for these projects and finances them by means of interest bearing loans. Provision in the Budget for water supply improvements in Western Australia amounts to $10.5m. I should like to make the point that we are not condemning the Commonwealth or criticising it for making these payments to other States; we are condemning the Commonwealth for its failure in this document ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68’ to show similar consideration for Queensland.
One could go back over many years on this question. In the ‘Courier-Mail’ of 4th September this year appeared an article by Harold Richter, Queensland Minister for Local Government and Conservation, who is a member of the Country Party. He said:
A strong case has been submitted for $33.6m of the $50m Commonwealth funds to be made available for water conservation in the next 5 years to be spent in Queensland.
I recall some years ago asking questions about State submissions to the Commonwealth on previous development projects in Queensland for which the State Government of Queensland had asked for $33. 6m assistance. Naturally Queensland will be very fortunate if it gets $33.6m of the $50m that the Commonwealth is making available under the present scheme. But the significant fact is that Queensland has received nothing from the Commonwealth for water development.
– In 18 years.
– Yes, in 18 years, and that is a long time. In the 1949 election campaign the then Leader of the Country Party, a former Treasurer, the honourable member for Mcpherson, the right honourable Arthur Fadden, promised that the Commonwealth Government would assist Queensland to complete the Burdekin scheme, but nothing happened about that. It was claimed of these scheme in Queensland that they were not economically sound, or alternatively it was suggested that if they were economically sound they did not require Commonwealth assistance. At this stage, on the eve of the by-election in Capricornia, without in any way attempting to avoid the charge that we are quite properly bringing before the Parliament, the Government still is doing nothing about these projects. I make the point again that in 18 years not one penny of Commonwealth assistance has gone to Queensland for the vital matters of water and power. The Government is to be condemned for not making the provision for Queensland that it has made for every other State.
– As we understand it, Queensland made submissions to the Commonwealth for assistance with the Emerald water scheme. I believe that those submissions went to the northern division of the Department of National Development last year and that the scheme is now under consideration. This is the normal procedure by which States present proposals to the Commonwealth for water schemes. I understand that these submissions were received before the promises were made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in November 1966 on the occasion of the policy speech for that election at which the Government received a record majority. That policy was backed by the people of Australia, including the people of Queensland. Since this promise was made the Queensland Government has submitted three proposals for assistance under the $50m water resources plan. Priority was sought for the Nogoa scheme. Two other schemes proposed were near Bundaberg, namely, the Isis and the Kolan-Burnett.
– The Isis was not part of the proposal.
– Someone told me that it was. One scheme was the Kolan-Burnett and the other was the Bowen-Broken scheme. These schemes are now being considered by the Commonwealth. At this stage the other States have not completed their proposals.
– What about the Ord?
– There are six other States; we have to consider not only the Ord and Queensland. The other States have not completed their proposals under the $50m scheme and this means that the Commonwealth cannot allocate the money. The matter that we are now debating has been brought up while these schemes are still pending. It is normal administrative practice to look at al] the data before proceeding with a scheme. This involves a tremendous amount of work in investigating, analysing and studying the projects. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who was a public servant in the Federal administration, would know that a certain amount of time has to elapse to enable the suggestions for schemes to come from the States.
I repeat that Queensland now has three proposals before the Commonwealth for assistance. But Queensland has an excellent Irrigation and Water Supply Commissioner, Mr Haigh, and Mr Mccutcheon, who was his deputy, is now in the Department of National Development where he is dealing with the proposals. The method by which these schemes are being considered is perfectly normal. There can be no suggestion that there has been any victimisation of Queensland. To my knowledge Queensland has advanced proposals for four schemes. First there was the Emerald water scheme, which was proposed before the $S0m proposal was mentioned, and there have been three since then. The other States have not yet completed their proposals.
– The Ord is completed.
– As a matter of fact I went to Exmouth Gulf a few days ago and the Water Commissioner for Western Australia was completing the final proposals for the Ord scheme while sitting beside me in the aeroplane on the way to Perth.
– Did the honourable member give him a hand?
– I do not know whether I would be able to help him. Technical men have certain abilities which I do not have. Nevertheless, I believe that sometimes farmers can make better judgments than some technical men, but certainly not better than those that would be made by Mr Don Munro. It is clear that there has been no victimisation of Queensland.
If that State is short of power and water it is not because we have not a stable government in Australia. Our government is stable and this is gradually being realised by people throughout the world and acknowledged by people such as His Excellency, Signor Saragat. Investors realise that it is safe to invest in Australia and for this reason we have seen enormous investment in north Queensland. It would be boring to honourable members if I were to list all the developments that have occurred in that area; suffice it to say that the development of Queensland since 1959 has been tremendous. But the development has put a tremendous load upon the State’s power resources. There has been a 40% increase in demand for power in central Queensland. The various States go to the Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conference with demands for all sorts of things. I sympathise with them, but we cannot get more out of a cake than we put into it. Already we are committed to spending much more than we have and we are hoping that increased revenue will enable us to meet the demands. I suggest to the honourable gentleman who introduced this proposal - the honourable member for Dawson - that after 10 years of Labor Government in Australia there would be no demand for power in north Queensland because there would not be investment in that area. A Labor Government would put its investment into a completely different form of project.
The enormous development of the north has caused this kind of blockage in the financial pipeline and has created difficulties. At present there is a demand for power and for water. I suggest that nobody would know this better than the honourable member for Dawson because he has been in a situation in the Commonwealth administration where he would know. what was going on. I do not know whether you, Mr Deputy Chairman, were in this place in 1959 when we of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee went to the Ord River for the first time.
– Honourable members opposite are now aware of the scheme having seen documentary films about it. The honourable member for Wills has come to this place since 1959. When we went to the Ord River in 1959, what was being done in north Queensland under a Queensland Labor Government? What was there anywhere in the north? There were just whitening bones, neglect and defeatism. The Labor Party said: ‘Spend the money here; do not go north’. The situation in Queensland creates a terrific demand for services of all kinds. Development there is the result of stable Australian government, and this is the kind of government that attracts investment from overseas. The development we see now has occurred in the 8 short years of our history from 1st August 1959, when it began.
I understand that the principle adopted in court cases is to attack along your line of weakness and against the strength. Here the Government has a magnificent record, and Labor is attempting to attack the Government hoping that the knockers will succeed. We in this country are the finest knockers in the world. We hold the trumps and all the aces as knockers. If we say that the Government has done a good job, everyone is bored. But if we say that the Government has failed to provide power and water, people listen. It is very important to note that the honourable member did not say anything about investment in the State, about the provision of beef roads, about the Townsville pasture research station, about the Laverack Barracks, about dams that have been built or about the provision of power. The honourable member for Dawson selected two matters, power and water. Until now they have normally been the prerogative of the States and the States resent being told what to do. His Queensland Government would resent the Snowy Mountains Authority telling if how to undertake its own works. The State governments will attend to these matters by themselves.
But the honourable member for Dawson has selected power and water. Already the Commonwealth Government has made provision for water and three schemes are now being considered by the Department of National Development. The first is Nogoa. I have been there to see it. I do not know how many honourable members opposite have been there, but I should not think very many had. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who is interjecting lyrically, has been there. The second is the Kolan scheme and the third is Bowen Broken. They are under consideration. Does anyone think that these proposals will be rejected? Everyone knows that they are being processed now and that the money is available. We all know that they will go ahead and that Queensland will be served.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The subject of the debate is the failure of the Government to provide financial assistance to Queensland for urgently required power and water development projects. There is no question that there are power and water development projects in Queensland for which the Queensland Government has long sought Commonwealth assistance. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) have not disputed that in Queensland there are power and water development projects that are urgently required. The Minister chided the Opposition for having raised this matter on the eve of the Capricornia by-election. This is quite clear. We have done so, but we have not raised it only in the House. We have raised the question of these water and power development projects in Capricornia for several weeks past. It is notable that the Minister for National Development has not appeared in Capricornia during the byelection campaign. The closest he has come to it is to appear on a ‘Meet the Press* television programme in Brisbane last weekend. The honourable member for Macarthur, 1 believe, has not been in Capricornia either.
The Minister who might be thought to take some responsibility ministerially for development projects in Queensland, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), went to Capricornia, but he did not refer to these development projects in Queensland. It is because my colleagues and I have been unable to obtain advice about solutions to these problems from Ministers of the coalition Government or from the conflicting candidates representing the Government Parties or from the fourth candidate supporting them that we have raised this subject here. All four candidates at the byelection have conceded that this is the principal matter for consideration in the by-election. The Treasurer did not mention the subject in Capricornia. He is not in the House, he is overseas, and cannot deal with it. The Minister for National Development has still not dealt with this subject matter.
The honourable member for Macarthur made one specific charge about us. He said that none of us had gone to the Ord. The Ord is not mentioned in the subject matter raised for debate now, but I think I can say that no man in Australia knows the Ord and its potential better than does the man who raised this subject. I visited the Ord in 1957, 1960, 1963 and this year. Commonwealth and State Labor governments set up the Kimberley research station on the Ord.
However, let me return to Queensland, which is the subject we are debating now. The Minister said that I had said that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) had taken 9 months to write to the Premiers seeking their proposals for the implementation of the promise be made in his policy speech on 8th November last. On that occasion he promised to introduce a national water resources development programme. The Minister assures me that it was only 61 months. Nobody can say that the honourable member for Dawson, the late member for Capricornia and I have not sought information as to when proposals have been made, not only for this programme but also for the future use of the Snowy Mountains Authority. We have all been fobbed off by the answers of the Prime Minister. We are told either that the question is premature because the Premiers have not yet been consulted or that the question is confidential since negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Premiers are not revealed.
Perhaps I can refer honourable members to some of the history, as far as I have been concerned. On 18th April last I asked the Prime Minister a question without notice concerning the proposal in his policy speech to make available an additional $50m over the next 5 years for water development projects. I quoted the conflicting remarks he had made and answers given by him and by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) on this subject. He told me:
It is my recollection that there has been correspondence between some of the Premiers and the Government on this matter. I shall try to get an authoritative statement for the honourable gentleman as promptly as I can.
I received an answer on 20th July. The terms of it led me to believe that the correspondence had gone only just before that date, that is, after a lapse of about 9 months. It turns out that the Prime Minister in fact took only 61 months to write to the Premiers instead of 9 months and he took 3 months to write to me to give me an answer to my question. I think we are entitled to more prompt replies than that.
I have quoted the answer that suggested that the letters took 9 months. A letter was included in Hansard on 15th August when we came back, and honourable members can see the contents of it by referring to Hansard of that date. The inference to be drawn is that the Premiers received their letters only just before I received mine. The Prime Minister said:
Since you raised the matter, my colleagues and I have determined details of the programme and I have written to the State Premiers outlining our plans for its implementation.
I then put a question on the notice paper on 15th August asking the Prime Minister to say when he wrote to the Premiers concerning the promise made in his policy speech and to inform me of the date and nature of their replies. On 19th September, 5 weeks later, he gave me an answer which I think can properly be said to fob me off. It did not give me the information at all. If any of us are in doubt as to what happened and when, it is the Prime Minister himself who has left us in doubt.
When the Minister was asked to table the document from which he quoted he said: I think it is confidential. Let me take it under consideration’. Members of both the Queensland Parliament and this Parliament are entitled to have this information. In the State Parliament on 22nd February last, the Premier was asked a question about the Nogoa scheme by Mr O’Donnell, M.L.A. In reply, the Premier said that the State’s detailed submission had been with the Commonwealth for some time. He continued:
I am in the course of writing to the Prime Minister asking that the matter be expedited as much as possible.
As we know, this project was proposed to the Commonwealth by the Queensland Government 4 years ago. Yet the Premier himself has recently said that he is asking for it to be expedited. On 22nd March, in answer to the same member, the Premier said:
Advice just to hand from the Right Honourable the Prime Minister indicates that the Commonwealth Government has not completed its consideration of the National Water Resources programme.
That will include the Nogoa and Emerald schemes. He went on:
There is undoubtedly disappointment at the delay in reaching a decision, and I share this disappointment. Personal as well as official representations have been made to the Commonwealth.
There is also the matter of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. It appears from an answer that the Premier gave to Mr Coburn, M.L.A., in the Queensland Parliament that the promise which the Prime Minister made on 28th August to write to the Premiers about the future of the Authority was not fulfilled by his writing to the Premiers until 9th November.
– Ninth November? The honourable gentleman has it mixed up.
– Ninth November. I am quoting from the Queensland Hansard of 11th November. On 22nd February, the Queensland Premier said that he had submitted the State’s reply to the Prime Minister on 22nd November. I had a question about this subject on the notice paper of this House when the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers and when they replied. It is quite clear that there has been delay.
Every State except Queensland has received from the Commonwealth assistance for specific water conservation proposals. AH the south eastern States have received from the Commonwealth assistance for specific, power proposals. Queensland, which has the most lavish water resources and the most expensive electric power in Australia, receives no assistance at all. When the Prime Minister at last - 6i months after his policy speech - wrote to the Premiers, he stated:
Power will not be included in any proposals you make to us.
Every State has been assisted except Queensland, the State which has the most plentiful water and the most expensive electricity. It is also the State where future industrial, pastoral and agricultural development cannot take place until power is cheaper and more water is harnessed.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it is accepted that the initiation of this discussion represents an election operation on behalf of the Opposition. This indicates the concern of honourable members opposite as a result of their recent assessment of their chances in the Capricornia by-election. Obviously, they do not understand the requirements of Queensland. They depict the top priority need of Queensland as being a need for power and water. How would the average Queenslander accept that sort of suggestion? I happen to be able to speak as a Queenslander, as I am a second generation Queenslander from the Gulf of Carpentaria region. With all due respect to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), we in Queensland speak of blow-ins from the south. They do not know our requirements, particularly those of north Queensland. Not only in north Queensland but throughout northern Australia mining and the raising of beef cattle have been the two great industries that have been economically important since Europeans first went there. This Government has given the highest priority to the advancement of these great industries, and it is in these fields that we have made the greatest advances. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has mentioned pasture improvement. Pastures of Townsville lucerne will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in income to northern Queensland and all the rest of northern Australia.
The important thing, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that we in this Government try to provide the things that Queenslanders require. We have to consider what sort of governments advance the interests not only of north Queensland but also of northern Australia as a whole. We in Queensland suffered years of stagnation under the policies of people of the same political complexion as the present Opposition in this Parliament. Let honourable members opposite ask any person in the Rockhampton and Gladstone districts to compare the present situation in those areas with the situation of about 10 years ago. Every person who is asked will acknowledge the transformation that has taken place. I point out, however, that this was achieved in the face of opposition by honourable members opposite, i recall that in my first year in this Parliament, when proposals were made for the sale of Moura coal to the Japanese, honourable gentlemen opposite opposed the idea.
– They did not.
– If the honourable member looks at Hansard he will find numerous references to their opposition to the proposal. But somehow this has dropped out of the picture now that a by-election in Capricornia is pending. I shall go there later this week and I shall remind the local people of this and other matters and I shall quote statements that have been made in this Parliament by honourable members opposite.
– They opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement also.
– They did, though it has meant many millions of dollars to us. The efforts of this Government have transformed central and northern Queensland, and, indeed, all of northern Australia. I mention particularly the large exports of iron ore that are taking place as a result of the discovery and development of the large iron ore reserves that we have. Our known reserves of iron ore have been increased from a reserve of, I think, about 395 million tons in a very short time. Our total reserves are now measured in thousands of millions of tons. The discovery of these reserves and their development are to the advantage of Australia as a whole and especially of Australians who live in remote parts. Mineral development is leading to the construction of harbours and railways in remote regions.
– Yes, it is wonderful. It is more than honourable members opposite could ever achieve. This Government is providing all these things in the north. Recently, I had the honour of opening an iron ore loading plant at Darwin. This is a stabilised operation that will greatly benefit the people of the Northern Territory. It will continue in existence for many years. The plant is loading large quantities of iron ore for export to Japan. This is the sort of development that we are providing in Darwin, which, today, is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia, with a growth rate of 10% per annum. The power needs of the city have expanded tremendously because of the speeding up of the population growth. So great are the power requirements of Darwin that we have had to accelerate the development of various stages of the expansion of the power house there. This kind of development and expansion will continue. The construction of beef roads in the north has done much to promote development there. This year the two meat works in the Northern Territory will kill 42,000 head of cattle. Three years ago the annual killed totalled only 26,000 head. Before this Government provided beef roads, virtually all the cattle turned off in the Territory went to other States to be fattened and killed, and were lost to the Territory.
The honourable member for Macarthur has spoken of the knockers. I thoroughly agree with him. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is one of the greatest knockers of northern Australia in this Parliament. He opposed the land title legislation that was introduced in the Northern Territory to provide security of tenure so as to encourage investment. He and the Leader of the Opposition did everything possible to ensure the defeat of that legislation, but fortunately the Legislative Council passed it. As a result, approximately $20m of overseas capital has been invested in the Territory by people who have faith in it. Despite what the honourable member for Dawson and the Leader of the Opposition have said, we have a tremendous record in north Australia. North Australia has never known the expansion that is taking place now. What has happened? This is most interesting. Of course we want power and water, and since the Liberal and Country Party Governments have been in power in the Commonwealth and in Queensland, Queensland has had more water conservation than ever before in its history. These people are realists. They put dams in the more closely settled areas of Queensland. There is the Leslie Dam near Warwick, theCoolmunda Dam near Inglewood and the Borumba Dam near Gympie.
– There is also the Tinaroo Dam.
– Yes, and there are a few others. These are the kind of works which must have priority. I would plank for the Kolan Dam, but we never hear the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) refer to it. Honourable members opposite talk about the Ord River project, but these other dams are the ones that we want in order to safeguard our already existing industries. Honourable members opposite have airy fairy ideas about the Ord River project. Of course, we will have the Ord River scheme eventually. In the Northern Territory in the heavy rainfall areas from Katherine north we have natural irrigation from the heavens every year. There are 32 million acres of land which receive natural irrigation. One can depend on the rainfall every year. We will want every penny we have to build roads, hospitals and schools when we have produced the climate in which free enterprise will further develop these areas as it is doing today. In an area such as Capricornia it is really extraordinary to put water conservation and power ahead of the great cattle industry.
I have mentioned that the Leader of the Opposition was a blow-in from the south. Although the honourable member for Dawson was born in Queensland, he has lived so long in the south that he is out of perspective with Queensland thinking. Honourable members opposite do not seem to realise that the cattle population in the central area west of Rockhampton is the densest in Australia. It is a great cattle population. The honourable member for Dawson has not mentioned what the Commonwealth has done in the brigalow scheme and in the further development of Rockhampton and the area to the west. These achievements are outstanding.
On the question of power, of course, the Queensland Government has built the Callide Dam to service the Calcap power scheme. But unfortunately no rain has fallen in the 2 years since the dam was constructed. It is out of operation. But we do not hear anybody crying out for power. Certainly we want water, but there are a lot of other things we would like in Queensland, and we will get them under the administration of this Government.
– Order! The discussion has now concluded.
Debate resumed from 6 September (vide page 890), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is one of a number of measures that continually come before this House because it affects in some way or another the financial relationships that exist between the Commonwealth and the States. I suppose that in any federation the problem that is hardest of solution is how one can get a scheme that satisfies all the component parts in the Federal structure. As we know, in our Federal structure there are three component parts or three levels of what might be called ‘government activity’. There is the Commonwealth or the Federal Government itself at Canberra; there are the various State governments; and there are the local governing bodies as they exist in Australia which in many respects threaten to become the poor relations of the system.
I begin by drawing the attention of honourable members to a quite interesting document that is now presented - and has been for a number of years - in association with the Budget. I refer to the document entitled ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68’. In Table 54 on page 93 is set out the total Commonwealth payments to or for the States from 1955-56 to 1967-68, both inclusive. In some respects it shows what a hotch-potch or haphazard arrangement has grown up around this very important problem. The table is- drawn up in a number of categories. They relate to general revenue grants, additional assistance grants, specific purpose payments of a revenue nature and specific purpose payments of a capital nature. They show the variations in the nature of the contributions made by the Commonwealth as the central controller of the purse, and there are very good reasons, both monetary and fiscal, why the Commonwealth should be the central controller of the mechanisms in this system.
