26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask a question without notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is he conscious of the confusion and pressure now existing amongst conciliation commissioners since the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided that there should not be a flow-on of the decision in the metal trades margins case? The principle of flow-on was established in 1956, continued in 1959 and extended in 1963. In view of the almost impossible task confronting the present commission in preventing substantial industrial unrest because of delays in hearing applications for award variations based on changed work value, will the Minister say how many additional conciliation commissioners will be appointed to meet the situation? When will some action be taken in the matter?
– I am well aware, as is the honourable member, 1 am sure, of the recent determination of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, sitting in presidential session, regarding flow-on. The honourable member has implied that the decision will necessitate the appointment of many more conciliation commissioners to handle the increased number of applications that will be lodged with the Commission. The matter of appointing additional commissioners has been exercising my mind for some time. A number of vacancies for commissioners exists. My task in finding commissioners has not been made easy by the refusal of the Labor Party in the Senate to allow the passage of legislation which would enable the salaries of commissioners to be fixed in the same way as salaries for other statutory offices are fixed throughout the Commonwealth. At present whenever we seek to change the salary of commissioners a special Act of Parliament must be passed.
– That has always been the position.
– Yes, but for some years, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, the salaries of a multitude of statutory offices, all parallel, have been determined through the Governor-General. In earlier times when the former system evolved the movement of prices and costs was not as rapid as it is today. The present state of affairs has inhibited my appointment of new conciliation commissioners, but I hope to proceed in the near future with the necessary measures to enable me to do so. I would cross swords with the honourable member for Blaxland, whose speech in the AddressinReply debate I listened to last night. In this as in other spheres we live in a changing world. Historically we have followed certain patterns but this does not mean that we should follow them for the rest of time. I hope, for example, that in the matter of adult training the Labor Party will reconsider its attitude. We live in a changing world. We must not continue to behave in antediluvian fashion.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and preface it by saying that I have seen Commonwealth drivers lifting heavy wheelchair patients into standard sedans and have observed that it is a most awkward manoeuvre and beyond the reasonable duty of one man. It places an unnecessary strain on the driver’s health, to say nothing of the discomfort to the patient. Will the Minister arrange for discussions between the Minister for Supply, as operator of the transport pool, and the Ministers for Health, Social Services and Repatriation, who are in charge of the client departments concerned, about the provision for this work of a special truck fitted with a hydraulic lift? I understand that in Victoria a vehicle used for State social services work would provide a most suitable pattern.
– This seems to be quite a reasonable request and although I have no personal knowledge of the matter referred to I certainly shall be glad to refer it to the Minister and have him conduct inquiries into it.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his Press, radio and television conference at Parliament House on 17th
January. In answer to questions about the effect on the cost of the Australian order of Britain’s decision to scrap the Fill aircraft, the right honourable gentleman said that he expected to find out this information quite rapidly. He will recall that when questioned about a statement to Parliament on the Fill cost he said:
When will this statement be made? Does the right honourable gentleman recall the undertaking by the Minister for Defence to give details of the final cost of the aircraft in January of this year? Why has there been a continued delay in revealing this important information to the public and the Parliament?
– I do recall the Press conference to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred, and I do recall the indication that the Minister for Defence would be making a statement on the final cost of the Fill. The Minister for Defence will, in fact, be making such a statement and is at the moment preparing it. I hope that when this statement is made by the Minister for Defence it will have taken all factors into consideration and will have been the result of a very close study of all factors. I would hope it would be an accurate final cost when the Minister for Defence makes the statement to the House.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent statement made by the Premier of Victoria concerning relief being given to the declared drought areas in that State? Can the Prime Minister inform the House what the Commonwealth Government’s contribution has been? Is he in a position now to indicate whether any further assistance will be given by the Commonwealth?
– I think the House will recall that the Government has, in relation to the provision of drought relief, made very considerable sums available to the States. It has made them available for such things as the provision of rebates on the transport of starving stock out of areas of drought; for the provision of loans at low interest rates where other credit has not been available to producers; and for the provision of grants to local authorities for public works to minimise the effects of the drought in particular areas. In the case of Victoria, at least Slim has already been granted by the Commonwealth as what I could call direct drought relief, amounting to $7£m, and $3m to offset the effect on the State Budget of the drought which has occurred. I am informed that the Government, in the past - and this refers to a question recently asked by the honourable member for Bendigo - in order to help the State of New South Wales, has also made arrangements through the Australian Wheat Board for the provision of wheat on 12 months terms at 4i% interest where other credit was not available.
My recollection, although it may be a little astray, is this: A week or a little more ago we informed the Premier of Victoria that the Government was prepared to make the same arrangements for Victoria - that is, to arrange through the Wheat Board for the provision of wheat on 12 months terms at 4i% interest - but with the difference that that wheat was to be made available to all graziers, not merely those having difficulty in obtaining credit. The Victorian Premier has recently indicated that he is prepared to make further assistance available to drought stricken farmers in the declared drought areas of Victoria. Those are districts which have, perhaps, the heaviest stocking rate of any farming areas in Australia. They are heavily stocked with breeding ewes, the retention of which is so necessary for the time when the drought breaks. We have considered this matter in conjunction with the Premier of Victoria and we are prepared to make to that State a further grant of up to $lm provided that the money is spent on drought assistance in those drought declared areas, and provided that the assistance already made or promised by the State is not reduced.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Will he, as Prime Minister, immediately put an end to this farce which is developing in relation to the relative purchasing power of money and real wages in Australia and which has now culminated in the issue of a statement by the
Treasurer, bypassing this Parliament? I ask him this because, as anybody with training in economics would know-
– What is the question?
– 1 am asking the question. As anybody with training in economics would know, either the Treasurer or the other gentleman concerned in this farce could justify his conclusions if they were calculated to fit particular assumptions. Will the Prime Minister arrange for a statement and a debate on this subject next week, because there can be only one answer to the question, not two or three? All wage earners, pensioners and housewives, and even members of this Parliament, know the truth about the relative real purchasing power of money today.
– I direct the honourable members attention to the tables produced by the Commonwealth Statistician which set out the figures relating to this matter. That would be my answer to the first part of his question. My answer to the second part of the question would be no.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Interior whether he is aware that the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party of Australia has recommended to the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales that country representation for that State in the Commonwealth Parliament should be reduced?
– The honourable member must have read my speech.
– Order! The honourable member for Gwydir is endeavouring to ask a question.
– Is the Minister aware also that the particular proposal put forward by the Liberal Party involves the elimination of the electorate of Lawson and the expansion of the Gwydir electorate across borders which separate regions with distinct community of interest, such as the central west and the north west?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is: Yes, I am aware of the information that he has conveyed to us. I have no comment to make.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of a report known as the Stoner report which was presented, I understand, about 1950, and arising out of which, after many years, personnel employed in Commonwealth Government establishments, and particularly civilian members of the Army Inspection Service, Southern Command, employed at the Ammunition Factory at Footscray in my electorate, are being subjected to severe salary cuts? Is he aware that a senior officer of the Public Service Board in Canberra informed me that he was unaware of this report and of the action being taken as the result of it? Does the Prime Minister know that a large number of senior female inspectors Grade 1 are being reclassified from inspectors to examiners with a reduction in salary of $317 per annum or $12.10 per fortnight? Will the Prime Minister take acton to stop the injustice to which I have referred and thus prevent what could be a large scale termination of employment by these inspectors with a consequent lass of valuable experience that has taken years to gain and that would be costly to replace?
– 1 understand that there was a report of the kind suggested by the honourable member and that as a result of that report positions were reclassified, but I am informed that in spite of that reclassification no individual will suffer loss of salary since, I gather, it is intended that they will be retained at their present salary until they are absorbed in a classification carrying a salary of the same kind. If the honouable member would care to discuss this further with me after question time I would be very happy to do so.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I ask: Because of the controversy that has occurred in recent weeks about the movement in overseas reserves and balance of payments could the right honourable gentleman inform the House what the results are to date and could he give a forecast of the likely credit or deficiency for the full year?
– The figures are now available for the first 8 months of this financial year. The actual surplus in our balance of payments is of the order of $129m. From this has to be deducted an amount of $113m lost due to devaluation of our foreign reserves, giving a net increase in our overseas balances of $16m for the first 8 months of this year. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I think he knows that guessing at movements in the balance of payments for even the short period of 4 months is a hazardous sort of occupation. So 1 think he will forgive me if I merely state the facts and do not come to any conclusion about what the final figure will be. But I make this comment: It must be obvious that this country is regarded internationally as having a stable currency; it is regarded as a place that is safe for investment, a country where people can invest money with confidence. I think that we have every reason to be proud of the performances of this country, particularly having in mind the big increase in the defence vote and our overseas expenditure associated with it, and also the very severe drought that has affected us during the course of the last few years.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. As today is the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and because the United Nations has called for it to be observed as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I thought it might be appropriate to ask the right honourable gentleman why the Australian delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last month abstained from voting on a motion to condemn slavery, slave trade and slavery-like practices of apartheid and colonialism and to request UN members to protect all persons escaping from slavery? I point out that no nation voted against the motion, only 2 others abstained from voting on it, and the other 28 voted in favour of it.
– Mr Speaker, before answering the main question that was asked by the Leader of the Opposition I should remind him that the Australian Government has taken a variety of actions in order to join in the observance of Human Rights year. Of course, we will be represented at the Human Rights conference in Teheran and the Parliament will be represented on that delegation. We have given financial support to Australian organisations such as the United Nations Association and others who are helping in the public observance in Australia of Human Rights Year. In other governmental actions, commencing with the statement by the GovernorGeneral at the commencement of the year, we are continuing our adherence to the objectives and general spirit of the Declaration of Human Rights.
On the particular matter of the Status of Women Commission and the resolution on slavery, I think what the Leader of the Opposition has done is to look at the figures and not look at the terms of the resolution. The position was this: A resolution was introduced by the United States delegation objecting to slavery and slavery-like practices. We gave our full adherence to that. In the course of the committee proceedings the Soviet delegation brought in suggested amendments to add the words: ‘the slavery-like practices of apartheid and colonialism’, and to add those words at every place in the resolution where there was a reference to slavery and the slave trade. What the Australian delegate did, and did quite properly I submit, was to call for a separate vote in the course of the committee proceedings on those words which the Soviet Union wished to add. It was when the separate vote was taken on those words that Australia, with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France, voted against the inclusion of those words which the Soviet Union wished to add.
– The reason was- and I should hope that the honourable member in spite of his prejudices would agree with me - that we would not agree that what we are doing in Papua and New Guinea is slavery or slavery-like. It was the purpose of the words proposed to be added by the Soviet Union that the sort of thing we were doing in dependent territories and what other countries responsible for nonmetropolitan dependent territories were doing was to be categorised as slavery and slaverylike. For that reason, and I think a very good and sufficient reason, the Australian delegate first of all sought to have a separate vote taken on the Soviet proposal to add interpretative words, and when the separate vote was taken voted against it.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has seen reports that civil operations in Vietnam under CORDS - the Civil Operations Revolution Development Support - carried out by his Department and the Army had collapsed during the Tet offensive. I ask him whether this is true, and if it is untrue whether this is not another instance of the tremendous drive to erode the image of Australia’s defence and security and the work it is doing in the villages of South Vietnam which is destroying the influence of the Vietcong.
– Australian civil assistance to Vietnam is given in various forms and is not directly related in most of those forms to the activities to which the honourable gentleman’s question mainly refers. Our assistance under the Colombo Plan, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation aid programme and so forth is applied to certain engineering projects, assistance for education, the maintenance of three surgical teams, technical assistance for Vietnamese students in Australia and on the financial side - a comparatively small item in the total - the supply of materials to the Australian Army for carrying out the civil aid work that Australian troops do when they can be spared from combat duties. That is the form of Australian aid. The Revolutionary Development Programme which is being supported by CORDS is not one in which we directly participate although we are doing similar work under our own programmes. The Revolutionary Development Programme and its supporting activities were, of course, affected in some places by the Tet offensive. Some of the work was interrupted, but not so seriously interrupted as has been represented. The interrupted work is being resumed, and resumed most effectively.
I should mention that, in consequence of the Tet offensive, some immediate needs arose and we stepped in to give emergency aid of a particular kind by providing items such as building materials, vaccines and drugs which were needed to repair the emergency situation immediately. I agree with the purport of the question asked by the honourable member, who indicated that there has been a good deal of exaggeration regarding the extent of the disruption of the civil assistance work caused by the Tet offensive.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to an earlier question which I asked him. I ask the right honourable gentleman: How did the United States delegate vote on the motion that he described?
- Mr Speaker, I do not have that information in my mind. I will check-
Opposition members - Oh!
– Has the Minister had the water treatment?
– If the honourable member for Hindmarsh wishes to talk about water treatment, he ought to refer to the Leader of the Opposition, who is well acquainted with the methods of its use. I do not have clearly in my mind the voting by the United States on the whole of this proceeding relating to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I would like the honourable gentleman to give me the opportunity of checking the matter. 1 will reply to him at a later sitting of the House.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to the forgeries of our $10 note and the rewards offered by the Reserve Bank of Australia for information concerning those forgeries. Will the Treasurer consider indemnifying against loss those who come into possession of a forged note in a bona fide manner, and so obtain first hand information rather than allow such people to be subject to a penalty for passing on such a note whereby information vital to the detection of the original transaction is lost?
– The House will know that control of the note issue is not in the hands of the Government. It is in the hands of the Reserve Bank of Australia. I was advised by the Bank some months ago that it was considered to be undesirable to compensate those who had taken forged notes of any denomination. This is consistent with world practice.
– If the honourable member will wait a moment, 1 shall give him the reason as it has been given to me. If compensation were granted, this would inevitably mean that there would be less incentive for people to discover forged notes and immediately to make the finding known to the authorities. The Reserve Bank itself was particularly pleased with the young woman who received one of the first discovered forged notes and who promptly made this fact known to officials. Her prompt action enabled them to detect quickly the source of the forgery and to take immediate remedial action. The Bank informed me at that time that by advertisement and other means it was showing the difference between the two kinds of notes - the forged note and the normal note. It is consistently advertising and doing all in its power to inform people and to help them to carry out detection processes. Already the Reserve Bank has rewarded the young woman and other people for action they have taken. It believes that this is the proper course of action to follow under these circumstances.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the establishment of the first Australian Fishing Industry Council. I ask: Now that this important action has been taken by the Australian fishing industry, will early talks take place between this new body and the Government? In view of the wide-ranging problems of the fishing industry, will the Minister give appropriate assistance to the new Council in its task of assessing ways and means of bringing about sound development of this growing and important industry which already exports products worth some S29m per year and which has a potential of Si 00m in the export field?
– I am pleased to be able to say that the Australian Fishing Industry Council was formed last week and that already I have made contact with and have given it my assurance that it will have the full co-operation of myself, my Department and the Government. The fishing industry is one of the last Australian primary industries to organise on a national basis. Over the years, many members of this chamber have expressed the opinion that the people in the fishing industry ought to get together and form a national council, similar to that of the wool industry, the dairy industry, the wheat industry and other industries.
The Australian Fishing Industry Council now represents fishermen, processors, the marketing people and the suppliers of equipment. I believe that this organisation will be a very useful vehicle for making representations to the Government and assisting in the future development of an industry which I believe has not fully developed its resources. I welcome the formation of the Council and I can assure it that it will have my full assistance.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report that East-West Airlines Ltd is losing money on the Sydney-Albury route? Has he noted a suggestion by the New South Wales Minister for Transport that Trans-Australia Airlines should delete Albury from its present route from Newcastle to Sydney to Canberra to Albury and Melbourne? Was the present allocation of routes within New South Wales decided by a committee which included representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation as well as of the New South Wales Department of Transport? Would it be proper for any variation in the present arrangements to be considered in the first place by that committee? Would such a transfer deprive residents of Albury and district of an air route to the national capital and make it uneconomic to continue their air service to Melbourne?
– Only yesterday I had the opportunity, which was arranged by the honourable member for Macarthur, to interview in Canberra representatives of EastWest Airlines on this very subject. The question of intrastate services has only recently been reviewed by the Commonwealth and State committee which was reestablished by the Minister for Transport in New South Wales and by myself. Some months ago the committee undertook a review of the intrastate services. My understanding is that its report should be available to the two Governments in about a fortnight’s time. I hope that it will be ready then, but it may not be available until a week after that. This report will take into consideration all the intrastate services in New South Wales.
We have also had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Australian National Airlines Commission, which has no rights to operate intrastate services in New South Wales but does operate interstate services, as it can do quite rightly under section 92 of the Constitution. As the honourable member knows, the Commission operates a service interstate through the northern part of New South Wales and through his own district. This is a good service principally for people travelling from the Newcastle area to the southern regions. The only comment that I can make at this point of time is that the whole matter is under review at present and will receive further consideration immediately the report of the committee is received.
I have read a report in the Press about the State Minister for Transport referring the matter to me, but to date I have not received the letter to which the honourable member referred.
– What about the AlburyMelbourne part of the route which was mentioned in the question?
– That will be dealt with in the report of the committee and will be reviewed after the report has been studied.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, is supplementary to the one asked a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Dawson. Will the Minister indicate how movements in real and money wages in Australia compare with movements in similar countries in recent years? In making this comparison, will he pay particular attention to the position in countries having Socialist or Labor Governments?
– It is always a little tricky to make international comparisons. I may say that I have heard a lot of very strange comparisons between one country and another. There is no doubt, however, that relative to most of the world, the general progress in all sectors of the Australian economy has been very good, despite the deterioration in our terms of trade, with our major exports being primary products rather than the manufacture of products of secondary industry. This has been the situation in recent years, and the state of our economy is one of the basic reasons why so many people want to come here. There is no doubt that most Socialist countries are near the bottom end of the wage scale in the list of international comparisons. Topmost in the scale are the countries where the capitalist system has developed to its highest degree. As far as changes are concerned, a very small improvement in wages in Socialist countries is apt to mean a big percentage rise on the previous position. One could make all sorts of comparisons. If the honourable member would like one, I will have a table compiled showing recent comparative wage changes of different countries. Politically, experience with Socialist governments has been that of lush promises followed by hard times.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that certain changes in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme are being considered by the Government. If so, what are the changes and when will they be introduced?
– Changes are being considered. I shall inform the House in a detailed statement when consideration of the changes is completed. However no basic changes are intended. Rumours to this effect are baseless.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Can he say whether Australia’s overseas aid is mean, amateurish and fragmented? Is it recognised, especially at the United Nations, that Australia makes a very high per capita contribution of aid, all without strings, to needy countries and to indigent people? When addressing a meeting of members of Apex Clubs in Victoria, was the Leader of the Opposition just looking tor headlines or does he distort the facts?
– If, as seemed to be implied, the Leader of the Opposition in addressing a meeting in Melbourne used the phrase that was quoted he said something that was incorrect and, I would submit to him through you, Sir, something that was unworthy of him. He must know from his own travels and from his own reading that those words cannot be fairly applied to Australia’s external assistance programme. He should know that at the present time the Australian external aid programme, far from being mean, has risen to something above .75% of the national income, that it has risen to a point where it is second only to France’s as a percentage of national income given as aid.
– This is including New Guinea.
– The honourable gentleman objects that this includes New Guinea. It does include New Guinea, but in comparison with France, the one nation which has a higher proportion of national income given to aid, the percentage of our total aid programme given to New Guinea is lower than the percentage of the French programme which is given to the present dependent and formerly dependent territories of France. So I. accept that objection. The honourable gentleman should know also that when Australian aid programmes were under examination by the Development Assistance Committee in France we received very high commendation from the Development Assistance Committee, which is the international instrumentality concerned with the examination of the programmes of aid-giving countries and the coordination of the various national efforts and the attempts to ensure that aid goes in the right directions. I will not quote in full, because it is rather lengthy, but will refer to, the letter which the Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee wrote on the 1966 annual aid review of Australia. He used such phrases as:
The number of areas in which Australia is trying to improve her assistance programme and initiate new approaches to long standing problems is impressive.
The magnitude and breadth of the Australian programme in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea presents an exciting and stimulating picture.
He said also:
I am sure that I reflect the views of other members of the DAC when I say we are gratified to welcome into the Committee a country whose assistance is given entirely in the form of grants.
This is an authority even more eminent and certainly more thoroughly informed than the Leader of the Opposition.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that on 8th May 1957 he said in another place:
– Who said this?
– The Prime Minister said this in 1957 in another place. I ask: Is this a reason why his Government hesitates to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? If his Government decides to make or acquire nuclear weapons, can he relate this to his recent statement that:
– I regret that I find myself quite unable to answer questions on extracts taken, for all I know out of context, out of speeches made 1 1 years ago.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who will be aware that it is compulsory for road transports to be lit up with many lights and reflectors. Will he, in regard to the Commonwealth Railways, give consideration to all rolling stock being fitted with either reflector lights or luminous tape with a view to reducing serious accidents at railway crossings and giving a lead to State Government railways in this matter of urgency?
– I think every honourable member is concerned at the high incidence of traffic accidents, particularly at level crossings and especially as so many regrettably result in the death of some of the people involved. I am not sure whether these accidents can be related entirely to driver error. In some circumstances I think it is a matter of road design. I am certain that the increasing trend by railway and road constructing authorities to build overpasses and underpasses will reduce considerably the incidence of accidents at level crossings. I thank the honourable member and other honourable members who have referred to me the submission by the Country Women’s Association of Victoria that consideration should be given to placing some type of reflector on Commonwealth Railways vehicles to enable motor car drivers more readily to observe those vehicles. I shall certainly bring the honourable member’s suggestion to the attention of the Commissioner for Commonwealth Railways with a view to seeing whether the dangers and difficulties now presented by moving transports can be reduced.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-1967. These Proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by section 273ea of the Customs Act, the tariff changes published in ‘Gazette’ notices dated 1st and 21st December 1967, 2nd and 5th January, 7th February and 8th March 1968.
Proposals No. 1, operating from 4th December 1967, implements the Tariff Board’s recommendations relating to metal reinforced rubber belts and belting and the recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority on hot water bags. In its report on metal reinforced rubber belts and belting the Tariff Board found that the manufacture in Australia of these goods was efficient and worthy of assistance at the rates applying to other types of conveyor belting, that is to say at the level of 35% general and 25% preferential.
In his report on hot water bags, the Special Advisory Authority found that while imports have increased, the Australian demand for hot water bags has declined in recent years. This has forced the local manufacturer to reduce his prices to below the cost of production in order to retain a share of this market. The Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the Australian industry producing hot water bags and recommended a temporary sliding duty to provide for a duty equal to the amount, if any, by which the price of an imported bag is less than 52c per bag.
Proposals No. 2, operating from 1st January 1968, gives administrative effect to the extension of the range of goods included in Schedule A of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. This extension resulted from the first of regular reviews, provided for in the Agreement, for the purpose of broadening its trade coverage of goods concerned. Tetanus vaccines, veterinary products, quilts and sleeping bags were included in the extended range after these particular goods had been the subject of a Tariff Board inquiry. The Board found that the inclusion of these goods would not be detrimental to Australian industry.
Proposals No. 3, operating from 2nd January 1968, provide for additions to the tariff preferences which Australia accords to certain manufactured, semimanufactured and handicraft products imported from less-developed countries. They also provide special rates of duty for certain goods imported from Canada and New Zealand. These latter amendments were consequential to the Kennedy Round tariff changes which were introduced into the House by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on 19th October 1967.
Proposals No. 4, operating from 6th January 1968, implement the Tariff Board’s recommendations relating to the General textile reference and to sound recorders and reproducers. In its concluding interim report on the general textile reference, made on 5th October 1960, a wide variety of textiles which had not been included in the earlier reports was covered. The overall effect of these reports has been to simplify very considerably the tariff structure relating to textiles.
Some of the more important changes were the consolidations of the duties on fabrics coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and cellulose derivatives at the levels of the combined present ordinary and temporary duties; increased duties on certain monofil and strip of synthetic resin, and increased duties on certain elastic and elastomeric fabrics. Reduced duties apply to a wide range of the textiles covered by the report.
In respect of sound recorders and reproducers the Tariff Board broadly recommended uniform duties of 45% general and 32±% preferential. The most significant effect of this recommendation would be to reduce the general rate on record players from the present level of 60% ad valorem down to 45% ad valorem. Japan has been the principal source of imports. On gramophone records the Board recommended a reduction of the duties to nonprotective rales of 7i% general and free preferential and on video recorders, which are mainly admitted under by-law, the Board recommended the removal of the substantive protective duties.