The table shows that the total Commonwealth payments to or for the States in this financial year amount to approximately $l,359m. An amount of approximately $935m is provided for general revenue grants, or what was previously known as the ‘reimbursement arrangement’. This year, nothing is provided for additional assistance grants, which mainly have been given to tide the States over droughts, floods or adverse economic circumstances, because fortunately in this year no such circumstance exists. Specific purpose payments of a revenue nature total approximately $104m, and specific purpose payments of a capital nature total approximately $320m. As I have said, the total Commonwealth payments amount to approximately $1,3 59m. In Australia by reason of the uniform tax arrangement, in many respects the Commonwealth is now the principal contributor to most State Budgets. I do not know whether there is any State where less than half of its revenue is not derived from grants of one kind or another from the central Federal Government.
This arrangement is never an easy one. It is never one with which the States or the local bodies feel entirely satisfied. Recently we had the example in Victoria where the State Treasurer, who believes that the arrangements are not satisfactory from his point of view, decided to introduce a new tax into the Victorian system. Although it has some similarities, I think, with a tax in Western Australia and Queensland, nevertheless, it is a new tax in Vic toria. It seems to me, to some extent, to breach the arrangements that were entered into at recent Premiers Conferences.
I draw the attention of the House 10 some of the very interesting statements that are contained in this document entitled Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68’, and particularly to onebeginning at page 67. It is called ‘Appendix II - Part 1 - History of General Revenue Assistance’. As this statement points out, genera] revenue assistance was originally called ‘taxation reimbursement’. It has now become ‘general revenue assistance’. On page 70 of this document is a section dealing with the situation in 1959-60. I take it that as it is published by the Government Printer and presented by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) himself this statement has some authority. Referring to the proposals for the years following 1959-60 the document says:
It was also made clear by the Commonwealth that its proposals were based on the assumptions that the States and their authorities would continue to meet Commonwealth pay-roll tax and that the distribution of taxing powers between the Commonwealth and the States would remain unchanged. If any changes in Commonwealth-State relations having a major effect on the finances of the States were to occur during the currency of the new revenue grant arrangements, they would be subject to review.
In other words in 1959-60 there apparently were rumblings of a sort on the part of some of the States - or all of them, for all I know. Apparently the rumblings were stifled and the assurance given that if the arrangements followed in 1959-60 were to continue it would be on the understanding, firstly, that the Commonwealth would continue to levy pay-roll tax on State instrumentalities and, secondly, that the States would not move in any way towards new taxes. That position apparently continued until fairly recently. The same document says at page 71:
In September 1964 the Victorian Government announced its intention of introducing a ‘marginal’ income tax to be payable by individuals living in Victoria to operate as from the beginning of 1965-66 and requested the Commonwealth Government to collect the tax on its behalf. The Commonwealth refused to accede to the Victorian request, pointing out that an arrangement involving the abandonment or modification of uniform taxation could only be contemplated if it was supported by all States, contained adequate safeguards for the interests of taxpayers and provided a sound basis for future financial relationships between the Commonwealth and each of the States.
The Victorian Government then indicated that it did not propose to set up the machinery for assessment and collection of its own income tax. Although Victoria again raised the question at the Premiers Conference held in June 1965, none of the other Slates supported the idea of a marginal’ State income tax.
In the Budget presented in Victoria a week or two ago the Premier of that State, Sir Henry Bolte, introduced a new tax of a kind. It seems to be rather vague as to details and as to whether it is some kind of a pay-roll tax or a resurrection of his old concept of the marginal income tax. I believe it is to be levied initially at a fairly low rate of1c for every $10 of income. How the income is to be determined, unless the honourable gentleman sets up his own system of collection, seems a little obscure. If he does not set up collection machinery then it seems that the tax will be little different from a flat pay-roll tax. Business places will be able to pass it on, but the poor old wage earner will have no such mechanism of evasion available to him. In other words it will further aggravate the distorted balance of taxes as they operate in the Australian system. Apparently the Treasurer in 1959-60 was able to use a more persuasive bludgeon than was the Treasurer at the last Premier’s conference. This raises, however, and raises fairly centrally, the whole question of Commonwealth-State financial relationships.
I suggest that there are a number of courses open for the solution of the problem, which I agree is not an easy one to solve. One method, of course, would be for the Commonwealth to vacate in favour of the States some of the taxation fields it now occupies. One such field, the vacation of which by the Commonwealth I have heard advocated from time to time, is that of the pay-roll tax itself. This is one possible mechanism of change. A second mechanism of change is to alter the formula to give the States a fairer deal, and a third possibility - I do not know that these are necessarily mutually exclusive; there could be combinations of all three - that has been suggested is that the States refer to the Commonwealth, for carrying out by the Commonwealth, some of their own constitutional responsibilities. In this connection mention has been made of railways as a form of transport and hospitals as a form of health service.
At this stage I am not advocating one or other of these proposals. What I do want to try to show is tha bungle and botch that the present system represents. If honourable members will read some of the documents that have been supplied on this occasion they will see just what sort of a mess the mechanisms in many respects have got into. In my view this is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than on pages 19 and 20 of the document I have already referred to where it deals with university education in particular. University education, after all, is of fairly fundamental importance in our community. This is a field which the Commonwealth did not enter until 1951-52. The mechanism that still operates requires that for every $1 that the Commonwealth contributes the States shall pay $1.85, which they can raise either directly from their own revenues or from the fees which they charge students. In many respects what is called the matching grant, whilst it appears as a piece of benevolence on the part of the Commonwealth, can in some respects be regarded as a sort of ingenious thumbscrew by which the Commonwealth is able to determine the rate at which certain facilities shall expand - not at the rate at which the community wants them to expand - but at the rate that the Commonwealth determines in the name of financial prudence. After all, it is easy enough for a wealthy man with an income of, say, $10,000 a year to approach a poorer partner with an income of $2,000 a year and say to him: ‘Let us go into a venture I have in mind, and for every $10,000 you put up I will put up $6,500’. That is something of the sort of arrangement that applies with respect to universities so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
WhatI wanted to point out is the horrible hotch-potch that has developed with university finances. I am taking this only as a kind of case example, albeit a very sorry one, and I am showing the kind of messy mechanism that now surrounds the determination of the development of universities within the Australian community. I remember the former Prime Minister in about 1951 making his first speech upon this important matter. I think he was justifiably proud that he was the first Prime Minister to venture into this field of assistance by the Commonwealth to the States. In due course the Australian Universities Commission was set up and I understood that its purpose was somehow to take these matters out of the realm of politics. We had the example recently of the Commission making its recommendations on the basis of what is called a trienium or 3-year period. For the 1967-69 trienium the commission recommended a certain sum which was supposedly agreed upon by consultation among all the universities. The Commonwealth Government then decided to cut the recommendations for the triennium by, I think, $56m. It seems to me that if we are to have the mechanism of an independent commission, surely, unless there is a very good reason to the contrary, we ought to adopt its recommendations. Further, no-one can claim in this Parliament that in an annual expenditure of $6,500m an additional sum of $56m could not have been found over a 3-year period. This is just one example of the peculiar position that exists at the various levels of governments concerning their responsibilities.
I would like to direct the attention of honourable members to another matter that is described on page 25. This is another matter that was primarily political in the last election. The Government parties, as part of their election proposals, promised certain assistance to teachers colleges. This matter is described on page 25 as follows:
The provision of this assistance . . .
That is, assistance for teacher training colleges - is subject to the understanding that the States do not reduce their own expenditure on teacher training . . .
I ask parenthetically: ‘How would you determine whether the expenditure by the States had been of a certain kind’? This seems to me to be a rigmarole. The document goes on to state: . . and to the condition that at least 10% of the number of places arising from the accommodation so provided - whether new or replacement or .whether teaching or residential - are to be available for student teachers not bonded to State Education Departments.
It seems to me that here we have an awful example of the kind of things that are being done. We are not facing up to the question of whether we want the universities as such regardless of whether they are provided by the Commonwealth, the States or local government, we are not facing up to the question of whether we want teacher training institutions. To date, these institutions have been provided in two ways - by State education departments and by religious institutions to train their own teachers. However, for a certain purpose and for party political advantage, the Government has cut across this mess of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
An example of how trivial the Government can be in some provisions can be found in table 54 which I cited earlier. We find there that grants as small as $30,000 are provided for particular purposes. The items in this table include blood transfusion services, domestic housekeeper services, disposal of overseas ships garbage and road safety practices. I do not suggest that these functions are trivial but they are insignificant in terms of economic cost. Yet they have to be carried out by means of Federal subvention rather than by the particular States looking after them themselves. This shows the sorry state to which this very significant matter of Commonwealth-State financial relationships has come.
Later this evening I want to go into a particular field of development in some detail. This is the field known as local government. Whether the Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Australian Labor Party likes it or not, we can see in the foreseeable future - I am talking in terms of 5 to 10 years - anything but an increase proportionately in the number of people who dwell’ in cities as distinct from country areas. Someone this afternoon quoted the great Dr Johnson. I remember that he said that in Scotland the most noble prospect was the highway to England. With all respect to the Country Party, in many ways the most pleasing prospect for people in country areas is the road out of the town to the city. There may be reasons for this. However, all I am suggesting is that if we want to reverse that trend, we cannot do so with the relationships that exist between the Commonwealth and the States. I ask the honourable gentlemen to have a look at the table in the document which deals with the provision of semi-government and local works in the States. They will find that there is proportionately greater provision for semi-government and local government works than there is for State works.
I am suggesting that perhaps in this field of local government - and local government after all is a devolved authority - these bodies are set up purely as creations of their own States. It may well be that there are far too many of these bodies and that far too many of them are not only inefficient but unable to organise themselves sufficiently to clamour for their real social and economic rights. I have been rather struck by the contrast which Queensland and, to some extent, South Australia, affords to the pattern in other States in relation to the provision of works at the State level and the ‘semi-government’ and ‘local government’ level. The existing pattern has rather a quaint historic origin. I suppose there is no more quaint institution in Australia than the corporation known as the Melbourne City Council which, I understand, was created well over 100 years ago and which thinks that it can still deal with problems of the City of Melbourne. Batman described Melbourne as a nice place for a village, but nowadays it is a nice place to get out of ns often as one can.
One of the places where, oddly enough, I found I could see all these situations con
If any other disease were to cut so wide a swathe through our community, the obligation of medicine would be apparent to find the enthusiasm, the personnel and the resources for a fullscale epidemiological attack on the problem.
The problem they referred to was that in Australia over 3,000 people die and at least 80,000 people sustain significant injuries from traffic accidents each year. They point to the need for research at the medical level, at the level of the structure of hospitals, at the level of road building and at the level of motor car construction. They summed the situation up by referring to a succinct observation of one of their colleagues who said:
It seems that the hospital regards the arrival of a traffic injury victim at its door with an air of surprise that such an event should occur.
We all know that every night, and more so on some nights, a number of injured persons will be taken to hospital. Indeed, quite a number of the injuries will prove fatal.
– This is especially so on a Saturday night.
– -That is so. In the publication are detailed some of the stark realities of the situation. The article comments:
Involved in the 822 accidents investigated were 267 drivers, 257 passengers, 243 pedestrians, 91 motor cyclists, 70 pedal cyclists, 32 motor scooter riders, 28 pillion passengers, and 12 others; 188 of the 1,000 died. The age of victims ranged from less than 1 year to 87 years, with maximal incidence between 15 and 20 years. Half of the victims were in the 15-34 year interval, which contains only 28% of the Queensland population.
The article noted the incidence of accidents at peak hours and indicated that males involved in accidents outnumbered females by three to one. The peak hours for injury were 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a second smaller peak at 10 p.m. to 12 midnight. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the most prolific days for accidents, especially for teenage and early adult years. The article suggested that there is no doubt that in the case of young people alcohol is one of the contributing factors to the high rate of fatalities. Some of the accidents were due to bad driving, some to bad road design and many to bad vehicle design.
I suggest that this article is virtually a case study. It indicates the variety of conflicting institutions involved that we have to adjudicate between to determine whose responsibility it is. I doubt whether it is very consoling to the mother of a young boy who has been killed in an accident to say to her that if the car had had some sort of facility which it did not have, or if some hotel owner who was supposed not to serve him with alcohol had not served him, or if the boy had not had to go to work at a certain time, the accident might not have happened. All these factors are relevant - car design, road design, issuing of driving licences, and control of liquor licensing - and I am not here advocating prohibition or anything else. I suggest it is a social problem, the impact of which goes outside the old boundaries of local government jurisdiction that were laid down many years ago. I have no cut and dried formula for this. All I suggest is that in Australia at the moment we have reached an impasse where every year we have to re-appraise the situation. I do not think there is any simple formula. Perhaps the piecemeal approach is the only approach, but I doubt whether in the long run it is the most rational one.
I think that the bodies that are being marginally squeezed in this process should consider amalgamating. Some of the local government authorities could help themselves by amalgamating. Again, this is not an easy problem to solve. I do not know why, except for historical reasons, there should be more local governing bodies in Western Australia than there are in Queensland. I would think that proportionately there are far too many in Queensland when compared to some of the bigger States. In my own municipal area there is a good case for contending that where there are now two councils there should be only one. I doubt whether the development of traffic co-ordination and urban redevelopment can be encompassed with the existing arrangements.
– Does the honourable member think the Melbourne City Council should be altered?
– I am not here trying to attack or defend the Melbourne City Council, the South Melbourne Council, the Port Melbourne Council or Williamstown Council, all of which are in my electorate. I would not claim, nor would the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth)-
– I have not said anything. Why drag me in?
– I am not going to put the honourable member in. I would not do such a thing. Mentioning the municipality of Melbourne brings to my mind the Williamstown Rifle Range. That range is about 8 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office and occupies 2 or 3 square miles. It is in an area that has great potential for convenient metropolitan development. We have advocated the removal of that range for a good number of years. It is there historically because in the days when there were very few motor cars and the main mode of transport was the electric train service its central location was convenient for the cadets who had to attend to do rifle shooting. But rifle shooting was a different proposition in 1907 from what it is today. Various Ministers have inspected the range but nothing has been done. After all, unless it happens to be in one’s own electorate, one does not really care about it at all and the easy way out is to shove the problem onto somebody else.
I doubt very much - and I would like to hear some great military authorities argue this point - whether a rifle range is needed in quite the same form in 1967. I believe that there could be some kind of simulated firing range which would give the same result. However, that is not quite the point that I want to make this afternoon. The point that I want to make is that here there is a conflict involving the Federal Government at one end and the small municipal council at the other end. The problem is not easy to solve.
It is anticipated that the population of the city of Melbourne will be as high as five million by 1987. That is not a prospect that I contemplate with pleasure. The trend is for people to move from country areas to the cities and unless that trend is reversed it will be necessary to create a new metropolis not far from the present one. The existing system of private ownership of land - with the exception of rural land, and I stress this exception - is no longer a sensible system to encompass metropolitan expansion. Canberra is one of the few places where enlightenment was shown because here the Government owns all the land. Under the leasehold system, if there is any increase in the value of land then the increment is shared by the community and does not go to persons who are fortunate enough to have certain blocks.
The price of land is high and it is getting higher. Unless some stop is put to the process it will get’ dearer still. I suggest that the Premier of Victoria, Mr Bolte, would have been acting far more sensibly if he had set up a committee to inquire into these matters. He could have pioneered this field in Australia. Surely no one in this House will defend the land speculator. When there are land speculators there must also be those who will defend the people who are being speculated against. The people who are being taken advantage of are those who want to come down from country towns and perhaps marry girls in the cities and bring up the families of tomorrow. It is easy to see the pattern of the population development over the next 20 years.
I suggest that the time is right in Australia for a reappraisal of the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relationships. There is also a need for a reappraisal of the whole of the taxation structure because it is an inheritance and much of it is no longer relevant. There is an old saw that ‘old taxation is good taxation because people are used to it’, but all that our present system is doing is to encase inequity and surely we do not want inequity encased. What I want to do is to give a fair deal to those who will be the families of the future. To do this we need new roads, underground railways and so on. The burden cannot be carried by those who historically have responsibility for the inner few square miles. It is a co-ordinated problem that concerns more than half of the population of Australia. The 1961 census showed that the population of the capital cities made up half of the total Australian population and I have no doubt that this will be confirmed by the next census. Therefore, proportionately as much of our problems will be in these very narrow areas of our continent. I cannot see these problems being satisfactorily encompassed without some re-thinking. I cannot claim to have any panacea and to suggest the solution is easy would be foolish. One only has to look at the great sprawl of Los Angeles and Detroit. These cities have had this problem for a long time. So far no modern city has successfully solved the problem. Here is a chance for us in this enlightened land of ours.
– I rise to support the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). This Bill will give effect to the decision of the Premiers Conference held in June. It will be remembered that an earlier meeting was held in February when the problem of CommonwealthStates financial relations was discussed and certain decisions were arrived at. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) stated in his second reading speech that the financial assistance grant payable in any year is arrived at by increasing the grant for the previous year in accordance with a formula which takes account of increases in population and in average wages, together with a betterment factor of 1.2%.
Over the years the Commonwealth has assumed responsibility for many matters that were mainly the responsibility of the States under the Constitution. This has been done by periodic agreements between the Commonwealth and the States under which increased proportions of available government revenue calculated by the Commonwealth are distributed by agreement to the States. One of the first major steps was the establishment of the Australian Loan Council in 1927 for the purpose of raising loans for public works. It assumed responsibility for determining the annual amounts to be raised by the way of public loans for the economic needs of the States. The Australian Loan Council comprises representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. The Premiers Conference is held in conjunction with the Loan Council, but it has become a bit of a farce. Instead of being a representative body of the States and the Commonwealth meeting to arrange the nation’s finances the Loan Council has become an organisation in which the States fight for the money they consider they need, with the Commonwealth finally deciding what they will get. The Commonwealth has two votes and the States one each. In addition, the Commonwealth has a casting vote. So the Commonwealth has to get only two States on its side in order to carry the day. The voting would then be equal and the Commonwealth could get its way by using its casting vote. There is no doubt that the borrowing programme adopted by the Loan Council is inadequate for the needs of the States under present circumstances. No State is satisfied with what it gets, although finally some agreement is reached because the States must accept what the Commonwealth offers.
In his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that the total allocation under the formula grants will be a little more than $900m. He referred also to such vital State services as education and health. He said:
The Government is fully conscious of the need to ensure that the States have access each year to sufficient revenue to enable such services to be expanded in line with the growing needs of the community.
If he is fully conscious of these needs he has not given any indication of this in the legislation. The States are in a bad position financially, not only in the provision of finances for education but also in the provision of finances for hospitals and many other vital projects. The amount of Commonwealth reimbursements to the States is increased each year. This is necessary. But in the 6 years ended 1966 the Commonwealth’s collections from taxation increased by at least 64% whilst reimbursements to the States increased by a much lower percentage. As a result the States have had to increase the amounts that they collect by way of State taxes. Over the 6-year period Commonwealth reimbursements to Victoria increased by 41%, but in that period Victoria was forced to increase the amount collected within the State by 60%. The Commonwealth’s reimbursements to Queensland over the 6-year period increased by 39%, but revenues from State taxes increased in the period by 54%. Reimbursements to South Australia increased in the period by 41%, but the State increased its revenues from State taxes by 69%. Reimbursements to Tasmania increased by 34% while income from State taxes increased by 39%. Reimbursements to New South Wales increased in the period by 38% while amounts collected from State taxes increased by about 64%. Reimbursements to Western Australia increased by about 38% but income from State taxes increased by 67%. Since 1966 the States have had to meet further increases in operating costs and they have been forced to increase still further State taxes. This trend will continue in the future, as can be seen from what has happened in Victoria.
Under the tax reimbursement formula - the name has been changed; I forget the new name - while the amount of tax collected by the Commonwealth increased by more than 64%, the reimbursements to the States have not increased in like proportion. This has forced the States to increase the amount they obtain from State taxes. I repeat that the States will have to increase still further internal taxes. The Treasurer was reported in the Press to have suggested at the Premiers Conference that the States introduce State sales tax or a tax on wages. Mr Nicklin, Premier of Queensland, is reported to have said that the Treasurer suggested that the States impose a special purchase tax. A wages tax has already been introduced in Victoria. It is conceivable that other States will be forced to introduce a similar tax. A tax of this kind was previously imposed in Western Australia. I will deal with that matter in more detail later.
Compared with the Commonwealth the States are handicapped in the matter of fund raising. Due to inflation the Commonwealth’s finances improve while the States are driven to the wall. As wages increase due to price rises, the Commonwealth receipts from income tax and payroll tax grow. The Commonwealth’s revenue from excise duty and sales tax continues to increase as money continues to lose its value. The States get their finances from two sources only - from the Commonwealth and from within the State. If the Commonwealth does not provide sufficient from its resources the States have to look for new fields in which to apply taxes or increase charges- The States have had to increase their charges to meet increased costs because the Commonwealth is not providing
Public ward charges in Western Australia have increased by about 50% in recent years. I do not have the percentage increases in the other States. These increased charges are a terrific burden on those people who have to enter public wards. What is more, the indications are that hospital charges will be further increased in the near future.
Bus and rail fares have been increased in Western Australia, as have freight charges. The State Shipping Service, which serves the north west, had to increase freight charges. This is a vital service serving the needs of the north west, including Darwin. Some of the freight charges were increased by as much as 50%. During the past 20 years the national debt of the six States has increased from $2,044m to $7,934m while the national debt of the Commonwealth has fallen.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was pointing out how the States had to increase their charges to meet increased costs because the Commonwealth was not providing them with sufficient funds from its ever increasing coffers to meet the States’ needs-. I pointed out how they had to increase hospital charges, bus fares and rail fares, and I showed how freights had to be increased in the respective States. I had just started to quote some figures which I shall have to repeat because I was interrupted while doing so. During the past 20 years the national debt of the six States has increased from $2, 044m to $7, 934m while the national debt has fallen over the same 20 year period from $3,732m to $3,275m. Much of the burden that Western Australia is carrying is due to the way in which the Commonwealth is milking the State to fatten its own revenues and to feed its own extravagances. That applies also to the other States in varying degrees.
They say that they are trying to recoup expenditure caused by the new State stamp duty.’
At the bottom of the editorial appeared this statement:
The State government has been forced largely by reasons outside its control to impose this tax. Nobody is expected to be happy about it. But its impact will be more severe if businessmen follow the oil companies’ example. This will increase prices, and higher prices will make sellers liable for more tax, and the public will find itself on an inflationary merry-go-round.
There we have the Commonwealth forcing the States to increase their charges. Premier Brand said in reply to criticism that if the growth of Government services was not to lag seriously behind the rest of the State he had no option but to raise taxes in virtually every field, for the fourth time in 5 years. He went on:
I must confess that I find it hard to know where to turn next to supplement our resources in view of the very limited field of State taxation.
We will raise nearly $25m from State taxes this year, with a severity as high as any in Australia. Yet they will finance little more than half the expenditure on all forms of education. Clearly the tait base on which we operate is too small for us to help ourselves any more than we have.
It is true that Western Australia and Tasmania have access to the Grants Commission, but before they can be successful before the Commission they have to prove that their efforts to raise revenue and control expenditure compare favourably with achievements in what are known as the standard States. There has been a big improvement in Western Australian railway operations and in income from mining royalties. But this does not mean more finance for Western Australia because increased royalty earnings are deducted from the special grants by the Grants Commission. For 1966-67 the Commission estimated that Western Australia would need 33.2% less than the $19m it recommended last year. This year Western Australia will receive $6. 5m more in financial assistance grants than it received in 1965-66, but the special grants will be cut by $6.3m and the net benefit to the State will be $229,000. This is not much, considering the increased costs, increased population and the increased demands on the State Government.
Western Australia is progressing, but as it progresses so there are increased demands on the Treasury. The formula that applies for these grants does not allow sufficiently for the faster growth rate in Western Australia. The State is further penalised because it gets only a small share of local and semigovernment borrowing. On this last occasion the amount that it received from the Loan Council for local and semigovernment borrowing was $12,340,000. The Commonwealth Grants Commission makes additional grants, as I have mentioned, but their level is based on the level of services applying in New South Wales and Victoria. They ignore the difficulties of a small population trying to develop one-third of the Commonwealth. Western Australia is going to develop rapidly in the next few years and consequently the cost of Government services is going to increase. The Commonwealth should consider the cost of these increased services. The difficulties we face are as a resut of a small population over a big area which means that we are very sparsely populated. For example, we have police stations in some areas manned by one man and schools conducted by one school teacher. All of this adds to the cost of services which have to be provided. The editorial in the ‘West Australian’ on Monday of this week refers to penalising progress and points out how all States are feeling the squeeze of inadequate Commonwealth revenue assistance to cope with the rising demand for their services. The article goes on to state:
The States have to carry many of the burdens of national expansion while Canberra benefits from it.
The Federal Government . . . enjoys automatic revenue increments from the effect of national growth on personal and company income taxes. Wage rises, new workers and migrants mean more money to Canberra; to the States they mean budgetary problems and more demands for houses, schools and other services.
It goes on to point out that the States are forced to increase their charges. I propose to refer to a point which is of concern to Western Australia, that is, the antagonism to that State from New South Wales and Victoria - not from all honourable members, but from some who have spoken in this House - because Western Australia wants finance to build the main diversion dam on the Ord River. There is no doubt that the bigger States have had considerable influence on the Government’s decision to defer consideration of this important northern development project. Naturally they want the finance in the southern areas of the Commonwealth. The Ord River project should be considered a national project similar to the Snowy Mountains scheme and should no longer be considered a debit against the State of Western Australia, any more than the Snowy project was considered a debit against Victoria and New South Wales. Projects such as the one at Ord River will make Western Australia a much stronger economic unit of the Commonwealth. It will provide bigger markets for goods from the eastern States and will add considerably to foreign exchange by producing more exports. The stronger we become, the more we contribute towards taxation. In the past 10 years, Western Australia has had an export surplus of $ 1,350m and this has been used to finance the imports and the overseas trading deficits of New South Wales and Victoria.
– There is no doubt that those States have had deficits on their overseas trading. Western Australia buys $400m worth of goods annually from the eastern States. If Western Australia did not have such a big surplus of export earnings, it could not buy so much from the eastern States and this would affect the development of the eastern States. In my view and in the view of many people in Western Australia, the Government stands condemned for its attitude towards northern development. I repeat that the Government has listened too much to vested interests in the bigger States. Victoria and New South Wales may have a good case for increased Commonwealth financial assistance. Indeed all the States are justified in claiming more to meet their needs. But it is a weak argument to say that Western Australia is getting more than its fair share of the Commonwealth finances. This kind of thinking ignores the nation’s dependence on exports from Western Australia, and iron ore will add substantially to these exports. It overlooks the much greater demands for Government services in a State that occupies one-third of the total area of the Commonwealth and with a small population. The demands are much greater when compared with those in, say, Victoria which has a small area and a highly industrialised and concentrated population.
The Commonwealth Government, in attempting to justify its attitude to the development of Western Australia, refers to the colossal amount of money being invested in the north-west and the Kimberleys as well as other aspects of development. What the spokesmen for the Government neglect to say is that practically all those funds are provided and owned by overseas exploiters and investors. They conveniently ignore the Commonwealth contribution and do not say how little has been contributed by the Commonwealth Government. Even where contributions to development have been made by the Commonwealth, it has wanted its pound of flesh. It charges the bond rate of interest, which is now 5t%, on finance that it has raised by taxation. It taxes the people of a State and then lends the money back to the State at interest of 5i%. I would like to give some examples of the amounts that have been made available by the Commonwealth. Details can be found at pages 104 and 1.05 of Hansard for 15th August 1967. The answers to questions that appear at those pages refer to Western Australia and other States. They show that a non-repayable grant of $23,858,000 and an interest bearing loan of $34,082,000, making a total of $57,940,000, have been made available for rail standardisation. The State must repay $34,082,000 in principal and 543,218,000 in interest, a total of $77,300,000. The answers show that, for the comprehensive water scheme, a non-repayable grant of $10m and an interest bearing loan of $2.5m have been made. The interest will amount to $2,256,000. The Derby jetty is another example. The non-repayable grant is $800,000 and the interest bearing loan is also $800,000. The principal paid back has been $300,000 and the interest $318,000. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth gets its pound of flesh.
Special thought should be given to the position of the State Shipping Service when considering Western Australia’s financial reliance on the Commonwealth. This is a complex matter and rising costs and increasing losses are causing concern. It must be remembered that the State Shipping Service is inseparable from the big problem of northern development. In my view it should be removed from the ambit of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and should be the subject of a special grant from the Commonwealth, taking into account its varying costs and circumstances. There is no valid basis of comparison anywhere in Australia; so how can the costs of the service be compared with costs in the standard States. I say this because the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr McMahon) submitted to the Commonwealth Grants Commission a short time ago that it should make an unfavourable adjustment because of the heavy losses of the service. Last year the Commission made an unfavourable adjustment of $406,000. Captain Williams, Chairman of the Australian National Line, in his investigation of the State Shipping Service found that there was no inefficiency in the service itself. The Service was not established to make a profit. Private enterprise would not provide such a service because there is no profit in it at all. But it is an essential service for the north of Western Australia and for the port of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The State Shipping Service should be the subject of a special grant, taking into account the special needs of the north.
Throughout the 54 years of its existence, it has been held that the main job of the Service is to make life better for the people in the north. Its freights and fares have been kept low. Its operations are complicated by lack of deep water ports in the north, where tides up to 30 feet have dictated that a ship using these ports must be designed to sit on the bottom at low tide. Neap tides at Broome can delay a vessel for some time at an approximate cost of $2,000 a day. This problem has been met by the construction of the new Broome jetty, but there are other areas where similar tides cause a problem. The State Shipping Service is carrying about three times as much cargo northward as it carries southward, and the gap is widening. As I pointed out earlier, freights and fares have been increased to make up some of the losses, but if they are increased any further an unfair burden will be placed on the pioneers of the north. To charge fully economic freights would mean an unacceptable increase in northern living costs and this would further affect the rate of progress of the north.
Dealing with the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations as a whole and looking ahead, we can see that the economy will need more public expenditure by the States if the problem of a rapidly growing population is to be met and if the development of our resources is to be adequate and vigorous. The necessary finances cannot be provided by the States. It is essential that the Commonwealth and State governments and their public authorities should co-operate in framing a constructive plan for a much higher rate of economic and social development. The Commonwealth should be moving towards a national concept in which specific target rates will be set for public investment to meet the needs of the States.
– I want the attention of the House for only a couple of minutes to say that the Opposition has been playing a political tune without knowing either the words or the music. This afternoon the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) introduced a debate on a matter of public importance. In doing so he prevented the business of the House from being dealt with so that honourable members could discuss the financial assistance, or lack of financial assistance, by the Commonwealth Government to Queensland for power and water development projects. He did this only because of a by-election to be held in Queensland on
Saturday. This is obvious. The Opposition played a political tune about the lack of development of Queensland. If the byelection had been in Western Australia-
– I take a point of order. Is the honourable member entitled to refer to a debate that has already been completed in this House? Are we not dealing with an entirely different matter now?
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Perth that the House is now discussing the States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1967. I hope that the point of illustration will not take too long.
– In referring to the grant of financial assistance to the States I say that, if the by-election had been in Western Australia, the discussion would have been about the lack of assistance to Western Australia. Somehow the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) forgot what day it was or what by-election it was. He began to talk about the development of the Ord River area. The only reason why I mention this is that I want to point out that the honourable member ought to realise that the proceedings are being broadcast. As recently as two weeks ago, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), while in Western Australia, made a statement about this Government’s attitude to the development of the Ord River area. The honourable member is fully aware of that. Also, he believes that his speech may be reported in tomorrow’s ‘West Australian’. This I very much doubt, however, because most who have heard his remarks will realise that, as I have said, they are only part of a political tune that the honourable member sings without understanding either the words or the music.
I now turn to other matters that he mentioned. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), while he was in Western Australia for the opening of the naval communication station at North West Cape - I know that the honourable member for Stirling would not be greatly interested in that event - met the Western Australian Cabinet. This was the first occasion in history when a Prime Minister had met the entire State Cabinet. I believe that at that meeting the special needs of Western Austrafia were discussed, with particular reference to the rapid development that is going on there. The Western Australian Premier declared that he was pleased with the outcome of those talks. Honourable members opposite really ought to maintain some consistency in their arguments. The honourable member for Stirling has been talking about what he describes as the ‘extreme plight’ of people in the north west of Western Australia brought about by what he considers are high freight rates charged by the State Shipping Service. He says that the Commonwealth Government should provide more money to subsidise freights in the north. If he studies the freight carried to the north at present, he will find that the great bulk of it is shipped on behalf of very affluent firms and organisations that are engaged in the development of iron ore resources and in oil exploration, ls he suggesting that the Australian taxpayers should be asked to pay more to subsidise the carriage of goods for firms whose balance sheets display handsome profits? I am very pleased, of course, that they do make profits. For a change, the honourable member ought to state a few facts about what is happening in Western Australia.
Concerning the Commonwealth’s treatment of that State, if he looks at the figures for Commonwealth payments to the States per head of population, he will find that the Western Australian-
– The honourable member does not agree with Charlie Court.
– On this point I do. The honourable member, however, merely puts up an argument that he thinks will gain him a headline in the Western Australian Press. He completely disregards the truth of the matter. If we look at Commonwealth payments to the States per head of population, Mr Deputy Speaker, we find that the figure for Western Australia is higher than that for any other State. Every discerning person in this Parliament realises that. Honourable members opposite ought to make certain of their facts before they try to put across cheap political trickery in an attempt to get headlines in their local newspapers.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) has come to the defence of his State - the vast State of Western Australia, which is in the process of great development and is in urgent need of financial assistance to enable its development. He deserves to be congratulated and commended by all the people of Western Australia on the well considered speech that he has made in this House on a matter of very great interest to the mass of the people of that State and of Australians generally. This States grants measure raises issues of extreme importance to every Australian, lt raises the question of whether the formula for the distribution of reimbursements is just and fair as between States and as between the Commonwealth on one hand and the States on the other. When Premiers meet one another and the representatives of the Commonwealth in Canberra at Premiers Conferences, which, incidentally, take place in this chamber, animated debate takes place. There is usually a good deal of horse trading. The Commonwealth offers a certain sum, the States reject it and argument and debate continue almost unceasingly until finally a formula is evolved after some solution has been found, whether as a result of a private discussion behind the Speaker’s chair or by some other means.
The States complain, with some right on their side, that, when all is said and done, the Commonwealth Government retains the lion’s share of the proceeds of taxes levied on the Australian taxpayers. The State Premiers and Treasurers point out that while the interest burden borne by the Federal Government is being reduced that imposed on the States and on local government authorities continues to increase. It is well known to Treasury officials that the total of the interest payable by the States and by local government authorities soars ever higher. This is apparent to those honourable members who examine the Budget papers, and it is all too keenly realised by State authorities and local government leaders. The burden of interest’ is clearly reported in the Budget documents. For the benefit of honourable members who may not be aware of the figures, I point out that the interest burden paid by State and local government authorities totalled $145m in the financial year 1953-54. By 1965-66, it had risen to S502m - an increase of $357m. The Commonwealth, however, by the financial arrangements under which it pays off its debts out of revenue, is reducing its interest burden, which was S83m in 1953-54 and only$29m in 1965-66 - a reduction of $54m. Over the period, the interest burden of the Commonwealth fell and that of State and local government authorities rose very sharply.
There should be a partnership in government in this country. We all are Australians and all of us are involved in the great enterprise of trying to develop our country, raise the standard of living and give our people a better way of life so that they may look forward to the future with confidence and a feeling of security. If this is a valid approach to our situation, surely shire, municipal and city councils, to whom the local citizens pay rates, should not, in relation to the burden of interest, be placed in a position entirely different from that of the Commonwealth Government, which controls national affairs from Canberra and to which Australians pay their taxes. The burden of rates payable to local government authorities should not be increased. The good citizens who are trying to acquire their own homes, build up an equity and make a stake for themselves in this country should not be the losers under the financial arrangements entered into in the administration of the nation’s affairs. However, when matters are reduced to simple and basic terms, it is clear that State governments and local government authorities pay more in interest each year and the Commonwealth pays less.
The debts of the States continue to mount. I do not want to become involved in an argument about which State has the best claim to relief and which has the weakest claim, or about whether the formula that has been evolved is equitable as between the States. What I suggest this evening is that, a formula having been evolved, the Premiers ought to be able to come to the annual Premiers Conference with the full knowledge and understanding that the States will receive the reimbursements to which they are entitled under that formula and that the National Government will see to it that special grants are made available to the States for specific works of value to all Australians. The document entitled ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68’, which was presented with the Budget papers, clearly i ndicates the basis of the formula. Under the heading ‘The June 1967 Premiers’ Conference’ it is stated in this document:
At this Conference the Commonwealth agreed that, for purposes of determining the formula grants for 1967-68 (and future years), the special assistance of$5m in 1966-67 would be treated as part of the formula grant of that year.
Then under the heading ‘The Present Grants Formula’ it is stated:
As a result of the decisions reached at the Premiers’ Conferences mentioned the grants formula now provides that the grant for each State for each financial year is determined by taking that State’s grant for the previous year (with the addition of $2m each year up to 1969-70 in the case of Queensland) and:
increasing it by the percentage change in the population of that State during the year ending 31 December of the year of payment;
increasing the amount so obtained by the percentage increase in average wages for Australia as a whole for the year ended 31March of the year of payment; and
increasing this amount by the betterment factor of1.2%.
That is the formula. It should be understood and it should be clear. But it should not commit the rate payers in this country and the States to an unending situation of a burden of debt which falls heavily upon them and which prevents the States from carrying out reasonable and normal works and services which are necessary within the States.
The figures regarding these debts are certainly interesting. I refer to a reply by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to a question which was placed on the notice paper by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) concerning securities on issue at 30th June 1967. The figures are divided between the various State and local governments. It is interesting to note that in 1947 the securities on issue in New South Wales totalled $808m. The total rose to $2,53 1.9m in 1966. When we check these figures State by State to see what precisely has happened, the same pattern emerges. When we consider the Sydney Opera House or the bridge which was defective in Melbourne or any calamity of any kind or any great achievement, the same pattern emerges in each case. I think that in years to come people who glibly talk about the Opera House now will be boasting about this wonderful edifice and will want to share in the joys, delights and culture of that achievement. But that is another matter, and I do not want to pursue it.
In the case of Victoria, securities on issue rose from $398.9m in 1947 to $1 , 781. 5m in 1966; in Queensland they rose from $299.6m in 1947 to $977.1m in 1966; in South Australia they rose from $248.9m in 1947 to $970.5m in 1966; and in Western Australia they rose from $2 19.4m in 1947 to $730.7m in 1966. When one considers these figures it will be noted that the honourable member for Stirling was justified in raising the point that he raised. In Tasmania the securities on issue rose from $69. 6m in 1947 to$502.9m in 1966, which was an extraordinary increase over that period. Taking the grand total for all the States, securities on issue rose from $2,044.4m in 1947 to $7,494.6m in 1966. That is the pattern of increase in debt in the States over the period. The fact that the Commonwealth collects taxes should not place it in a particularly special position. I believe that the Commonwealth deserves to have funds. It deserves to be in a financially strong position so as to meet the security and defence needs of this country. I believe that it ought to be well endowed financially to meet special development needs and problems in this country.
I now turn to the situation regarding local governments. In New South Wales securities on issue rose from $49.9m in 1947 to $236.7m in 1965. The 1966 figures are not available. In Victoria they rose from $2 1.2m in 1947 to$ 156.6m in 1965; in Queensland they rose from$59.9m in 1947 to $308.4m in 1965; in South Australia they rose from $l.4m in 1947 to $3 1.3m in 1965; in Western Australia they rose from $3.4m in1947 to $44. lm in 1965; and in Tasmania they rose from $5.5m in 1947 to $43.3m in1965. Taking the grand total for all local governments, securities on issue rose from $141. 3m in 1947 to $820.4m in 1965. This is a grave charge against the financial arrangements of this country.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you are aware of the responsibilities of local governments and of the great charges that they are obliged to meet. You are also aware of the fact that the home owner section of the community is obliged to pay for water, sewerage, gas, electricity, kerbing and guttering, libraries, parks, playgrounds and all the other amenities that are related to the affairs of the nation, the housing projects and the help that is given to the intake of migrants. All of these matters are very personal problems in rural areas and in local government fields. Honourable members from country districts will agree that in addition local government is worried very gravely with the loss of population from country centres where the birthrate is not being maintained. The population is not being increased generally in country areas. There is a loss of people from our country districts. Country areas which have active mayors and councils and which want to see development are making land available in order to attract industry.