The Board found that local manufacturers of tape recorders had not achieved economic production under the existing duties of 45% general and 321% preferential. It considered whether the existing protection should be withdrawn, but recommended no variation because of the changes and technological developments now occurring in the local industry. On magnetic tape the Board recommended increased rates of $2.40 per 100 square feet general, and $2.40 per 100 square feet less 10% preferential on the cheaper grades of tape and reduced duties of 71% general and free preferential - on other tapes. The ad valorem equivalents of the proposed duties on the cheaper magnetic types approximate from 21% to an extreme of nearly 85% for the cheapest import to come under notice. A further review in 3 years time has been proposed for magnetic tape, tape recorders and tape decks. No change bas been recommended in the non-protective rates of duty on dictating machines, styli, pick-up arms, pick-up heads and tape decks.
Proposals No. 5, operating from 8th February 1968, provide for variations in rates of duty on sand boots and sand shoes. These variations arise first from the completion of international negotiations which were necessary before the recommendations contained in the Tariff Board’s report on footwear could be fully implemented, and secondly from a report by the Special Advisory Authority on these goods.
Following the Tariff Board’s recommendations ordinary duties of 45% ad valorem general and 30% ad valorem preferential will apply to sand boots and sand shoes as alternatives to the existing duties. Similar alternative duties will operate in respect of goloshes, while the general rate of 40% ad valorem on a small range of leather footwear will be increased to 45% ad valorem.
The Special Advisory Authority found that total imports of sand hoots and sand shoes have increased considerably in recent years, mainly from Japan, Hong Kong, the Republic of China and India, and that imports from some countries have been made at extremely low prices. Consequently the share of the total market being supplied by the Australian industry had fallen to an unsatisfactory level and the Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the Australian industry against low-priced imports. The recommended temporary duties which are in addition to the normal duties are equal to the amount, if any, by which the price of the imported products is less than 70c per pair in the case of adults’ sizes and less than 50c per pair in the case of children’s sizes.
Proposals No. 5 also include the balance of tari iT changes consequent upon the Tariff Board’s report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins. These changes, which were the subject of international negotiations, now fully implement the Board’s recommendations in relation to white lead and acetyl salicylic acid where the rates of duty have been increased by 2i% ad valorem both general and preferential. Also included in Proposals No. 5 are a number of tariff changes arising out of international negotiations. These have resulted in reduced duties in the general rates on a number of metal products and on certain musical instruments and typewriters.
Proposals No. 5 also insert a new Part VIII in the Fifth Schedule to the Customs Tariff. Honourable members may recall that the Fifth Schedule was introduced into the House on 17th October last year and made separate provision for the special preferential rates of duty that Australia accords to certain countries. It reduced the number of separate items in the Customs Tariff and has resulted in considerable simplification in the work of importers, customs agents and departmental officers. Proposals No. 5 now extends the scope of the Fifth Schedule by making specific provision for the special preferential rates that Australia accords to Fiji. This change is of administrative origin and does not vary the levels of tariff protection or international commitments.
Proposals No. 6, operating on and from 1 1th March 1968, implements the. Tariff Board’s reports on metal working circular sawing machines, and stoves, ranges, cookers and the like. In its report on metal working circular sawing machines the Board stated that it had found that the manufacture in Australia of these goods was efficient and worthy of continued assistance at the level which applies to most other sections of the metal working machine industry, namely, 40% general and 271/2% preferential. The Board, however, recommended that the higher priced, more sophisticated machines which are neither comparable nor competitive with local production should be accorded by-law admission at rates of 71/2% general and free preferential. This recommendation also has been accepted by the Government.
In its report on stoves, ranges, cookers and the like not exceeding 40 lb weight, the Board considered the protective needs of two types produced in Australia, namely, gas stoves and liquid fuel fired stoves. In relation to gas stoves, the Board found the local market to be growing at a relatively high rate in recent years, but due to substantial imports from Britain and Japan the local industry’s share of this market has remained static, or declined, rather than increased. The Board found this manufacture to be economic and worthy of assistance and has recommended ad valorem duties of 35% general and 25% preferential. However, the market for liquid fuel stoves - principally using petrol, kerosene or methylated spirit fuels - is declining and because of unprofitable production the Board could see no prospect for improvement in the demand for these stoves. Consequently, the Board considered the production in Australia to be no longer economic and recommended a reduction in the duties to the minimum level of 71/2% general and free preferential.
Proposals No. 6 also contains an amendment resulting from international negotiations consequent on the Tariff Board’s report on the general textile reference. This amendment imposed duties of 25% general and 15% preferential on felts for papermaking machines.
For the information of honourable members I mention that the Government accepted all the recommendations made by the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority on the subject of these Proposals. The two temporary duties applying to hot water bags and sand boots and shoes represent holding action pending the receipt of the Tariff Board’s reports on references relating to those goods sent to the Board before the temporary duties were applied. Summaries of the tariff alterations covered by Proposals Nos 1 to 6 are now being circulated for the information of honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Reports on Items
Mr NIXON (Gippsland - Minister for the Interior [11.30] - I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Metal reinforced rubber belts or belling.
Tetanus vaccines, veterinary products, quilts, etc., and sleeping bags (New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement).
General textile reference - Concluding interim report.
Sound recorders and reproducers.
Metal working circular sawing machines.
Stoves, ranges, cookers and the like.
Severally ordered to be printed.
I present also the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
General textile reference - Final report.
Sulphur bearing materials.
Pursuant to Statute I present also Special Advisory Authority reports on the following subjects:
Hot water bags.
Knitted coats, jumpers, cardigans, sweaters and the like.
Sand boots and sand shoes.
Severally ordered to be printed.
– I move:
The Excise Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Excise Tariff 1921-1967. The proposals provide for the insertion of a new item in the schedule to the Excise Tariff to provide for the exemption from duty of excisable goods consumed as ships’ stores. Honourable members may recall that this proposal was first introduced into this House on 31st October 1967. The present action will allow the exemption to remain in force until honourable members have an opportunity to debate the measure. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (ob motion by Dr I. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 313), on motion by Mr Fox:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General bc agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– At the outset I would like to add my own sincere tribute to the many fine tributes which have been paid during this debate to the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. The greatest tribute of all, of course, was when the leaders of the free world assembled in Melbourne at a moment’s notice and by their presence at his memorial service indicated that he was not only a great Australian but also a world figure of the very highest standing. He served Australia very well indeed. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his elevation to that position. I also congratulate the new Ministers who have been appointed and wish them a very successful term of office. I am confident that the Gorton-McEwen Government will continue to promote the prosperity and development of Australia in the years ahead. The foundation for this has been very soundly laid by the three previous coalition governments in which Mr John McEwen, as Deputy Prime Minister, has played such an able and distinguished part.
One of the very great needs of this country is decentralisation. A lot has been said on this subject but too little has been done.. The New South Wales Government is to be congratulated on the establishment of a Ministry of Decentralisation and its efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Among the many problems confronting decentralisation is unduly high freight costs. The promoting of decentralisation ls one of a number of factors which can be presented to support the claim that rail freight costs should be reduced and that Commonwealth assistance should be provided to the States to offset a percentage at least of the loss of revenue resulting from this reduction. It should be borne in mind that a reduction in freight costs would assist all residents in Australia living outside the metropolitan boundaries. It would assist wage earners, primary producers and businessmen alike. 1 have had representations from union representatives who have told me of the difficulties that confront their members in the outlying areas of the Commonwealth. There is a disparity between the conditions which are enjoyed by the section of the community that is living in outlying areas and those living in and near metropolitan areas. 1 think we have to try to break that down. It must be conceded that the benefits of Australia’s increased prosperity have not been extended into our inland areas. Reduction of freight rates is one way in which this could be done.
The inland areas of every State, with the possible exception of Western Australia, have had a gruelling time over recent years due to drought. Unsatisfactory wool prices have also contributed to the difficulties. The people of Australia - and this means the government of Australia - have a responsibility to utilise all usable areas in this country. Because of this we should be grateful that there are people who are prepared to live in remote districts that lack amenities. We have a clear responsibility to ensure as far as possible that they do not continue to live at the financial disadvantage that they are living under today by comparison with metropolitan residents and perhaps residents in some of the more favoured areas close to our larger towns. If there is anything that can be done to rectify this position - freight rates come into this category - I urge the Government to give this matter the consideration it deserves. The Government should consult with the States to find the most suitable method of remedying the existing situation. In the long term this action would prove a sound national investment because of the contribution it would make towards the stability of primary industries, which will continue to make a large contribution to our export income in the foreseeable future.
While I am talking about problems of primary industry I want to raise the question of the availability of finance. I believe that this is a matter which needs the earnest consideration of the Government. Finance will have to be made available for long terms at low interest rates. I know that this argument has been propounded on very many occasions before but I feel that it is necessary for the Government to provide finance if this is possible so I can see no Other way in which many deserving people in rural industry will be able to rehabilitate themselves. I believe that it is in the national interest to restore these people to a position of some financial stability. I would like to see a special section of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation established to undertake the administration of a fund provided for this specific purpose. I do not think that we could expect the normal financial institutions to go beyond what might be regarded as a reasonable risk in the lending of finance, therefore it becomes a special responsibility of the Government. This aspect will have to be taken into consideration when funds are being allocated and if there is any loss accruing, it will be the result of an effort to restore the productive capacity and financial stability of primary producers who have suffered difficulty, not of their own making but due to an unbelievably long drought coupled with low prices. The very fact that prices have fallen has resulted in a lessening of their capacity to obtain finance in any other way.
I now turn to national development, which is a matter of great importance to Australia. The Department of National Development deserves commendation for the efforts it has made in regard to water conservation. There are few matters more vital to Australia than water conservation. It is only too painfully obvious in the southern part of Australia today that we must do all in our power to cope with the ever recurring problem of drought. The sum of $S0m that was ear marked by the Commonwealth Government for water conservation is a step in the right direction but it is only a step along the road that Australia must necessarily follow. Expedition of the plans and schemes that are being contemplated at the present time is one of our most urgent national needs. The successful irrigation scheme at St George in my own electorate has provided irrigated crops much further west than was thought practicable some years ago. It has been so successful that the Queensland Government is at present engaged in enlarging the scheme. I warmly commend it for doing so. The Coolmunda dam near Inglewood is also nearing completion.
It would be a good thing if more honourable members had a look at what has happened at St George. It was first thought that it was perhaps not going to be as successful as we hoped, but the experience that has been gained there shows it has made a great difference to the availability of fodder in that area. There were many areas that were too far removed from sources of supply to make it economical to purchase and carry fodder there. The scheme has made fodder available to the surrounding area and further west. Apart from that, water conservation is the key to unlock great sources of production and alleviate the scourge of drought in many areas. It is the foundation of decentralisation in that increased population will follow in its wake. There is every reason why we should continue to press forward with all the water conservation schemes that come within reasonable economic limits.
The Border Rivers Scheme, in which the Queensland, New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments are interested, should be proceeded with without further delay, since its economic value has already been accepted. There is great potential for irrigation along the Condamine and Dawson Rivers in the southern part of Queensland. All these things are worthy of investigation but they will take a great deal of investigation. I have heard some adverse comments with regard to the conservation of water in some areas on the ground of cost per acre foot. I suggest that the cost of dam sites and water used on the upper Condamine, for example, should be considered against the high and reliable rainfall which could be expected to replenish supplies at regular intervals. This is sometimes lost sight of in considering the practicability of storage of water. There is a great need for overall planning in water conservation so that more economic and productive use could be made of the water available.
I commend the Queensland Irrigation Water Supply Commission on the excellent work being done and I trust that the expert personnel of the Snowy Mountains Authority will continue to be available to assist it and water supply authorities in the other States in planned schemes that are being investigated. If they prove worthy of implementation a necessary corollary will be the making available of the finance required for this purpose. I urge the Commonwealth to make more money available for water conservation. This is one of the problems we realise to be important - this demand for finance from Government - but I urge the Government to give a high priority to the allocation of finance for water conservation in the foreseeable future.
I want to move along to another angle which I feel is worthy of consideration - something designed to offset to some extent the high cost of living for inland residents. This is the extension of the areas covered by the taxation concession zones and a substantial increase of the taxation allowance provided for within the zones. I might mention that 1 have had representations from people in all walks of life and union representatives urging this to be done. 1 point out that this again would benefit all sections of the community residing within these zones. A number of people in the public service, for example, have assured me that the cost of living allowance provided for certain areas is inadequate to cover the extra cost incurred and they are at a financial disadvantage when serving in outlying areas. This could be remedied by increasing the cost of living allowance but it docs, I believe, support the case for increasing the areas and the allowances now provided for under the taxation zoning system. In the course of this address I am referring a good deal to the disabilities suffered by people in inland areas. I make no apology. They do not have a great number of representatives in these inland areas but I want to say that it is not from any parochial outlook that I claim that these urgent needs need ventilation.
I turn now to telephones, particularly in rural areas. With the introduction of modern scientific equipment great advances have been made in improving telephone services within and between major centres of population. While services in those areas have been improved it is unfortunately true that for many subscribers in rural areas the service, despite higher charges, has deteriorated. With my colleagues in the Country Party I accepted the higher charges believing that it would mean improved services in all areas, but the number of country automatic exchanges proposed to be provided is totally inadequate to meet the demand. Either more of these exchanges must be provided or some other solution found for the problem of providing continuous telephone services for those still without them. I suggest that a careful examination should be made of the possibility of bringing in subscribers from small exchanges to the nearest continuous service exchange by the use of multi-core cables and that these cables should be used to connect small exchanges to a central point so that the number of subscribers would warrant the installation of an automatic exchange or a continuous manual service.
I want to go on to another point with regard to telephones. Under the ELSA system we have the zones, but there is a great anomaly attaching to some of these zones. Some of them do not have within their boundaries a town with professional and medical services available. 1 consider this to be an anomaly. Lcl us take the position in the western areas where often the zones are not nearly big enough by comparison with those in more closely settled districts, lt is possible to get outside one zone into another where a person has to pay trunkline charges for all the purposes for which a local call is sufficient in the adjoining zone. This could be easily rectified and I think it certainly ought to be done by provision of a local call service to the nearest town to that zone which has medical and professional services available. Surely it should be simple enough. I emphasise that it would mean a very small loss of revenue because the extra number of calls made would offset the number of higher call charges lost. After all it is only justice and I urge the Government to give consideration to this. I feel this is something urgently needed which is only reasonable and will give justice to the people in those areas. I repeat we are lucky to have people living in those areas.
I want to refer next to air services. The air services between the capital cities are continually increasing in frequency and inland air services are being reduced. It is obvious that if traffic between the larger centres of population is increasing improved services must be provided to cater for that. We appreciate this, but I want to say that this increased traffic brings increased profits to the airlines that are providing the services and therefore under this two-airline system the two airlines are protected from competition for this profitable business. I believe that the existing inland services at least should be maintained and any loss of revenue should be regarded only as a charge for the franchise granted to those two airlines to operate between capital cities without other competition. I am of the opinion that one of the reasons for any loss of profit on some of those inland services is that the type of aircraft used is unsuitable for the type of business available. In fact the Minister made a statement only recently - 1 think it was on 20th March - that TAA planned to introduce five 19-passenger Twin Otter aircraft into Queensland to replace the DC3’s and Beech Queen Air types. This is something that 1 am pleased to see. These airplanes could be operated at a lesser cost and therefore enable these services to be provided without the loss that is apparently being sustained. In any case, I challenge the airlines to show the actual loss sustained and that this cannot be comfortably carried. I say this against the background that TAA achieved a profit sufficient to cover a dividend of $1,250,000, or 7.5% on capital invested by the Commonwealth Government in 1966-67. With the Treasurer’s agreement the Minister for Civil Aviation has again fixed on 7.5% as an appropriate return to the Commonwealth from the operations of TAA in 1967-68.
J am confident that unless unduly affected by industrial troubles this result will be achieved. It is common knowledge, too, that Ansett-ANA has paid a constant dividend of 10% over recent years and that the shares of that company are in keen demand. The Government should not allow these airlines to reduce inland services while this position exists, and recently reduced services should be restored on routes where commuter services have been introduced and are operating successfully.
I wish now to touch on an aspect of inland air services. refer to the local ownership plan for country aerodromes. There is no doubt that this plan has resulted in the improvement of many of these aerodromes. But this makes another demand on the funds of local authorities. As these authorities are being called upon to provide other modern amenities for the benefit of the community this requirement puts an extra strain on them. I believe that at the very least the percentage of contribution that is required from local authorities should be reduced, but I have been told that it is likely that the percentage will be increased.
– I was told that a couple of days ago.
– The right honourable member for Fisher informs me that he was told a couple of days ago that this would happen.
– lt will be increased and not reduced.
– If it is to be increased and not reduced, this is certainly a move in the wrong direction. The move should be the other way. I contend that governments, both Federal and State, should contribute a higher percentage of the cost of the maintenance of these aerodromes. We must remember that the avenues available to local authorities for raising funds are limited. It might be pertinent to ask what percentage of aerodrome maintenance is carried out by local authorities in the capital cities. I do not know what the percentage is. Anyhow, it does not affect the argument that I am putting for consideration to be given to this aspect of the local ownership plan.
I realise that the case that I have made for assistance to inland areas to the amount by which I have suggested that assistance should increase will involve the Government in additional cost if accepted. But so will many of the demands made by various sections of our population which are well organised and very active. They are demanding a share of the prosperity that the country is enjoying. I believe it is time that the residents of inland areas were given a share in this prosperity also. If they are not to be left further behind, their case must be heard. Even if the claims that I have made are accepted, I venture to suggest, not one in a hundred metropolitan dwellers would be prepared to live in our inland areas. Let me quote as an example what the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) said in Parliament recently when referring to the electorate of Kalgoorlie, represented by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). The honourable member for West Sydney said that he would not be prepared to represent that electorate even if he was guaranteed re-election as its member for the next 50 years. I commend him for his honesty in saying that.
In the short time that is available to me I want to repeat that I realise that there are many demands on the Government’s finance. What I have said, if accepted, would lead to further demands on it. I know that when demands are made on government finance it is necessary either to raise more revenue or to conserve existing funds to meet the additional costs. It is a good idea at any time, but a particularly good idea when defence costs are high, that government spending should be carefully examined to see whether and where savings can be made. Wasteful costs have been incurred in recent years by the holding of separate elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The cost of the Senate election held at the end of last year was approximately $lim. I suggest that this money could be spent in a number of better ways than in holding Senate elections separate from elections for the House of Representatives.
– Abolish the Senate.
– Get rid of it.
– The Labor Party says that we should abolish the Senate - that we should get rid of it. I am not saying that. What I am saying is that elections for both Houses should be brought into line. I believe that there is a remedy for this problem. I suggest that it would be quite possible, by a change in our Constitution agreed to at a referendum, for senators to be elected for two terms of the House of Representatives. This would bring Senate elections into line always with elections for the House of Representatives.
– More senators will be needed.
– Now the Labor Party wants extra senators on the one hand while on the other it wants the Senate abolished. The Labor Party never knows where it stands.
– That is only uniformity.
– Opposition members are always contradicting themselves. If my proposal were adopted - and I consider that it is the only reasonable approach to this matter - the members of the Senate would face the people only once for every two times that the members of the House of Representatives would face the electors. The main advantage of my suggestion would be the saving in cost. I think that this is one of the aspects of this problem we should examine. It is up to this House and it is up to members in another place to have a look at this matter. They should look at it from a national point of view. It is claimed that the other place is a House of review. Well, let senators review the cost that the Government is incurring in holding separate elections. This is one of the cases in which expenditure could be saved.
I could continue speaking for a long time as there is a great deal more that I would like to say. I want especially to say this: Despite the speech that I have made because of the limited time available to me, I make it clear that I refute again the challenges that I, personally, or my party is sectional in outlook. We are not sectional in outlook. But we do want to see balanced development of this country. I do not need to quote page after page, as some Labor Party members have done, the policy of the Australian Country Party. The policy of this Party supports the balanced development of Australia. We want to see industrial expansion. In Queensland, under a Country Party Premier, we have seen it. The efforts of Mr Nicklin in this direction were recognised by the companies concerned, which asked him to open many of their industrial projects. He has adequately represented all sections of the community in Queensland, with the possible exception of the disruptive Pat Mackie element which he did not support in any way but which, I noted, was supported by some members of the Australian , Labor Party and even by some members sitting on the other side of this House. With that qualification, 1 would say that in the Federal sphere and in the respective State spheres my Party is endeavouring to give fair representation to all sections of the community. I hope that this Government will be allowed to continue the great work that it has done for Australia over so many years. I am sure that it will.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, first I should like to join other honourable members from both sides of the House who have preceded me in this debate in expressing my deep regret at the death of the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in such tragic and unprecedented circumstances. Although I disagreed with his politics, that did not prevent me from liking his personality and character, which were exemplified by his friendly attitude to all members irrespective of their party affiliation. I extend my sincere sympathy to Mrs Holt and to her family.
Prior to commenting on the Government’s policy as enunciated by the Governor-General in his Speech last week - or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that I shall comment on what was omitted from the Speech - I wish to refer to the debate on the alleged water torture incident in Vietnam, which took place in this House last Thursday evening. As honourable members are aware, only a limited number of speakers were allowed during that debate. As a consequence, I can contribute to the discussion on that subject only by making passing reference to it now. I submit that the proposition put to the House per medium of the amendment to the -motion that the House take note of the paper which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and which was rejected by the Government, was a sound and reasonable one. That amendment called for a full and open court of inquiry presided over by a judge appointed by the Government. It had the support of several newspapers which no one could deem to be pro-Labor.
When this matter was first brought to light, similar Press statements were issued by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) suggesting that an inquiry would be held. However, last Thursday evening, the Government’s attitude completely somersaulted and it refused to appoint an inquiry. This has confused a great number of people who well may ask: What is the reason behind it all? It is crystal clear that the Prime Minister, in his speech last Thursday evening, set out to mitigate the seriousness of the incident. It was noticeable that no Government speaker endeavoured to give an answer on one paramount point, although this unfortunate incident occurred in October 1966. The Government, so we are informed, was completely unaware of the incident until it was revealed recently by a journalist of the Melbourne ‘Herald*. This immediately prompts the thought: Have similar methods of obtaining information been used prior to or since October 1966?
I fully appreciate the fact that the safety and well being of Australian troops in any theatre of war are of the utmost importance and concern to us all. I believe that all possible means should be used to extract vital information from captured enemy prisoners, provided that the means used do not breach the Geneva Convention. However, we must be mindful of the fact that the Australian Parliament unanimously accepted the terms of the Convention and that while the ratifying statute remains on the statute book it must be obeyed to the letter. The alternative is anarchy. The Prime Minister emphasised that the captured Vietnamese woman was an agent. I do not question that for one moment, but under the terms of the Geneva Convention an agent is a prisoner and must be treated as such. The crime is punishable by death, but only if the person is found guilty by a just and democratic trial. The Australian people were horrified by the treatment, cruelty and privation suffered by Australian and allied prisoners during World War II. This was the type of barbarism which prompted the Geneva Convention. An endeavour was made to prevent it happening in the future.
It is not my intention to refer extensively tj the war in Vietnam. But I shall deal with what 1 believe was a major cause ot the war. I refer to the failure of various regimes in South Vietnam to implement a policy of land reform. Let us examine the position where land reform was implemented in other countries. During the early post war period following World War II General MacArthur commenced the democratisation of Japan. One of his most important initial steps was the introduction of land reform. This step was taken as a buffer against the possibility of Communism taking over in that country. The average size of a farm which was allotted to each family was 2i acres.
In June 1965 I was one of the delegation of seven parliamentarians which was lead by the present Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) and which visited several South East Asian countries, including Taiwan where land reform was introduced in 1954. Prior to its introduction the absentee landlord received up to 60% of the value of farm production. Now the maximum amount payable is 36% which, in my opinion, is still a little high. However, it is much better than hitherto. The delegation was shown the primary production graphs before and after land reform, which revealed skyrocketing production figures. The benefits have been twofold. Over 80% of primary producers now own their own properties and Taiwan has a favourable trade balance. It does not receive financial aid from the United States of America or from other countries. This proves beyond all doubt that people who are subjected to exploitation and abject poverty will, if given the opportunity and incentive, improve their own living standards and at the same time contribute to vastly improved national economies in their countries.
Honorable members who were in this Parliament prior to the 1966 election will recall the speech made by the President of the United States of America, Lyndon Johnson, at the luncheon tendered to him by the Government. The President reminded us that hundreds of millions of people in this world are existing on less than $1 per week. That simply means they are starving. Is it any wonder there are so many trouble spots in the world today when such privation exists? I believe that many of the underprivileged people living in abject poverty in underdeveloped countries are not concerned greatly with Communism, Fascism or democracy. They will certainly support any sort of Government which will provide them with a reasonable standard of living. I ask honorable members to put themselves in the position of these people who have not enough food for their wives and families and have very little hope for the future. What would honorable members do? I venture to say they would do exactly as those people are doing. They would be striving for something better, and as I mentioned earlier, one of the initial steps in bringing this to fruition is land reform.
Now I shall refer to social service and repatriation benefits. It is interesting to note that the Government’s policy contained in the Governor-General’s Speech approximated 3,400 words, yet only 73 words were devoted to these benefits. The relevant section of the Speech reads as follows:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
To this end my Government will set up a Standing Cabinet Committee including the Ministers for Health, Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, and that Committee will direct its attention to co-ordinating the approaches jnd proposals of the various Departments concerned with social welfare.
Those words, when closely analysed, mean that there will be few, if any, benefits given to the pensioner. Let us examine what the Prime Minister said a few days prior to the Liberal Party ballot for the Prime Ministership. He made a few points, one of which was as follows:
If I was able to frame the nation’s future policies I would aim at a society which would remove burdens and fear from the shoulders of those in dire need.
I believe that this is a praiseworthy aim. The Prime Minister in this present session has an excellent and unfettered opportunity to bring this aim to fruition by introducing a supplementary budget which would increase age, invalid and other social service benefits and repatriation pensions. These benefits have not been adjusted since August 1966, despite the fact that the consumer price index has disclosed steep increases in the cost of living over the past 18 months. The pensioner is forced to absorb price increases in a totally inadequate pension.
According to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the Australian economy has never been sounder than it is at the present time. If that statement is correct, let us do something now for the pensioners instead of waiting for the next session when the Budget will be introduced. There is every likelihood of further price increases between now and the introduction of the Budget. So I repeat, let us do something now. If the price increase of 5% for the financial year ended 30th June 1967 and the price increase for the first half of this financial year are taken into account, the age and invalid pension for a single person should be increased by $1 to $14 per week, and for a married couple by $1.50 to $25 per week. I believe that all social service and repatriation benefits should be adjusted in the Budget each year to meet any increased cost of living.
I now refer to unemployment and sickness benefits. The weekly rates of benefits are $8.25 for a single person, S.14.25 for a man and wife, $15.75 for a man, wife and one child, $17.25 for a man, wife and two children and an additional $ 1 .50 for each other child. Those rates have not been adjusted since 15th August 1961 - over 6± years ago - despite a skyrocketing cost of living over that period. The Department of Labour and National Service recognises the fact that several thousand people receive unemploymen or sickness benefits almost on a permanent basis. This stems from the fact that many people are chronically ill and physically incapable of doing anything except light work, of which very little is available on a constant basis. These people do not qualify for an invalid pension because they are deemed to be not 85% permanently incapacitated.
Most honourable members know of the difficulty in finding any type of employment which confronts an unskilled person, particularly one between the age of 50 and 65 years, who has a chronic ailment or is in poor physical condition. If the person is single he -or she receives the parsimonious sum of $8.25 per week. Now let me take the case of a man, with a dependent wife and two children, who is receiving unemployment or sickness benefit. He would receive $17.25 per week, plus $1.50 per week endowment, making a grand total of $18.75 per week. Does any honourable member deem these rates of benefit to be adequate to tide a family over the unemployment or sickness of the breadwinner?
It is true that some people may have money in a bank account to keep them going for a while, but conversely, many families in the lower income brackets are paying off a home or paying exorbitant rent and they would get heavily into debt after a period if the breadwinner was receiving unemployment or sickness benefit. As a consequence the debt takes many long months to pay off, and it can be paid off only by their depriving themselves and their children of every day necessities of life.
I now refer to class B widow pensions which are paid to more than 38,000 women. T wish to point out one of the Government’s many inconsistencies in retaining the present pension rate of $1 1.75 a week. First, we are told that single age and invalid pensioners are in more needy circumstances than are married pensioner couples, and the single age or invalid pensioner is paid $13 a week compared to $11.75 each for a married couple. This is a differential of $1.25 a week. Yet the Government pays a class B widow a pension that is equivalent only to that payable to each of a married pensioner couple. In my view this does not make sense. Class B widows have to pay rentals and living costs similar to those paid by a single age or invalid pensioner. Labor’s social services policy is designed to eliminate these anomalies and inequities by creating a standard base rate for all social service beneficiaries. It is important al all times in dealing with pensions to remember that the recipients pay the same prices over the counter for essential foodstuffs, clothing, shoes, etc., as does anybody else in the community. It is interesting to note that often in speeches made by Ministers it is said that wc are living in an affluent society. It would be ridiculous to assert that the vast majority of pensioners are enjoying the standards of living envisaged in those descriptions, because many among the 80% of pensioners whose sole income is the pension are experiencing a much inferior standard of living. I am extremely doubtful whether any members on the Government side have ever had to exist on unemployment or sickness benefit. So few, if any, would ever know what it” is to live in poverty or straitened circumstances. 1 believe that experience is the best teacher in matters of this kind.
I shall refer next to the means test applicable to permissible income of age and invalid pensioners. In 1954 the Menzies Government fixed the following rates: For the single age pensioner, who received $7 a week, the permissible income was S7 a week, which was the equivalent of 100% of the pension. For married pensioner couples with a combined pension of $14 a week, the permissible income was $14 a week, which also was the equivalent of 100% of the combined rate. In 1967 this section of the means test was again adjusted. The rates fixed were: Single age pension, $13 a week, and permissible income $10 a week, which was the equivalent of 77% of the pension; married pensioner couple, combined rate $23.50 a week, and permissible income $17 a week, which was the equivalent of 72.3% of the combined pension. These facts reveal the Government’s tardiness in waiting 13 long years before amending this section of the means test. Despite the publicity given to the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in expounding his theories regarding the abolition of the means test when he occupied a seat on the backbench - the previous Minister for Social Services also advocated the abolition of the means test when he was a backbencher - we find that instead of the permissible income means test improving it has deteriorated steeply in value over the years. The permissible income for a single pensioner, as a proportion of the pension, has deteriorated by 23%, from 100% to 77%. The permissible income of a married couple has deteriorated by 27.7%, from 100% to 72.3%. If the pension rate was non-discriminatory against married pensioner couples, as it was in 1954, the decline would be 34.6% .
In conclusion, I refer to repatriation pensions. One can only be appalled and amazed at the callousness exemplified by this Government in its attitude to returned servicemen’s repatriation pensions. I have received from the Mascot Sub-Branch of the Returned Services League of Australia, with an attached letter, a petition signed by 83 members of the branch. The letter states:
The Mascot Executive Officers and members of this sub-branch wish to bring your attention to the alarming decrease in pension values for returned servicemen.
In the 17 years the present Government has been in office, war pensions have been allowed to deteriorate so that now the total and permanent incapacity war pension is 81% of the minimum wage. The highest rate for partial disablement is 32% of the same wage.
The RSL can stress the justice of its requests and point out that the debt owed by the nation to these people is not resolved and despite all else, the claims of those who today are still handicapped due to service for their country are surely entitled to a priority.
These facts are the firm beliefs of the members whose names are on this petition.
We sincerely believe you as our Labor representative will be sympathetic to our cause for a better deal in pensions, and hope you may in some way be able to make this present Federal Government see the folly and hardships that are imposed on service pensioners- after all, they are only pensioners because they thought fit to fight for this great young country, and to keep us all free.
– That was a good letter.
– Yes. The wording of that letter expresses in similar terms the views of the Federal Executive and State branches of the Returned Services League throughout Australia. It also forcibly reminds the Government of its failure to maintain the true value in purchasing terms of the total and permanent incapacity and partial disablement pensions. This is yet another instance like that of social service benefits which calls for a review in the Budget each year to meet any increase in the cost of living. Formerly, it was an accepted principle in this Parliament that the TPI pension should be kept at the level of the basic wage, and the partial disablement pension at a minimum of 50% of the basic wage. However, it is blatantly obvious the Government does not intend to maintain this principle. Otherwise it would have made the necessary adjustments in the Budget brought down in August 1967.
Finally, let me briefly summarise my remarks. I mentioned earlier that the Treasurer had said that the Australian economy has never been in a sounder condition than at present. If that is so there is nothing to prevent or impede the Government from bringing down a supplementary budget to correct these many failures to maintain the true value of social service and repatriation benefits.
– I am glad that my friend the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) began as he did. He referred to the life and the work of the late Harold Holt. For my part, I would like to begin on this non-controversial note, as the honourable member did, because I suspect I will not conclude on a non-controversial one. I believe what my friend said today illustrates one of the great truths of Parliament - that no matter what may be said by way of political contest and conflict in or outside this House one cannot escape, even if one wants to, the conclusion that very firm and very real friendships develop across this chamber. I can remember that when I came here nearly 13 years ago Sir Arthur Fadden said to me: ‘You will get a lot of advice here. Most of it will be dubious. The only advice I can give you is this: All the good bowlers are not in one team.’ I think in that simple truth is a wonderful revelation, and 1 am glad that my friend said what he did say.
The extraordinary thing about Harold Holt was not merely his warm, genial personality, and not merely the fact that he disappeared in quite extraordinary circumstances, but the significance of the times in which he lived. He was in my time one of the few who had sat in this Parliament and seen the Constitution of this country altered in 1937 by the Imperial Parliament simply because we did not have the authority to legislate with respect to a Geneva Convention of that year, lt was not until 1942 that we started to get what one could describe as any genuine international personality, and it was only 30 years ago that we got one. Yet today Australia and, more crucially, its reputation throughout South Fast Asia, are matters of constant debate in this House and outside it. The person largely responsible for taking Australia into Asia was Harold Holt. Many of my friends opposite may have disagreed with his policy, but he went there and gave to Asia something of an understanding of the genuine Australian. I think that was a good thing.
I think it is a good thing that we now have in Australia an interest, which I trust will be abiding and enlightening, in Asia. What can be done to maintain this interest? You, Mr Deputy Speaker, probably better than most of us, would recall the words of scripture that here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Harold Holt was seeking his continuing city, but I am sure that it would meet with the complete approval of every person in this Parliament if we were to seek in some modest way to maintain in Australia something of the continuing city of his work. I would like to suggest that the Government give consideration to providing a system of scholarships to enable young Australians, one from each State in Australia - put it on a prestige basis - to go to Asia to do post-graduate work in any of the various fields. This would not cost very much, but I believe that the establishment of a system of scholarships would be of enormous value to this country. We cannot make any pilgrimage to Harold Holt’s grave or to any columbarium, but 1 believe that we can make a pilgrimage to his memory. What finer or more practical way could we do this than by seeking to give something of a continuing city to what he did in Asia and for this country.
If I may I should like now to indulge myself on the speech delivered last Tuesday night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It was a very long speech and I thought he read it remarkably well. I pay instant tribute to the quality of elocution that went with his speech, but I wonder whether I may impose upon him on the basis of a very old and substantial friendship to make a constructive suggestion about the speech. It is this: It would have been a far better speech if the honourable gentleman had cut it in half - and it would not have mattered very much which half he left out. But there he was on Tuesday evening, this man who describes himself with utter modesty simply as a man of destiny, seeing himself in the vision of a knight in shining armour, with sword unburnished, mounted on a white charger. I suppose he is entitled to that vision if he wants it, though I believe that he will not be needlessly offended if I tell him that there were one or two defects in that vision, as 1 saw it. Firstly, 1 thought he was mounted on a half draught; and secondly, I did not think he was completely attired because, as I saw him, from the viewpoint of his argument at least, he had forgotten to put on his pants. But, if I may, I shall come to the essential parts of his argument.
The honourable gentleman covered the field. Of course, this is a great debating technique; he makes a speech, puts in it everything that he can think of and that those around him can think of, and hopes to heaven that somebody will listen to it or pick it up and say: ‘Ha, here is brilliance; this man has put forward my views.’ That is precisely what the honourable gentleman did last Tuesday evening, and there were 55 minutes of it. I have not time to traverse the ground that he covered.
– That is a pity.
– I am delighted to have my feelings on the matter confirmed by my friend, the honourable member for Bendigo. But I may take one of the more extravagant comments made by the Leader of the Opposition. He thundered to the House about the Government’s policy regarding water and development. He said that nothing had been done about the $50m for water conservation projects. I thought that that was not altogether fair. The honourable gentleman should be reminded that it was only on the 1st November last year that the Government - I suspected at the time to the annoyance of my friend the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) - announced the commencement of the Nogoa scheme, which was to cost $20m. But the honourable gentleman ignores a fact of that sort or, if he did not ignore it, I am bound to say that his credibility is very much open to challenge.
What was his second criticism? As I have said, I cannot have the luxury of examining all these things, but let me give a second example. He said, to use his words:
Still, however, no steps have been taken to coordinate the score of workers’ compensation Acts in this country - State, Territorial and Federal.
I hope that honourable gentlemen will remember those words which, unless they were asleep, of course, they would have heard my friend use. For greater accuracy I have referred to Hansard for those words. It is an extraordinary thing that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, one who is learned in the law, should suggest to this Commonwealth Parliament that we should bring down legislation to co-ordinate - that is his word - all the State and Territorial laws relating to compensation. Under what head of power would my friend do this? It is up to him to answer; I think it is a fair question. I would be delighted if the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) would act as a messenger to ask him. Under what head of power would the
Leader of the Opposition bring down legislation to co-ordinate these Acts? I think his statement reveals in a flash that there is nothing too substantial about the merit of his argument. I think he should at least have shown to the House, if he has a proposal of this nature, how it is to be carried out, and should tell us what are the practical difficulties. But he did nothing about that whatever.
If honourable members go through his speech they will find instance after instance, either of something that is just a pale outline of truth, which has a touch of verisimilitude - he is very skilful at this - or, on the other hand, some proposal which is cranky in the extreme. If we were to add up the costs of all his vaguely concealed promises we would need to run coin evenings from now until doomsday to meet the cost. But the honourable gentleman is not disturbed about this. May I remind him of what his deputy, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), said a week or so ago, that it is high time the Labor Party adopted a more realistic attitude to the business of public finance in relation to election promises. Any mutt outside - there is none here, of course - can whistle up a proposal and say that it should be brought into effect. But it is another thing when the Government is charged with raising or finding the money, levying it and then spending it. That is a different proposition altogether. The Leader of the Opposition seems to forget that.
Having said that, may I come to what I have divined - a most felicitous word in this instance in relation to the Leader of the Opposition - to be the three main arguments that he put forward the other evening. The first - let us flatter him - I shall describe as a slashing attack on the Government. He referred to the profound friendship between the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). He spoke about some minor differences between the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), and so on. He attacked everyone. I felt a little put out because all I got from him was, on occasions, a rather wintry smile. But he attacked the Government. I would have thought that if you were to make an attack on something you would at least speak from a position of strength. When he launched this attack I said to myself: ‘Peace must have broken out in the Australian Labor Party.’ Just look at them. Peaceful - the consummate state of peace. But is this the case? I hope it is not divulging a confidence to say that when the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), arrived in Australia from this trip abroad I sent him a telegram couched in simple terms, stating: ‘Glad you are back. Hope you do not get laryngitis.’ I breach no confidence by saying what my right honourable friend said in reply, but it was warmly and kindly worded.
Here we have the Leader of the Opposition attacking the Government on one or two minor points, but what of his own abysmal record? 1 have heard the Leader of the Opposition and his distinguished predecessor referred to around the lobbies of the House as arsenic and old lace. I take it this is not a true description and that there exists between the two of them a bubbling and firm friendship. I take it that the allegation reported in one or two journals a few weeks ago that the former Leader of the Opposition had debauched the 1966 debate on Vietnam was simply not true.
The Leader of the Opposition cannot have it both ways. What is the position of his Party? Is it drawn up behind him? Is it a Party of men and women of unconcealed rapture in his leadership? I suspect that this is not the case. I would hesitate to describe the Leader of the Opposition, his distinguished predecessor and the honourable member for Yarra as representing a troika of firm and lasting foundation. I. do not think this is quite the case. I submit to the House and to the country that the honourable gentleman leads an alliance of malcontents, half a dozen of whom would gladly assist in arranging his political demise. Beyond this, what tortures the honourable gentleman more than he can bear is the knowledge that outside this Parliament are his true political bosses to whom he must go constantly for advice and authority to do everything that he wants to do.
I will turn to the second aspect of the honourable gentleman’s argument that I divined as having some merit. I have already dealt with the first aspect. Honourable members may make their own judgments on the other points of his argument; I will turn to the second. He made a most extraordinary speech about the various relations between the Commonwealth and the States. He said - this is not merely implicit in his speech; it is there - that it is high time the Commonwealth Parliament took the initiative in the fields of urban development, transport, housing and education. He mentioned the Snowy Mountains Authority, about which I will say more in a moment. Even sewerage got a guernsey from the honourable gentleman.
I return to the early part of my speech, when I asked what writ or authority this Parliament had to legislate on these matters. The speech we heard from the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday night was the speech of the complete Socialist. Under the banner ‘All Power for Canberra’ the honourable gentleman spoke. I hope he might be moved to express this sentiment to Mr Don Dunstan of South Australia, whom he wants to wipe out of existence. 1 hope that the honourable gentleman can find those qualities of candour to tell all the other Premiers that he is not particularly interested in seeing State parliaments remain but that he wants all power dragged here to Canberra whether we like it or nol. I want the honourable gentleman to tell me where in the Constitution is this Parliament to get power to legislate with respect to education. This is one of the paradoxes confronting the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). There is no placitum in the Constitution which enables the Commonwealth Parliament to bring down a bill for an act relating to education, lt is an extraordinary thing; the leader of the Opposition himself has admitted just that from time to time. We have no authority to legislate with respect to housing. The Commonwealth acts in the housing field only through a system of grants. Of course, 1 am not speaking now of the Territories of the Commonwealth. But the Leader of the Opposition said that the Commonwealth should legislate with respect to all of these matters to which 1 have referred as well as a host of others. How does he propose that this should be done. I hope that all this does not go undetected by the House and by people outside because this is a most significant indication of policy from the honourable gentleman. He said:
Under paragraph (XXXVII) of section 51, the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States can refer functions to the Commonwealth Parliament.
That is perfectly true. When was the last great effort to refer powers en masse to this Parliament? lt was in 1942, at the height of the war, when the then AttorneyGeneral, the tate Dr Evatt, and the late Mr Curtin as Prime Minister called upon the States to refer to the Commonwealth Parliament powers in relation to 14 points. Those 14 points virtually covered the field. The proposal was that the powers should be referred on a 5-year basis. In other words, we were to have Socialism on appro. That was the arrangement. But the constitutional convention failed. If I may I will read only one small extract from a speech made on this point by Dr Evatt at the constitutional convention in 1942. He appealed to a Mr Watts not to press an amendment to a particular point because it fenced in a particular proposal and he said:
Why fetter unnecessarily the powers of the Parliament?
That was Dr Evatt’s view. Of course, he was a thorough-going centralist. I admire people who are frank about these matters. 1 like to know where they stand. The present Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to have it both ways. He cannot talk about State rights on the one hand and on the other propound policies here, referring in vague terms to a placitum in the Constitution, which some people may not have heard of, calling for complete reference of power to the Commonwealth Parliament in matters ranging from education to sewerage. It does not make sense.
Let me refer now to the Snowy Mountains Authority. The honourable gentleman seems to be seized with the view that all that has ro be done with the Authority is to lift it and whisk it up to Queensland to dig a hole. Life does not work that way. The Queensland Government has a very competent Department of Works which is entitled to have its views respected. The problem is not as simple of solution as my friend suggests. It is not a matter of taking up the Snowy Mountains Authority and putting it first in one State and then in another to get on with a great programme of works. It is a matter calling for delicate negotiations between the States and the Commonwealth and is not one to be settled easily. Who knows, perhaps I could get the Authority to Queensland to dig a swimming pool in my backyard. I might prosper as a consequence. But let that be.
The last matter to which I refer fleetingly, because of shortage of time, is the extraordinary comments made by the honourable gentleman about Vietnam. I do not want to single out any one of the more baleful remarks he made about Vietnam. His thesis in a nutshell was that all we need do to bring peace to South Vietnam is halt the bombing and say to Ho Chi Minh: ‘Come to the peace table and all will be well’. This simply is not the case.
– What is the Government’s policy?
– I am glad 1 have roused the honourable member for Reid from his somnolent state. In 1961, when this matter was just beginning to unfold, the Labor Party swore throughout the country - I use the term swear in a technical sense - that there should be no escalation. Escalation has been the swear word of honourable members opposite. They say: ‘You must not do anything about getting involved’, irrespective of the merits of getting involved. If it had been suggested to the Leader of the Opposition and those who follow him on occasions, and those who are with him from time to time, that in 1964 there should have been put into South Vietnam a force of some 600,000 Americans, they would have protested that this would have dragged the world to the very edge of disaster.
The Labor Party, together with what I call the soft liberals - and I do not use the word ‘liberal’ here in the sense that we regard the Liberal Party in Australia - throughout the world, have been great supporters of what is called the flexible response of slowly building up until such point of time that one is in a position to win. I give one brutal illustration. Today around Hanoi, Haiphong, and other ports there are Soviet surface to air missiles. For months these missile installations were detected by the allies in South Vietnam and nothing was done to blow them out of existence, but today these missile sites are being used to blow American aircraft out of the sky. The thesis of the Leader of the Opposition of pulling back all the time has proved to be a disastrous policy in South Vietnam. For the benefit of the honourable member for Reid I hope that, probably next week, I will be able to say a little more about precisely this policy, because I do not think it is fair, once men are asked to be committed to a struggle, to then say to them: ‘We will deny you logistic support; we will deny you that form of support which seeks to interdict the enemy and weaken his logistical position and which seeks to destroy him’. What man is there in this House who has had any service or otherwise who would be prepared to support the proposition that men should go onto the battlefield and not be completely supported? In that context it is meaningful once life is involved. The Leader of the Opposition has a policy of despair. It is a policy that is not tinged in the least with realism and which, if supported by this country, would lead to disaster.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– The opening of this Parliament and the Governor-General’s Speech followed a remarkable period of Australian political history. We saw the tragic loss of a Prime Minister. Whatever our political differences, we of the Opposition respected the former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, as a man and as a parliamentarian. We were sorry to see him go. Subsequently we saw an astonishing campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party - a campaign unheard of in the history of the party, a public campaign in which Liberal Party members publicly supported or opposed candidates. We saw, for instance, the young pretender, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) - on the wave length of the era, as we were told; but apparently he got on the wrong wave length, or perhaps he was short circuited - receive four votes in the ballot for the leadership. We know three of those supporters and the fourth supporter will not reveal himself. Quite frankly I do not blame him because when we think about it, ironically enough, two of the Ministers who supported the Minister for Immigration are now on the back benches. This is a clear indication that in the Liberal Party it does not pay to lose.
We saw the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) openly and publicly disown the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in a statement which made headlines around Australia. In my view the Deputy Prime Minister, as leader of the Country Party, was entitled to state the conditions under which his Party would join the coalition. That is fair enough. The reasons must have been important - reasons which he seriously considered before he made the statement. The question is - and it is an important one: If the Treasurer, in the eyes of the Deputy Prime Minister, is not fit to be Prime Minister, how are we to know whether he is fit to continue as Treasurer? What are the reasons? The people of Australia are entitled to know and I think the Treasurer is entitled to know in order to be able to defend himself. The Opposition is aware, of course, of the policy differences between the two Ministers in relation to foreign capital inflow, banking, tariffs and the like. It is common knowledge that there is a state of armed neutrality existing between them and between their departments. This is not a good thing in government. It is not a good thing for our country. Indeed, it is incredible that in these circumstances they can continue in the Cabinet together.
Then we saw the promotion of our new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). We on this side of .the House all agree that he has some capacity. No one will deny that. But he has been languishing unrecognised on the back benches for some 18 years and, like the new Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who sits in another place, in that time he has crossed the floor and voted with the Opposition on a number of occasions, lt must appear lo the hopefuls on the back bench of the Liberal Party that there is no reward for loyalty and indeed that promotion is a rather effective and novel way of silencing rebels. The Prime Minister has been elected. He was from the Senate. It does not say much for his opponents in the House of Representatives in the election for leadership. I point out that the Prime Minister was not elected with the full support of his Party as two ballots were held before the result was known. Now, of course, the Prime Minister becomes heaven sent as the messiah of the Liberal Party. In off the cuff remarks in Press conferences and in speeches he has endeavoured to give Australia the impression that he is a new broom bringing an upheaval and renewal of energies - the winds of change - through the corridors of power. Instead of an upheaval we have had a mere ripple. Instead of winds of change there has been a mere zephyr. Where indeed was renewed energy apparent in the Governor-General’s Speech? We have a new government but which way it is going is anyone’s guess.
The Prime Minister is already qualifying the statements he made after his succession to leadership. He said that no more troops would be sent to Vietnam, and this was a permanent statement. It was permanent until a few days ago when he was questioned in this House. Since then, of course, the establishment has been at him. He is trying to give the impression that the Government is a very happy family, but let us look at its members. The Treasurer disagrees with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) about the state of the economy. There can be no question about that fact. The Minister for Trade and Industry disagrees with the Government’s action over the devaluation of the British currency. The Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) disagree about the future of the Post Office. The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Trade and Industry, disagrees, too, with the Government’s attitude on foreign investment. Of course, he and the Treasurer have never agreed on anything.