Early this evening, Mr Deputy Speaker, you had a special opportunity to learn something about this subject from a deputation of some twenty mayors of councils in New South Wales who came to Canberra to meet members of Parliament. This deputation wanted to impress upon members of Parliament the urgency of this problem and the need for action. They have made a call to the Commonwealth Government to play its part and to accept its responsibility in the decentralisation of industry and assistance to councils in an attempt to deal with these extraordinary, tremendous and burdensome problems that affect people in our country districts. The Mayor of Cessnock said that the biggest export from his area at the present time is young people who are leaving the area in search of work elsewhere. This is an extraordinary and regrettable thing. Whilst there were 2,500 people unemployed in that area, 3,000 people had to travel up to 90 miles to work each day. The Council wants decentralisation of industry. It wants development. This plea has been heard in the Parliament over the years.
I put it to the House this evening that in making these grants to the States consideration should be given to the great problems besetting the people in our country districts. We must do what we can to arrest the flow of population from the country to the cities. It is frequently said that people leave the country because they look for the bright lights of the city, but from my own practical experience I know that most people leave the country because of lack of employment opportunities and lack of education facilities for their families. I make a special plea this evening for the Commonwealth Government to be selective in making these grants to the States, to have regard to economic factors and human considerations. The wealth of any country comes from its land. It comes from the countryside, whether it is dug from a mine, quarried from a hillside or grown in a field. The people who produce that wealth should not be made victims of their own efforts to increase the wealth of the country.
I support the policies that I have heard on decentralisation. I believe in the balanced development of this country. I support a policy that will help to ensure that the people in country districts, with such a desirable world in which to live, with all the advantages of fresh air, parks and playgrounds and the other amenities of a good country town, be given every possible opportunity. It will be cheaper to developthe big country towns and cities than to attempt to deal with the major problems of cities like Sydney and Melbourne, which seem to be vying with one another in an insane scramble for domination and supremacy. These two big cities seem to feel that upon them rests Australia’s hope for the future.
From time to time 1 sit in this Parliament and hear honourable members talking about the security and defence of Australia. We all must know that in these days when rockets can be fired some 7,000 miles, concentration of the very heart and pulse of a nation in one or two or even half a dozen cities is undoubtedly wrong. In this country we have the spectacle of governments trying to do just this. In Victoria Sir Henry Bolte at least inspired the decision to halt work on the Chowilla Dam. Then we read newspaper articles such as one in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 20th September headed ‘SI 8m Plan to Harness Three Rivers’. For irrigation? No. For development of the grape industry? No. For the fruit industry in general? Nothing of the kind. This is for Melbourne. Because Melbourne is growing apace these three rivers are to be harnessed to provide water for it. Then we find another newspaper article headed ‘Town Planner Seeks Vast Development’. Here is another project for Melbourne.
But of course Sydney is not to be outdone. In the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 14th August there was an article headed ‘Plan to Send N.S.W. Bounding Ahead. Land for Industry.’ When I saw those headlines I thought: ‘Here at last is something that will really make N.S.W. tick’. I visualised some developmental plan for the country over the Blue Mountains, or perhaps down in the Riverina or up in New England, or around the Dubbo district or out on the Darling River. But is this to be? No. On reading the article we find that all these developmental plans are centred on Sydney. The article reads:
The State Planning Authority has already earmarked four big areas of land totalling 1,702 acres in or near the metropolitan area for this purpose. The biggest of these sites covers 598 acres and the smallest 235 acres. ‘These will enable industry to play a big part in establishing projects that should be models for the whole nation,’ Mr Ashton claims.
In other days the N.S.W. Government planned green belts around Sydney. It had ideas of containing and beautifying the city, giving it some fresh air for its lungs and letting it expand in a sensible way. With its encompassing ocean, its harbour and other scenic beauties, the Blue Mountains nearby, Gosford and Brisbane Water to the north, Bulli, Austimer and other beach resorts to the south, and with the additional advantages of a green belt this great metropolis could grow in ideal conditions. But of course this is not to be. While land is available in abundance in country centres and while local government authorities in those centres are spending their money in giving incentives to industry to establish themselves in the country areas, we find State governments providing money for the building of bigger and bigger cities. One nuclear device could destroy any one of them, with all the people in it. It is a terrible thought but it is one we have to live with until mankind can behave in a better way and until the ways of peace are pursued by mankind. I doubt very much that the world has reached that stage.
I would specially like to see significant grants made to States for the purpose of real national development - balanced development involving the exploitation of resources wherever they exist. If valuable deposits of minerals are found we should make funds available for the States to get to work with the agencies that are available to them to develop those resources for the well being of the nation and of the people in the areas where the deposits are discovered. We make other grants available for special purposes, such as the funds provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. I merely ask the Parliament this evening, in a few brief words and in a detached way, to give serious consideration to this mater which is of the utmost importance to all people in Australia. It is not good enough for us to continue in the way we have been going in the past. It is not good enough for us to allow Australia to become dominated by a few big cities. We do not want all our eggs in one basket. I have already referred to the proposals that have been set out in the document that I have before me. These have been formulated by responsible men who hold the confidence and the respect of their communities. They have presented this document to a group of honourable members from New South Wales and have asked them to support them in their efforts to make decentralisation not a dream, not a fairy tale and not a fantasy, to remove it from the sphere of political deception and disinterest and make it something real, something that we can be proud of. Other countries have made tangible steps in this direction. The United Kingdom Government issues permits to industries to establish themselves in selected localities. An industry may be assisted to buy or rent a factory in such places. A scheme along these lines would be a good idea in this country.
Our constitutional situation presents difficulties. We need more teamwork involving Commonwealth, State and local authorities. I would like to think that all these authorities could meet on some sort of common platform to discuss these things and try to evolve ideas that will advance Australia. But the story as we know it from the national point of view is a dismal and disappointing one. The States themselves must do more. Honourable members are aware that a special committee appointed after the Premiers Conference of 1964 had met on only two occasions until a few months ago. This is a scandalous and shocking situation, warranting the condemnation of this Parliament. The proposals that have been submitted to us this evening will no doubt, in the course of time, be discussed in the Parliament by members on both sides, but the people who have made these proposals have pointed out the need for financial aid to go ahead with works of this description.
They have given figures regarding the Commonwealth’s financial assistance to the States. They said that at present the cash inflow to the Country Industries Assistance Fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is an amount of $2m per annum. They also pointed out that this was supplemented by amounts raised in the form of fixed interest borrowings. An amount of $200,000 was borrowed in 1965-66. An amount of $200,000 was also borrowed in the 1966-67 financial year. It is quite obvious that additional finance provided by the Commonwealth specifically for decentralisation must have a beneficial effect on the development and location of industry in country centres. The Commonwealth Government should assist financially in the development of a State in this way. This is but one of the very worthwhile suggestions that have been made. I will leave the subject at that, believing that the majority of members of Parliament, if not the members of the Government, feel as I do about this matter - that something should be done. I can only ask that honourable members who feel as I and many others do, try to cause some united understanding by bringing pressure upon a government that has been tardy and unwilling to work for the advancement of Australia in its rural districts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 September (vide page 1260)
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed expenditure, $48,654,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, $49,581,000.
Proposed expenditure, $19,761,000.
– The Departments that we are dealing with are very extensive. In the quarter of an hour that we are allowed in this debate it is not possible to deal with all the matters that one would like to deal with. So I propose to concentrate on only one aspect of this matter. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth), who is at the table, say the other day that the Federal Cabinet was studying the possibility of ships of the Australian National Line engaging in overseas trade. This followed the release of the annual report of the Australian National Line and the recommendations made by the Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission who believes that the Line could participate in overseas trade. As we know, the Line is now restricted to Australian ports although it does make occasional voyages to Asia. I understand from the records that ships of the Line made nineteen voyages to Asia last financial year carrying more than 12,000 tons of cargo. The report shows that the amount of net profit last year was $3.1m and that a 6% dividend of $2.1m had been paid to the Treasury. There has been a very interesting series of three articles in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on the activities of the Line. The final article of this series appeared on Tuesday, 19th September. I would recommend that all members of the Parliament study the articles because they deal with the matter of an overseas shipping line and show how we are at the mercy of overseas shipping interests.
The first article, which appeared on 13th September, began with the passage:
Australia is unique among the top trading nations of the world in that, while dependent on sea transport to get its goods to market, it is also completely dependent on the merchant fleets of other nations to carry those goods.
The article also points out that:
The Commonwealth Government’s policy is geared to ensure that the island remains dependent on overseas merchant shipping.
It emphasises that: . . competition has been almost completely eliminated from overseas shipping servicing the Australian trade in favour of a basis of arrangement.
The article supports the view, which we on this side of the chamber have been express ing for years, that in effect, a shipping conference is a cartel activity whereby a number of shipping companies band together to minimise the competition between them. Our most important overseas shipping is between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. For the year 1966-67 the overseas ships on these routes carried nearly one-third of our total export merchandise. The majority of this trade was carried in vessels under the control of the British and Continental shipping conference which consists of fourteen British and nine European shipping lines. Competition has been totally eliminated and the ships run as one fleet. All the lines charge the same rates of freight and each line has its apportioned share of trade. In the 12 months ending September 1966 the lines earned $140. 6m from freight carried between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. Of course, this position is accepted by the Australian Government. However, I am pleased to see that someone is moving to do something about it. Sir Alan Westerman, the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, recently said:
Over the last 10 years freights from Australia to our major market area, the United KingdomContinent, have increased by up (o 50% with a regular pattern of increases every couple of years.
He went on to say:
The export price of our major exports carried in those vessels increased by only 1% in the same period.
Freights increased by 50% but the value of major exports increased by only 2%. He continued:
In short, the export freight increases have largely come out of the pockets of the producers.
Import freight increases have affected the costs of our industries and have shrunk the consumer dollar.
No doubt this is the reason why the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has come down on the side of Australia entering the overseas shipping trade. As a matter of fact, he pointed out a short time ago that the annual freight on Australia’s exports and imports had climbed to a staggering $600m a year. Of course, quite a number of people recently have supported the suggestion that Australia should have its own shipping line. The West Australian’ of 22nd August stated, under the heading ‘Australia Needs Own Ships’:
High shipping freight rates are the main reason why Australian exports cannot compete successfully in some overseas markets.
Perth businessman . . . claimed this on his return from a six-month overseas tour to look for new markets for Australian exports.
He said the answer was to establish an Australian owned overseas shipping line or to charter ships to carry Australian exports.
This businessman was a past chairman of the Perth Chamber of Commerce, Export Division. He was quite sincere in that approach. There have been several comments of a similar nature. For instance, in the New South Wales Hansard of 31st August the New South Wales Minister for Public Works stated that he had made representations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. He said:
These representations will be made, for 1 believe we could have overseas ships of 50,000 to 60,000 tons which, as a result of automation, would be using crews of the same size as would formerly have been required for ships of 10,000 to 12,000 tons. The changed economics of adopting this policy make this a practical proposition for Australia, which would also have the benefit of orders for its shipyards. The Government has already taken up this matter. I have had two interviews with the Minister for Shipping and Transport on this question and other questions related to future orders, and I shall be meeting him again within the next 3 weeks to discuss the same matters.
This indicates that other people are thinking along these lines. The only period in which the interests of our people have not been plundered by overseas shipping interests was when we had the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The records show that the overseas shipping lines had extracted every cent they could from Australia’s exports and imports. That procedure is still being followed. The shipping combine forced Prime Minister Hughes to commence the Commonwealth shipping line in 1916. He fought strongly against the shipping monopoly and said:
Except for the Commonwealth line of ships there is no way to the markets of the world save at the price that the great combines’ lines determine.
This is just as true today.
– What happened to the Commonwealth line? Who sold it?
– I will tell the honourable member. It was the Bruce-Page Government in 1923 that commenced the destruction of our shipping line, and by 1927 its destruction was almost complete. It is a shocking shipping story and one that should be studied by every honourable member in this House. We did not even get paid for the ships because Lord Kylsant, who acted for the shipping combine at that time, conveniently went bankrupt and we got only a portion of what we should have received. Since then we have been at the mercy of the overseas shipping monopolies. Unfair and exorbitant freight rates have been imposed on both exports and imports ever since. We are one of the largest trading nations, but we are the only one of the important nations that has not its own ships competing in overseas trade.
The Labor Party’s policy stands out crystal clear on this matter. It provides for a Commonwealth owned overseas shipping service. We would progressively construct, charter and operate sufficient ships to carry an equitable share of Australia’s exports and imports. Our dependence on overseas shipping lines demands Government action when shipping charges are costing Australia about $12m a week. When it is suggested that Australia should have its own shipping line operating in overseas trade the cry comes from some Government members that the cost would be prohibitive. Vessels of all major trading nations ply to our coasts. They come from England, the United States of America, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, France, Russia, Italy, Canada, Japan, India and Greece, and they run in direct competition with English and Japanese vessels which employ low wage Chinese and Indian crews. The rates of wages on some of these ships are higher than our own wage rates. I instance that United States seamen and Danish seamen are paid higher rates than our own seamen, but these countries can compete with other nations. I know that some countries provide subsidies for shipping. It could be suggested that our shipping should be subsidised. How those countries meet the competition is determined by a number of factors, including efficiency of operation and government policies. Many governments have decided that the operation of a nationally owned fleet is fundamental to the independence of the country and to its defence effort. They either own fleets or assist private enterprise. In many cases they own a majority of shares in shipping companies. The policy is based on the need to preserve and develop their trade by retaining a measure of control over the price of freights, thus preventing other countries from forcing them out of competitive markets by increasing freight charges. India, soon after acquiring its independence, established its own international fleet. Most of the newly independent African countries have done the same.
In the past the United States of America has realised the importance of a nationally owned fleet. It is part owner of the President Line and it heavily subsidises shipping in the national interest. Canada also has seen the need to protect its trade. It has a subsidy plan. Japan subsidises its shipping. The Union Steam Ship Co of New Zealand, although a subsidiary of the Peninsilar and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, is registered in New Zealand and is operated with New Zealand crews under New Zealand standards which compare with Australian standards. It has vessels trading to India, Singapore, Canada and Australia. It has a monopoly of the Tasman trade. According to information supplied by the United States Department of Commerce, many countries subsidise their international fleets in various ways. I have in my possession a summary index of the types of aid. Several countries are mentioned, notably Denmark, France, West Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The various types of aid include a construction subsidy, operating subsidy, tax benefits, depreciation, loans and interest and other means.
For containerisation three main ports have been selected as major Australian terminals for Overseas Containers Ltd. They will be Fremantle, Sydney and Melbourne. Fremantle has the advantage of being closer to the United Kingdom and Europe, also to the countries that surround the Indian Ocean. That indicates that it could easily become the most important port in Australia. If overseas ships terminate at Fremantle they could save the long voyage around the Australian coastline which, in the case of Melbourne and return, represents 4,000 miles. This would result in a quicker turnround of ships to the United Kingdom or Europe. The goods unloaded at Fremantle could be moved more quickly to the eastern States towns and, similarly, goods for overseas could be moved quickly to Fremantle. The cargo could be conveyed in containers across Australia by fast container trains on the new standard gauge railway.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak to the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport and I want to refer in particular to the appalling loss of life on Australian roads. I have a publication entitled “Road Traffic Accidents Involving Casualties’ issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. It shows that last year 3,242 persons were killed and 77,837 were injured on Australian roads. During the last 5- year period 14,497 people were killed and 359,704 injured. Of last year’s casualties nearly 30% of those killed and 40% of those injured were under the age of 21 years. Although Australia is involved militarily in Vietnam, in the 12 months to 30th June this year, 74 men were killed and 370 injured. People quite rightly are disturbed by these figures, but they appear to accept as inevitable road casualties which are many times greater - in fact, nearly 200 times greater. It appears to be a popular thing to turn to Monday morning’s paper and look at the football scores, the race results and the road toll, lt is a shocking waste of life and it is an economic waste.
I do not know whether a money value can be put on human life, but today the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) announced the signing of a new immigration agreement with Italy. This is something with which I am in complete agreement. We need all the migrants we can get. Last year we obtained nearly 148,000 migrants and the average cost of bringing them to this country was about $320 each. If we place the same value on the persons killed on Australian roads it represents nearly Sim, and if we add to that the cost of the national income of those who were working and the cost to industry of those injured the sum must be colossal. Many of these deaths need not have occurred and many families need not have suffered bereavement. What are the causes of these accidents? Many of them are due to bad driving, bad driving manners and cars with mechanical defects. Statistics show that as a group the young driver is the worst driver. This is because he is the least experienced and usually has the worst car because he has the least money to pay for a car. A lecturer in Melbourne recently stated that when you have the worst drivers with the worst cars you have an explosive situation. Other causes of road accidents are selfishness, showing off, and speeding. They all contribute. I think most people who drive will agree that a driver cannot afford to relax his vigilance for even a fraction of a second and that he must be alert and physically and mentally fit. This leads me to what I believe is a significant factor in road accidents. I refer to alcohol. Some people believe that the influence of alcohol on road accidents is exaggerated. One person of importance who thinks otherwise is Dr John Birrell, a Victorian police surgeon. In July of this year he wrote an article for the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’. In that article he dealt with fatal accidents in which motor cars and trams were involved. He pointed out that the tram was so massive that any collision between a tram and a private car at any fast speed was usual disastrous for both the car and its occupants. The article reviewed twenty-five fatal car and tram collisions between 1961 and 1966. I have not time to do more than quote very briefly from that article. He said that all twentyfive car drivers were male and were considered clearly responsible for their collisions. Post mortem blood-alcohol estimations were made in all the fatal cases, blood having been taken from the surviving driver within an hour of his collision. He said:
Three drivers showed no alcohol in the blood and one showed 43 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, the other 21 drivers having levels above 120 mg of alcohol per 100 ml.
He further went on to say:
The age distribution is important, over half the drivers being aged 24 years or less. This fits in well with our recent findings in Victoria that 33% of the drivers charged with exceeding a level of 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood are males aged between 20 and 24 years.
Finally he said:
I have an extract from a recent publication entitled ‘Accident Research - Methods and Approaches’. One chapter in that publication is devoted to a reprinting of an article that appeared in the ‘British Medical Journal’ on 21st June 1958. This refers to an experiement in relation to the effect of alcohol on driving. A comparison was made between three groups of bus drivers, two of which were given alcohol and the other was not. The experiement dealt with decision making in a risk situation - driving a bus through gaps of varying widths. The article states:
Alcohol as a cause of accidents on the road has been widely studied. The investigations that have been carried out, valuable as they are, suffer, however, from a serious limitation. They have usually determined the effect of alcohol on the driver by measuring changes in his reaction time and in his skills, such as steering and braking.
The article goes on to point out that the decisive feature is not the driver’s skill in itself but what he believes he can do in a given situation and what he will in fact attempt to do. The experiment related to risk-taking’, which is described as embarking on a task without being certain of success. The subjects were three groups of bus drivers working for the Manchester Corporation Transport Department and the test was carried out by the driving training school of that Department. The drivers had an average of 12 years experience driving buses and they were all volunteers. Their average age was 45 and the experiment was conducted with the permission of their trade union. The drinking habits of the drivers varied. Some were total abstainers, some drank between 20 and 30 pints of beer a week and others were regular drinkers of spirits. The same conditions applied to the tests for each of the groups. The drivers all had a meal over a period of half an hour during which one group was given no alcohol, the second group was given 2 British fluid ounces of 70% proof Scotch whisky, which I understand is 40% alcohol, and the third group was given 6 fluid ounces of the same whisky. Fifteen minutes later the groups were taken to the testing ground where there were two vertical post 3 feet high, 3 inches square and painted white. A bus 8 feet wide was placed 12 fee: from the gap and facing the centre. Each driver was told to drive at his own speed and he was asked how many times out of five he believed he could drive his bus between these posts without knocking them over or touching them. The gap was widened one inch at a time. The results of this experiment are very interesting because on an average the drivers in all three groups - including those who did not have any alcohol at all - were prepared to drive the 8 feet bus through a gap narrower than 8 feet. However, the result showed that the more whisky the drivers had the more readily they were prepared to drive through a narrower gap and the more whisky they consumed the greater the gap they needed to succeed.