What of the Governor-General’s Speech that we are now debating? It was drab and dull and a complete anti-climax after the build up the Prime Minister received as a man of action. There is nothing new in it and there is a great deal that is old. The vital question of education - surely our greatest investment - failed to get a mention. Not even the Government’s Senate election promise of assistance to school libraries was mentioned. The crisis in education which our Prime Minister, as Minister for Education and Science, stoutly denied existed, still continues. I could talk for an hour - and so could honourable members on both sides of the House - about the deficiencies in education such as lack of classrooms, shortages of qualified teachers, shortages of science equipment, and inadequacies in universities, colleges and so on. I shall take that matter up in another debate. If we really need evidence about the crisis in education, surely there was pictorial evidence on the front page of yesterday’s Melbourne ‘Age’. I have here a copy of that newspaper which published a photograph of the Western Tyers State School. I show it now to honourable members. The school is nothing more than an old broken down, backwoods shack and the residence occupied by the teacher seems even worse. This is an indication of the crisis in education. Here is pictorial evidence for anyone to sec.
The drought which has devastated a large part of south eastern Australia was dismissed in the Governor-General’s Speech in a passing reference of one line. The Speech mentioned the economy and apparently Government supporters are entirely happy with the relief measures taken by the Government. The Opposition is not happy and I shall say something more about that later. Seventy thousand applications for housing authority homes in the States are outstanding, but housing received not a word of mention in the Speech. Soon after his succession to the Prime Ministership, the Prime Minister spoke of ‘an underlying malaise in the Post Office’. But not a word was said about removing, nor is any action contemplated, apparently, to remove the causes of unrest in the Post Office, Australia’s greatest business undertaking. The discovery of natural gas in economic quantities was of great significance to the nation. What we needed before and need even more now is a national fuel policy; but no, there was not a word in the Governor-General’s Speech about it. That Speech, after all, is supposed to be a blueprint of the Government’s intended action for this year and, indeed, to the end of this Parliament. The Prime Minister, in remarks made before the parliamentary sitting, indicated interest in urban development. We all agree that the cities of Sydney and Melbourne have congestion problems and are sprawling and over-developed. But the Prime Minister and the GovernorGeneral’s Speech were completely silent about the need for concerted action to bring about more balanced development. There was nothing in the Speech to please country people in this respect.
Indeed, the Speech is remarkable not for its content but for the matters of national importance which failed even to rate a mention. What of health and social services? After 18 years in office the LiberalAustralian Country party Government proposes to hold inquiries into aspects of these all embracing subjects. Inquiries: No inquiry is needed to know that hundreds of thousands of pensioners are struggling to survive on pensions which are far below their real needs. For years now the split up of our national financial cake has been out of balance. Clearly the Commonwealth, with its ability to substantially reduce its indebtedness, has had the better of the deal with the States, whose indebtedness has increased remarkably. Nothing was said in the Governor-General’s Speech about any new deal; so apparently the old formula will continue. How does the Commonwealth stand in relation to Sir Henry Bolte’s stamp tax? We have read something in the newspapers about the Federal Government threatening Sir Henry about that portion of the tax which constitutes an income tax. Why was not the Government’s intention in regard to this mentioned in the Speech? Why do we, as parliamentarians, have to rely on newspaper reports to get our information? Will the Government withhold from the tax reimbursement allocation to Victoria later this year an amount equivalent to collections of the Victorian stamp tax so far as it is regarded as an income tax. We ought to know. This socalled new broom has turned out to be a hairy old veteran with the same old tired approach.
The whole tenor of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech gave the impression of a town crier of olden days going around the town crying ‘All’s well’, when in fact he did not have a clue what was going on beyond the illumination of his lantern. All is not well. I will take just one important aspect of our economy - primary industry. Indeed, 1968 will be a crisis year for Australian agriculture because drought, devaluation, exorbitant shipping freight increases and the ever-present price squeeze are all putting pressure on primary industries, many of which were facing critical situations before the year started. And then we have the shadow of Great Britain’s anxiety to join the European Common Market and the consequent threat of losing further sales of primary products. As the session passes I will take the opportunity to point out some of the specific deficiencies and problems in relation to primary industry.
I want to say something about the need for a national disaster organisation in Australia. The drought has had such an effect upon the nation and its economy - and I will say something about that later - that it seems to me that the Government has a clear responsibility to arrange for the most exhaustive research into the cause and effects of droughts and the action needed to counteract and minimise them. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation notwithstanding, governments are not yet rainmakers. But governments can provide the means for the 1968 scientist to apply his knowledge to solving the problems. At almost any given lime somewhere on this vast continent of ours we have a disaster of some magnitude - fire, flood or drought. I believe that a national organisation designed to research into, propose preparedness for, and work to alleviate consequences of such disasters ought to be established. As I have said, despite the efforts of the CSIRO, we cannot as yet control the weather. But we can be better prepared and more effective in the alleviation of the effects which blight the lives of so many of our citizens almost every year and which regularly set back our national progress. Too often victims of the national disasters that occur in all States have to wait too long for governments to make up their minds about the type of assistance needed, and they then often have to wait too long for the assistance to reach them.
A large part of our continent has an average rainfall that is barely sufficient to maintain agriculture. It is inevitable therefore that normal variations in rainfall will result in drought. The series of droughts since 1964 has stimulated research into their occurrence, effects and amelioration, but I am prepared to bet my bottom dollar - and I am pretty near to that now - that 12 months after the drought breaks it will be forgotten until the next time. When a flood occurs there is an outcry from the public demanding flood mitigation and there is an upsurge of interest in that direction, but when the rain stops falling and the water subsides so does the interest and so does the action to determine the causes and prevent recurrence. Our rarest and most precious resource is water. Thousands of millions of gallons annually run into the sea at times of flood. At other times whole districts covering thousands of square miles are desparate for water. Yet we spend only 0.7% of our gross national product on water research compared to 3.5% by the United States of America, 2.5% by Russia and 2% by Britain.
The unfortunate Tasmanian bushfire disaster last year clearly showed a lack of organisation to prevent these disasters happening and a lack of organisation to deal with relief for those who suffer in such tragedies. It is my belief that the Government should establish a permanent national disaster organisation - with the co-operation of the States - in an attempt to produce answers to many of the questions as yet unresolved in relation to drought, fire and flood. I think that such a national disaster organisation should be financed by the Commonwealth and that it should have two arms - a research arm and a field arm. The research arm should have the task of co-ordinating and stimulating research by the CSIRO, universities, Commonwealth and State departments, conservation authorities, private industry and farmers’ organisations. Indeed, it too should undertake research. The field arm should engage in preventive, relief and extension work, giving its results to the Government, to farmers and to the community generally. We must seek to minimise the effects of disasters and cut the huge losses that our country regularly suffers.
I want to say something about what such an organisation could do in research. It could promote research into better methods of statistical analysis and into the why’s and wherefore’s of rainfall; it could promote research into the water needs of plants and animals and breed more drought resistant plants; and it could make a greater effort in the field of long range forecasting. There are some people in this country who have great faith in the opinions of long range weather forecasters. I suggest that the statistics show they are quite unreliable. There should be much more research into long range weather forecasting. There should be research into the conservation of fodder and perhaps into the necessity for pelletising machinery to be made available in certain rural areas to enable farmers to pelletise their fodder and put it into cube form. There ought to be research into farm water supplies and the use of pumps, dams, storage tanks, pipelines and so on. There should be research into the plannning, designing, siting and financing of farm water supplies. Perhaps there should be some research into the effectiveness of our road and rail transport systems in times of national disaster. At present no transport is available in some areas affected by drought for farmers who want to evacuate their livestock to agistment areas. Transport trucks are booked up months ahead. It could well be that research into farm water supply problems will indicate that a special fund should be set up to advance finance for recommended private water programmes.
A national disaster organisation could lead to research into primary industry insurance. It is apparent to me that, as in other countries, national insurance schemes covering individual industries could provide much needed cushioning relief for farmers who suffer losses from disasters. Let us briefly examine the wheat industry. The 1948 wheat stabilisation plan has served the Australian wheat farmer well. I do not think that honourable members would mind if I pointed out quite proudly that this was created under an Australian Labor Party Government. The only deficiency is that it is a good-time plan. If a farmer cannot produce or deliver his wheat to the Wheat Board because of a national disaster such as fire, flood or drought he misses out on any return at all. In the United States of America and Canada a system of drought insurance lessens the impact on the farming community. Such legislation has been operating in the USA since 1946 and in 1959 the Crop Insurance Act was passed in Canada. I understand that the premiums for coverage are around about 6%. It should be obvious that with such protection a wheat farmer would improve his credit worthiness and certainly he would receive a more stable income. If this occurred the community as a whole - but especially country communities - would benefit from this stability. Such a disaster organisation as I have outlined could collate details of the legislation for and operation of similar schemes in other countries as well as the two that T have mentioned - the USA and Canada. The application of a wheat industry insurance scheme could lead to the spread of such schemes to other cereal crops and ultimately there could be a much wider application.
I have merely touched the field in which a national disaster organisation could operate to the benefit of Australia. I think that it could be a practical body which could substantially aid the diminution of the effects of disasters and, indeed, help stave them off in certain circumstances.
In the few minutes available to me I want to say something about the drought, which unfortunately since 1964 has touched firstly northern and central Australia, New South Wales and Queensland and is now in Southern Australia. In 3 years it has reached out to all parts of the continent and the Government has made certain provisions in relation to drought relief. 1 want to say that we believe that they are necessary but I want also to offer the criticism that they do not go far enough. It is quite clear that not enough is being done to alleviate the effects of the drought and to prepare affected areas and affected people for recovery when the drought ends. Some regard the calamity as affecting solely the farmer and his flocks, but this series of droughts, run together as they have been, more than any other national calamity is having an effect on many Australians. Its effect on everyone is both physical and financial. The 1944-45 drought cost this country something like SI, 000m, but this drought could continue and the loss could be even more than that this time.
The wheat harvest is badly hit; so is dairying. Butter production has dropped more than 2,000 tons in the 6 months up to the end of 1967. These things will reverberate through the economy for years to come. To the individual farmer, crop losses and stock losses have meant severe financial loss, but these flow through many other sections of the community - retail trade in country towns, for instance. They cause unemployment in capital cities. Melbourne is now a city changed, by the drought, from green to brown. The only people getting the benefit are the chiropractors, who are curing bucket backaches as they are called. The drought affects the housewife and the family. She finds that the cost of food has risen. The price of meat today is high, but what it will cost when the drought ends and the farmer is restocking hardly bears mentioning. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to bend every effort to diminish the effects of the drought and aid recuperation from it.
It is vital that breeding stock should survive so that the road to recovery will be shortened. We find there comes a situation for every individual farmer when he just cannot afford to buy the fodder needed in a drought, so he sells his sheep for slaughter. This situation has arisen in many cases. I believe the stage has been reached when the Government should pay a subsidy of 50c a bushel on all feed grains used as drought fodder. In today’s question time the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) indicated belatedly that he is willing to underwrite Victoria up to Sim in this respect. What happens to southern New South Wales, I do not know. Why should the farmers in that area be left out and others in drought stricken areas be assisted? The price of hay of whatever description has rocketed to unheard heights. Dealers in fodder are making a fortune, although there is not a great deal left to sell. The cost of wheat is $6 a bag retail off f.a.q. and it is an expensive business keeping the stock alive. This is too much for the ordinary and small farmer to pay for drought fodder in order to keep his stock alive.
The Australian Wheat Board last season had a carry over of something like 80 million bushels. The seasons crop will be heavily reduced because of the drought, but the question is: What reserves of wheat do we hold? There is no guarantee that, despite the fact that rain has fallen in Victoria today - and some in Canberra, the drought will break in southern Australia. It is imperative that we hold substantial reserve stock in case the drought goes on. There has been no indication it will break now or in 6 months time, and I believe it is the Government’s responsibility to see that sufficient stocks of wheat are held to meet needs in an emergency. We have an emergency. We normally use 60 to 65 million bushels a year. We may need 100 million bushels a year if this drought continues. I ask specifically whether the Government has taken this up with the Australian Wheat Board. The Government, if it has, should offer to pay the storage and handling costs of the Australian Wheat Board. After all, it is the farmer’s wheat
However, it is vital that adequate stocks should be held in Australia to meet the emergency that we are facing now, which could continue for years to come.
– The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) has echoed his leader by adopting the technique of listing great categories of things which he feels have been omitted from the Governor-General’s Speech and therefore implies that they will be omitted from the intentions of the Government during the period immediately in front of us. This of course is absolutely fallacious, because of necessity only a small amount of material could go into the Speech. I feel it is more important to draw attention to the things which are indicated in terms of virile expectation with, regard to the new Government and its already formed policies in some vital areas. I want to restrict my remarks to particular areas at each end of the life scale - one with regard to youth and the other with regard to age. In both these areas a great deal is expected from the Government and a great deal is already anticipated from what has been said. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has spoken with regard to his deep concern to see a re-examination of the whole field of care of the aged, and on this I will speak first.
I believe there is no section of the Governor-General’s Speech which carries the goad of urgency more than that related to the needs of aged persons. I have been recently investigating personally the plight of various groups in my electorate in the suburbs of Drummoyne, Five Dock and Ashfield. What I have seen in some cases - I make no apology for saying it - has often made me feel physically sick, morally indignant and deeply determined to see the nation face its responsibility. There is no question that the 1954 legislation brought down by this Government relating to massive subsidies for aged persons’ homes has benefited many thousands of people. There are also areas where lack of follow-up care as age progresses has led to a hopeless, soul destroying imprisonment for the aged. The voluntary institutions have stepped in and tried to bridge a dreadful gap; as a result some magnificent institutions, run mainly by the churches but not exclusively, are to be found in my area. The Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church in Drummoyne, the Baptists in Ashfield and the Anglicans in Croydon have homes with nursing care for the frail aged which are a joy to visit. The factor that governments, both Commonwealth and State governments, have failed to act upon adequately is the inevitable decline in physical, and quite often mental, fitness that accompanies old age.
I could take honourable members to case after case of old people, singly or in couples, existing in misery and from which neither I nor they can see any prospect of escape except through death. These people are sometimes underfed and suffering from malnutrition. They lack the ordinary comforts and necessities of life. Sometimes heating in winter is cut down to an inadequate level, and certainly bathing and the res’ are inadequate. Let me tell the House about one case. Can anyone answer this one? Mr and Mrs X are in an aged persons home at Abbotsford. He is blind, and last year he fell down an escalator in a Housing Commission building and injured his spine. He received no compensation, but now lies on his bed most of the day. His wife is subject to fits and debility and cannot even cope with the housework in their tiny unit. Despite the low rental, they cannot make ends meet on the pension, not because, of its inadequacy but because of their own. Where do these people go from here other than through death?
Let me quote another case - from Ashfield. An aged lady of 80 with her memory almost gone is living with tenants who take advantage of her frailty. She is totally incapable of coping with her own care or of selling her home or evicting her tenants. Who cares? Take one more case of dozens - this one from Croydon. A frail old lady of 82 now in a nursing home run for private profit is a pensioner and pays nearly $40 a week for her spartan bed plus a seat in a communal lounge. She still retains a flat for which she pays rent, because it is the only stake she has in life outside tha concentration home. She has only a little of her life’s savings left and these are draining away regularly at the rate of about $20 per week. Soon she will be destitute and unable to stay in her home. Again, I ask: Who cares?
There is only one answer - a full orbed plan to provide care for the aged in three groups. These groups are the aged who are well, the frail aged and the sick aged. The care and attention required range from nil or almost nil, in the case of the fit and well, to intensive care in the case of geriatric patients unable to exist without such care. This entire system is essential and most urgently needed. For me, anyway, there has been a tremendous enthusiasm in the reception given to the Prime Minister’s concept, foreshadowed in his own words explaining his attitude to bringing together the social service and medical and health considerations as well as other aspects of Commonwealth administration, which are important to this full orbed consideration of which I speak. 1 know that the States and the Commonwealth have their respective areas of concern and that in some respects these overlap, just as the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health have overlapping responsibilities. In many instances, the whole field is bedevilled further by the arbitrary approach of local government authorities regarding the payment of rates and the skyrocketing increases in land and water rates which often are paid by pensioners at the expense of their basic needs. I beg the Government to move urgently to provide relief before too many more of these fine old people are beyond assistance.
Having spoken about that end of the spectrum, I turn to youth at the other end. The future of this nation is clearly determined. Materially, our country is making tremendous strides. Australia is destined for greatness as never before, in view of our expectations with the discovery of material resources in oil, iron, bauxite, phosphate, copper, tin and as well as the tremendous number of other raw materials which not only will give us materials for growth inside Australia but also will relieve us of balance of payments problems abroad.
Of course, there are needs. The honourable member for Bendigo rightly has paid attention to some of these. They include the need for much more intensive and successful development of our water resources. I would remind the House that this consideration already is foreshadowed in legislation. Also, there are other factors relating to communications in a vast country such as this, with particular regard to Australian shipping facilities, roads and decentralisation. These material needs are well and truly in hand and prospects for the future are exciting.
But, ideologically, the country is lacking in leadership. We have fervent hopes of our new Prime Minister because, here again, he has given the country a new concept and a new expectation. But I call to mind the experiences which come to me, for instance, on school speech days in various parts of my electorate, when I see thousands of clean, clear eyed, eager, fine young Australian boys and girls in whom any country would delight and be proud, and I call into contrast headlines in the Press all too often telling of events such as mass rapes and rejection of social and ethical standards by long haired individuals. This state of affairs is not unique to Australia. This is an experience that is world wide.
Australia’s great need today is for the kind of leadership which gives youth the expectation of the future that I have outlined. The nearest I have come to hearing that kind of leadership put to the nation was at the Sydney Town Hall. It came from our new Prime Minister who was delivering his first official political speech in that capacity. But even there the Prime Minister could not give the whole picture, because it takes a tremendous amount of time to paint it in detail. We need in this country what would be in my view something approximating a ministry for youth.
What happens to our underprivileged youth is well known. It is undoubtedly true that in certain areas there are young people who suffer from underprivileged conditions. There is corresponding evidence of educational lack and a tendency towards a moral lack. This is significant in certain suburbs that all too often are represented in the headlines dealing with police court activities. I believe that there should be no underprivileged youth in Australia today. We have this mighty inheritance of Australia unlimited but we are not adequately awakening our youth to its excitement, its opportunities, its challenges and its demands.
Youth needs new horizons. Today it is entirely true that as youth looks out from Australia the shadow of Vietnam stands as a boundary to much of its thinking. The proposed British withdrawal from the area east of Suez has cast a shadow over the future security of South East Asia. So, in my judgment, Australian education needs a new purpose, a new national presentation and new provision. What should be its aim? It should aim at training young Australians for two things - first, to become fitting heirs to this exciting country set in South East Asia and, secondly, to know themselves and to enable individuals to find good lives for themselves and their future families.
To do this, we need, first of all, the leadership which gives youth an early and inalienable sense of inheritance. We need to tackle some of the destroying and disreputable philosophies to be found in the country still. On the one hand there is the laissez-faire exploitation of resources and people for personal or sectional gair, by those presently in possession of power or resources, especially where the methods that are used cut across the long term development of Australia for Australians. Then, equally bad or even worse is the process that destroys confidence and initiative in youth by inculcating the attitude: Australia belongs to someone else; so bludge on them or bludgeon them into yielding as much as possible for as little input of effort on our part as possible’.
Let us suppose that we could obtain the type of leadership that would inculcate a sense of inheritance and of opportunity in our youth. What is next? I believe that one of the things that is required is the use of our resources strategically to show youth its opportunities. To me, there is an element of folly in spending money even in fields such as defence, national development and social services if we do not ensure that the very things that we seek to defend and to develop are inherited by the right kind of people. So, in my book, education has the number one claim on our Budget. Education is the first and uniquely important responsibility of government.
What kind of education should this be? The first step lies with the teachers. The teachers of our youth must be more carefully trained, their standards more zealously guarded, and their suitability as persons more thoroughly determined than fr.r any other vocation including that of medicine or the scientific professions or industrial management. Teachers must be enthusiastic about their task, and their objectives beyond a doubt. In my view, there is in our educational system no place for teachers committed to ideologies such as a Communist objective, or for those whose personal, moral or behaviour standards fall below the accepted norms of society. Again, we must pay our teachers and treat them appropriately to their status and responsibilities, so that they can lift up their heads among the professions. This is true for all teachers and more especially for those who teach pupils in the younger age groups. lt has been an unfortunate necessity that under section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth has entered into the educational field and originally stepped in to deal with the crisis at the tertiary level. So, the accent in Commonwealth concern about education has naturally been in this field. By the time students leave secondary school it is too late in most cases to begin to inculcate some of the attitudes that I have mentioned. So, the whole field of education should be our concern starting at the pre-school kindergarten stage. The aim of education should be, as I have said, to equip young Australians for their role in developing this nation as a part of South East Asia. They should know their own country thoroughly, and understand how to tame and develop it. They should know the neighbour countries well and understand how to live beside them. Only then, in the context and the scale of the hierarchy of importance, can they know their background - the background from which we as a western people have come - sufficiently well to learn from its triumphs and its tragedies, its strengths and its weaknesses. But above all, they should be taught to know themselves and to value the potential of the individual because our way of life depends upon their understanding of the individual as the object of supreme worth. They should be introduced to the great depths and expanses of the human mind and spirit. This can be achieved through the arts, religion, literature, music, social experience and sport. This is not too much to hope for, to plan for and to pay for. This is the only way in which the incentive of passing examinations will be superseded by the superior incentive of personal possession of skills and information. As I have said, this is the context in which we belong in South East Asia.
I have talked of the tragedy of Vietnam which overshadows youth today. Vietnam is the symbol of the gravest threat to the vision for youth. It expresses the belligerent and cowardly use of terror and violence on innocent and peaceful people in order to force them to bow down to Communist objectives in Asia. It is appalling that our young men should have to face the prospect of death in Vietnam, but it is also a stark reminder to the humanist that there is no easy or ready road to Utopia. There is a price to pay for freedom and peace. Without security there is no peace, no freedom and no future. There is only the denial of all that makes up the human spirit and distinguishes man from a tamed and subdued animal which is responsive to a master’s commands. We need to offset the distortion of war in Vietnam with the broad concern for progress in South East Asia. Our young people must be increasingly able to see these things for themselves. Our teachers, in particular, must be enabled to experience life in South East Asia. I personally would press strongly for special provisions to be made for this purpose.
Turning to the question of national service, I personally oppose the idea of a ballot as the only means of choosing certain young men for national service. It is a ballot by which the best only are finally chosen. This is fine for the Army. It is even essential for the Army. We need high standards in the Services. But there is also the need for many other sections of our youth to experience discipline and comradeship in service and to participate in working for the nation’s life and security. The underprivileged can find a new way and a new life here. Our Navy, also, needs new men. I believe that a 2-year period of service in defined areas would be a tremendous help. In any case, national service, as 1 see it, is wider than the military idea, but at the moment it is restricted to the Army. 1 should like to see national service extended far beyond this area and into other areas such as our national development and growth. I should like to see planning which would give all young men and women a period of national service in one of the many spheres in which this is desirable today.
There are other great problems. For example, there is the dual system of State and primary schools in our educational system. When we look at the way of political life and the direction which this country has taken in the last decade with regard to this facet of education, it becomes apparent that more and more people are accepting the fact that all the children are Australians, that all belong to Australian parents who pay taxes, and therefore that all of them have fundamental rights in terms of education. It does not matter which schools children attend today, their parents make great sacrifices. All honourable members in this chamber ought to know the sacrifices which parents make through parent and citizen bodies and equivalent organisations in the various States. Quite often absolutely essential materials and even buildings which are required at State schools are provided only by the parents making great sacrifices. But it does not stop here. The same comment applies to parent organisations attached to private schools. Parents dip deeply into their pockets to provide not only school fees but the extracurricular things which are needed. By no means are all parents of private school children financially privileged. This position has to be experienced to be understood. I make a plea for consideration to be given in the Budget to education in spite of the fact that there are other important calls on our income, such as in the fields of health insurance and superannuation. Budget or public provision for these items is rapidly being overtaken by private provisions. For example, a study of the statistics indicates that more people are accepting the responsibility of providing for their own superannuation. They are adopting the same attitude with regard to health insurance. Therefore the amount of money provided for pensions from taxation revenue must eventually decrease. We should place the emphasis on maximum personal provision for health insurance and superannuation by personal contribution at the peak earning periods of people’s lives, and at the same time, much wider and greater public provision for education so that individual family burdens can be progressively reduced.
Of course, as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has rightly pointed out, we must spend large sums of money on defence. But as he also emphasised, this must be done as befits a growing and developing nation, not as a nation that would fool itself that it was a pseudo world power trying to influence the whole sphere of South East Asia and beyond. Again, we need to spend money on national development, but this must be done in true teamwork between private and public enterprise and between local and overseas capital. Of course, we must provide social services, especially for those people who have brought this country to its favoured position, that is our senior citizens, but whose savings are now eroded. These are people for whom governments have so far found it impossible to make sensible provision. Very little has been done for these people over the whole spectrum of the legislation. But even this, too, should be regarded as a field in which expenditure can ultimately be reduced as individual opportunity is increased.
Education should therefore command a materially higher sector of our Budget. How is this to be done? Some people will say that it can be done by increased taxation, but when one looks at income tax figures today it is apparent that the middle sector of the community is the hardest hit already. There is not time in which to develop this argument at this point, but it occurs to me that we could well turn our thoughts to overseas investment in Australian industries and natural resources. These investments have generally been made in the by-gone days when there was a British presence in this part of the world - an umbrella of power on which we could rely for defence. But as this umbrella is withdrawn, must it be that the Australian people alone will have to provide for the defence of these investments? Their capital value must, of necessity, be re-examined. I believe there is a need for an examination of taxation methods to see whether there can be participation in defence provisions not only by Australian citizens but also by those who have an equity in Australia’s future wherever they may reside.
In conclusion I point out that I believe education overarches all these other matters as the prime concern of this nation for the future. The way in which we train our youth, the outlook which we give them and the kind of ability which we give them to deal with problems in the future will determine the ultimate value of Australia. Everything else, including our defence, our development and the social service benefits which we provide, is subservient to the type of people we develop in the future. Therefore I commend expenditure on education. In my book it is one of the matters which must always be uppermost in the provisions made by any development-minded and forward-looking government.
– The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) commenced his speech by weeping for the aged people because of the miserly pensions they receive. I agree with him on that point, but I wish to remind him that a LiberalCountry Party Government has been in office for 18 years and it has had plenty of time to remove these injustices. I wish to say quite a deal about the question of social services because I think that it is very important. I listened with great interest and attention to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in the hope that I would hear some constructive details of proposals designed to cure some of the social evils affecting the Australian community. But the Speech lacked any such details. In the field of social welfare and many other matters, the Governor-General just spoke in generalities without mentioning anything tangible that would be done in the future. In an election speech during the New South Wales State election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that there must be a rethinking of pensions and social services. He did not say who would do the thinking or when it would start. The only mention in the Governor-General’s Speech about these important social service matters was in these terms:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
This is the same tired cliché that has come from the Government during the entire 18 years I have been here. The Government always has some sort of excuse for not doing what it should. The GovernorGeneral continued:
To this end my Government will set up a Standing Cabinet Committee including the Ministers for Health, Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, and that Committee will direct its attention to co-ordinating the approaches and proposals of the various Departments concerned with social welfare.
Apparently these bodies are to do the rethinking that the Prime Minister promised. I remind honourable members that a previous Prime Minister made a speech on this matter. In a joint Opposition policy speech made in 1949, the then Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies, said:
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment, and old age. It is only under such a system we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test.
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval.
We still do not have such a scheme. The speech continued:
Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
He built that promise around the famous statement that he would put value back into the pound. Value has still not been put back into the currency. The dollar still continues to deteriorate. Not only did Sir Robert Menzies and another Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, say this; but now we have the present Prime Minister speaking in the same kind of generalities. We now have the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who has been hailed as the great Messiah. The Prime Minister put him into the Ministry and newspapers hailed him as with a tremendous fanfare of trumpets. They said that he is a great benefactor and the saviour of the pensioners, the sick, the needy and the Aboriginals. The honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue), who takes a great interest in pensioners, tested out the new Minister by asking him a question last week. This question, which can be found at page 29 of Hansard, was in these terms:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the Minister’s well known sympathy for the plight of age, invalid and widow pensioners and his often expressed criticism of Australian social service systems and rates of pensions, I ask whether he will make his first action as Minister the introduction of legislation to grant immediate increases in all pensions.
In reply, the new Minister said:
In answer to the honourable member for West Sydney I can say only that this will be a matter of policy for the Government, not myself, to decide. I thank the honourable member very much indeed for his acknowledgment of the fact that I have sympathy for these people. I think he will be heartened - as I have been heartened - by the statements of the Prime Minister on this matter and by the statements in His Excellency’s Speech, shortly to be debated in the House.
In the last Budget, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) gave the pensioners nothing at all, though he said he had great sympathy for them. The present Minister for Social Services is saying the same thing. But pensioners cannot live on sympathy. The kind of sympathy I like is for someone to come along, shake my hand and put a fiver into it That is practical sympathy. I would like to see the Government do that kind of thing.
I will list many social service welfare items not even mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. They include the maternity allowance, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, widows’ pensions, age pensions, invalid pensions, blind pensions, wife’s allowance - a miserly $6 per week - child’s allowance, funeral benefit, rehabilitation benefits, reciprocal social service agreements with other countries, accommodation for disabled persons, and care of geriatrics. Also neglected are repatriation pensioners and the many workers who would like to be in a position to obtain homes for themselves. First of all I shall deal with the maternity allowance. This benefit was introduced by the Fisher Labor Government in 1912. The rate was not increased above $10 until 1943 when another Labor government, the Curtin Labor Government, increased it to $30 for one child and $32 to $34 in respect of extra children. It is 24 years since the maternity allowance has been increased. I believe it should now be increased more in keeping with the present day cost that is involved in a mother having a baby. Unemployment and sickness benefits were introduced by the Curtin Labor Government in 1943. These benefits have not ‘been increased since 1962 and the rate is still very low. The present payment for an adult who is unemployed or is unable to work because of sickness is $8.25 a week. For a married couple it is $14.25 a week, with an additional $1.50 for each child. How would any honourable member like to keep a wife and three children on $12.75 a week? In my opinion, the average rent today in most places is about $10 to $12 a week. So, if $12 goes in rent, only 75c is left to buy all the other necessaries of life such as food and clothing. The unemployment figure in
Australia last month was 100,000. With automation rapidly developing and replacing workers in industry, this figure will keep on growing. The Governor-General said nothing about how we would meet the consequences of automation.
I come next to the widows’ pension. The rate for the A class widow is only $13 per week, for the B class widow $11.75 per week and for the C class widow $11.50 per week. This benefit also was introduced by the Curtin Labor Government. Honourable members will notice that all these social service benefits were increased during the Second World War, a time when we had great defence commitments. The Government now makes excuses, at a time when there is not a declared war, that so much is required for defence that it must use funds which otherwise would be available for pensions and child endowment. I believe that the means test in respect of the widows’ pension should be eased immediately so that widows might supplement the very small pension that they now get. While on this subject perhaps I should mention also that the GovernorGeneral said nothing about equal pay for equal work performed by females.
I come next to age and invalid pensions. Age pensions were introduced by the Deakin Government in 1909 and invalid pensions were introduced by the Fisher Labor Government in 1910. Although the rate at that time was only $1 a week, statistics have proved that this amount was worth more than the present rate of $13 per week for a single pensioner or $11.75 per week for a married pensioner. There is still a discrimination in the Social Services Act against married people. I believe that that discrimination should be removed and that the pensions should be increased considerably. It is about two years since pensions were last increased and, as we all know, the cost of living is now very much higher than it was when pensioners received the last increase.
Another important matter which was not mentioned by the Governor-General in his Speech is the control of the cost of living. Until we can control the cost of living, wages will continue to chase prices, and I do not know where that is going to end. I come next to the funeral benefit, which was introduced in 1943, during the war, by the Curtin Government. The funeral benefit is still $20 although it is difficult to arrange a funeral for less than $150. We all know that the cost of dying is just as high as the cost of living. I believe that this benefit should be increased, as there has been no increase since it was first given in 1943.
I shall refer also to the Post Office and its decline in efficiency. We are all aware that there is great discontent in the Post Office. Since the beginning of federation until recently there had never been a strike in the Post Office. Its employees were loyal and contented. There must be something radically wrong with the industrial management of the Post Office. Apparently the views of employers and employees are so far apart that everybody is discontented. I have in my hand an interesting pamphlet, issued by the New South Wales branch of the Australian Postmasters’ Association, apologising for the inefficient and poor service rendered by the Post Office. The pamphlet is authorised by the Secretary of the Postmasters’ Association, who is himself a postmaster. He said in a circular which accompanied the apology:
Some time ago we advised that members of our Association were most perturbed at the rapidly declining standard of postal services. Our continuing efforts to have this decline in service standards arrested have not met with success.
This circular was issued to every customer. It is a terrible situation when the postmaster in a town or suburb feels that he has to apologise to the people for inefficiency which is not brought about by a fault of postmasters but because of failure in the management of the Post Office and among high officials on the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The apology, a copy of which I believe every honourable member would have received, states:
The Australian Postmasters’ Association (New South Wales Branch) sincerely regrets any inconvenience and concern Post Office service failures have caused you.
Postmasters are acutely embarrassed by the current all time low standard of postal services and would like you to know that they are continuously striving to provide you with a reasonable level of postal efficiency.
Postmasters have, of course, invited the attention of Departmental Heads, the Commonwealth Public Service Board and your Federal Member to this state of inefficiency but to date, regrettably, corrective action has not been taken.
The basic cause of Post Office service failures is the Department’s inability to attract and retain recruits of reasonable quality and quantity to perform its essential community services.
As one most immediate measure to overcome this basic cause of inefficiency our Association suggests the Government need merely extend to Post Office staff the same terms and conditions of service applicable to Commonwealth Public Servants generally, Le-, their weekly rostered hours be over 5 days’.
They want a 5-day week roster. They do not suggest that any essential service should be eliminated. We all know that many men employed by the Post Office are performing on Saturday work which could very well be eliminated. The pamphlet continues:
As 87% of Australian employees already enjoy the 5 day working week (including police, bus, railway, etc., employees) Postmasters maintain that it is not only reasonable from a community standards point of view to introduce 5 day rosters into the Post Office, but that it is unrealistic, and a condemnation of the Post Office to perpetual inefficiency, to continue to endure with outofdate, onerous and unpopular 6 day rosters.
Again we apologise for postal inefficiency but, in apologising, we maintain the inefficiency is caused by the archaic employment policies of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and the apathy towards postal matters of the Commonwealth Government.
Accompanying the apology were some snippings from newspapers. The first is from the ‘Australian’ of 16th January 1968. It states:
With 108,000-odd employees, the Post Office machinery for dealing with their industrial grievances is cumbersome, inadequate and unsuitable in many cases. The employees lack the advantages of either the Public Service or the general arbitration system and suffer most of the disadvantages of each.
The ‘Daily Telegraph’ reported on 19th January 1968:
There is also the absurdity of the industrial relations of the Post Office employees being vested in the slow-grinding slow-moving Public Service Board instead of being under the actual employer who has to handle the day-to-day problems - the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 22nd January 1968 reported:
Postmaster-General’s staff turnover is immense; up to 50% in some sections in 1965-66.
One can imagine that there must be a great number of untrained people employed by the Post Office if there is a staff turnover of 50% each year. A man would no sooner be trained to do a job than the conditions of his work and the unsatisfactory pay rates would cause him to leave to find a better job. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ stated:
The present structure of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is not conducive to firm and efficient management of this country’s biggest enterprise, particularly in the field of industrial relations.
Another report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’ stated:
Clearly the thing to do is to give the Post Office a status similar to TAA. This would put postal employees under the normal process of arbitration.
There are other matters with which 1 wish to deal, but I can see that my time is running out. However, there is one matter with which I shall deal because I feel that it is important.
I turn now to repatriation. Repatriation legislation was enacted originally during the First World War. The basic wage in those days, fixed by arbitration, was only £2 7s a week. The repatriation pension was £3 a week, with an allowance for a dependent wife - about 130% of the basic wage. But what is the present position? The value of the pension has so declined that today it represents only 51% of the basic wage. For a long time the Government has promised to make adjustments to repatriation pensions. I firmly believe that the Government should restore to all pensions, social service and repatriation alike, their original purchasing power. Over the years the value of the repatriation pension has slowly eroded and today it is at its lowest level. The Government has much to do in the future if it is to bring pensions back to their true value. I hope that the committee which the Prime Minister has foreshadowed will not talk for too long but will do something tangible to correct the evils that exist in our economic system.
(3.26] - The honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) criticised the Government for its attitude towards pensioners. I remind the honourable member that no Government in Australia’s history has contributed more to the National Welfare Fund than has this Government. From recollection 19% of the last Budget was devoted to the National Welfare Fund. This is an achievement not equalled by any other government. Notwithstanding the increasing total of the Budget each year, the percentage of the Budget devoted each year to the National Welfare Fund seems to be increasing. This situation flows directly from the Government’s economic policies; it is the result of the Government’s encouragement to great industries, such as the mining industry. It is the result of the Government’s encouragement of overseas investment in this country; of its encouragement to people overseas to bring their knowledge to this country and to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, in, for example, mining. After all, the Government is a sleeping partner in these companies. It receives about 50% of their profits. All of this goes into the cake of which every Australian has a share. So no criticism can be levelled at this Government over the amount that it makes available to the National Welfare Fund.
The honourable member also criticised the Government over increases in the cost of living. Those increases have been moderate, as statistics for recent years will show. When the Labor Party was last in power - admittedly a long time ago - we had galloping inflation. What did the Labor Government do to control it? It imposed all kinds of controls. It even endeavoured to nationalise banking. We had petrol rationing. People could not buy motor cars or build or enlarge houses. Those are the kinds of controls which a Labor Government imposed. The honourable member has suggested that similar controls should again be imposed. The Labor Party has not changed its views on controls, and the electors should be aware of this fact.
In the Governor-General’s Speech the Government’s policy for Papua and New Guinea was plainly set forth. A major feature is that renewed emphasis will be given to the increasing role of Papuans and New Guineans in economic development and in social, administrative and political affairs. What is uppermost in the minds of many Papuans and New Guineans today is development - economic development. I want now to talk about development and the role of the people of Papua and New Guinea in that development.
When I say that the task of nation building in Papua and New Guinea is as much an economic problem as a political one, I run the risk of being misunderstood. I can well imagine that to some such words would suggest a slowing down in political advancement and all that that implies. But this is not the case. As has been stated before:
It is the expressed intention of the Commonwealth to help the inhabitants of the Territory to become self-governing as soon as possible and to ensure that when this aim is reached the Territory will, to the greatest extent feasible, be able to stand on its own feet economically.
What we seek is an economically selfreliant people who can with confidence and dignity assume the responsibility of selfdetermination.
As I have said on other occasions, without substantial economic self-reliance, selfgovernment or independence would be a mockery. What then is the role of the local people in this development and how can the imagination and energy of Papuans and New Guineans be brought to bear on the task of building a nation economically as well as politically? I believe that there is a steadily growing recognition by the local people that they must rely less on Australian aid and more on international aid and overseas private investment, and that development by outside aid must increasingly be based on their own active support and increasing participation. An atmosphere of mutual confidence and co-operation between Papuans and New Guineans, the Administration and overseas investors, will provide the basis for real progress.
The last few years have seen substantial progress, due increasingly to the efforts of Papuans and New Guineans. Take agriculture for example, which is, and will remain for as far as we can see ahead, the Territory’s basic industry. Exports of primary produce have doubled over the last 10 years. About half this increase has been achieved by the indigenous producers themselves. Already 60% of the coffee, nearly 30% of the cocoa and about one third of the copra in the Territory comes from native producers. At the same time there is rapid development taking place in the new crops - tea, pyrethrum and oil palm. These developments will mean rises in exports, more opportunities for Papuans and New Guineans as cash croppers or wage earners and more scope for local enterprise.
In every field the Government has set itself the task of encouraging the local people to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. There are opportunities as never before for young people to gain qualifications to equip them for the great task of nation building and fit them for responsible positions in the public service and in private enterprise. Enrolments in secondary schools have increased steadily over the last 5 years, though much remains to be done. There is a rapidly growing stream of trained people coming from training institutions in the Territory. In the Public Service the number of local officers in professional, administrative and clerical positions has more than doubled in the past year.
Many new institutions have been set up. The Bulolo Forestry School, the Vudal Agricultural College, the Administrative College, the Papuan Medical College, the Papua and New Guinea University and the Institute of Higher Technical Education have been established to provide a wide range of training for Papuans and New Guineans. The next few years will see further developments along these lines. A co-operative college is being planned to take 150 students. Existing institutions will be reshaped to meet changing needs.
Much has been done to increase the pace of development. Yet the needs are vast and great problems remain to be overcome. One set of problems relates to the supply of suitable land for various development purposes and to customary land tenures. Traditional land tenure arrangements have not operated favourably for economic development. Again, a good deal of development can take place only if native land holders are prepared to sell land to the Administration, and sometimes they are reluctant to do this. These problems cannot be overcome easily and require close co-operation. Some of the problems of economic development are not as yet easily understood by Papuans and New Guineans. They learn readily how to grow new crops but tend to be perplexed when they find market prices changing.
There has been and will be a constant effort to expand the Territory’s exports. One aspect of this is that the smaller and least developed countries such as Papua and New Guinea may encounter special problems in obtaining for some of their newcomer industries a firm and expanding place in world markets dominated by large and longestablished producing countries. The Australian Government is concerned that the problems of Papua and New Guinea should be clearly understood and recognised in world councils. In a recent statement as leader of the Australian delegation to the second United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at New Delhi, the right honourable the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) drew attention to the role of Australia in the development of Papua and New Guinea and emphasised our intention to press for arrangements which will take into account the circumstances of this newly-emerging country.
In a number of commodities Papua and New Guinea producers have a valuable asset in the form of their ready access to the Australian market where, for example in the case of coffee, their preferential claims are internationally recognised. However for most Territory agricultural products, including new products, access to world markets also is essential. Territory coffee, cocoa, copra, timber and other traditional exports are already firmly established in overseas markets and there is every confidence that the new crops, especially tea and palm oil, also will be successfully established.
In Papua and New Guinea agriculture is the key to development of the economy as a whole in terms of export income, in terms of providing the subsistence farmer with the opportunity of entering into the cash economy, and in the achievement in due course of economic self-reliance.
The overall balance of trade for the Territory has deteriorated over the last few years especially as with increased government spending more money has been spent on imported goods. Exports over the last 12 months are paying for only 40% of imports compared with 54% 10 years ago. But the position will improve as export industries are expanded, and as agricultural productivity is raised and greater use is made of local resources. Local revenue has doubled over the last 3 years, and comprises about 40% of total Administration expenditure. But the task of building up the Territory economy and the capacity of Papuans and New Guineans to tackle these problems has meant increasing expenditure by Australia. The grant has risen from an annual $21m to $7 8m over the last lf> years and there has been greatly increased direct spending by Commonwealth departments.
The Australian Government grant to the Territory Budget over the 5 years to June 1968 will total $3 16m. This does not include direct Commonwealth spending in the Territory. In 1967-68 the Government’s expenditure of an aid character - that is excluding defence - amounts to over $40 per head. There are few nations receiving aid of this order. About fifty developing countries receive less than $5 per head and less than ten receive more than $20 per head.
The 1964 mission from the World Bank recommended a 5-year programme of economic development. This was accepted by the Government as >a guide for planning, and a revised programme is being prepared. The Government recognised that a development programme on the line of the Bank’s recommendation would require increased aid to the Territory and that this would have come mainly from Australia. Some people have criticised Australia for wanting to develop the Territory on her own. This criticism is unfounded. The Government is actively seeking assistance for the Territory from other sources.
Negotiations are under way with the World Bank on loans for several projects in the Territory. In the last few months Bank experts have visited the Territory to examine agricultural, livestock and telecommunications projects. These could qualify for perhaps $12m to $13m in loans from the Bank, or credits from its affiliate the International Development Association. Other possible projects are being kept under review. The United Nations Development Programme has agreed to finance a basic transport survey in the Territory this year. It is expected to contribute $430,000 and the World Bank will be the executing agency.
The United Nations is also financing part of the development of the Goroka Teachers College at a cost of about $1.2m, the balance of $2.4m being contributed by the Administration. A number of other projects for United Nations assistance are either operating or are under consideration. If loans now under discussion with the World Bank group are negotiated, the total aid from international agencies will amount to about $2 per head per annum over the next 3 to 4 years. The Australian grant this year to the Territory’s Budget is equivalent to $34 per head.
But the value of international aid cannot be measured solely in terms of money. It can bring much needed technical assistance. It can help also to attract international private capital and engender confidence in the business community. I believe that private capital from overseas both from Australia and other sources, together with the activities of the local farmer and the local businessmen, can and must play a big role in the Territory’s development. The Papua and New Guinea Development Bank, established in July 1967 and especially charged with the responsibility of lending to small enterprises, will also play a vital part.
Major investments in oil palm, copper, forestry, and oil exploration are under way or in prospect. The development of the Bougainville copper deposits could lead to the investment of over $100m. We are attracting international firms with adequate capital and expertise to develop the productive potential of the Territory with provision for the participation of the local people. Australian Government aid, World Bank loans, United Nations assistance and private money from overseas are all vital; but they will not be enough. They will go only part of the way to satisfy the aims and aspirations of the people about whom I spoke earlier.
The indigenous people continually press for more roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and other facilities and services. This is a start. Progress can begin with pressure for economic development. But with this pressure there is a wider realisation that without giving hard work, shouldering responsibilities, paying more in taxes, acquiring skills and learning to manage their own affairs, sustained progress cannot be expected. This can be achieved only by active participation by the people themselves.
It will take time for their efforts to bear fruit. A self reliant nation and a progressive economy cannot be developed overnight Yet, if the people accept the challenge with enthusiasm, they will be able to have in due course the things they want - cash crops and the consumer goods that go with them, and the roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other public works that follow. The Government on its part, will continue to foster close partnership and mutual understanding between Australians and the people of the
Territory in all fields. Australia is helping with money and people. I do not believe that the path to economic development can be paved only with money, handouts and good intentions. But the Government, in all its efforts, will place great emphasis on building up the capacity of Papuans and New Guineans to help themselves.
– It is unfortunate that the speech just made by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) was not made to the Parliament in the form of a statement, so that the topic of Papua and New Guinea could be fully debated. Papua and New Guinea is of vital interest not only to the indigenous people but also to the people of Australia. As the Minister rightly said, we have a very great interest in the future of those people and a solemn obligation to assist them in their onward march to the form <of government that they .themselves choose.
The Minister referred to some of the difficulties and handicaps. He said ‘that more education ‘was -needed and there is >no questioning that statement. Education is needed and the responsibility for providing increased ‘educational opportunities rests squarely -on the Minister and his Government. Therefore I asTc the Minister ‘to accept the challenge today and to do ‘more than is being done at present to aid people engaged in the field of education in the Territory; to give greater help ‘to the mission people and others who, by sacrifice and their own labours, are ‘helping to uplift the people of that important Territory.
The Minister also referred to other matters. One on which I would like to touch in passing is the feeling of the indigenous people. If there is a cancerous growth in New Guinea at the present time, it is the problem which has developed as a result of a feeling of dissatisfaction caused by the two-tier system in the payment of public servants in the Territory. The indigenes receive certain salaries while Australians and other people recruited from overseas receive higher salaries. I believe that salary rates should be based not on the colour of a person’s skin or the location from whence the person may have come, but on his capacity to do a job. There should be no other criterion, no other consideration. As soon as we reach an understanding of this problem the better it will be for Papua and New Guinea and the better it will be for us.
We have a fine relationship with the people of Papua and New Guinea. I want to see it preserved. I want to see the links endure. I want to see our relationship continue in the most friendly way throughout the years. But this is unlikely to happen if issues of this kind are allowed to grow to the magnitude that they have reached in recent times. In the recent election for the House of Assembly the Pangu Pati polled remarkably well. This could be attributed in some way to dissatisfaction about salaries. I can only hope that this two-tier system will be corrected.
Before commencing his remarks about Papua and New Guinea the Minister referred to problems in Australia. After the termination of the Second World War, Australia was in a process of transition from war to peace. That was just after the days of John Curtin. The Labour Government had successfully prosecuted the war. The leadership of this nation then passed into the hands of Mr Chifley, my predecessor as member for Macquarie. He led this country with great understanding, knowledge and sympathy for the Australian people. But when he tried to bring prices under control and asked the Australian people to vote for price control, his request was rejected by the Australian electorate. The value of the Chifley £1, as must be known to every adult person in Australia, has been seriously eroded, because the cost of living has continued to rise throughout the years.