I have a table here that I will not have time to read fully. I hope that after I have detailed what is in it I will be given permission to incorporate it in Hansard. I have listed the three groups and there are four columns, one showing the narrowest gap that the drivers attempted, the narrowest gap at which they believed they would succeed five times out of five in going through the narrowest gap at which they were always successful in going through, and the narrowest gap attempted by the most venturesome driver in any group. I have time to refer only to that last column. Strangely enough, of the drivers who received no whisky at all, one thought he could drive the bus through a 7 feet 5-inch gap; of the group that had 2 ounces of whisky, three thought they could drive the 8-feet bus through a 7 feet 5-inch gap and one thought that he could go through a 6 feet 10-inch gap; and of the group that had 6 ounces of whisky, two thought they could drive through a 6 feet 1 0-inch gap and a third attempted to drive through a 6 feet 8-inch gap.
The analysis showed that one driver in group 3 became extremely cautious and would not attempt to drive the bus through the gap until it was 8 feet 10 inches wide but believed he would always succeed at 8 feet 8 inches and in fact did always succeed at 8 feet 7 inches. It was shown that the blood-alcohol content of the most dangerous driver was less than half that of the most cautious. A summary of the findings was that the drivers who took alcohol became involved in greater hazards than the alcohol free drivers and that the alcohol intensified a driver’s tendency to over-rate his ability in relation to his performance. The investigation showed the greatest menace to public safety comes particularly from those who after a slight amount of alcohol feel sober or believe that they are driving more cautiously. The United States National Safety Council recommends the lines of demarcation between levels of alcohol as: Up to 0.05, safe; 0.05 to 0.1, possibly under the influence; 0.1 to 0.15, probably under the influence; and over 0.15, definitely under the influence.
The people who conducted this experiment said that they did not think it was justifiable on the basis of their experiment to establish the level of up to 0.05 as safe. They said they found that the trustworthiness of a man’s judgment of his driving skill was impaired even after a small quantity of alcohol, producing a blood alcohol concentration lower than 0.05, and that this impairment of judgment occurred in what might be described as the elite of drivers on the road. Furthermore, they said that the effects of the alcohol were in a sense minimal as the alcohol was taken immediately after a meal. The performance of the drivers deteriorated; they were involved in greater hazards and they displayed a false confidence in their driving abilities.
My purpose in referring to this subject is to direct attention to the appalling road toll and to suggest two ways in which we could endeavour to combat it. Firstly, I do not believe that courts are anywhere near as tough as they ought to be on drinking drivers. This is not a matter of wowserism; it is a matter of putting value on human life. I believe that we could with advantage conduct research into the causes of road accidents. Another chapter in the book to which 1 have referred is devoted to research into accidents involving pedestrians and into pedestrian behaviour in relation to traffic. This ‘article came Vo the conclusion that pedestrians were more concerned with the time gap than the distance gap in traffic. They made 1,189 observations of 491 persons of varying ages to see whether they would cross a road against oncoming traffic. It is recorded that 50% of those who could cross did so when a vehicle was 4.5 seconds away. Nobody attempted to cross the road when a vehicle was less than 1.5 seconds away. All crossed when a vehicle was more than 10.5 seconds distant. In 1966 more than 900 persons in Australia under the age of 21 years were killed and more than 30,000 injured and 407’ under the age of 16 years killed, with more than 13,000 being injured.
The lesson for Australia is that the traffic sense of children might be improved if they received training in judging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles. This could be done by the use of simulators. It does not have to be done under road traffic conditions. These simulators could be used in more than one way. There is a piece of equipment which enables a person to sit in a dummy car and face a translucent screen in a darkened room. Behind the screen is a disc with a road scene painted on it. The road scene is magnified and projected on to a screen and as the driver operates the accelerator and steering wheel, the car appears to progress along the road. It can simulate passing other cars, negotiating turns and avoiding pedestrians. If authorities have any doubt about the effect of alcohol on driving ability I believe it would be well worth while to use simulators in order to make recommendations to the various governments. Penalties against drinking drivers might then be made much more severe in an endeavour to reduce our present appalling road toll. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the table to which I earlier referred.
– I was very interested in the contribution made by the honourable member for Henry (Mr Fox). I agree with him that more consideration should be given to the appalling road toll in the Commonwealth than is generally given by this Government, which appears to consider that this is a matter mainly for the States. I disagree entirely with the emphasis placed by the honourable member on alcohol and its effect on driving. While I agree that alcohol is a factor in road accidents, I cannot agree that it is a factor that should properly take up 75% of the honourable member’s time, for there are other factors.
This Government has been in office for 17 years. Surely it is time that it took steps to tackle the problem of road accidents. The Government prefers to forget the appalling road toll and its cost to the community, saying that this is a matter for the States. The amount set aside in the Estimates for the promotion of road safety practices is $234,000. This is the same amount that was set aside last year, despite the fact that the road toll is increasing. Official statistics show that one citizen is killed on our roads every 3 hours and that every 7 minutes somebody is maimed. Statistics show that 600 of the babies born each year are destined to have a life expectancy of not more than 17 years. So 600 babies born this year will live no longer than 17 years. Many road accidents are preventable. On 30th March 1966 in answer to a question the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) said:
It is regrettable that during the year ended 30th June 1965, 382 youths between the ages of 17 and 21 years met their deaths in road accidents.
I know that the Minister was answering a question without notice but I think he rather understated the situation because my research indicates that the number would have been closer to 600. This does not take into account the number who will have their lives wrecked - who will be maimed because of road accidents. It is all very well to say that alcohol causes road accidents but whilst alcohol may be one factor in road accidents there are many others.
One factor contributing to the accident rate is the Government’s failure, after 17 years in office, to realise that this is a national problem and that it must be tackled on a national basis. I concede that there may be constitutional difficulties in the way of doing this, but it would be nice to know that the Commonwealth had taken some steps to get the co-operation of the States in setting up a national authority - perhaps a statutory authority - so that something might be done to tackle one of the major factors in road accidents. I concede the point about alcohol, but the other point is road safety. A major contributing factor in most accidents is that our roads are not what they should be and cannot be brought up to standard until this Government provides the States with sufficient finance to enable them to rectify many of the faults in our roads. Dr Birrell has been freely quoted tonight. I for my part propose to quote from the ‘Commonwealth Automotive Review’ of June/July 1967. Under the heading ‘Better Roads Mean Greater Safety’ the article states:
In examining the cause of motor vehicle accidents, it is interesting to note that50 per cent of highway accidents and fatalities throughout the world are known to be caused by drunken drivers.
I have agreed that alcohol is a factor. Incidentally I would say to Dr Birrell that the other 50% of accidents are probably caused by teetotal drivers, so I do not know where you get with statistics. The article continues:
But aside from this factor, other major causes are very apparent. Just prior to World War II the accident rate in the United States reached the appalling figure of nearly 40,000 killed annually. This slaughter alarmed the United States Government and industry bodies to such a degree that massive surveys of accident fatality causes were made throughout the industry and by Safety Councils.
This is the point I have been trying to make. The Commonwealth Government could do much if it were prepared to do so. The article continues:
In 1937 it was determined that over 60% of traffic fatalities were caused by non-collision and pedestrian accidents. Non-collision accidents were termed as accidents where vehicles crashed into abutments, barriers, trees; light poles or offtheroad objects, or vehicle roll-overs from soft shoulder pentration. The knowledge of the pattern of these accidentsgeneratcd billionsof dollars from State and Federal sources to improve the highways of the United States onthebasis of the results of the safety surveys.
I believe that proper surveys made in this manner are rather more important than opinions expressed by Dr Birrell, a gentleman for whom I have very great respect. The article continues:
Among the more significant findings of the Automotive Safety Foundation in the United States with regard to the Bureau of Public Road Programme for Better U. S. Highways, the following was discovered:
Widening an 18-foot road to 22 feet can cut accidents by 25%;
Widening narrow road shoulders to at least six feet can cut accidents by 33%;
Marking lanes on an unmarked road can reduce accidents by 33%. The lane marking causes motorists to watch further ahead as they approach intersections and the accident reduction occurs mainly at intersections;
We are now seeing some of these in Australia: can cut serious accidents by 50%;
High accident locations can be eliminated at relatively low cost. It has been shown that good large warning signs, giving a safe speed for the curve, cut accidents by 50%. Sharp curves in rural highways invite serious accidents; smoothing the curves has shown an accident reduction of as much as 8%.
These were the findings based on research. The important thing was that they were able to reduce accidents by almost 40%. I feel that we need such an investigation in Australia. A properly constituted body should be set up. We need more than the one that we have today which has to operate on $238,000 this year. The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads concerns itself maily with publicity programmes, but most of the publicity never gets to the public. With the Commonwealth Bureau we have the astonishing situation that the Act provides:
Except with the approval of the Minister, the Bureau, or a member (including an acting member) of the Bureau, shall not make public -
any information obtained by the Bureau in the course of carrying out any investigation;
The Bureau may make an investigation and may discover the cause of an accident. Probably it would make recommendations to correct the situation, bnt it may not make public the results of any investigation carried out by the Bureau, nor may it make public the whole or any part of the contents of a report furnished by the Bureau to the Minister. We presume that the Bureau investigates causes of accidents and matters of that kind. If it does not do so, it should. It then reports to the Minister who pleases himself whether he sends the report to the Parliament or suppresses it. I do not recollect him ever reporting these matters to the House. Honourable members are the Parliament. They are deeply concerned with the slaughter going on on the roads. They should know all about these things and should be told about them. They should be aware of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities and what should be the Commonwealth’s responsibilities. They should know what we can do to eliminate this awful slaughter. But the Bureau is not permitted to make a report to the Parliament.
Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with the previous speaker when he says that it is a shocking thing that one person will be killed every 3 hours and another one maimed every 7 minutes, the mere fact that there has been no serious attempt by the Government to correct the situation in its 17 years of office stands to its discredit. The last time that we heard any statement on the matter was at the Premiers Conference on 12th March 1964 when the then Federal Treasurer, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), said:
We intend to push on with its (Commonwealth Bureau of Roads) early establishment because it has a big and urgent job to do and the sooner it gets launched on this task the better.
The Chairman of the Bureau did not take up his duties until 1st October 196S. As I have said, he can make no report to the Parliament. In view of the serious slaughter that is now going on I hope that the Government will give some consideration to establishing a bureau with teeth, a bureau which can do something and which will be obliged to report to the Parliament.
– There are many items before the Committee for consideration in the appropriation for the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Shipping and Transport and for the Commonwealth Railways. However, time will not allow me to do more than ask a few questions. Certainly I am unable to examine the problems in the space of a quarter of an hour, nor do I believe that anyone else is able to do so. My colleague, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), has raised what I believe is probably the most important subject that will be raised during the debate on these estimates. I refer to the item which appears in the appropriation for the Department of Shipping and Transport Promotion of road safety practices’ for which the proposed expenditure is $234,000. I believe that we are all familiar with the casualty rate each year as a result of the road toll. The honourable members for Henty and Darebin (Mr Courtnay) have referred to the subject tonight. I propose to refer to it and I hope that others will do so because I believe it has to be spelt out very loudly.
In 1966 3,000 people were killed and 80,000 were maimed. The proposed expenditure of $234,000 seems to me to be too little. I hope that more will be made available to the States and that the Commonwealth will contribute more towards the promotion of road safety practices. In other words, I believe that we have to make a much greater effort in order to reduce the number of road casualties. I appeal to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) to take the first opportunity to endeavour to have this amount increased and to have laid down some kind of campaign to reduce the road toll. I believe that first there should be research because that is the most important aspect. We do not know enough about these things to be able to start a campaign without first having some research into the subject.
The one question we should be considering when discussing transport is the paucity of the funds made available for research into road safety practices. The amount is particularly poor when compared with the finance made available for less urgent services. I am aware that road safety is not a Commonwealth responsibility, but when the killed rate is as high as it is today it is everyone’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, of the State governments and of the local government authorities.
The amount of $234,000 has not changed to any marked extent for the last 2 or 3 years. During this period the number of road casualties in Australia has almost equalled the number of casualties in an international war. The honourable member for Henty has referred to this aspect. The annual cost to the community of the road vehicle warfare is tremendous and is increasing. We must spend more money wisely - I say wisely, because it is not merely a matter of spending money - on this problem if the casualty rate is to be reduced in any way. We do not know enough about the killing that is taking place on our roads and we do not know the answer to the road massacre. Let us face up to it; the casualty rate on our roads is a major public health problem that is causing a heavy loss to our population at great financial cost. The killer report - that is, the report on road traffic accidents, which should really have a black border around it, surmounted by a cross - states that last year over 3,000 people were killed on our roads, and over the last 5 years nearly 15,000 were killed. To be exact, 14,497 people were killed on the roads during the last 5 years. As my honourable friend from Henty said, 80,000 people were injured last year. In the last 5 years 360,000 were injured on the roads. These figures are appalling. The continual fall in Australia’s natural population increase certainly could harm Australia’s future security. This makes our road casualties even more serious, if that were possible. We do not seem to worry very much about the seriousness of our road casualties.
We spend an enormous amount of money on immigration and on research into disease, but, if the amount of almost $250,000 appropriated for the promotion of road safety practices in 1967-68 is any guide, we appear less worried about road safety than we are about national fitness, for instance. If national fitness is important, and I believe it is important to keep young people fit, it is surely more important to stop young people from killing themselves on the roads. To think as we do these days of our road problems as mere accidents is not good enough. We are denying research authorities the opportunity to determine the causes and to some extent prevent the recurrence of the killing that we have at present. The Commonwealth allocates $366,000 to the Council for National Fitness, but only two-thirds of that amount to prevent people from being killed or injured for life. It is all so illogical to campaign to keep people fit while we make a smaller effort to prevent them from being killed on the roads. In the last financial year we made available nearly SI 3m to fight tuberculosis. This disease caused 321 deaths last year. We spent nearly $13m on this campaign. I remind honourable members of the number of people who are being killed on the roads, who are injured and who may be in our hospitals for life.
I know there has been a lot of discussion throughout the Commonwealth and in other countries about the role of motor cars in traffic accidents. The general opinion is that the two main primary problems are bad driving and poor roads, and the emphasis is on bad driving. Whatever amount of money is spent on education to prevent bad driving, according to the report of the Stanford Research Institute of California, which studied the problem, this cause will never be eliminated. I think we all agree. But the Stanford report did say - this is most important - that if we introduce drastic measures we could reduce traffic deaths by considerable numbers. Other losses, including injuries and property damage, could be cut proportionately. According to the Stanford report on its research, a 20% reduction in speed in the United States would mean a saving each year of some 25,000 lives out of the 50,000 who are now lost in car accidents, plus of course, the proportionate swing of disabilities and accident costs. The application and promotion of road safety practices naturally invites me to ask: What extensive research work have we done in Australia on the effect of speed to determine whether slower driving would result in fewer deaths? I do not think that we have done enough about this. We want to know from research in Australia, amongst other things, whether the average Australian driver could slow his speed and how this could be achieved. I do not know how this would be done, but it could be the subject of research. We want to know whether increasing driving time by a few minutes each day would mean the saving of many lives each year. Surely this is worth the closest examination.
The Stanford Research Institute said that 5 minutes more driving a day could save 15,000 lives. That is the result of research in America. What is the situation in Australia? If there is anything in the statement that the driver is the chief source of trouble, and 1 believe there is, we should be taking some urgent action of the type we would take if this country were struck by a serious epidemic. Deaths on the roads have reached epidemic proportions. Should wc be teaching in our secondary schools the cause of this high death and casualty rate in Australia? Should we teach students how to prevent it? Educational authorities say that the schools cannot fit this type of training into their tight curriculums. Is this true? I do not know. We know that many young Australians are hardly out of school before they begin driving their first car. As the honourable member for Henty said earlier, the age groups from 17 to 21 years and from 22 to 29 years are those in which most people are killed on the roads.
As he pointed out, we are endeavouring to bring 150,000 migrants a year Vo Australia to increase our population, but every 5 years we injure more than twice this number on our roads. This high accident rate leads to the disorganisation of our hospital and medical services, imposes terrific financial burdens on the Department of Social Services and causes expenditure far in excess of the sum that we are allocating to road safety. For every person killed or injured on the roads, we spend less than S3 per annum on the promotion of road safety and research into road problems. Admittedly, the Commonwealth cannot on its own undertake successful research programmes throughout Australia on these problems, but it can do so with the co-operation of the States. I believe that it can provide the necessary finance. So I appeal to the Minister for Shipping and Transport to take a still greater interest in these matters and to see whether he can establish a research programme that will at least reduce the present great wastage of human life on our roads.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I can well understand the deep concern at the increasing road toll that has been expressed by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) and the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) on the Government side of the chamber and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Darebin (Mr Courtnay) on the Opposition side. I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) and all thinking Australians are deeply concerned at the tremendous toll on our roads and the reasons for it. We all wonder why there is not greater co-operation in an effort to reduce it. One of the factors in the road toll, as has been mentioned, is speed. It is very difficult to reduce the importance of speed as a cause of road accidents when the manufacturers of motor vehicles repeatedly advertise the high speeds that vehicles can attain and make a sales feature of them. I believe that this encourages young people, who will have a go and who do not always realise the dangers of the moment, to drive too fast.
Another major cause of road accidents is the state of our roads. Many of them were built to withstand loads only up to 10 tons, and today they are carrying loads of 25 tons or more. Where traffic of this kind is constant, road surfaces roll up almost like the red carpet that was in King’s Hall earlier today. Many of our roads were not built to withstand such heavy loads carried by constant streams of fast moving vehicles, and they are deteriorating at a rate faster than that at which the limited resources of the States permit them to be maintained. Because of the vast distances in Australia, I believe, there is a tendency, particularly on the part of local government authorities, to seal the narrowest possible surface in order to extend the sealing over greaterdistances. This may be fine in principle, but we all know how many accidents are caused when vehicles pass each other and one has to get off the bitumen on to the shoulder of the road. Often there are very deep ruts in the shoulders. Sometimes the shoulders themselves are narrow or have not been cleared adequately. As a consequence, a vehicle can easily get out of control and before the driver can bring it back under control it may career off the road or plunge down the side of a hill if the road is on a hillside.
We would like to have heard from the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads about matters such as these. When the measure constituting the Bureau was being considered, the Opposition proposed an amendment designed to ensure that the Bureau would present an annua] report that would be placed on the table in each House of the Parliament. The Government defeated the amendment and insisted that it would be sufficient if the Minister for Shipping and Transport were advised of any recommendations that the Bureau might make. I believe that the people of Australia are entitled to know what investigations the Bureau may have made and what recommendations it may have submitted to the Minister for him in turn to submit to the Government. I am sure that many Government supporters agree with me in this. We all would like to know what is being done and what we as a Parliament can do to help reduce the drastic road toll.
The Department of Shipping and Transport is responsible for the provision of navigation aids on the Australian coast. I note that around our coast there are 283 lighthouses, unmanned lights and other navigational aids, comprising fifty-six manned lights and eighty-four unattended lights, together with various lightships, light buoys and beacons. Along the coastline of Papua and New Guinea there are 123 installations, comprising sixty unattended lights and sixty-three unlighted beacons. The number of beacons is considerable. These are serviced mainly by two small vessels. I remind the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) that some 4 years ago tenders were called for the construction of two new vessels for the servicing of these lights, particularly along the coast of Papua and New Guinea and in Torres Strait. These two vessels were to replace the ‘Wallach’. Tenders were called for the construction of the two vessels simultaneously or one at a time, and eventually a tender for one was let to Walkers Ltd, of Maryborough in Queensland, and a tender for the other was let to the Phoenix Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Pty Ltd, at Devonport in Tasmania. For some reason which I am not able to ascertain, the Phoenix shipyard, with the consent of the Department, withdrew its tender and the vessel concerned was never constructed. The other, which was named the ‘Noel Buxton’, was put into service approximately 12 months ago. I understand from the information supplied by the Department concerning its estimates that tenders for the construction of the second vessel will be called for after some further investigations have been made.
I ask the Minister: ls the Department not satisfied with the capabilities of the
Noel Buxton’? Does it consider that a vessel of different type should be constructed for this work, or will it shortly call tenders for the construction of the second vessel? The reason why I ask these questions is that Walkers Ltd has only one order on its books at present. That is for ten of the twenty 100-foot patrol boats being constructed for the Royal Australian Navy. Having only this one order on its books, this firm is odd man out among the shipyards of Australia, most of which have considerable numbers of orders on hand, though some have more than others. Some of the orders on the books of other shipyards are for quite large vessels. The size of vessels that can be constructed at the Walkers Ltd yard is restricted because of the shallow draught available in the Mary River at that point, and a boat of the kind that I am now discussing would be admirably suited to construction by this firm. I am sure that Walkers Ltd would be very interested in constructing such a vessel and would be prepared to tender competitively for the contract if the vessel required were similar to the ‘Noel Buxton’ and would be prepared to consider modifications if these were considered necessary.