Since the Parliament last met on 8th November 1967, matters of vital concern to the people of Australia have arisen. The tragic loss at Portsea of the former Prime Minister shocked and saddened the nation. Parliament and the people paid their tributes to his memory. Profound sympathy and respect have been extended from this Parliament to his sorrowing widow and family. His death was a great loss to the nation, for many reasons. The tempo of world economic trends has brought many changes, such as the aggravation of Britain’s balance of payment difficulties, resulting in the devaluation of the pound sterling and the loss to Australia of more than $100m. Also, pressures on the financial stability of the United States of America have had an unsettling effect on the economy of Australia. Measures to control the gold market and to prevent the growth of panic buying appear to have been succesful. temporarily at least. At home, returns to certain sections of our primary producers have fallen short of the cost of production. The price of wool continues to fall, much to the concern not only of wool growers but to all thoughtful people in Australia.
When Senator Gorton emerged as the choice of the Liberal Party to become Australia’s nineteenth Prime Minister, many people felt that the winds of change would bring purpose and new direction to the affairs of this nation. But those people were quickly disillusioned. The Speech of the Governor-General clearly revealed that although Australia had a new Prime Minister the old firm was still in business as usual, with the same old methods, the same old attitude, the same old laissez-faire economy and disregard of the broad issues of national development. Lack of purpose was manifest everywhere in the Government’s policy. The clear voice of authority, and also of the new Prime Minister, was absent.
The new Prime Minister offered some hope in the early stages. People were encouraged by what he said. But in keeping with the approach of former anti-Labour administrations, this new Government has no overall national plan for economic development. It has a background of jealousies and rivalries. There is conflict between Cabinet Ministers on basic policy matters. His Excellency’s prepared Speech was a masterpiece of compromise. It lacked policy and leadership, lt underlined the indecision of the Government. The coalition has not been a happy union since the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies. It has ceased to be a cohesive administration; there is no unity; there is no pretence of understanding or team spirit among senior Cabinet Ministers or the Government generally. Apparently back-bench members of thi Government Parties continue to feel that all is not well.
We all know about the declaration that was m -‘e by the Minister for Trade and Industry £Mr McEwen) when he was Prime Minister ‘*e declared that he would not serve under the leadership of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). There were no half measures about this declaration. There were no mealy-mouthed equivocations, but only a cold declaration by the then Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry that he would not serve under the Treasurer. Let me refer to some of the newspaper headlines at the time. The ‘Australian’ said: Coalition’s threat from within’. The Melbourne ‘Age’ said: ‘Bid to depose McMahon - Late move by McEwen’. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ said: ‘McMahon silent to protect coalition’. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ said: ‘McEwen then was on McMahon’s side’. In an article headed, ‘Allegations on McMahon now central issue’, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ stated:
Allegations concerning the association of the Federal Treasurer, Mr McMahon, with a Canberra journalist and business consultant, Mr M. Newton, have become the central issue in discussions about the Liberal Party leadership.
Other headlines included: ‘Denial by writer’ - the Melbourne ‘Age’; ‘The rivals and their differences’ - the ‘Canberra Times’; ‘Why McEwen vetoes McMahon’ - the ‘Australian’; and ‘McEwen agrees journalist cause of rift’ - the ‘Australian’. The Minister for Trade and Industry made it clear that he would not serve under the Treasurer. But what has happened since then is most interesting. The following newspaper headlines then appeared: ‘McMahon defies McEwen threat’ - the ‘Daily Telegraph’; and ‘McMahon talks of the coalition’ - the ‘Australian’. Mr McMahon is reported in the latter article as having said:
I have come to the conclusion that it is best I do not put forward my name as candidate.
Then we read in the ‘Canberra Times’ an article headed: ‘William McMahon - Chance of salvage after the silence’. This extraordinary situation is of concern not only to those engaged in the political affairs of the Liberal and Country Parties but also to the Parliament. McEwen’s declaration that he would not serve under the leadership of the Treasurer is a matter that should be ventilated here in Parliament. Parliament is entitled to know his reason. It was never stated. If it was not the Treasurer’s alleged association with the Basic Industries Group, then was it his association with Mr Maxwell Newton, whom it is alleged is engaged in certain work in Australia for a Japanese firm? What is the reason? Surely Parliament should be told. If the Treasurer is not a suitable person to lead this nation as Prime Minister then is he a suitable person to remain as Treasurer of this nation? I pose that question and I believe it should be answered. The Treasurer has refused to defend himself. Surely the Treasurer has a duty to defend his honour. There before him was the supreme position in the democratic apparatus of Australia - the Prime Ministership - yet he did not see fit to come out to defend himself. The Treasurer’s silence throughout the whole of this sordid affair is something that has not satisfied me and I believe that it has not satisfied the majority of the people in Australia.
Not only is there tension between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party on this matter and on basic issues; let us take the more recent happenings when the Minister for Labour and National Service, quite fearlessly and quite honestly from his point of view, put forward his ideas on the economy. We find that the Treasurer had to object and put him right in a statement of his own. The Minister for Labour and National Service thought that he was putting forward a view which represented the truth of the financial situation and the economic climate of Australia. According to the general comments of the Press the Minister was putting guns before butter. He said that economic conditions were not quite so good for the people and that there had been a falling off in real living standards due to the fact that the Government was called upon to meet more war expenditure. An article that appeared in the ‘Australian’ on 4th March summarised the speech made by the Minister by stating:
Mr Bury said: ‘Until some 3 years ago average wages in real terms were rising year by year, sustained by heavy investment and progressive improvements in productivity. This has since ceased to be the case largely because the Government has been obliged by events to make greater demands for real resources in large part, but not wholly, to meet the rapidly increasing requirements for defence’.
That was the Minister’s central theme. But, undaunted, the Treasurer had to put forward his point of view. It clashed diametrically with the Minister’s statement. They are both senior Ministers in this Administration. What sort of cohesion exists? What sort of team spirit is there? The Treasurer, not content with making a speech to knock the point of view of the Minister for Labour and National Service, only yesterday circulated a Press release commenting on recent discussions of trends in real consumer spending and wages. He said that on 28th February he had referred to the fact that real consumer spending per head was estimated to have risen 2.2% in 1966-67, an increase of 0.5% more than the average in the previous decade. He added that since then controversy had continued as to trends in real wages.
The Treasurer set out to demolish not a newspaper correspondent, not some person outside this Parliament but a colleague in the Cabinet. And so this fight goes on between the Minister and the Treasurer, lt all clearly points out what I have had to say in regard to these matters. There is no unity, there is no teamwork, there is no understanding; but there is a feeling of disquiet because of events that have occurred since that fateful day when the former Prime Minister unfortunately lost his life. Rarely does the Australian Government act other than as a spectator in the jungle of big business takeovers and monopoly control. Occasionally the Minister for Trade and Industry speaks in defence of our national interests. Otherwise national policy, purpose and pattern are absent from our Government’s thoughts and actions. How could it be otherwise when the Government speaks with so many voices? The Liberal Party rejoices in the plunder of our resources as if it were development. Instead of processing and manufacturing our minerals in Australia the Government is happy to see ships taking our raw materials to build the economy of other nations. Australia is disadvantaged in winning and holding export markets because it lacks a national shipping line, yet the Government refuses to act. I now put it to the Country Party Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) that he should do something where other Ministers have failed. He should protect Australian manufacturers and primary producers by providing a shipping line which will take our goods and products to the world markets and give them a chance to compete on even terms with the goods and products of other countries. The wool market has been left to buyers and speculators who are indulging in pies - the buying and splitting of lots. They have made a farce of the auction system. Despite the continuing fall in price of our key export, the Government refuses to act. The Federal Government has given generous assistance in the search for oil and natural gas. It has provided subsidies, taxation concessions and valuable technical assistance through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, but refuses to adopt a national fuel policy. The Government is not prepared to act respecting marketing, price, pipeline policy, distribution and trade arrangements for natural gas and other petroleum products. This is vital to all the people of Australia. The Australian Parliament has become a junior partner with the States and the oil and gas companies exploiting Australia’s great hidden wealth’. This is particularly in evidence in the exploitation of the nations oil and natural gas reserves in the submerged lands of the continental shelf in Bass Strait.
Water conservation calls out for a national policy. The Labor Party continually supports the continuance of the Snowy Mountains Authority, started by a Labor Government, so that its work can be extended throughout Australia and the skilled team of technical experts, engineers and workmen can be engaged in the conservation of water throughout this land. We get a message from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that he will send all the men to work on the Eastern Suburbs Railway. This is great news in Milparinka; it is great news in central Australia and it is great news in the Darling Basin! It is a- tragic state of affairs. The Darling Basin is one river system which should be developed by the nation. It derives its water from two States - New South Wales and Queensland. Vast quantities of water are constantly running to waste which should be conserved and used to make the Darling River the river that it ought to be, serving four States at least - Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
This should be done now by the Government on behalf of the people of Australia; yet we find in His Excellency’s Speech, mirroring the views of the administration, that $50m is to be provided in conjunction with the States over a period of 10 years. Ten million dollars a year are to be provided when the whole question of the water supply is the outstanding need in this nation today. Could anything be more pitiful than that? Could anything more mock the need for action in this country? Each State will have about $1,600,000 a year - five-sixths of a million old-time pounds. There is need for action for water without delay. In His Excellency’s Speech there were twelve words on the drought. They were not related directly to the drought, but referred only to the loss of income - not to the plight of the people suffering because of the drought The Government is worried because the drought might reduce the income of this country. Whether it be in foreign trade, foreign affairs or financial affairs, Australia waits in the shadows for other nations to make decisions for her. It is not good enough. There should be a national purpose and an Australian attitude. No less a person than the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is reported in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of Saturday 24th February in these terms:
It was ‘not satisfactory’ that Australia’s growth should rely on decisions made in other countries the Minister for Trade, Mr McEwen, said last night.
He went on later:
There is a need for increased export of manufactured goods from this country.
Only a day or two before, the Japanese were telling us that we should stick to farming. This is reported in an article in the Australian’. This is the pathetic story affecting us at the present time. We are not doing enough to develop this nation. We are not doing anything to advance this country and fulfil our destiny in this region. Australia must accelerate her growth rate; a more balanced development of primary, secondary and tertiary industries is urgently needed now. To achieve this objective we need a national water conservation programme; we need to increase the population of Australia. We have to go ahead with industrialisation and we have to extend education in Australia.
Water conservation is a national responsibility and so is the growth of population. We accept this within our immigration programme, but we can also accelerate population growth by giving aid to families. Perhaps no-one in this country today suffers more than the married couple trying to rear a family in the face of increased costs of living. We must make migrants more settled in this country by health, housing and social service assistance. We must recognise their skills. With industrialisation we must have cheaper raw materials. Metals must be made available to our manufacturers at a fixed price. The idea of allowing the price of metals to go through the roof and to be sold in this country at precisely the same prices as in other countries is not good enough. We should give our manufacturers an edge on the world market.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have a high regard for the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). He certainly finished his speech, I suggest, in a much better way than he began it, even though the whole of his speech was negative. He made no real suggestions at all. I was interested in his fuel policy. He keeps on talking about it, but I have never heard what it is. All the personal matters that he indulged in are, I believe, not the sort of thing we should deal with in the AddressinReply debate. I do not want to waste time, however, on that, because I want to make some suggestions which I think are important for Australia’s future.
It is very interesting to hear several speeches of honourable members indicating a growing recognition of great changes taking place in Australia’s national growth. This seems to be seeping through to the minds of public men everywhere, particularly in this place. It is of course a fact that we are emerging into a challenging nation of real importance to the rest of the world, and particularly with a responsibility and a destiny in this part of the world. Therefore I believe that the time is ripe for a new and complete assessment of our future as a nation. In this I believe we should include our brother country of New Zealand. The lead for this - and I shall talk more about this concept of including New Zealand - must come from this Government. There is a great deal of groundwork to be done by publicity and propaganda, because it is necessary when great changes are taking place for the people to be made aware of our final objectives in this matter. Let us look at the great changes that are taking place and have been taking place in recent years which affect Australia and its growth as a nation.
First, we have the Pacific area and the eastern countries which are advancing with such rapidity that they are assuming much more importance in world affairs. This, of course, is stating an obvious fact. We only need to look at the growth of Communist China with its 700 millions or more people, and the fact that it now possesses a nuclear capacity, to see this fact. But this growth at the same time shows danger. There is the challenge from Communist China to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for leadership in the Communist world. These are changes that we cannot look at lightly.
I am referring to these matters briefly only because of the time element. When we refer to the extraordinary trade growth in Japan which now ranks as Australia’s best customer in trade in this area of the world, we get some idea of the great changes that are taking place in our region. We think in passing of the ‘great possibilities of the 100 million people in Indonesia when they have settled down and get something in the nature of stability in their Government. We think of Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore - all countries in which we are vitally interested. We cannot pass Formosa by without noting the extraordinary things that that country has done in the last 10 years or more. The same thing can be said of many other countries in South East Asia.
We need to look at all these matters in the light of another ‘great change which has taken place. This is the completely revolutionary change in our outlook and in the outlook of people in our part of the world. This has been brought about by the proposed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from participation in the East. In defence matters almost completely but also in many other ways, there is a withdrawal by the United Kingdom from this part of the world. This withdrawal will have tremendous repercussions upon our future as a nation and on the future of other countries in the South East Asian area. Then, we must remember the avowed intention of the United Kingdom to link its future with the European Common Market.
We see evidence today of the struggle by the United Kingdom for economic security and stability. We all wish her well. Sometimes I believe it is forgotten that England voluntarily gave all that she had to humanity and to the world in an effort to save humanity and freedom throughout the world. We sometimes forget this fact. T am not one of those who blame England for withdrawing from the East. England has to do something to protect the standard of living of the 45 million people on that little island. It is understandable therefore that Britain should change its age old traditions and link its future with the European nations nearby.
But what is the future of the Commonwealth countries that are in this part of the world? I refer to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, all of which are of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The time has arrived when we must face up to the facts and to the changes that have taken place. Let us not deceive ourselves in any way. We are on our own now. What we in this country decide now will determine what sort of a nation this will be in the future. We must make our decision in this regard and take appropriate action to bring our wishes about. We have friends. Thank God, we have friends - particularly the United States of America - who will help us. But although we have friends who will help us the things that we will do and the decisions that we will make are for us alone to decide. We are on our own, and we need to make these decisions in a national way.
We need to look at all these violent changes in two ways - from the economic point of view and from the point of view of defence. I am touching on these matters of great importance only briefly because of limited time. In the economic field, we must remember that this is the part of the world in which we will always live. We live here now and we will always live here. Geographically, we are part of the East. All the advances, the economic security, the independence of countries in the East and improvements in standards of living that are brought about must help us. We need to remember that fact. We must develop trade in the East because it is in the East that our future lies. We need to have co-operation and friendship with the people in our region, otherwise we will not succeed and we will not develop as a nation.
In the defence field, we must be prepared to be at a continuing high level of defence preparedness. We need to face up to these facts because we must maintain even greater defence preparations than we have at the present time. Yes, we have our treaties. We have the ANZUS Pact. I believe that this is a most important treaty because it guarantees the protection of our security by the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. We have the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Other arrangements include the Colombo Plan and the South Pacific Commission. There are a number of other organisations of this type in which we take part.
Australia needs to build up its own defences. We have to help to meet any challenge to the national freedom of independent countries in South East Asia. This is the basic reason why we are in Vietnam today. Many people do not seem to understand that if we were not in Vietnam or that if somebody did not take a stand to preserve the security of these independent nations, the independence and freedom of these countries would be lost. All of the countries within this region have received independence only within the last 20 years. As I. have said, we do not seem to realise the importance of maintaining the independence and freedom of these countries. This is what we are fighting for in Vietnam. This is of vital importance to the Australian people as well as to the successful development of Australia as a great nation.
But what of our own internal changes? Apart from these external changes that I have been mentioning, in the last few years Australia has had vast internal changes. This country is developing at a very fast rate. Due to the encouragement, I believe, given by the present Government which, thank God for Australia, has been in office for 18 years, providing stable government, Australia is on the threshold of enormous developments almost undreamt of in the past. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is sitting beside me. He has done a great job in his portfolio. Our mineral discoveries are staggering, when we compare what is happening now with what happened in the past. There is the development of our uranium resources as well as the great exports of iron ore that are being carried out. Expansion is taking place in the coal industry. Sometimes we forget about this industry, but the development is there if one looks at the figures. Development is occurring also in relation to bauxite, nickel, gold, silver, tin and phosphate. These minerals are valuable. But on top of the development of these minerals we have discovered oil and natural gas in substantial quantities. The prospect would appear to me to be that in no time at all Australia will be self sustaining in these types of things. These developments are evidence of the great changes that have taken place in recent years.
The honourable member for Macquarie, who preceded me, referred to water conservation. Contrary to what the honourable member said, we are doing great things regarding water conservation. For instance, there are the Snowy Mountains scheme and the Ord River scheme, as well as many other schemes on which we are spending enormous sums of money. I agree that it is most important for us to undertake these projects if we are to develop to a greater degree. But we have done great things relative to roads and transport which also are vital to the development of Australia. We are moving as fast as we can with these projects. We cannot undertake all of them, but we are undertaking as many as is within our capacity. If we can keep stability of government we are on the way to great riches and we can look forward to great new things.
In this context 1 should like to say a few words about the part played by the States in national development, and particularly their spirit of nationhood. Whilst the Federal Government lays down the foundation and gives the impetus for development, we must remember that most of the detailed work is carried out in and by the States. Each of the States is jealous of its own progress. Each has an enormous number of schemes in mind - far in excess of its own capacity. It is important that the States should have schemes under consideration. But as a result, there is pressure on the Commonwealth Government and on the Australian taxpayers to provide more and more money for every State. This request for money does not come from only one State. This is evidence that the States are thinking about these projects, that they are anxious to have them carried out and that they are optimistic about their future. They all want more and more money but, leaving money out of it for the moment, we have only a certain pool of men and materials and we must use both to the best possible advantage. It is understandable that each State is enthusiastic about its own progress, but sometimes I fear that in this enthusiasm for progress the spirit of nationhood is somewhat forgotten. I do not say that in any critical way, but I do not think it is the kind of approach that we should adopt in considering the future growth of this great young nation.
I believe there is a great need for more co-operation with the States on a national level. I have said that we have only certain resources of men and materials. It is a question of first things first, from the national point of view. When a State is enthusiastic for its own progress, it may sometimes get these considerations u little out of balance. Therefore, I again urge the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to establish an Australian council for national development on which would be representatives from the States and the Commonwealth. I do not suggest the establishment of such a council for the purpose of taking away the power or sovereignty of the States. I’ do it in the spirit of building a nation. With that national outlook we must make the people realise that we have to use our capacity in the best possible way for the most successful development.
I have mentioned New Zealand. I come to the question whether we should consider a wider nation including New Zealand, Papua and New Guinea, the Solomons and, if Charles de Gaulle does not mind, perhaps New Caledonia. I am thinking in terms of a nation comprising Australia, New Zealand and the arc of islands which surround us. I know that such a proposal may be ahead of its time, but when we consider development in the Pacific area generally, and how we are placed in this part of the world which is traditionally of the West but is geographically in the East, I think it would be to our benefit to endeavour to build a greater and stronger nation than we are building at the present time. I am convinced that we should do this.
The Prime Minister leaves for New Zealand next week. I ask him to discuss this matter seriously with the New Zealand Government. I suggest that, if possible, we should set up a joint Cabinet committee of Australia and New Zealand in order to have preliminary discussions on the degree of co-operation which can be achieved, with the long term aim of complete integration. I recently spent 3 weeks in
New Zealand. I know that a year ago New Zealanders would have looked at an Australian aghast if he had said: ‘Link up with us’. The whole outlook in New Zealand has changed. I found that the public and the officials, including members of Parliament, unanimously held the view that integration is inevitable. The reason for the change is that they can no longer look to the United Kingdom as they have done all their lives. They are now isolated. They feel that they need someone to help them. This situation has rather shocked the New Zealanders. New Zealand is passing through very real difficulties, particularly this shortage of overseas funds. New Zealand is a magnificent country. It has great possibilities for development which I believe could be complementary to Australian development. I believe that an amalgamation would be of great benefit to both countries. In the defence and foreign affairs fields, integration with Australia is absolutely essential to New Zealand. I can state that as a fact. New Zealand is too small to be effective in this field alone. The quality of armaments and equipment and the lack of overseas funds illustrates the point. At the present time New Zealand’s Army officers are trained at Duntroon. New Zealand follows us in many respects.
The New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement which was completed a little time ago, is just not free enough to be effective. I agree with the statement made recently that New Zealand and Australia have rather locked each other out and have thrown away the keys. The Agreement is not free enough and there is a need for a close examination to be made of it. I do not want to shock my friends from the Australian Country Party, but in many industries, such as the dairying industry, New Zealand can beat us to a cocked hat. Of course, there are industries in which we can beat New Zealand to a cocked hat. New Zealanders and Australians are brothers and by thinking together both countries could benefit. We must be broad and generous in our approach but we must not condescend in any way. It is as much our duty to help New Zealand as it is New Zealand’s duty to help us. The way is still open for New Zealand to come into the Commonwealth without any alteration to our Constitution. I think that the Press could help a great deal in this regard. I find very few Press reports in Australia dealing with New Zealand, and I have found very few Press reports in New Zealand which deal with Australia. I hope that something will be done to rectify these things.
I refer honourable members to an excellent paper delivered by Professor Miller at the symposium of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science held in Christchurch in January. I believe it would be worth anybody’s while to read it, because it is good reading. I notice that my time is flying and I would like to refer to a statement by Sir Leslie Munro, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly and a member of the New Zealand Parliament since 1963. On 2nd March - only a short time ago - he said:
I think I am ahead of my time in saying this, but I would not be afraid of New Zealand joining the Commonwealth of Australia. Indeed there is provision for this in the Commonwealth Act
I put it to New Zealand that it would lose nothing. Indeed, there is no reason in the world why a New Zealand born person could not be the Prime Minister of this country. It could happen quite easily. Although while he was Prime Minister he would have to live mostly in Canberra, at the same time there would be nothing to stop this. We have to get away from the old way of thinking. Though it is not really so old, because New Zealand nearly came in with us at the time of federation. Is there any reason why we should not have this greater and stronger economic unit? This would be of particular benefit from the point of view of defence. I appeal to the Prime Minister at least to have preliminary discussions on this development, which I sincerely believe will be inevitable in the not too distant future.
– I could go along with the final remarks of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) in regard to amalgamating Australia and New Zealand as one nation. Sir Leslie Munro, to whom the honourable member referred, is a strong advocate of this and is a very prominent and notable New Zealander. I, together with the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and other members of this House, had the pleasure of Sir Leslie’s company at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Uganda late last year.
During his remarks, the honourable member for Bennelong referred to the development of water resources in Australia. He said that we have only a certain capacity. Obviously by this he meant only a certain capacity to pay. One can understand from the bungling of this Government why its capacity to develop these things is very limited. One matter that is particularly disturbing to many Australians as they learn and study the implications, is the bungling of this Government in regard to the purchase of the Fill bomber. Before I mention anything further in regard to this grievous bungling, I want at the outset of my remarks to pay tribute to the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. Whilst we on this side of the House - myself in particular - at times strongly disagreed with some of his political policies, I think that we all had a deep affection for him as a man. I recall that not long after my coming into the Parliament that he wrote to my aged mother and paid her a compliment on my being elected as the representative of the electorate of Hunter. The Prime Minister said that although he thought my stay here would be a lengthy one, this would be a matter for my electors. But he also said he thought I would make many friends here. I believe I have achieved what he told my mother I would do. He has gone and I express deep sympathy to his near and dear ones.
I now refer to the purchase of the Fill bomber and the bungling and inability of the Government to carry out many of the things that we on this side of the House would like to see carried out. I want to remind honourable members and others present in the galleries of the terrific waste of public moneys in connection with the purchase of the Fill bomber. In 1963, because of the fear that the Opposition would attack it because of its lack of a proper strike aircraft to defend Australia, the Government very hurriedly, shortly before the 1963 elections, sent the late Mr Athol Townley, who was then Minister for Defence, to the United States of America to purchase a number of bombers. The quoted price for two squadrons of Fill aircraft was $ 110.4m. Three years later the price had soared to $182m. Seven months later in July 1966 the price then quoted to the Australian Government was $192m.
– This is cost plus.
– Yes, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, it is cost plus. In 1967 the price quoted for the bombers was $194m. In May 1967 the estimated price that the Australian Government had arrived at was $2 13m. The former Minister for Air, the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), refused to comment on a suggestion that the maximum price would be about $300m. Is it any wonder that the Government and the honourable member for Bennelong say that we have only a certain capacity to pay for certain things? I believe this is one of the greatest bungles that any Australian government has perpetrated on the people for many years.