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) told us earlier how the importance of having an Australian overseas shipping line is sinking into the minds of the people of Australia. I am informed that a test poll that was conducted indicated that some 71% of people are in favour of an Australian overseas shipping line. I admit that there are differences of opinion about whether it should be privately owned or government owned. We note that ships of the Australian National Line have been extending their operations and are now engaged in the bulk cargo overseas trade. We are very shortly to break into the containerisation system of handling cargo, and I believe that we should establish our own overseas line to enter into the container cargo trade when the opportunity offers rather than leave it to the present Australian National Line to break into this new trade. When the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission was first established, quite a number of private shipping companies and subsidiaries of overseas companies were operating on the Australian coast, but not one of them operates today.
People around the Australian coastline depend on the Commission to carry not only general cargo but bulk cargo which comprises most of the cargo carried. This service is operated for our major exporting industries.
It is pleasing to note that the Commission reports increasing demand for its interstate passenger traffic. It reports that there were 111,980 passengers carried on the Princess of Tasmania’ and the ‘Empress of Australia*. I think it is very important from the defence point of view that we should have passenger ships under the Australian flag which would be available in times of emergency. We know of the good work that was done by passenger ships that were operating on the Australian coast previously in the transport of troops to New Guinea and even to Japan. Those ships were readily available to be seconded into service for the transport of our troops.
Turning again to the question of freight and how it is costing Australia money, I refer to a statement which was made in September 1966 - almost 12 months ago. The Australian Meat Board accused the Federal Exporters Overseas Transport Committee of ‘yielding to pressure’ and ‘reversing a previous unanimous decision’ in agreeing to differential freight increases on Australian exports to Great Britain and Europe. Briefly, Mr Shute, the Chairman of the Meat Board, said that the Board had reluctantly agreed to approve a 10% freight increase on meat exports to the United Kingdom and Europe. This seems to follow a pattern. Once a market is established there is an increase in freight rates. Most of our increasing markets are for primary produce and the best seem to be for meat.
As the honourable member for Stirling pointed out, the only occasion on which we were able to stand up to the overseas shipping combines was when we had an overseas shipping line of our own. History shows the number of occasions on which overseas combines have pressed for increases in freight rates. Immediately after the First World War there was a demand for shipping and these overseas combines were able to charge any price for freight. Because the Hughes Government had acquired an overseas shipping fleet it was able to hold these freight increases back for the benefit of the Australian primary producer. I think that there is a lot to commend the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line. I am pleased to see that the proposal is receiving a great deal of support.
The other matter in which I am interested is the advent of Australian owned oil tankers. We all remember that a short time ago R. W. Miller, the coal owner, entered into the oil tanker trade with much opposition, I might say, from the oil companies. We know the stranglehold that oil companies have had on the sale of petroleum products throughout Australia. Nobody is able to ascertain their profits because they are all tied up with overseas investment. At one stage it was admitted that there was a vacancy for ten or twelve oil tankers in the Australian coastal trade. Both of those figures have been mentioned at various times. Later I believe that the Minister for Shipping and Transport was advised that because of the increased number of refineries in the Australian States there was a vacancy for only ten tankers.
We have been given to understand that the Suez crisis is the reason for the increase in the local price of petrol. I do not know to what extent this is so. We do not have access to the figures or books of the companies to ascertain whether this reason for the increase is entirely correct. Such a statement is always questionable. I believe that if we had our own Australian tankers we would be able to obtain oil from Indonesia. 1 think that the Australian National Line is in a position to operate its own tanker. I urge the Government to ensure that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission enters into the overseas trade, particularly as regards containerisation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. C. Haworth) - Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– In rising to speak in this debate I wish to refer to the Federal Government’s allocations towards roads throughout the Commonwealth. I would like to say how pleased I am that contributions in this regard have increased steadily during the past few years. I note that in 1964-65 moneys made available to the States totalled $130m. In 1965-66 they totalled $140m; in 1966-67 they totalled $150m; and in 1967-68 they will total $160m. With the economy of Australia in such a healthy state there is no reason to expect that this trend should not continue. However, I would like to express my disappointment at the Commonwealth Government’s rejection of a joint request from the South Australian and Western Australian Governments concerning a grant for the sealing of the centre section of the Eyre Highway from Ceduna in South Australia to the Western Australian border. I believe that the Government has taken a narrow view in maintaining that this is wholly the responsibility of the South Australian Government.
Mr Deputy Chairman, I would like you and other members to consider some of the facts of this particular case. First of all, the Commonwealth recognised the national importance of this road by financing the original construction in the early 1940s. It has been contributing $25,000 per annum towards the maintenance of this road from Penong in South Australia to the Western Australian border, and a similar amount to the Western Australian Government for maintenance purposes. This is done provided the States contribute an equal amount. Let us have a look at what South Australia has done with the limited funds at its disposal. Perhaps it could have directed funds to better purposes in this regard, but it has done quite a lot over the years.
From 1961 to 1966 sealing has been carried out progressively between Port Augusta and Ceduna at a cost of $4.5m to the South Australian Government. The State has undertaken to spend a further $750,000 to complete the sealing of this national Route No. 1 to Ceduna by 1968 - a total distance of 468 miles from Adelaide - leaving a gap of 311 miles unsealed in a total distance from Adelaide to Perth of 1,702 miles. The South Australian Government is prepared to undertake the construction and sealing and to contribute$1. 22m over 5 years if the Commonwealth will allocate more than $6m over 6 years. In addition to this, South Australia would undertake a survey design and it is prepared to completely maintain the sealed road. This would mean a considerable saving to the Commonwealth in future years. The Governments of Western Australia and South Australia have indicated their willingness to co-operate fully on this project.
I want to give the Committee some figures that have been compiled after a detailed survey undertaken by the Highways Department of vehicles using this road in 1965-66. Of the total number of vehicles 38% were registered in South Australia, 29.3% in Victoria, 23.5% in New South Wales, 7.1% in Queensland and 2.1% in other places. This means that 62% of all the vehicles that used the Highway completed their trips in States other than South Australia. Information obtained from fruit fly check points also indicated that 62.3% of vehicles using the Highway came from States other than South Australia. Another interesting figure is that showing the increase in the number of vehicles using the highway. In 1965 a total of 9,509 east-bound vehicles were counted, but in 1966-67 the total was close to 18,000.
I would like also to give some interesting information showing how the Commonwealth would benefit financially if this road were completely sealed. It is estimated that the average length of journeys undertaken by tourists using the Eyre Highway is 2,180 miles. It is also estimated that the average journey of motorists on holiday, with no incentive to make the trans-Australian trip, is 300 miles. If the Highway were completely sealed it is conceivable, therefore, that many motorists on holiday would be induced to extend their journeys by 1,880 miles. It can be assumed that the volume of traffic would at least double with the provision of a good sealed highway. Taking all these points into consideration we can calculate that a total of 68.3 million miles would be travelled during 12 months, and this would require the consumption of 2.75 million gallons of petrol. The Commonwealth would gain some $350,000 on petrol excise alone, and of course there would be other advantages flowing from this increased traffic volume.
The Eyre Highway is vitally important from many aspects other than that of tourism. It provides the only land link between Western Australia and the eastern States, and this is of the greatest importance when we consider the rapid development of Western Australia. The Federal Government has declared its interest in national road planning and has acknowledged its economic and developmental interest by establishing the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in 1964. This Bureau has the services of expert personnel whose function it is to report to the Minister on all aspects of roads such as this, so that the Commonwealth Government will be well informed when requests are made by State governments for financial assistance for national highways. I believe that this instrumentality should certainly give further consideration to the Eyre Highway. In 1947 when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act was introduced the Eyre Highway was one of several classified as strategic roads, and it was at this time that the Commonwealth made money available to maintain such roads at a standard higher than that justified by the traffic using them. After a review conducted in 1957 by the Defence Committee the Eyre Highway was removed from the list of strategic roads and has not since been restored to it. I fail to see the logic of this, particularly in the present situation when the security of Australia is of prime concern to the Government.
Apart from the defence aspect the road is of great importance in the encouragement of tourism. We all greeted with acclaim the Commonwealth decision to appoint a Minister in charge of Tourist Activities. Ohe of the first matters that should be looked at in an effort to promote the tourist industry is the provision of good roads linking all parts of the country. The arguments I have used can, of course, be applied to other roads in Australia, not the least important of them being, in my opinion, the Port Augusta-Alice Springs road, which could possibly be planned to serve Woomera. 1 think most honourable members know that there are about 2,500 Commonwealth employees at Woomera who frequently travel south over the existing nightmarish route. I am sure the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would agree with me that the Port Augusta-Alice Springs road could well receive the attention of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. No doubt honourable members from Queensland have other roads in mind that could also be considered.
I would like to conclude with an appeal to the Government to look again at this problem in the near future, so that the roads of the kind I have mentioned, and the Eyre Highway in particular, may be properly constructed and sealed as soon as possible in the interests of further national development and of tourist promotion.
– I rise to make some comments on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. Like the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth), who asked a question on the subject early in this sessional period, I am particularly interested in charter flights. The honourable member for Isaacs asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) to explain why two British charter airlines, Caledonian and Lloyd International, which wanted to fly relatives and friends of British migrants to Australia and fly migrants back to Great Britain for holidays, had been refused permission by the Australian Government to provide this service. Just prior to question time on that occasion I had personally submitted to the Minister a similar request on behalf of interested constituents in my electorate who had joined a club affiliated with the Australian and New Zealand Parents and Relatives Association in the United King* dom. The patrons of this Association are, by command of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, the Australian High Commissioner in London, the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Sir Kenneth Thompson, M.P., and the Rt Hon.
Emmanuel Shinwell, M.P. The President of the Association is the Rt Hon. Bessie Braddock, M.P.
Originally the Association planned to conduct a charter flight to New Zealand towards the end of this year, lt proposed to provide a service to and from that country, allowing travellers from the United Kingdom to remain a month in New Zealand and those from New Zealand to remain a month in the United Kingdom. The return fare was to be $400, which is approximately one-third of the fare charged by the recognised overseas airlines for economy class travel. In this connection, however, I understand that the Federal Government recently acled to provide cheaper fares for this class of travel and this was referred to by the Minister in his reply to the honourable member for Isaacs, when he said:
Fairly regularly we have applications from charter operators in a variety of countries, and even from within Australia, to operate charter services, sometimes in direct competition with the international airlines, including our own international operator Qantas Airways Ltd. We considered this matter because of our desire to see am extension of travel to Australia, both for group purposes and for tourist purposes. Australia, through Qantas and through our own departmental representatives at discussions with the International Air Transport Association, has continually pressed for a reduction in fates. During last year we were successful in obtaining agreement to a reduction in fares for groups of this type. At the present time it is possible to carry people on a charter basis through the regular airlines at a rate down to 70% of the economy fare. In addition to this special arrangements are made for groups of people under the age of 26 years. So to some degree the .persons referred to by the honourable member are covered by the existing arrangements which are quite legal within the terms which are agreed to by all countries in IATA and to which we subscribe very strongly. The Minister referred to the possible reduction of fares upon the charter basis to bring them to 70% of the economy class fare. Other countries with migration programmes have recognised for a number of years the need to offer financial inducement to their migrants. It is interesting to note the following rates quoted to affinity groups for charter flights from and to the United Kingdom. It is interesting to compare them with the ordinary schedule return rates. The rate from the eastern parts of the United States of America and Canada for charter flights is $125 and for scheduled flights $268. The charter rate from South Africa to the United Kingdom is $400 while the scheduled flight is $712.55. The cost of a charter flight from Singapore to the United Kingdom is $385 as compared to the schedule cost of $864.50. Finally, the cost of a charter flight from Rhodesia to the United Kingdom is $325 while the cost of the schedule flight is $641. In his interview with me, the Minister stressed the safety requirements for all aircraft and stated that a number of accidents had occurred in charter flights. I agree with the Minister that the utmost safety precautions should predominate at all times. However, I am sure the Minister will agree that our own national airlines have been plagued with a number of accidents during the past few years. On all occasions in this chamber he has claimed that the utmost safety precautions have been carried out by members of his Department.
I recently received a circular letter from World Charters (Travel) Ltd. This organisation is the general sales agent for Lloyd International Airways Ltd who are based at Stansted Airport, Essex. We can see the standard of safety requirements by looking at this letter. The aircraft that are used are of the highest calibre. It is stated in this letter that for late 1967 and early 1968 Lloyd International Airways Ltd are offering Britannia turbo- jet aircraft carrying 119 passengers in superb comfort. The letter also indicates that in late 1968, Lloyd International will be offering the new DC8-63F pure jets carrying 270 passengers and that these aircraft will be available for charter at very attractive rates. Like all honourable members I am particularly concerned at the large number of migrants who are leaving this country after fulfilling their assisted passage obligations. I think we have to take some cognisance of the large numbers of people, particularly in the last 2 years, who are leaving this country. In 1965, 14,803 people returned to their previous country. This figure was exceeded in 1966 when 18,343 people departed from this country. It is evident to all that we have to attract migrants so that we can defend Australia. It is all right to send troops to a country like Vietnam from the viewpoint of defending this country at a particular stage. However, I am one of those persons - and we are different from quite a number of the members opposite - who believe that when the call is made for the defence of this country, when a nation in South East Asia attacks Australia, it will be the people within Australia who will be called upon to do the job of defending it. I believe we should not rely upon countries such as America because if ever we are attacked, America will have her hands full in looking after herself. It disturbs me to see large numbers of migrants leaving this country. In the last 4 or 5 years we have been attracting to this country from 120,000 to 140,000 people. As I say, I am disturbed that big numbers of migrants are leaving this country. I am further concerned when I see reports such as that which appeared in the ‘Advertiser* of 5th May 1967 which was headed ‘United Kingdom Firm to Bring Home Migrants’. The article stated:
A London company will start a three-State campaign soon to repatriate disgruntled British migrants. A representative of the firm is in Sydney to undertake a preliminary survey. He will visit migrant hostels and interview migrants who would like to return to Britain. The company aims to help 2,000 migrants return to Britain in the next 12 months. The representative, Mr George Athans said today he was here to gather information which could be used to spearhead a campaign to contact disgruntled British migrants.
Mr Athans is representing London travel agent, Mr Simon Goodman, who hopes to make $A50,000 a year repatriating disgruntled British migrants from Australia.
Mr Goodman has announced his company, Simms Travel Ltd, of London, will repatriate migrants on a ‘fly now, pay later’ scheme.
Mr Goodman is expected to visit Australia soon to develop the scheme in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
Some people have accused me of cashing in on misfortune, but I don’t look at it that way at all’, he said. 1 see nothing wrong with what I am doing - there are no morals in business.’
This sort of thing disturbs me. It is why I went to the Minister for Civil Aviation - and I again appeal to the Government - to seek consideration of charter flights. I have quite a number of English migrants in my electorate. They are good citizens. However, it is a question of settling in this country. Whilst this does not affect the husband so much it does affect the wife who is in the home all day. When she comes to this country she has to leave her relatives and in some cases her children. This is something that plays upon her mind. I feel that wc could stop the drift of migrants if we had a cheap charter airline service which was within the financial reach of many of these people. By doing this we could stop the drift of English migrants who represent the greatest number of migrants in this country. I appeal to the Minister on this score because a continuing and popular migration scheme is essential if Australia is to progress. After all, contented migrants are the best advertisement for increased migration to Australia. More migrants would come here if they had an opportunity to make a trip to their homeland. Most settlers dream of such a trip but cannot afford to make it. They cannot afford the high cost of air travel from this country to their place of birth. The distance between Australia and Europe is a big handicap. I have tried to make the point that countries such as Canada, the United States and South Africa are providing charter airline services on a large scale and migrants are taking full advantage of them. I again appeal to the Minister who is sitting at the table to give full consideration to the submissions that I made to him on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Parents and Relatives Association who expect to make a flight this year. I know that the travel agencies throughout Australia are up in arms and will give no assistance whatsoever to this proposed flight.
Even the national airlines are going out of their way to prejudice this particular flight. If we are going to keep the migrants in this country happy and contented, which is essential for the future of Australia, we must provide the means whereby if they have the necessary finance they can return to their homeland to visit their relatives and their relatives can come here to see Australia. We do not want our migrants to be disgruntled, because it is the disgruntled migrants on whom the firm I mentioned will capitalise.
– Generally speaking, great advances have been made in civil aviation in recent times. The frequency of air services between capital cities has been stepped up and jet aircraft are now flying over more of our air routes. Revenue for the current financial year from the Australian National Airlines Commission by payment in the nature of a dividend is estimated to be $1,125,000. This is the actual amount received from this source in the previous 2 years, and indicates the financial capacity of Trans-Australia Airlines to continue to provide the essential inland services that it has been providing over many years. Similarly, Ansett-ANA has been paying a dividend of 10% and recently shares sold at 75c, 50% above face value and (he highest price for 1967, indicating that any losses sustained in providing inland services have been easily absorbed.
During my investigations into inland air services generally, it has been claimed that a commuter service could provide a better and perhaps more frequent service than that provided by the major airlines by using a plane of a size more in keeping with the traffic carried. I believe that the major airlines could have introduced services with smaller aircraft than they normally provide. But if, in fact, a commuter service can provide satisfactorily the service required, that will ease my concern. One thing that must be taken into consideration in conjunction with the use of a commuter service in place of the services presently provided by the major airlines is the extra traffic that is available at special times, as for instance during school holidays. This, in fact, necessitates the sending of special flights to cope with the increased traffic. If a commuter service is to take the place of the major airline services in inland areas it will be necessary for some arrangements to be made with the major airlines to co-operate with the commuter service to take up the slack which will occur from time to time on these routes and which it might be difficult for a commuter service to accommodate. If, in fact, the major airlines are to discontinue some of their services they should remain in the picture to the extent that they agree to assist the commuter services to provide adequate services on special occasions.
Yesterday the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) announced that three more Queensland country centres - Gayndah, Warwick and Stanthorpe - are to receive air commuter services. Warwick and Stanthorpe have been without regular air services since 1965 when East- West Airlines Ltd withdrew because of the economic problems of maintaining the services with big airline aircraft. The Minister said that Western Air Navigation Ltd would provide Warwick and Stanthorpe with a four times a week return service to Brisbane. I share the Minister’s pleasure in the fact that these towns will have their air services restored. I hope a similar situation will apply to other parts of inland Queensland where reduced services have been applied and where they have not been restored. I urge the Minister to do all in his power to see that places that have even greater need for air services are provided with them at the earliest opportunity. I have received representations from people in the inland for this to be done. The Minister has given much consideration to this matter. Indeed, I am grateful to him for the time he has given to discussing the matter with me.
Although I have suggested that the major airlines could have done more in this direction, within the capabilities of their financial position, the officials of those airlines have been always ready to discuss these problems with me, and I have appreciated the opportunities I have had to discuss the problems with them. However, I am concerned mainly with the quality and frequency of services to inland Queensland, in particular to the area I represent. These services should be maintained because they are vital to the people living in the outback, particularly to those who are some distance from rail transport and who depend greatly on air services. I hope the commuter services will be as successful as is anticipated and I trust that through them - if not through the major airlines - the people of the inland will be able to have the same standard of service that they have been enjoying for many years. It is hard for people who have been affected by bad seasons and who have suffered serious depreciation of prices to find that some of the services on which they depend have been taken away. While I have said that the airlines have been prepared to assist in some ways, the airlines were rather inconsiderate in cutting off services without any notice or with so short a notice that it was equivalent to no notice. They could have given the Minister and those interested in these services time in which to determine whether some alternative transport could have been available. Whatever the airlines might have done since then, they certainly gave the people in the outback areas a great deal of anxiety over their air services. When 1 was flying to Canberra this week 1 found that people visiting my area from Victoria are concerned over a reduction of services. They have interests in the area, but the service has been reduced on Mondays. There is a flight from the area but no flight in. I mention this as an illustration of how business is affected in my area. There is no need to stress the value of air services to the inland and the dependency placed on them by people there.
I want now to discuss aerodrome maintenance. I notice that expenditure on buildings and works has been increased to the extent of $3,031,006 in New South Wales. This wm be spent mainly on the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Expenditure in Victoria has been increased by $4,446,855, mainly for the continued development of Tullamarine Airport. I believe that these major airports should be brought to a standard which will enable them to accommodate modern aircraft, and they should be modernised, but I hope that Brisbane will not be forgotten as the third city in the Commonwealth in having improvements made to its aerodrome.