My intention today is to concentrate the greater portion of my time on a very grave injustice that was discussed by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) and myself in debates in this House on 10th and 11th May last year. Reference to this matter appears on pages 2009-15, 2021, 2022-3 and 2064-8 of Hansard. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory and myself were deeply stirred about the grievous injustice meted out to a very fine type of Australian who belonged to the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. The person to whom I refer is Mr Charles Upston, who is an ex-sergeant of the Australian Capital Territory Police. I think this an appropriate time to raise this matter again because there has been a change in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory Police - it is now administered by a man who I believe is more fair minded - and a change in the Interior portfolio. The present Minister is the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). Whilst honourable members would appreciate my remarks about the passing of the late Prime Minister, I point out that the late Prime Minister made a decision in connection with this matter. To my mind, Sergeant Upston was rail-roaded, in the very worst sense of the word, out of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. Honourable members will recall my reference to this man’s great qualities. He is a great father, husband and citizen. He had been commended for police.manship over the 15 years he had been a member of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. He had been commended for rescuing persons from flooded rivers and persons who had become mentally deranged and had threatened to jump off tall buildings in Canberra. He was also a qualified pilot in the Citizen Air Force, qualified motor mechanic and a qualified skin diver. The gun was virtually held at his head, to compel him to resign, by the then Commissioner of Police, Mr Powley, who he had chafed somewhat some 10 months before. His resignation was demanded. He chafed the Commissioner of Police by having a decision made by him altered. The Commissioner intended to promote about five other junior officers over Sergeant Upston. The wrong that Sergeant Upston committed at that time was to take his appeal to the Police Arbitral Tribunal. Before he had tendered all his evidence in support of his appeal the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Findlay, ended the case by saying: ‘I want to hear no more of your evidence. You will be promoted in accordance with your rank and in preference to the other five applicants.’ Anyone who knows how police forces function will realise that this decision would cause a commissioner of police like Mr Powley deep hurt.
About 10 months after Sergeant Upston had won his appeal, while off duty one day he went to a vacant paddock in Canberra between here and the airport to attend to a pony that he had bought for his children. As he left the paddock he saw a car driven in a reckless manner by a senior officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Sergeant Upston’s attention was drawn to this vehicle because it could have collided with his car. He spoke to the official from the CSIRO in a courteous manner and the official replied, as I understand that he admitted in a letter of complaint to the Police Commissioner: What are you bunging on? What are you trying to do?’ As a result of this verbal altercation Sergeant Upston said: ‘I will report you to your senior officer in charge at the CSIRO because you do not reflect credit on that branch’. He could easily have taken legal action and probably arrested the CSIRO official for offensive language or for a breach of the traffic laws, but he sought to act in the humane manner for which he is noted.
– Would the honourable member have arrested him for having said that?
– I shall answer the honourable member for Moreton later. He is trying to introduce mirth into a serious situation. He would be better spending his time reading Hansard and trying to see that justice is done for Sergeant Upston in the same way as his colleagues achieved justice for Captain Robertson who was involved in the Voyager’ case. Sergeant Upston reported the senior CSIRO official to his organisation, as a result of which the official complained to the Police Commissioner about the way in which Sergeant Upston had spoken to him. The Police Commissioner, who was on the eve of retirement and who realised that there could be no political repercussions against him, seized the golden opportunity to get even with this very fine type of Australian and sent for him immediately he returned from Brisbane, where he had been serving with the Citizen Air Force. The Commissioner or his deputy said to him: ‘I want your resignation now; otherwise you will be dismissed’. The Sergeant, being a thoroughly disciplined man, said: Oh, oh!’ He realised that if he did not resign he might be dismissed and would lose his entitlement to long service leave and holiday pay. Consequently, he tendered his resignation which, of course, was accepted. He was debarred from receiving superannuation payments and was deprived also of his furlough.
This is one of the cruellest cases of injustice that I have heard of since I have been a member of this Parliament. I ask honourable members - in fact I appeal to them - to read the Hansard reports to which I have referred and to see what was said in a very well presented speech by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser). 1 was so concerned about this grievous injustice that when I was in Uganda last year 1 discussed it with a very knowledgeable member of the House of Lords, Lord Lindgren. I talked it over with him for an hour, after which he told me that if this had happened in England, on the evidence I had disclosed there would be no hesitation about meeting Sergeant Upston’s request. Sergeant Upston had asked for his case to be referred to the
Police Arbitral Tribunal in Canberra. Lord Lindgren said that in England the matter would be referred to the Police Appeals Board and added that from what i had told him there was no doubt that the officer would bs reinstated. So I urge honourable members to take an interest in this matter and to read what has been said about this case. I believe that a great thing was achieved in this Parliament, particularly by three honourable members on the Government side of the chamber. I refer to the honourable members for Bradfield (Mr Turner), Warringah (Mr St John) and La Trobe (Mr Jess) who, against great difficulty, had an injustice corrected which had been meted out to Captain Robertson of HMAS ‘Melbourne’. I believe that the injustice suffered by Sergeant Upston is even more cruel than the injustice suffered by Captain Robertson. Captain Robertson would have reared his children and, probably, he would not have had the same love and affection for his calling that Sergeant Upston had for his. I hope that the Parliament, and in particular the new Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) will take this matter up with the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and have this cruel injustice corrected.
I should like now to refer to some matters which affect my own constituency of Hunter. For some time now retired miners, with .the full support of the community in the electorate of Hunter and in other parts of Australia, have claimed strongly that rises in the age pension should apply automatically to them. I fully agree with them. Because of the arduous nature of mining, where workers are operating in dusty conditions miles underground, it would be only fitting that adjustments in the age pension should apply automatically to mine workers pensions. I learned recently that retired miners in Great Britain are given a free issue of one ton of coal each month. They enjoy that privilege while working in the mines and continue to receive it when they retire. I fully support mine workers in Australia who urge that they also should receive a free issue of coal after they have retired at the age of 60 years. Today coal is extracted at a very fast rate by modern machines. I believe that the free issue of coal to retired mbe workers could be met from the welfare fund administered by the Joint Coal Board. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) and I have spoken about this before. Another suggestion is that the Government impose an excise on coal and from the amount received grant this minor concession to retired miners. I think also that the time is long overdue for a medical benefit card to be issued to retired miners at 60 years of age. Male pensioners are entitled to this benefit when they reach 65 years and female pensioners receive it at the age of 60 years. Because of the chest complaints which miners develop from working in the coal industry quite frequently they have to seek medical attention even before retirement and need medical attention more frequently after they have retired at the age of 60.
As a result of sweeping changes in the coal mining industry I consider that concessions are urgently needed with respect to the costs of travelling to and from work. Many of my constituents today make a round trip of 80 miles each day travelling to and from their employment in Newcastle and to and from mines which in recent years have been opened in the Cessnock and Kurri Kurri districts on the central coast area of New South Wales. I have asked for this concession before in this place. I believe that it would be an appropriate matter to toe included in the Budget. A worker in this industry in these circumstances should be able to claim for taxation purposes a deduction of, say, $100 per year to offset the heavy burden of expense in travelling to work.
A national fuel policy, which was mentioned today by the honourable member for Macquarie, is long overdue if we are to prevent further inroads into Australia’s indigenous fuel markets for coal. I also would like to point out that the life span of a retired mine worker is not as long as that of others who retire at the age of 60 years. Because of the facts that I have mentioned, including the arduous nature of the industry, consideration should be given to eliminating the means test in respect of retired miners who, on attaining the age of 65 years, qualify for the age pension and have their retired miners pension reduced considerably. They have paid society for this right. It is not a concession. The time is long overdue for the Government to show more sympathy for them by abolishing the means test in respect of them.
Two of the most burning questions affecting the Australian nation today are the domination of the economy by overseas interests and the Vietnam war. I am afraid that if the Australian economy is allowed to be controlled by foreign interests, as it is under this Government, what has happened in Mexico, little Cuba and other parts of Latin America will eventually happen here. What happened in little Cuba ultimately brought about a revolution, which Australians never want to see. The economy of little Cuba was owned and controlled by the United States. The Mexican Government had to take strong action to prevent its economy being controlled by other countries. The economy of the rest of Latin America was virtually controlled by the United States. If this Government allows the present situation to continue, the very same things could happen here >n the long term. The time is long overdue for the Government to heed the appeals made from this side of the Parliament about the domination of the Australian economy by overseas interests.
In connection with Vietnam, I believe that the Australian people realise the serious situation into which we are drifting from day to day and to which honourable members on this side of the House have pointed from the very day on which we became involved in the Vietnam war. The 4 or 5 minutes remaining at my disposal will not allow me to cover the complete situation in Vietnam as it involves the Australian people and as it is causing concern to the peoples of the world. As has been pointed out in this Address-in-Reply debate, already the number of United States dead is more than 20,000 and the number of wounded is 120,000. Australia’s casualties so far are 187 killed and 935 wounded - a number equal to one and a half battalions.
I recall a very sad experience that I had in Singapore, my first stop on my way to the conference in Uganda. I was booked into the Seven Palms Hotel. I had the opportunity to converse with some United States marines. I assure honourable members that I did not raise the Vietnam question with the object of embarrassing those marines. I enjoyed their company for an afternoon. They were on rest and recreation leave. One American boy told me that he came from a country area in the United
States. He told me that it was awful in Vietnam and that he was looking forward to the end of his two years of military service. He said to me: 1 have to go into free fire areas.’ I asked: ‘What are free fire areas?’ I had never heard the expression before. He replied: ‘The commanding officer gives you orders, to go into a free fire area and you have to shoot old women, children and everything that moves in front of you.’ This is the sort of thing that we should stress here. He said to me: ‘Mr James, what would you do?’ I said: ‘I am afraid that if they are your commanding officer’s orders you have to obey them.’ He said: That is what you have to do. I will be glad when my time there is over.’ How can any honourable member subscribe to that sort of thing going on and yet stand up and bow in prayer each day when you, Mr Speaker, read the Lord’s Prayer?
Let me refer to an article that appeared in the New York ‘Times’ of 13th May 1967 and also in the Washington ‘Daily News’. President Johnson was reported in those newspapers as saying to his daughter Lucy: Your daddy may go down in history as having started World War III.’ I do not know when the consciences of honourable members opposite will be affected. They are going all the way with LBJ, and LBJ is going down the drain in American public opinion. Yesterday I asked the new Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) whether he was aware that the Pentagon or the United States Army had ordered 400,000 nylon bags to be manufactured in Japan for the purpose of encasing the bodies of American boys. My question caused some degree of laughter in the House. Are we in this place devoid of all conscience? Are we devoid of all principle?
The honourable member for Bennelong talked about powerful and grand allies. The substance of bis speech, as I condense it, was: ‘Let me be at all times with the strong and let principle come second.’ Is that the type of man that should be representing the people in this Parliament? I say that ii is not. That is the type of man to which the honourable member for Bradfield - to whose many sterling qualities I paid tribute earlier in my remarks - was probably referring when he said that when a man has accumulated sufficient wealth at 50 years of age he should come into this Parliament and use some of his great talents for the benefit of the people of Australia. I cannot agree with that, because a man who has become financially independent at 50 years of age must have robbed someone.
In conclusion let me quote the words of the poet Robbie Burns, who said:
Desist for shame, proceed nae further;
God won’t accept your thanks for murder.
They won’t say Amen to his.
The duties that I adore are social peace and plenty.
I’d be better pleased to make one more, than cause the death of twenty.
– It is always interesting to follow the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) in a debate. I certainly appreciate the quaint privilege of being in that position this afternoon. This Parliament has assembled at the beginning of 1968 in uniquely sad circumstances. I think every honourable member who has spoken in this Address-in-Reply debate is aware that this is the second Governor-General’s Speech to which we have addressed our remarks in a little more than 12 months. The reason for that is a unique and very sad circumstance. The late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, has been eulogised by honourable members quite often during the past fortnight. He definitely deserved those eulogies. I certainly join in them.
But there is another sense in which the valuable although brief contribution that the late Prime Minister made to this country as a politician - I use that word in its best sense - should be considered. Most countries that are only six or seven decades old have in their political histories a few watersheds which are worth remembering and which are significant. If there has been one watershed that has been significant in Australian political history it is the one in which Mr Holt held the position of Prime Minister. During a period of a little under 2 years he did much to change the direction of Australian life. He changed the outlook of many Australians and their sense of strategy in the military, economic and social senses. We certainly should be very very grateful for the way in which the late Prime Minister led that change. His term as Prime Minister was certainly a significant watershed in the history of this country. I do not intend to recount the late Prime Minister’s personal qualities because other people knew him far better than I did. But we all appreciated them for what they were.
While we are casting our minds back 1 or 2 years, it is worth remembering the events that have occurred in 1966, 1967 and 1968. We have assembled during the first months of this Parliament, immediately following upon a Senate election in which there was a clash for the first time of the two political leaders - the late Prime Minister Holt and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Honourable members will remember that the occasion of the Senate election was the first campaign in which the Leader of the Opposition had led his Party. He had hoped to lead it on an earlier occasion. I refer to a well known and well documented television address made on 8th March 1966. There was some little turmoil within his Party when he proclaimed that 8th March 1966 would be the date of ‘the changeover’ in his Party. That change was postponed for about 12 months. Having regard to the result of the Senate election I think many people, particularly members of the Labor Party, should be eternally grateful that the change was postponed for about 12 months.
The Senate election of 1967 was important. It was an occasion when many important policies were propounded. The result of the election is worth analysing. An examination of newspaper and other comments about the election could lead one to believe that the Opposition won a tremendous victory. I remember the newspaper headlines which appeared the day after the election, just as I remember those of a week later. They did not suggest that the Labor Party had achieved the worst result since proportional representation was introduced. Perhaps this matter is worth documenting, because it is important. The only result since 1949 worse than that recorded last year by the Labor Party, in terms of senators elected, was the result in 1955 when the late Dr Evatt led the Labor Party. On that occasion twelve Labor Party senators were elected. At each election since that time Labor’s position improved, with the exception of last year’s election. In 1958, for example, the Labor Party won at least two States in the Senate, securing the election of fifteen senators. In 1961 it secured the election of fourteen senators. In 1964, lead by Mr Calwell, who was prodded gently in the back by certain people with various instruments, it secured the election of fourteen senators. But in 1967 the man of destiny was able to secure the election of only thirteen senators. If we look at the results in 1951 and 1953 it is clear that last year’s result was Labor’s worst since 1949. These facts are contrary to the opinions held by many who have commented on last year’s election. We should have a great deal of faith in the Australian electorate. Images do not count for as much as substance. Substance influences the attitude of people towards a party far more than do other qualities which have been commented upon from time to time.
The Governor-General’s Speech reviewed the Government’s policies. Some of the comments that have been made about the Speech have been a little unfair in part. 1 know that one or two of the commentaries on the Speech seemed to gloss over the changes foreshadowed in Government policy. It is not my intention to go through the substance of the Speech or the proposals contained in it. I do not have available to me 60 minutes in which to speak, and having listened to the Leader of the Opposition I am sure that many people will be thankful that I do not have so much time in which to speak. Coming from a northern State I have been a little upset by some of the comments that have been made about the Governor-General’s Speech. Some people have alleged that the Government is not doing enough to develop Australia’s water resources. This is a claim that can and is so readily made. No calculations are made as to the costs or benefits. All that is said is that insufficient is being done about water resources. But we know that the Government has a number of proposals in this field. Take for example the Nogoa River scheme. Who will ever forget the look on the face of the Leader of the Opposition in October or November last year when the announcement was made that the Government would proceed with this scheme?
– He was quite stunned.
– Quite stunned; most upset. The philosophy which animated the Government’s decision to proceed with the Nogoa scheme should be appreciated. Anybody who examined the scheme and made calculations on the primary costs of the scheme and the benefits that would flow “from it must have known that there were some doubts about the scheme. There still are: There are doubts as to the crops. There are doubts about markets. There are doubts about precise river flow measurements. There are doubts about the capacity of the soil to do what it was hoped it would be able to do under intensive irrigation in the long term. But, there being some doubts, the Government said: ‘Primary costs and benefits are important and significant, but we will harness the energies which people have so as to overcome some of the difficulties which the figures seem to indicate may exist’. The Government made not only an economic decision but a social decision. It decided to take a calculated chance on human resources and the energy of the people concerned. This was the attitude of a government which has a true feeling for development. One was rather disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition, who uses so often the expression ‘human capital’ - somebody gave it to him; one would be surprised at his using it - did not appreciate the significance of the Government’s actions. We on this side did appreciate the Government’s actions, and we applauded them.
For the first 15 minutes of his speech last Tuesday the Leader of the Opposition was concerned with a catalogue of unhappy qualifications and modifications. He was simply whingeing about the Government’s policy. He reminded me of a fast talking encyclopaedia salesman trying to sell 60 volumes to an unwilling customer. We on this side did not accept his proposition and I am sure that the Australian electorate would not accept it. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to Australia’s economic growth but above all to the problems which we face in terms of our strategic position. One or two minutes should be spent on this aspect, because it is important. In this country as well as in Europe, and certainly in Great Britain, there is a fanciful view held that Australians should not complain because Britain withdrew from east of Suez because Australia has not been making a very considerable effort in terms of her own defence and strategic requirements. All honourable members have heard this argument advanced. We have had the usual references to gross national product. The figures of gross national product are used in most arguments. The argument about our effort in defence has been quite precise. It goes something like this: *We in Great Britain have been spending 6%, 7% and more of our gross national product on defence. We “have been making an effort. You in Australia have been spending about 3%. It is true that your expenditure is increasing to 5% and higher now.’ It is claimed therefore that Great Britain has placed a greater economic burden for defence on its people than Australia has placed on Australians. This argument is incorrect. It is worth analysing in a couple of ways.
The real defence burden of a country is measured not only in the figures in the national accounts but also by the tables -which set out those figures. In other words, expenditure across the exchanges is probably the best single measure of a defence burden, and between 5% and 6% of Great Britain’s export income is involved in defence expenditure across the exchanges. “When we look at the forecast for Australia and the situation this year, we see that between 12% and 13% of our export income is involved in defence expenditure across the exchanges. This is a great burden for a country to carry. The remarkable thing about this country is that it is carrying this burden and at the same time maintaining its present rate of economic growth. There are very few countries in the world, except perhaps Israel, Taiwan and so on, which have this sort of burden placed upon their peoples.
Australia has to make this effort because it is isolated, strategically and socially, from Europe. Europe may look to the Mediterranean, but usually it does not see beyond there. Perhaps it is true to say that beyond the Mediterranean it sees only Africa. Australia is required to make great sacrifices because she is alone. Europe is not interested in our position and the only nation to which we can look - and this is so simple and clear - is the United States of America. Those members of the Opposition who engage in constant, carping criticism of the United States and who so often echo the voice of the Europeans in making that criticism, ought to appreciate the position that they are putting themselves in. At least some of the French are clear when they say, in effect: ‘Why are you in Australia concerned? We simply expect that, in the long run, your part of the world will be dominated by China’. They mean Peking. Domination may mean a Locarno pact type of arrangement, or an economic or political domination. The French accept this as the inevitable course of history, and they make their strategy accordingly. Therefore Australia finds herself in a position of isolation and we say simply that, in order to preserve this country in its present position, great sacrifices are required.
Much comment has been made in this debate, in pursuance of this line of thought, about the candidature of various United States senators in the coming presidential election. How often have we heard comments concerning Senator Fulbright, for example, and how often has he been quoted in eulogy !by members of the Opposition in this place? When they quote Senator Fulbright in eulogy, why do they not quote also the fact that this senator is Eurocentric and not, of necessity, inclined towards Asia. A position that can be sustained with respect ito nations living on both sides of the Atlantic is not necessarily the pattern for nations on both sides of the Pacific wanting to build an alliance. When honourable members opposite quote one of the Kennedy brothers, with respect to the United States presidential elections, why do they not also quote his comments in 1962 and 1963 about Indonesia to appreciate what a romantic idea of Indonesia he had? Why do they not offer thanks that, at least, his forecast of what would occur in that country did not come true? Why do they not do that?
These things are important to the strategic and economic theme that runs through the speech delivered by the Governor-General, to which we are replying in this debate. We have a fair view of our position when we look at the figures and appreciate that the resources of the country are to be harnessed not only for normal improvement and for the economic growth that goes with it, but also, more importantly, for our own longterm strategic survival. That is the position that this Government and everyone on this side of the House supports most enthusiastically. It means that in the future great sacrifices will be required of this country. They ought not to be placed so heavily upon us, but they will be. We have to bear them, for there is no alternative. One can ask members of this House and those persons who from time to time listen to the broadcast of proceedings: Are you willing to make these sacrifices? I suggest that they are willing to do so. The results of the Senate election last year indicated that the people of this country are willing to make these sacrifices. We have no hesitation in asking them to make those sacrifices with us, so that we can say, finally, like Henry V on just such an occasion as this:
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart . . .
– The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who has just spoken, spent the first 10 minutes or so of his time in criticising the speech by my leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Irrespective of what the honourable member might think about the speech, he cannot dieny that the Leader of the Opposition Party has spoken. He has indicated in the Parliament what he thinks and what this Party thinks, about some of the national issues confronting Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made numerous appearances on television, has given numerous Press interviews and has made many vague statements outside the Parliament, but so far he has not made his first policy statement inside the Parliament. I understand that he is not to speak in this debate. The honourable member’s criticism of the Leader of the Opposition falls down completely. The Prime Minister has not even paid the Parliament the compliment of making a public statement to honourable members on all the issues that are before this country today. An honourable member opposite says that we will hear from him soon enough. I only hope that when we do hear from him, the comments that he makes have far more substance than the comments made on his behalf by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral almost a fortnight ago.
I want to add my sympathy to the expressions of sympathy of other members of Parliament on the loss of the late Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. He was a diligent parliamentarian and an active, sincere and capable Prime Minister. He was aware of the importance of the Asian countries to our north and in the couple of years during which he was Prime Minister, he did more to enhance our name and reputation in those countries than his predecessor did in a period of 18 or 19 years. I want also to congratulate the new Prime Minister upon his election. However, I must say that it is a sorry commentary on the Liberal members in this House. Not one of them was good enough to take over the reins of office. The Prime Minister has made history. It is the first time a Prime Minister could not be found from within the ranks of members of the House of Representatives. It is the first time a senator has ever held the office. Until now there were very few members in this place who had a high regard for the Senate or for senators. Now the coalition Government is controlled by a former senator.
But this is not his only claim to fame. He is also a former Minister for the Navy. This chamber is gradually becoming cluttered with former Ministers for the Navy. He makes the third. The other two Ministers were dismissed from the Ministry, one by him and the other by his predecessor, following the findings of royal commissions into the ‘Voyager’ disaster. Neither of those two former Ministers for the Navy could be held to be responsible in any way for the disaster, because both of them assumed ministerial responsibility for the Navy after the ‘Voyager’ disaster had occurred. The present Prime Minister was Minister for the Navy from 1958 to 1963, a period of 5 years in all, and it was during that time that the decline in various aspects of Navy life, which was indicated in evidence before both royal commissions, really began. The Prime Minister denies completely any blame at all for what happened in the ‘Voyager’ disaster. On 23rd September 1964, as appears at page 695 of Hansard, in a debate in the Senate, after criticising, quite violently, Mr Smyth, Q.C., who was counsel for the commission, in reply to an interjection from Senator Cavanagh, who had said: ‘It was a Government appointment,’ the then Senator Gorton said:
Yes, that is so. That is something for which I will accept blame. But it is the only thing in this whole affair for which I will accept blame.
He still maintains exactly the same position. He not only refuses to accept blame but he also says that the Government’s reputation has not declined in the eyes of the community since the ‘Voyager’ disaster. This can be seen clearly from an answer to a question that I addressed to him last week.
In order that the Australian people and lae also might appreciate that this is not only my opinion but also the opinion of many thousands in the community, I quote from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Wednesday, 20th March 1968, in which an editorial headed The Untouchables’ states, in part:
Those who listened to or read the evidence at the first Royal Commission on the loss of HMAS ‘Voyager’ must have been struck by the ill-concealed resentment of senior officers of the Navy at having their actions and methods questioned. It might have been supposed that this foolish arrogance would have been tempered by the revelations of naval inadequacies which emerged in the course of the two ‘Voyager’ inquiries.
Later it states:
In this instance criticism of the Navy ha’s been directed at naval policy, at the management of the Navy and at the curious interpretation of their responsibilities by certain senior officers. The attitudes of the two admirals unhappily suggests that the higher echelons of the RAN have still to learn their lesson.
The editorial concludes: “The Navy ought to be allowed to let things settle and get on with its job.’ To be sure - provided the job is done efficiently and defects are remedied, not perpetuated, in order to avoid unsettling things. The admirals and their fellows should be interested not in stifling criticism but in seeing that there is no cause for it.