While we are considering the spending of money, I wonder whether the Federal Government could not do more for the local authorities which have accepted responsibility under the local ownership plan and have spent a great deal in improving aerodromes and which have been disappointed to find their air services reduced. I draw attention to the burden that rests on local authorities generally. They are being called on to provide more and more amenities and they are providing these amenities at a time when their revenues have had to be increased despite difficulties that many of their ratepayers are experiencing. I think it would be an opportune time for the Government to consider giving further assistance to local authorities that have accepted the responsibility of the local ownership plan. Not all have done this or are doing this, but to those who have accepted the responsibility I suggest that the Government should give consideration. I have confined my remarks to this matter of inland air services because I feel it is tremendously important. As I said before, I thank the Minister for what he has done. I do hope that he will not let up until such time as we can say that there has been no reduction in services throughout the inland areas of the Commonwealth.
– I too would like to speak on civil aviation. There are some matters that I feel are important to the people of Australia and especially to those people who will be flying in charter operations and feeder services. We are going to have more of these services operating throughout Australia. Feeder services will be very important to people in outback areas and I believe that there should be a great deal of surveillance by the Department of Civil Aviation to make sure that the persons flying these aircraft and the operators of these aircraft comply with the regulations. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) has provided me with a copy of regulation 203, which outlines the requirements under which people can fly charter operations. I sincerely hope that the Department of Civil Aviation will police charter aircraft and also the pilots. I feel that this is very important because many of these aircraft will be carrying the paying public and I am sure that we all desire to see the public protected.
I sincerely hope that the Department of Civil Aviation will make sure that the pilots of charter and feeder aircraft are properly qualified. I say this in all sincerity. I would like to mention the case of a pilot who was flying on feeder services in New Guinea. He was employed by one of the operators in the Territory. A leading official of the Department of Territories booked on this pilot’s aircraft, through the organisation operating it. When he got into the aircraft and sat beside the pilot the pilot asked him where they were going and was told the destination. The pilot then asked this official whether there were any hills on the route. I might say that they were flying to the Highlands. When the official asked the pilot the reason for his question the pilot said: ‘This is my first flight and 1 have had only 10 hours solo flying. I have no idea where the place is. As you have flown over the area, you can assist me.’ Because this official had had a great deal of experience in the Territory the journey was completed safely. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is interjecting. This may be important to him because he may be using one of these aircraft in the area he represents. A couple of days later the pilot concerned had an epileptic fit while attending a function. I shudder to think of what would have happened if he had taken his turn while piloting the aircraft, and I mention it to emphasise that the Department of Civil Aviation is lax in its supervision over the granting of licences to people in New Guinea.
When I was in New Guinea recently I heard complaints from well known officials in the Department about the malfunctioning of another aircraft belonging to the VIP fleet. They told me that on the day prior to the happening the aircraft flew low over Lae and people on the ground could hear that the engine was malfunctioning. It did manage to reach Port Moresby but when the engines were being tested next morning one of them burst into flames with the result that the aircraft was grounded in New Guinea. The Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) can confirm what I say, because it was his aircraft that was involved in the incident. Another aircraft and a replacement engine had to be flown up to New Guinea as a result.
We are all aware, too, of the number of disasters that have been occurring in the Air Force of recent times. I mention one in the Newcastle area, which was not the first to happen there, and another that occurred in the Darwin area when a circlip was left off an aircraft. We do not know the complete results of that disaster, but we do know what resulted from the one at Newcastle. Sabre jet aircraft have also crashed in the Newcastle area and this is a matter of grave concern to the people living in these areas because there is the possibility that someone on the ground will be killed or injured when an aircraft crashes.
I mention these matters because 1 think that it is the duty of members of Parliament to bring them to the notice of the public. We have not a great deal of time to speak on civil aviation at this stage, but I wish to refer now to the extreme difficulty one experiences in learning just what conditions govern the granting of licenses to charter operators. The Minister has given me the copy of the regulations and if one wishes to become conversant with what is required of the airline operators one has to wade through a great deal of reading matter. This is no mean task and involves the expenditure of a great deal of time. I have spent a great deal of time on them and discovered matters that ought to be raised in the Parliament. The regulations should be simpler of understanding because it is important that they should be understood thoroughly.
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots is not very happy about some of the conditions under which some of these charter air services are to be allowed io operate but, as I have stated before in this Parliament, they are reluctant to report near-incidents to the Department of Civil Aviation because the Department does not act on their reports. If one mentions these matters to the Department of Civil Aviation, the reply invariably is: ‘They were reported to us, but we believe these are cases where the pilots have to take evasive action to prevent a collision’. If a pilot sees that a certain happening is inevitable, it is only natural that, rather than delay to the point where evasive action becomes essential, he will take steps early to guard against any risk of collision. These pilots are concerned at how close a number of small aircraft come to the flight paths of large public transport aircraft operating out of the major towns and cities of Australia. We too should be concerned. Everybody is aware of the incident that occurred in America recently when a small aircraft, 12 miles off course, crashed into a Boeing 727 jet while it was taking off. The Department of Civil Aviation believes in the axiom of see and be seen. This means that pilots of commercial airliners should be able to see other aircraft and the pilots of those other aircraft should be able to see the commercial aircraft. But these regulations probably were made in the old days of single engined aircraft or aircraft such as Avro Ansons that did not fly at the speed required of modern aircraft.
Let us remember that when a commercial aircraft is taking off the pilot has only a limited time in which to get the aircraft into the air. It is natural that in that time his eyes will be glued to the instrument panel to make sure that everything is functioning normally so that the aircraft will take off properly. He does not have time to look around to see whether small aircraft are in the area. His main concern is the aircraft in
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots is concerned about the laxity of the Department of Civil Aviation in granting charter licences and other licences to pilots. There is a big difference between what is required of a commercial pilot and what is required of a pilot flying light aircraft. At present a commercial pilot is required to take off and to make a landing every 35 days but some of the regulations that govern pilots who fly charter aircraft require a take-off and landing to be made every 90 days or even once in every 6 or 12 months. I do not know what honourable members think about the situation in which a pilot who has not flown an aircraft for almost 6 months is allowed to fly without even having a practice run. It is our duty as a Parliament to raise these matters of air safety with a view to protecting all who fly in aircraft in this country. There are different classes of licences operating in Australia. There are classes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
I sincerely hope that I will be able to speak again on this matter, because I would like to raise a number of other points. There has been a considerable amount of correspondence between the Department of Civil
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Due to the enthusiasm of Government members to support the very constructive policies of the Government in the fields of shipping and transport and civil aviation a limitation is placed on the number of members who can speak on these subjects, which cover a comprehensive range. I certainly would like to have the opportunity to speak on shipping and transport even if only for one reason, that is, to support the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) in relation to road safety. I commend him for his contribution and indicate to him that if he is ever looking for support on the subject he may turn to me. Australia has a dreadful record in this field. There is no doubt in my mind that some constructive and very aggressive action is needed, particularly on the lines of what has been done in the United States of America. Clearly a lead is required from the Commonwealth.
I would like to direct my main remarks tonight to the portfolio of Civil Aviation. It is amazing what the honourable member for East .Sydney (Mr Devine) oan dredge up on these occasions. Rather than go Tq for the detail which he goes in for, I suggest that he should direct his attention to the figures before the Committee. The proposed expenditure for this year exceeds $80m. 1 suggest that the honourable member should look at the record of civil aviation in this country. Australia is in a remarkable and astonishing situation in this particular field. We are fortunate indeed that we have had men like KingsfordSmith, Ulm, Pethybridge, Taylor and Hudson Fysh. Practically every honourable member can well and truly remember those names. These men, in addition to others of modern times, paved the way, laid the foundation and built the structure and fabric of civil aviation in this country with the result that Australia is right up in front with the world’s best. Hudson Fysh has just recently retired. I add to the list of names that of Sir Cedric Turner, who has recently stepped down from the leadership of Qantas Airways Ltd, our own Director-General of Civil Aviation, Sir Donald Anderson, and a number of other people who have played a very important part, not the least of whom is Mr Ansett. I know that he is not well received by honourable members opposite, but let us not overlook the contribution of R. M. Ansett to Australian aviation.
If one looks through some of the annual reports of the various airlines - namely Qantas, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA - one sees some astonishing figures. Investment by the three major airlines amounts to approximately S3 65m. Their turnover in the last 5 years exceeded $ 1,000m. In the last 12 months 5 million passengers were carried by Australian airlines and regular passenger transports flew more than 1,250,000 hours. Honourable members may be interested to know that regular passenger transport airlines fly only 3 out of every 10 hours flown by aircraft in Australia; the other 7 are flown by general aviation. These figures are followed by many others.
I do not want to confuse the situation with too many facts because I know that it would be confusing to honourable members opposite who are not interested in facts. But because of all these things the Australian civil aviation organisation, including all aspects of it, has reached the position where the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is the world body in this field, has ranked Australian aviation as the fifth largest in the world. Although some honourable members may not be interested in civil aviation, I think that all honourable members read from time to time of the tremendous development in the field. I know that every honourable member will concede that it is astonishing that a country of 11,500,000 people can rank fifth in the world. Bur this is the situation we have reached today because of the leadership and exploratory campaigning by the pioneers of aviation to whom I referred earlier. A brilliant organisation has been handed down to other men such as Turner and Anderson. But, quite clearly, linked with the efforts of those men has been the policy of this Government which has established a foundaation of administration in civil aviation.
Behind the regular passenger transport section of the structure of aviation comes the general aviation field. In this field also a remarkable increase is going on. In this area the growth rate during 1966-67 was of the order of 18%. Five years ago only 1,600 general aircraft were flying in Australia, but today there are about 3,000. As 1 said earlier, general aircraft fly 7 out of every 10 hours flown in Australia. Behind this organisation of the regular passenger transports and general aviation lies the outstanding administration of the Department of Civil Aviation and the policy of this Government, a policy which is costing more than $80m this year.
In the 10 years up to 30th June next about $51 6m will have been spent by the Government on civil aviation under Appropriation Bills and works programmes. There are other astonishing figures which many people do not take into their consideration. It is not generally realised that 650 airports are controlled by the Department of Civil Aviation, that there are 100,000 miles of domestic air routes, that there are 309 navigational aids and that chain by chain the radar stations stretch from one end of the country to the other. Within a few months one will be able to go from a point 160 miles north of Brisbane right over the top of Sydney and south to Tasmania and will be completely under the coverage of the radar system installed by this administration. The radar coverage extends also to Adelaide in the west and covers most of the area across to Perth.
The Department of Civil Aviation has controlled 2 million aircraft movements in the last 12 months and, in addition, has provided information to 640,000 flights outside the controlled air space areas. These are not small efforts. When honourable members attempt to criticise civil aviation in Australia they should be sure of their facts and relate our achievement to what has been achieved by other countries. As I said earlier, we have 650 airfields in Australia which have been established and which must be maintained and kept going all the time.
Let me turn to the other side of the picture and compare the position in Australia with the position in certain European countries Which have access to such a substantial passenger market that they are able to maintain a high turnover rate. No doubt they operate on an economic basis. The Australian Government’s policy is based on sound international and domestic travel lines. The third level services which have been introduced recently will, I believe, prove to be a great asset in aviation in Australia.
The Government’s two-airline policy has been criticised from time to time but there is no doubt in my mind, or in the mind of anyone who thinks about this matter, that it has proved to be worthwhile and practical. The Government took a pretty courageous step in introducing the twoairline policy. Today we have two domestic airlines with a total capital investment of $15?m. These are viable organisations, something of which every country in the world cannot boast.
Now 1 touch on what I consider to be the sad side of the matter. Although I compliment the Department of Civil Aviation I wonder what happened with our international airports. What went wrong in the programme of development? On the one hand that magnificent organisation - Qantas - had the foresight as far back as 1956 to see that jet aircraft would be required. Against the advice of many cynics who said that Qantas was going in the wrong direction, the company ordered a special type of Boeing. It showed a great deal of finesse and today it is right up in front in international travel.
On the other hand we have the activities of the Department of Civil Aviation in the provision of international airports. What happened in regard to our preferences in this field? Today, 8 years after the introduc tion of jet aircraft into Australia and 11 years after Qantas made its decision to purchase the Boeing, we have really only one international airfield with the necessary facilities. That is at Perth in Western Australia. It will be another 12 or 18 months before Tullamarine is operating. For 20 years we have been told what will be done at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I offer the observation that the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works have problems in relation to KingsfordSmith Airport, but what went wrong with priorities? I know that Perth required an international airport for the Commonwealth Games but Melbourne had to manage without one for the Olympic Games.
I do not deny that Perth is an essential link in the international field but I cannot accept the present priority in relation to Tullamarine. Nor do I deny that Melbourne needs a new international airport but I am quibbling about the priority. Let us keep interstate politics out of this matter and keep the discussion on the broadest level. If an international airport were required at this juncture it should have been constructed at Brisbane. There is no doubt about that.
It will cost $125m of Australian capital to set up Tullamarine. Let me instance where the money will go. The land cost $5m. According to the latest estimate, pavements and the terminal will cost (45m so in respect of those two items alone the cost is over $50m. Operations equipment in the radar system will cost Sim, and Essendon - do not write that off because it has been included when comparative costs in relation to Kingsford-Smith have been listed - is valued at $5m. Qantas is required to spend $7m and the domestic airlines $25m. In addition there will be a new road system costing $30m. It may well be argued that this has nothing to do with this Government but we are responsible in some way or other for finding the $125m to set up Tullamarine. I do not deny the fact that an international airport is required in Victoria but it is being constructed out of its order of priority. If such an airport were required it should have been constructed at Brisbane which I believe has the No. 1 priority. Geographically Brisbane would be an excellent site for an international airport.
Let me deal with another facet of this problem. The air transport system was working quite efficiently. International aircraft were coming into Sydney mainly from the north and from the Pacific. Passengers for other States were transhipped at Sydney. Now, many of them will fly on to Melbourne. The consequent loss of revenue to the Australian domestic airline system is quite significant. I estimate the loss in turnover will be S2m a year. I suggest that, for this reason alone, the move to Melbourne was not wise. If Brisbane had been chosen as an international airport, we would have had the contrary effect. The domestic system would have been reinforced; it would have carried passengers from Brisbane, where they were off-loaded from international aircraft. Time has run away from me. I would have liked to talk at length on this subject. It is one blemish on the magnificent record of the Department of Civil Aviation. Over a number of years the Department has established a wonderful fabric of administration, co-ordination and organisation and its record was comparable to that of any similar organisation in the world. It is regrettable that the Department lost its sense of priorities when determining the location of international airports, and yet one cannot place the entire blame on it for having done so.
– I will confine my remarks to the adoption of the container method of handling cargo by overseas shipping lines. Only recently I listened to an announcement by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth), in which they stated that there appeared to be shortcomings in Australian facilities for trade routes other than those to and from Great Britain. The Government sees a successful and smooth changeover to containerisation in the ports and allied facilities as vital to Australia’s economic future. They went on to say that it is hoped that containerisation will at least halt the ever-increasing bill that Australia has to pay to overseas shipping companies to carry its trade. Of course, no-one knows better than the two Ministers do that this will not be so. Containerisation will double the speed of shipping on the British run by speeding up the turn-round of vessels.
The Ministers said that Australia had to be prepared for containerisation on all major trade routes within two or three years. They also announced that the interdepartmental committee on this subject will be aided by the Australian National Line and the National Materials Handling Bureau, which is an off-shoot of the Department of National Development, lt is understood that the main aim of the committee will be to find an answer in advance to all the problems that might arise when the European, Japanese, American and other major shipowners begin running container vessels to Australia. The committee will aim at having a complete report for Cabinet by the end of this year. Will that report be presented to Parliament, I wonder? Both Ministers say that the objective of the investigation will be to establish authoritatively the complete range of facilities required on an Australia-wide basis to service the planned operations. The investigation will suggest the measures necessary to ensure that the facilities are available when and where required.
Side by side with this announcement - whether it was coincidental or deliberate I do not know - an article was published showing that two British container consortiums, Overseas Containers Ltd and Associated Container Transport Ltd, will co-operate in a container service between Britain and Australia. How fortunate we are! In London, Associated Containers Ltd announced that it will be able to build three cellular cargo vessels for the British container service to and from Australia. Overseas Containers Ltd already has six 27,000 ton container vessels under construction which will be delivered between January 1969 and June 1969. Each ship wm be capable of carrying 1,150 containers, including 350 insulated containers, and will have a speed of more than 21 knots. Shipbuilders abroad have been asked to tender for the vessels on the basis of delivery in 1969. Directors of .Overseas Containers Ltd have said that when the service comes into full operation there will be a weekly container service between Australia and Britain.
I am intrigued, to say the least, by these announcements, especially in view of the fact that a responsible government proposes to assist the private shipping monopolies by running a shuttle service around the Australian coast, using coastal vessels owned by the Australian National Line. Overseas Containers Ltd proposes to run a direct route with three Australian terminals - at Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. The Japanese shipowners who will control the Japan-Australia shipping service propose to operate with a terminal at Brisbane. With the kind co-operation of our Commonwealth Government they will be able to use at any time the shuttle service supplied by the Australian National Line. 1 would like to ask whether the Australian Government has lost all sense of responsibility in its duty to protect Australian shipping lines against foreign competition. I wonder at its businesslike ingenuity. On Sth September 1965 Mr Harold Holt, then Federal Treasurer and now Prime Minister, said when addressing an economic forum of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce:
I hope to live long enough to see an Australian shipping line carrying Australian goods to ports around the world.
Everyone believed at the time that Mr Holt had seen the light, but the question now arises: How long does our Prime Minister expect to live? Two years have passed since he made those remarks and no effort has been made by the man now completely in charge to establish an Australian national overseas line of container ships. Now is the time for action, as the age of container ships has definitely arrived. Steps should be taken to lay the keels in the various Australian shipyards for an Australian national overseas line of container ships. Australian shipbuilders possess the necessary skill. Australia, with 12,000 miles of coastline dotted by wonderful ports, harbours and rivers, is wide open to the exploitation of overseas shipping lines. In fact, foreignowned vessels are ever dominating the Australian coastal trade. For example, Japanese ships have been carrying bulk molasses from Queensland to Melbourne. Danish and German ships have been operating in the north Australian cattle trade. Each year a German vessel arrives here to carry peas from Tasmania for snap freezing in Victoria. Last year about 25,000 passengers were carried in overseas ships on the Australian coast for a total of $1,100,000 in fares. Over the last 3 years over 100 overseas ships - British, Scandinavian,
Japanese and some cheap flag Liberian and Panamanian vessels, and even two from India - have been chartered to carry phosphate from the Australian Trust Territory of Nauru to Australia. It is incredible to think that since 1946-47 Australia has paid over $150m to overseas shipping owners in assisted migrant passenger fares. Last year the bill was $12m.
When we see great overseas liners putting into Australian ports bearing the flags of the P and O Orient Lines, the British India Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, the Blue Funnel Line, the Blue Star Line, Wilh. Wilhelmsen Lines and Royal Interocean Lines, we must conclude that many of them were built out of profits made from high freights charged in the Australian trade. Indeed, 1 year’s freight earnings by overseas ship owners in the Australian trade would provide enough to build an overseas shipping line sufficient to force down freights and open enough markets to put an end to the shiftless, marooned condition in which we find ourselves. This situation must be regarded as a national humiliation. The Holt Government continues to shirk its responsibilities to the Australian people by continuing to sacrifice Australia’s national independence to overseas shipping monopolies. The Prime Minister is aided and abetted, of course, by the Minister for Trade and Industry, who is also Deputy Prime Minister.
Why has the Government crawfished and evaded the issue of building an Australian national overseas line? It is obvious to all that the reason is that it wishes to allow overseas shipping monopolies to introduce container ships and thereby gain the initiative. The Australian National Line has submitted firm, detailed proposals to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and has sought approval to build special overseas container ships in order to initiate overseas trade in refrigerated and palletised cargoes. Why has approval not been given? Japanese importers have told the Seamen’s Union of Australia that they do not understand-
– Ah, ha.
– This is in print for all to see. Japanese importers have told the Seamen’s Union that they cannot understand why the Australian Government does not make it a condition of a trade treaty with Japan that a percentage of Australia’s exports to mat country must be carried in ships manned by Australians. This would not occur to our businesslike Government, lt is left to the Japanese to tell us. Fancy that. This is a logical business proposition because Japan needs our exports. Could it be that pressure! has been brought to bear by many subscribers to the election funds of the Liberal Party of Australia, in the persons of representatives of the overseas shipping conference lines, headed by Sir Donald Anderson, the Chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Line? He was reported to have told a forum of the shipping industry in Melbourne in April last that it would be economically unsound for Australia to operate its own overseas cargo line. He told the 350 delegates, who represented the Government and industry, that although discussion on the subject is not always clearly denned, it would be based on the question of whether one or more Australian lines should be given a subsidy to enable them to enter the overseas trade, which, on a normal basis, they could do. Whenever the country discusses a national shipping policy, it should be guided by ascertainable facts, not by unsupported assertions that it is being exploited and’ that a national line would bring down overseas freight rates, not just by means of a sufficiently high subsidy, but by increasing competition and by eschewing exploitation, and that at the same cost it would give a better service than at present.
Sir Donald said that he knew of no case in which a nationalised shipping line had reduced a country’s transport costs by its superior efficiency. The overseas shipping line established in Australia many years ago made good profits and was a great success until, of course, it was sold to overseas shipping interests at bargain rates in a deal that amounted to a national scandal at the time. That deal was made by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr S. M. Bruce, as he then was - a red hot Tory and a personal friend of Lord Kylsant, a member of the British House of Lords, who was the negotiator for the overseas shipping interests and a prominent figure in the directorship of the P and O Line, which Sir Donald Anderson represents today. If my memory serves me right, Mr Deputy Chairman,
Bruce was rewarded later by being elevated to the House of Lords. Of course, these greedy overseas profit mongers have no consideration for the defence of Australia, for which a national shipping line is most essential. While our Government deliberately hesitates to adopt these great businesslike arrangements, big business is losing no time in organising its affairs.
In anticipation of the introduction of container services in 1969, most active in reshaping the overseas shipping industry in Australia are the four partners in the British container consortium - the British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd, Furness Withy and Co. Ltd, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. and Alfred Holt and Co. I wonder whether there i; any connection between Alfred Holt and the Prime Minister. The rakeoff will be so fabulous that this consortium has already announced that it is investing $100m to $125m in building new ships for the container run between Australia, Britain and Europe in 1969. But apart from the functions of their joint industry, the four lines have already decided to consolidate their activities in relation to container freights to Britain and Europe into one major organisation at each of the main Australian container ports - Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. The P & O company set the pattern in this regard when it announced that its wholly owned shipping subsidiary, Birt and Co. (Pty) Ltd, would be absorbed by the parent company later this year.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Fox) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I know that all honourable members on this side of the House enjoy the speeches of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin). We do not agree always with them, but we enjoy them. Tonight I wish to take the time of the Committee for a few moments to speak about the aircraft industry. The Australian airline industry has grown to be a very large industry since the Second World War. It is now ranked by the International Civil Aviation Organisation as the fifth largest airline industry in the world. This is a remarkable achievement for a small country.
One of the most notable features during the last few years has been the growth of the general aviation side of the industry. The growth rate during 1966-67 was 18%. Today there are more than 3,000 civil aircraft of all types flying in Australia compared with only 1,600 civil aircraft 5 years ago. The enterprise of Australian people aided greatly by the civil aviation policy of this Government, has been largely responsible for this growth. The industry, as we all know, has become highly sophisticated and very complex in all directions - in aircraft, airports, control facilities, safety communications, the skills needed to operate the aircraft, and the vast and complicated safety system. The Government has not been found lacking in providing through the Department of Civil Aviation the facilities that are necessary for the safe and efficient system of control that we have developed in Australia.
The largest single cost to the Government lies in the development of airports. All honourable members will be aware of this fact. Before 1962, airport development was running at the rate of about $4m per year. But in that year the Government approved a special airport development programme covering 5 financial years up to and including 1967-68. This was a very significant step as it included not only the major development of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport, estimated to cost $53m, the new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine estimated to cost $4Sm, and major works at Launceston, but also many minor works needed to handle jets, jet services and the deployment of large aircraft such as Electras and Viscount 800s onto routes that had not previously catered for those aircraft. In addition, a good deal of work has been done in country and outback areas which rely heavily on air services. The total cost of this programme is estimated to be about $140m. When the programme is complete both Sydney and Melbourne will have first class international airports.
During the winter recess I had a good look at the airports at both Sydney and Melbourne and I also inspected Tullamarine which is in my electorate. I congratulate the two departments associated with the construction work involved at both Sydney and Tullamarine. I commend the Victorian Government for the work it is doing to provide access from the airport to the heart of Melbourne. Good progress is being made with the freeway to Tullamarine. For interstate members I would like to explain that a good deal of the freeway is being built along the valley of the Moonee Ponds Creek which is reasonably free of development. I mention also for the benefit of my colleague, the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), that this freeway will serve the north eastern suburbs and the Calder Highway and the Hume Highway to the north as well as the Tullamarine airport. Consequently, the honourable member for St George cannot blame the Victorian Government for spending this money. Unfortunately, some very fine homes had to be removed from the Strathmore area so that the freeway could skirt the present airport. Eventually there will be a very fine traffic outlet not only to the airport but to the suburbs and highways that I have mentioned.
I am very sorry to hear the bogy of Tullamarine raised again by Sydney interests. Some people in Sydney have green eyes when mention is made of Tullamarine. Sydney has the good fortune to be placed on a beautiful harbour. But most of the country nearby is too hilly for the construction of a new airport. Consequently, the present airport had to be re-designed and the runways extended to provide for the anticipated additional traffic. I agree that there may have been a flat area south of Botany Bay which would have been suitable if Sydney had not progressed so quickly. But it is too late now and Sydney will have to put up with the present airport. I do not think that honourable members from Victoria can be blamed because it is so hilly around Sydney and therefore difficult to find an alternative site. I hope that Sydney people will not begrudge Melbourne its modern airport. The general development of these two cities and the country areas beyond will determine the importance of the airports. What does it matter which is finished first so long as both are up to date and can handle the traffic that is required?
I would like to refer to the matter of air safety. It is very pleasing to note from the report issued recently that our safety record still remains better than that of Britain and the United States of America. We had one particularly bad accident at Winton in Queensland in September of last year. Unfortunately, twenty-four people lost their lives. Immediately after the accident a technical investigation took place which continued until the end of March of this year. On 10th April a report on the investigation was given to a board of inquiry. The board was convened on 26th April and sat until 31st August. The investigations lasted a period of almost 12 months. I agree that a thorough investigation was necessary. But I think that the Government should have a look at the regulations to ensure that inquiries of this nature are not allowed to run on indefinitely. Minute details which could have no material effect on the findings of an inquiry should be eliminated.
I wonder what the ultimate cost of this inquiry will be. There is no doubt that it will be very substantial. It has been by far the most expensive inquiry conducted so far by the Department of Civil Aviation. First of all, the investigation had to be made. Many people were involved with the board of inquiry. There were five full-time members of the board, including Sir John Spicer as Chairman. There were senior and junior counsel to assist the board, senior and junior counsel to represent the Department, and similar teams to watch the interests of other interested parties. There were shorthand writers and, of course, many departmental officers. Travelling expenses were involved for these people to travel to western Queensland. Over seventy witnesses were called. I suggest that it would be a worthwhile project later to weigh the benefits of the inquiry against the cost, so that the Department may fully assess the value of the inquiry in relation to the very large cost which no doubt will eventually come to light. Safety is of paramount importance. I am not saying that this long investigation was unnecessary but I am saying that the Minister should look at these factors at a later date.
I must pass on to another aspect, namely, the cost of the Department to the Australian taxpayers. I notice that this year’s appropriation allows for 6,236 employees as against 5,212 last year. The expenditure proposed on salaries and allowances alone is $18,600,000, compared with $17,734,000 last year. This figure excludes temporary and casual employees and extra duty pay, also administrative expenses, such as travelling, stationery, electricity, advertising, etc., which are expected to amount to over $15m. From these figures it will be seen that the country is pouring large sums of money into the Department for administrative and operational expenses. In recent years, despite the fact that air navigation charges have been increased by 10% each year, the gap between the revenue received from the industry and the finance needed to provide the necessary facilities has continued to widen. Again this year the Government has wisely decided to increase air navigation charges by 10%. It has decided also to introduce a passenger service charge. It is unfortunate that this has to be. but each passenger will in effect now contribute directly to the cost of services provided by the Department.
I represent people the great majority of whom are working people who go out to work each day to support young families and who are dependent upon the pay envelope at the end of the week. These are people who, for their annual holidays, are more likely to have a caravan trip or to camp at the beach for a fortnight than to fly to Surfers Paradise or Cairns. These are people who work in factories and on farms and are not likely to be sent to Sydney by air for top level conferences. The great majority can rarely run to the luxury of air travel and I claim that it is basically wrong that these folk should be subsidising those who are able to afford air travel. Accordingly, I congratulate the Minister and his Department upon their efforts to reduce the gap between revenue and expenditure. This can only be done gradually; otherwise the economy of the industry would be upset. I feel that the Department is facing this problem in the only way possible.
In the few moments that I have left I should like to say a few words concerning Qantas Airways Ltd. Only today I received the annual report presented to the Minister by the Chairman of Qantas. Unfortunately, owing to the strike that commenced on 24th November last year and continued till 22nd December the company incurred a loss last financial year.
– Too many pilots.
– I do not agree with that altogether. I feel that a person who is working must have loyalty first of all to his employer. It had been expected that this would have been a record year for Qantas. Sir
Roland has reported that the pilots’ strike overshadowed other events of the year and had disastrous effects on revenue, profits and growth. In what otherwise would have been a profitable year the final result was the worst the company has yet experienced. I trust this disastrous event will not be repeated. More than 10,000 men and women are serving the Qantas organisation throughout the world.
I would have liked to mention the tremendous contribution that the domestic airlines have made to the industry, but time does not permit me to do so. I would like to conclude by supporting the policy of the Department and congratulating it on the work it has done in the last 12 months. I trust it will have a record year ahead and that the aircraft will be free from accidents.
– I hope to communicate my views to the Parliament before the middle watch starts - a watch that goes on at midnight and continues until 4 a.m. We have all had a heavy day and have taken part in the very fine ceremony of splicing the mainbrace and paying our tributes to the President of the Republic of Italy. But while that was going on I was thinking of the practice that obtains in the Italian merchant navy and was wondering whether our merchant navy could adopt a similar practice A very old retired sea captain and friend of mine in Victoria would like to see this practice adopted. All the members of the Italian merchant navy are also members of the Italian naval reserve. I suppose we could not have this practice adopted in Australia, but I would like to see it.
Now I want to say something about the desirability of Australia having its own overseas shipping line. I would like to read what appears on page 3 of the very fine report of the Australian National Line:
In overseas trading, nineteen voyages to the Far East were completed during the 12 months, including those by the ‘Jeparit’ now continuously employed carrying supplies to South Vietnamese ports, and a like voyage by the ‘Boonaroo’. Meanwhile consideration of the feasibility of operating vessels under the Australian flag as general cargo carriers in certain overseas trades is in progress. 1 have said in this House on many occasions that I would like to see the Australian flag carried overseas. But we have to be realistic about this matter. I believe that when one speaks in this House he must say what he thinks. If one has some particular experience he should give others the benefit of it. What would happen at the present time if Australia had 50 ships capable of trading overseas? With a war raging in Vietnam, where would those ships be? Would they be trading or would they not be trading? That is the question we must ask ourselves, and it is the question that the people of Australia should be asking themselves. Would we be doing the right thing for this country if we had so much mon-ey tied up in these ships, which cost about $4m each, and would those ships be trading at the present time in any case? I am not going to answer those questions; honourable members can answer them for themselves. But as Captain Williams, the Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, says in this report, the ‘Jeparit’ is trading between Australia and South Vietnam. But she is trading there with a composite crew. She is trading there with naval seamen instead of Australian merchant seamen. I am very sorry to know that that is the position.
I make an appeal to the Labor Party. In its programme it says that no defence forces should be used in industrial disputes. There is a lot of logic in that. But it would be good not to have that in writing because, no matter how nauseating it may be, there are times when we have to say: We have to get the ball rolling and get this ship started.’ That is what has happened at the present time with this unfortunate ship the ‘Jeparit’ and also with the Boonaroo’.
I remember that in 1949, when 1 was piloting in Melbourne, a ship called the Haligonian Duke’ came into Melbourne from India with a load of coal. There was an industrial dispute at the time. The ship had been at anchor for a long time. The coal was starting to heat up. A fire could have broken out at any moment. My friend, the former member for Kennedy, who was the Minister for the Navy at the time, said: That ship must go up the river and be discharged’. The ship was declared black. Nobody would move it; nobody would touch it. Officers of the Department of the Navy came down to the pilot service and said: ‘As far as the Government of Australia is concerned, this ship is not black. It has to go up the river. We want to know whether you people will take it up the river.’ That was a Labor Government. It fell to our lot to take the ship up the river. It was a sorry spectacle. The ‘Haligonian Duke’ went up the River Yarra, followed by HMAS ‘Warramunga’. The ship was berthed and then the crew of the ‘Warramunga’, had to discharge the coal. Of course, the time came for the ship to go to sea. It fell to my lot to take her to sea. I am not boasting, but she went away without tugs. That sort of thing is unnecessary.
I make these points: If we are to run an overseas shipping line, irrespective of what the political complexion of the government may be, the people who run and man the ships have no right whatsoever to be mixed up in the affairs of any government or the affairs of some other country. If they are and we have a shipping line of about fifty ships, those ships will be laid up, they will not be manned and the people of the country concerned - in this case Australia - will have to pay for that. So it is up to the people who want an overseas shipping line - I am one of them - to work hard and to make it clear to the people manning the ships that they should look upon the line as a service and not as a means of embarrassing whatever government the people may choose.
A request has been made to me by an organisation to which I belong - the Company of Master Mariners of Australia. We are concerned about the lack of opportunities for young people who wish to become officers on Australian ships. The Company has asked me to bring before the Federal Parliament the need for an academy in Australia in which such people could take up residence and receive suitable instruction. The Commonwealth Government examines mates and masters for certificates. These examinations are carried out in accordance with what is known as imperial validity. It means that everyone in the Commonwealth does an examination of a similar standard. In most parts of the world there are places in which officers can take up residence and carry out their studies with instructors on hand so that they may learn their trade or profession efficiently. We have nothing like that in Australia.
It has been pointed out to me that there are two places at present that could be considered. One is at Semaphore in South Aus tralia where the old signal station is located. I believe that it is up for sale. The other is the old seaplane base at Rathmines. I believe that this also is up for sale. I hope that this Government will consider these matters and erect a nautical academy so that merchant navy officers can train and be more proficient in their profession. In the past we have obtained most of our ships officers through officers who come here from overseas, falling in love and then wanting to settle here. We then recruit such people into Australian ships. From what I can make out, this source is drying up. I hope that the Government will give consideration to these matters and see that we have a proper nautical academy in Australia on the lines of those which operate in other parts of the Commonwealth of Nations.
In the report which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) has given us, mention is made of a subsidy which is paid to Burns Philp Ltd of $400,000 each year for the ‘Bulolo’, the Malekula’ and the ‘Moresby’. 1 do not say that this is not necessary. What concerns me is that the ‘Bulolo’ is now reaching the end of her life. This ship was built in 1938 which makes her nearly 30 years of age. She will have to be replaced. 1 hope that Burns Philp and the Government have given consideration to this. 1 have not heard yet whether the ‘Bulolo’ is going to be replaced. I think it is most necessary that this ship be replaced, lt is a type of ship that can be used for many things. As I said, the Bulolo’ was built in Scotland in 1938. On her way to Australia World War II broke out and she did not get past South Africa. She was taken over by the Royal Navy with which she served for the whole of the war. It is most essential that we have ships like the ‘Bulolo’ and the ‘Empress of Australia’ which we can use in times of emergency. I am glad to see that the Australian National Line is progressing as it is. I think we are very fortunate in Australia to have people who have given so much to the Australian National Line. I wish to pay a tribute to Captain Sir John Williams in this respect. I think it is because we have a man of his vast knowledge that this Line has been so successful.
The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) mentioned our lighthouse services. We have a huge coastline and many lights have to be attended to. However, this is only one of the many things that are done by the Department of Shipping and Transport. I have heard it said by leading shipping men in Australia that we are lucky to have people like Sir John Spicer who, in the past, has chaired most of the inquiries which have been held on marine disasters in Australia. I have read extensively the writings of Sir John and I agree that we are very fortunate to have a man of his calibre and one who has given so much time to the unfortunate happenings of men who have had to appear before him. His report on the recent inquiry into the sinking of the dredge ‘Atlas’ showed the amount of detail that he went into.
I hope, and I believe, that in the near future a proposition will be put forward that Australia should construct a training sailing ship. I am in favour of constructing such a vessel. I know that some inquiries have been made about it. I hope that the Australian Shipbuilding Board will, at the appropriate time, put this proposition to the Minister for Shipping and Transport so that in Australia we will have a sailing ship similar to the ‘Winston Churchill’ in Great Britain. Such a vessel could be used for the training of cadets. It could be used as part of their sea training and could also be used by those who take courses such as those conducted by the ‘Outward Bound’ movement. Working such a vessel is wonderful training for young men. Even though ships do not earn money by the use of sails, young lads could learn the principles of sails and what happens to ships without engines. It would be a good thing for them.
House adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What is the estimated tonnage of sugar entering the residual free market trade, and what proportion of total world production is represented by the residual free market?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This question poses difficult definitional and statistical problems. However, after making allowance for sugar traded under special pricing arrangements, lt is estimated that the volume of sugar traded on the residual free market approximates 6.5 million metric tons raw value or 10% of total world production.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
Which are the principal importing and exporting countries concerned with the residual free market trade in sugar, and what are the estimated tonnages for these individual countries over the last 5 years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Assuming a world free market of 6.5 million metric tons raw value, approximate net imports and net exports from and to the world free market by the principal countries are as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
There have been no further reports received of a renewal of Japanese interest. 2. See 1. above.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
In view of the heavy capital expenditure on farms, mills and port facilities involved in the sugar expansion and the notoriously unstable prices on the world free market, what steps were taken by the Australian Government to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Japan as regards a firm guaranteed minimum price before the actual expansion was sanctioned?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The question of the price paid by Japan for Australian sugar has been the subject of periodic discussion with the Japanese Government since 1963.
In 1963, when the Australia/Japan Trade Agreement was renegotiated, Japan was not prepared to agree to arrangements guaranteeing a minimum price outside the provisions of an International Sugar Agreement. However, the Japanese Government was prepared to strengthen the non-discriminatory access for Australian sugar which was first negotiated in 19S7, and to write into the Protocol to the 1963 Agreement that it was the intention of the Japanese Government to make every effort to expand the opportunities for the import of Australian sugar.
Following the failure of the 1965 international conference to negotiate a new International Sugar Agreement, I personally approached the Japanese Prime Minister in an effort to reach an arrangement under which Japan, either directly or within the ambit of International Sugar Agreement negotiations, would pay a more reasonable price for her sugar imports. Subsequently, the matter was _ the subject of detailed discussions at the official level and, most recently, was considered in bilateral talks with Japan in the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations.
To date these efforts have not been successful. 1 am hopeful,, however, that the international conference scheduled for April 1968, will negotiate a new International Sugar Agreement which will provide for payment by importing countries, including Japan, of more realistic prices for sugar. The Japanese Government has shown itself prepared to participate fully in a new agreement.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The responsibility for convening a sugar negotiating conference rests with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Such a conference would only be convened when, in the judgment of the Secretary-General there is the prospect of a satisfactory outcome.
The question of a new agreement has been under continuous review by the International Sugar Council since 1961 which, in the period up to the 1965 negotiating conference, met on nine different occasions. Australia was represented at all of these meetings.
It proved impossible to negotiate a new agreement at the 1965 conference. However, a further negotiating conference is scheduled to be held in April 1968.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In my Department with a view to determination of the extent to which development of existing arrangements is desirable and practicable.
United Nations Agencies in Australia (Question No. 571)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In addition the F.A.O. Freedom from Hunger Campaign spent $41,814.19 in 1966-67.
Voluntary contribution by the Australian Government to the World Food Programme:
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):
There might be some smaller amounts of expenditure in Australia by United Nations Agencies which have not been noted, being too small to be shown separately in the records of the agency concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670926_reps_26_hor56/>.