I think the point is taken. If the Prime Minister, himself a former Minister for the Navy, declines any blame when he was responsible for the Navy for 5 years, surely it is reasonable to claim that the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), who was Minister for the Navy immediately before the present Minister and who was dismissed by the Prime Minister, is also in no way responsible for the ‘Voyager’ disaster. So, in looking for a reason for the dismissal of the honourable member for Higinbotham from the Ministry, we have to look further than the ‘Voyager’ disaster.
– Order! I urge the honourable member for Lang not to develop his remarks into a debate on the ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission. I can follow the point that the honourable member is making in using the Voyager’ disaster as an illustration, but I suggest that he has mentioned the ‘Voyager’ situation sufficiently.
– I have finished with my remarks on the ‘Voyager’ disaster. Two Ministers of the previous Ministry were dismissed; one was the honourable member for Higinbotham, who was Minister for the Navy, and the other the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who was Minister for Air, and whose dismissal could have been due to the fact that he was badly burned over the use of VIP aircraft. It is a sorry state of affairs that a Minister who was doing his best to protect some of his senior ..ministerial colleagues should get the blame for the criticism that was directed at the Government over the use of VIP aircraft. But I do not think that was the reason for his dismissal. We have to look for another reason; so we look to see what these two former Ministers, who were dismissed from the Ministry, have in common. They have two things in common. Both of them are young men, somewhat inexperienced in the Ministry, and both are reputed to have been active supporters of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) in the Prime Ministership dogfight. They can be regarded as casualties of war. They were dismissed from their portfolios because they backed the wrong horse in the Prime Ministership race. I am reasonably certain that they have been treated more harshly than the Vietcong girl who was tortured recently. They would much sooner have been given the water treatment and allowed to retain their portfolios than be dismissed from the Ministry. I mention this subject because I think it shows that their dismissal was vindictive and narrowminded. If the reason that I advance for their dismissal is anywhere near the truth I pose to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to the Prime Minister the question: Why is it that the Minister for Immigration, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) were retained in the Ministry?
It was clearly stated by the Prime Minister when he was first appointed that he intended to mark off the page and start anew. He gave the impression that he would create new portfolios in the Ministry and put new members in it. Various alterations in the Ministry were anticipated by political commentators of all shades of opinion, but only three new Ministers appeared, one to lake the place of a Minister who was retiring and the other two to take the place of the dismissed Ministers. Who were the two new Ministers who replaced the dismissed Ministers? They were the greatest rebel in the Senate, Senator Reginald Wright, and the greatest rebel in the House of Representatives, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). As backbench members, both used to howl and perform at regular intervals. The honourable member for Mackellar, now Minister for Social Services, has been as quiet and as innocuous as a lamb since his appointment to his portfolio. We have not heard a bleat from him. His ideas on the aboltion of the means test, and increases in rates of pension and other improvements in social services, already have been broken down. However, one thing has been learned from the appointment of the honourable member for Mackellar and Senator Reg Wright and that is that the formula to foe followed if a person wants to achieve ministerial rank in Liberal circles is to become a rebel. Selfishness and disloyalty are two of the qualifications desired. The lessons of the success of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and Senator Wright have certainly not gone unheeded in Liberal ranks. I have already encountered a cave of now dissident, but previously loyal, members of the Liberal Party, having seen them in secret conclave a few nights ago. The new motto of the Party is: ‘Up the rebels, down with loyalty’.
For the past few elections one votewinning source - a great vote winner for Liberals - has been criticism of the Labor Party structure, including our Federal Executive and Federal Conference, and accusations that Labor parliamentarians are under instruction from an outside body. Whatever may have been said in this regard, nobody has at any time been able to suggest that the leader of any other political party has instructed the Labor Party as to who is fit or unfit to be our leader. On the contrary, however, one pronouncement from the Leader of the Country Party was sufficient to send every Liberal member scurrying to his burrow. It was also sufficient to make the most ambitious man in this Parliament forgo an opportunity to achieve his burning ambition to become Prime Minister of Australia. The Liberal Party showed the world that it was not master of its own destiny by being-, frightened into submission by the threatsof the ageing Country Party leader. The selection of Senator John Grey Gorton as Leader of the Liberal Party marked a. great day in the history of the Country Party. It showed who was master in the Government of this country. To my mind, the Liberal Party has not come out of the election of the new Prime Minister in a good light at all. Let me now quote this, passage from the GovernorGeneral’sSpeech:
After Mr Holt’s death, in the discharge of my responsibility to ensure the continuity and stability of government in Australia, I took steps to swear the Right Honourable John McEwen, M.P., as. Prime Minister on 19th December 1967. Mr McEwen served as Prime Minister until 10th. January 1968, when, Senator John Grey Gorton having been elected the Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr McEwen tendered his resignation as Prime Minister, and I summoned Senator Gorton and swore him as Prime Minister.
Subsequently, Senator Gorton resigned from the Senate on 1st February 1968. On 24th February 1968, within the period of three months allowed, under Section 64 of the Constitution, for a Minister to hold office without a seat in either House of Parliament, he won the seat of Higgins and on 28th February was again sworn as Prime Minister.
That passage reads very well and smoothly. It gives the impression that there were no hitches in the proceedings at all, that everything was plain sailing. It certainly gives the impression that the vacancy for the seat of Higgins having been announced, the changeover of the Prime Minister from his position as a senator to that of the member for Higgins was easily done and was almost commonplace. I feel, however, that this is not the fact. I question the procedure that was followed in this instance in declaring a vacancy in the seat of Higgins. I cannot find anything to show that the Speaker has the right to declare a vacancy when the person occupying the seat has not resigned or has not been declared dead. The Victorian law demands that a body be produced before a pronouncement of death can be made. The course of action followed in this matter was designed to restore the Prime Ministership to the Liberals as quickly as possible. The Country Party may have got its way over the leadership of the Liberal Party, but the Liberals were not going to allow the Country Party to hold the Prime Ministership a minute longer than was absolutely necessary even though it might be necessary to slide round the Constitution to do so. Though it is most unlikely that the same set of circumstances will occur again, I should like a definite procedure laid down to cover such a position as resulted from 17th December last. I question whether the procedure followed was constitutional. I shall leave it at that, making no further statement on the topic.
Last Tuesday night I listened to the speech delivered by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) in this debate. I agree with much that he said, but I feel that many of his remarks were completely out of perspective. The type of men he wants in this Parliament do not necessarily make good parliamentarians. In my fifteen years in the House I have known members of great wealth and intellect, and some with only one of these attributes, and I firmly believe that they have been no better members, either inside or outside the House, than the member with the lowest intellect and the lowest bank balance. I agree that the efficiency of backbench members of Parliament can be improved. Even without extra staff, if members could be given more time to spend on their parliamentary duties, with less time on public relations work in their electorates, they could become more efficient members in this House. But any member who refuses to tend his electorate and neglects his public relations work is courting electoral disaster.
One has only to look at the changes of members in this Parliament election after election to realise that many members who have worked hard are defeated, and sometimes those who have worked hardest of all are defeated. So public relations do count, and they count considerably. I have had an office in. my electorate for the 15 years that I have been in Parliament, and even now I am still accused of not being seen around the electorate often enough. In the last election campaign my Liberal opponent who, I think, is a solicitor - he must have some intellect, certainly he has better educational qualifications than I - canvassed various parts of the electorate, and in those areas he cut back my majority. I have deduced from this that public relations are an essential part in the process of retaining one’s seat in this House. Whether a member has the greatest intellect in the world, or whether he has a great deal of wealth and can afford to pay somebody else to do a lot of the work for him, it will still be found that unless he is seen and does something in his electorate the people will replace him very quickly. I wish I had more time to develop this theme.
I agree with some of the remarks of the honourable member for Bradfield on backbenchers in this House. In 1960 or 1961 I was perhaps one of the first to make constructive suggestions for improving the efficiency of backbench members of Parliament. The Prime Minister at the time (Sir Robert Menzies) took no notice. I repeated these suggestions when the late Harold Holt was Prime Minister, but he too took no notice of them. I only hope that more encouragement will be given to the honourable member for Bradfield and any other honourable member on the Government side who thinks that backbenchers can do a better job for their constituents by improving either the committee system or staff facilities, or in some other way making it easier for us to do better work in the Parliament. I am all in favour of this.
The Parliament is anxious to hear our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) make his first policy statement. Nobody seems to know when this will be, but when he does make the statement, the Labor Party wants to hear him explain how he reconciles the statements by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). The Treasurer says that real wages are rising and the Minister for Labour and National Service says that they have not risen for the last 3 years. Which interpretation of the State of the economy does the Prime Minister propose to accept? We want to hear him explain also why he has retained the Treasurer in his most important post as chief director of economic policy for this nation when the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) believes that the Treasurer is unfit to be leader of the Liberal Party. We are entitled to hear his opinion on the Deputy Prime Minister’s proposal for an Australian Resources Development Corporation, which the Deputy Prime Minister abandoned last year because of misrepresentation of his proposal by the Treasurer and agents for the Treasurer.
We are entitled to hear what the Prime Minister thinks of the dangers of our growing dependence on overseas investment. This topic was mentioned last night in an address by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry, to the Mining Industries Council. We would like the Prime Minister to tell us why he has done nothing about the promise made by the late Mr Holt, in his Senate election policy speech, regarding Commonwealth aid for school libraries and pre-school training centres. These were matters which the present Prime Minister, according to Mr Holt, was investigating when he, the present Prime Minister, was Minister for Education and Science. We would like to hear the Prime Minister explain why he gave a misleading explanation, according to Sir Robert Menzies, about the Government’s slashing of research grants to the University of Melbourne. The people of Australia want to know exactly where the Prime Minister stands on the question of our commitment in Vietnam. Is the present commitment the permanent limit, as he said on the 2nd February, or is the commitment subject to increases as he implied in later statements? The Prime Minister should tell us why the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) is still not in a position to tell us the total cost of the Fill aircraft when he promised that he would present this information to us in January. Is the only reason why Australia is not getting out of the commitment to buy these aircraft the fact that it is now too late to withdraw?
These and lots more, are questions which should be answered by the Prime Minister. I think he has shown a discourtesy to the House in not up to this stage speaking in the Address-in-Reply debate. I do not think he intends to speak later. If he replies to some of the questions I have posed then he will have told the Australian community a great deal more than is contained in the Speech delivered on behalf of the Government by his Excelency the GovernorGeneral last week in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– May I say briefly that I shall always remember with pride the privilege that I enjoyed of serving under the late Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). I join all who have extended sympathy to Mrs Holt and her family and expressed admiration of the manner in which they met the challenge of his unexpected and profound loss. Then I would like to congratulate our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and reiterate the opinion, which is so openly expressed by all sections of the nation, that in the Gorton-McEwen combination Australia has a virile leadership so obviously providing Australian integrity at its best that it has set afire a proud enthusiasm throughout the nation. Anyone who has travelled about from one end of the nation to the other will agree.
I want to deal first of all with the wider consideration of the development of northern Australia. I do this in the hope that my remarks will be appreciated, particularly by our people in the south in the metropolitan and provincial cities. This is a matter which most vitally affects theninterests as well as ours. I would hope most earnestly that they will ally themselves to our cause, their cause and this nation’s cause. Let us consider briefly the early history of our northern frontiers. Briefly 19th century settlement in the north of Australia was the simple story of groups of courageous pioneers who established an irregular type of frontier economy against unbelievable hazards. Probably no more rugged conditions existed anywhere in the world in relation to distances, heat and drought. Our 19th century northern frontiers were unparalleled even in the vast isolated regions of North America and South Africa. This was last century. Nearly seven decades of 20th century progress and maturity have brought little change in patterns of settlement in northern Australia, with the rare exception of places like Townsville, Mount Isa and Darwin. In other words, rather than see any evidence of decentralisation, we have seen a slow, decisive, dangerous drift of population to the provincial and capital cities. So much for the population patterns. I want to stress that I am talking of population patterns, not city development. Let us look to the factors controlling the population drift and patterns.
First of all I make reference to the tremendous and almost unbelievable reservoir of national treasures which is waiting to be tapped in the northern half of this continent; mineral deposits on a vast scale; huge herds of cattle, representing a permanent wealth which will ever increase - no-one will ever convince me that the beef market is in jeopardy - sheep lands in the central west of Queensland, which at long last have been restored partially to their previous prolific state, which made this one of the finest wool producing areas in the world. I refer to the unlimited coal deposits in the Bowen basin at Blackwater and possibly in the Bluff area; the black coal at Blair Athol, which must not remain in its present condition because of limited production; dramatic development in areas such as the central highlands of Queensland, soon no doubt to become the granary of inland Queensland - possibly the production of that area will drift up into the Northern Territory. It is an area of unlimited possibilities. Cattle will be fattened here and with the development of the brigalow area will come a prosperity achieved under genuine pioneering conditions by a group of courageous new settlers. Let me tell you something about how they live there. Believe you me, they are people who are used to better things. On some of these new areas the farmer has a large galvanised iron shed. Half of the shed houses his tractors and implements; the other half houses his wife and children. These are genuine pioneers. They require assistance. Their plight has been accentuated by the drought conditions which have prevailed almost since they moved into the area but which, I am pleased to say, are now over.
Let us move further north. We see nickel deposits at Greenvale which will, we hope, lead to further development of the great old city of Charters Towers, the obvious base for this operation we see Weipa, Groote Eylandt, McArthur River, Gove and the Ord River development, the fantastic operation at Tipperary where, by the end of 1972, possibly 192,000 acres of grain sorghum and other summer crops such as oats will be cultivated. We would hope, and I believe we can base this on a fair estimate of what is happening, that the greater portion of this area will be divided up into 5,000 acre blocks for cropping only and 10,000 acre blocks for cropping and raising cattle. These blocks will, we hope, under certain conditions, be handed over to our local Australian settlers.
What a fantastic scope for development exists in the Northern Territory. Here I must pause, if I may, to congratulate my colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who has been given an assurance that very soon he will have full voting rights and who is so wonderfully well equipped to carry this new responsibility. A survey of the Territory was made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory, myself, and my two fighting colleagues from the Senate, Senator Lawrie and Senator Prowse; They are almost unofficial senators for the Northern Territory as a result of their long record of agitation for this area and they carry this title very aptly. Our trip through the Northern Territory revealed two things. The first - this was quite unexpected because some of the reports emanating from the Territory would indicate otherwise - was a very real appreciation of the tremendous burden which my colleague, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) has carried for so many years. It was felt - this was almost prophetic as these people had no idea what was happening in Canberra - that this burden was almost too much for one man to carry. In addition there was an impatience for the tempo of the development in the area to be increased. We could not help but feel that though a great and unprecedented job has been and is being done by the Federal Government, there is a clear need for a wholesale reassessment to eliminate many creaky and obsolete red tape processes which are retarding the development of certain areas and most certainly discouraging the progress which the people of that area are anxious to achieve. It would seem that a process of weaning the people of the Territory away from wholesale Federal Government control would be to offer them initially a system of local government. This is beginning to happen. In Darwin there is a local government and a grander form of government in the Legislative Council. A similar process is being considered for Alice Springs. The discussions might be a little turbulent at the moment, but they are happening.
To sum up the position in relation to northern Australia, Queensland alone in 1966-67 yielded agricultural, dairy, poultry and pastoral produce to the extent of $292m and minerals, forestry and fishing, returned $86m; $378m in all. The value of the manufacturing processes related to those particular industries was $132m, which brings the total to $5 10m. I will be very conservative and say that if we add the figure for the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia the total would be somewhere in the vicinity of $650m. The significant fact is that this is export income. What could be more valuable to this nation? Let me again repeat that possibly - and this is a conservative estimate - $650m could be earned from that particular area. Of course that figure will increase to a dramatic degree. Only last night I heard the opinion expressed that the mineral resources of Australia generally - a tremendous percentage of this will come from the areas I have mentioned - will be worth $l,000m a year by 1972. This speaks extremely well for the future of this nation.
Before I leave this subject I want to look into the future and take on the cloak of the prophet, if I may. I feel that where we have more intensively farmed areas, devoted to crop production as well as cattle raising, or perhaps more particularly cattle fattening, the era of the isolated homestead or farmhouse will be over. I am completely convinced that pre-planning of community centres will occur. These will provide amenities that are now accepted as normal in other areas, such as electricity, sewerage and television. I ask honourable members to visualise a wheel. The hub is the community centre and the spokes are arterial bitumen highways leading out into farm areas. How long will the isolated farmhouse or homestead exist when a man can live in the community centre and get into his car early in the morning and head out to his station property? This is occurring at present in other parts of the world. I agree that this will only happen in more intensely settled areas and I am not suggesting that it will happen where properties of 300 or 400 square miles exist but I do feel this will be part of the new era which will inevitably occur.
Let me now refer to the most important commodity that northern and inland areas must have, and that is people. I will discuss them under three headings - youth, Aboriginals and pensioners. Youth usually asserts itself so I will put it first. What appears to most northerners and inlanders as an insoluble problem is how to keep young men, and more particularly young women, in these remote areas. It would seem that the only permanent solution is to seek the establishment where it is at all feasible, of secondary and even tertiary industries, particularly those related to existing primary industries. Let us try to get new industries out into those areas. Obviously this would lead to the type of intensive settlement which in turn creates the conditions of life that are sought these days - regrettable in some respects - by our young people.
I think that it would be opportune at this point to mention something that I have mentioned previously in this House. A survey conducted recently amongst a number of industries which were established in rural areas - this was probably in New South Wales - revealed that each of these enterprises would remain in the country if it had the choice to make over again. No doubt honourable members will appreciate that profits are the first consideration, but matters such as the availability of transport, the contentment of workers and so on are also taken into account. These industries unanimously agreed that they had done the right thing in establishing in rural areas. Apparently all governments from the time of Federation have been in error in assuming that large enterprises or factories necessarily prefer the city areas. This survey has now proven that some industries have done far better by establishing in rural areas. Unless it is beyond our economic or technical resources, under no circumstances should our products be sent abroad for treatment, either secondary or tertiary. What I have said so often about my own northern and inland area I now repeat on a national basis. We are not a nation of mere ‘yakka’ workers, leaving the more refined processes and higher rates of profit to those elsewhere.
I ask the House to examine realistically this matter of Aboriginal welfare and integration which will eventually bring these people to a standard of living completely parallel with our own. To do this with sincerity and a genuine, humane approach we must intimately understand their way of life and what they want for themselves, not what many misguided and misinformed people would try to forcibly inflict on them. I have lived, worked and been to school with our Aboriginal people and I suggest that each category has a different attitude towards its own welfare. I am not familiar to any great extent with the situation of the Aboriginals living in the metropolitan areas or the provincial cities but I am closely familiar with the inland Aboriginal, whether he be a town dweller, a mission Aboriginal or a nomad. I say that in each case different considerations apply.
Because of the limitation of time, I will deal with only one group of one category and I will give it as a classical example. The natives of Mornington Island are descendants of the original people of the Island. They have been bred and brought up on the Island. For those who are unfamiliar with Mornington Island, I inform them that it is in the northern part of the great electorate of Kennedy. At the moment there is tremendous development and a dramatic upsurge of interest in the capacity of our Gulf waters to sustain a full scale fishing industry. The wealth to be obtained from this industry could increase to a scale never hitherto thought possible. For example, it is estimated that if the known prawning grounds in the Gulf are in any way comparable to similar prawning grounds off the Queensland and Western Australian coasts the annual catch could be up to 35 million lb of prawns each year. Now, no-one is more familiar with these waters or knows better where fish and prawns abound than the local Aboriginals. This applies particularly to the Aboriginals of Mornington Island.
I think that it would be pertinent for me to now tell the House briefly something about these islanders. They are, as I have said, primarily the original Mornington Island people who have dwelt there from a period dating back to the shadowy, unknown history of this continent. In addition there are men and women on the island who up until a few years ago were residents of Bentinck Island and were regarded as among the most primitive Aboriginals in Australia. Over a short period they have advanced to a point where one of their members now serves as a councillor on Mornington Island, and the council on which he serves is organised very much on the same basis as any local authority. Together with the Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth), whom I am very pleased and proud to say now handles the affairs of these Aboriginals, I discussed many matters of interest with this council and I can assure honourable members that the discussions were equal to any that one could have with a town council anywhere in the outback. Among the many matters that the council discussed with us was its desire to see some industry established on the Island in which the residents could participate and which would add to their income to an extent which would permit them to improve their homes and gardens and allow them to enjoy adequate community facilities. I am pleased to say that this has been done. An Adelaide company has come to a working arrangement which will improve the lot of the islanders. What has been done on Mornington Island could be done elsewhere, particularly under similar circumstances and with people similarly organised.
I now turn to the pensioners. The pensioners in the remote areas of this country have a particular problem. I concede that pensioners throughout the nation have a tremendous problem in existing on the paltry pension that they receive. I am sure that there is not one member of this House who does not hope that pensions will be increased to a decent level without delay. I am pleased to see that the same Minister who administers Aboriginal affairs is in charge of social services. If he does not do something in the near future to earn that compliment then I shall possibly have to sever diplomatic relations with him. Pensioners in my electorate and in similar remote areas have a much greater burden financially, physically and emotionally than have other pensioners. For example, consider the case of a pensioner who has to seek medical attention on the coast. Perhaps rail fares are provided but what about meals, taxis, accommodation expenses and the physical and emotional demands made on the pensioner by reason of having to travel and then seek accommodation, perhaps in a strange city? I am firmly and immovably of the opinion that special financial consideration, and particularly concessions, should be given to pensioners in the outback, bearing in mind that many of them are the last of our old pioneering frontier stock.
In conclusion I repeat what I have said so often before. Despite the unprecedented development that is taking place by the activities of our Federal Government and of private enterprise; despite our developmental capacity and our huge reservoir of wealth; because of the necessity to move quickly and the unique difficulties confronting us it is vital that a separate ministry of decentralisation be set up to relieve the huge burden of responsibility which the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) so capably carries, and to give the north and the inland the special focused attention which they so greatly and so urgently need.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) more or less confined his remarks to an issue about which he believes he has some special knowledge. I do not deny the accuracy of the honourable member’s claim. He made some very constructive criticisms of the inadequacy of the rate of development of the north of Australia. He referred to the drift of population from country areas to the cities. The Opposition agrees with him. We cannot continue to support a policy which encourages this.
The Opposition recognises the problem and we have sought in this House on a number of occasions to encourage a policy of decentralisation. May I direct the honourable member’s attention to the notice paper for today where he will see that the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) has given notice of a motion which deals with decentralisation. When this motion comes up for discussion in the House we hope that it will receive the support of members of the Country Party.
The honourable member then referred to social services. Again he was most critical of the Government’s attitude. The Opposition has consistently pointed to the problems of pensioners in Australia. Surely the honourable member was in a position to point out to the Government that tha GovernorGeneral’s Speech should have contained some indication of the Government’s intentions. In particular, he could have emphasised its responsibility to grant immediate increases to those in receipt of social service or repatriation pension.* of one kind or another. Instead, the Government prefers to wait until the next Budget is presented to deal with the inadequate pensions that are now being paid.
Before being elected to this Home the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stated that he intended to devote his attention particularly to the question of social services. He has appointed a new Minister for Social Services. No-one on this side of the House would fail to recognise that the new Minister is a man of some energy and, we believe, of some talent. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to support the point of view that was expressed by the Prime Minister before he came to this House - it has since been expressed by the Minister himself - that there is a need to improve payments now being made to the various classes of social service pensioners. So far there has been no indication of any action of this kind.
I remind honourable members that when the 1966-67 Budget was presented we were told that an increase in pensions was not possible. When the 1967-68 Budget was presented we were again told that an increase was not possible because the money was required for defence purposes. We have never accepted that proposition. We have never believed that a small section of the community should be asked to accept sole responsibility for the Government’s defence spending. No other interpretation can be placed upon the Government’s attitude.
Now the Government has acknowledged the plight of pensioners. We have just heard the honourable member for Kennedy say that he thought their position was serious. He referred particularly to the pensioners with whom he is more closely associated, namely, those who live in the country. We can appreciate their special problems, but pensioners everywhere in Australia have special problems. If they have no other income, if they have no other assets, if they are completely dependent upon the amount paid to them by this Government under the social services legislation, obviously they are in difficulties. The Government should have taken the opportunity early in 1968 to make an immediate grant to those whom it has already acknowledged represent a large section of the Australian community which is suffering financial hardship. What the Government proposes to do at the time of the Budget of course will be determined by the Minister for Social Services and the Government between now and the time when the Budget is presented, but the Government might have taken the opportunity - indeed it should have taken the opportunity - to make reference to this problem and to indicate to this Parliament and the people of this country that it was not prepared to wait until the Budget session but would grant an immediate increase in pensions. What the honourable member for Kennedy says in effect is correct. He believes that pensioners are in financial difficulties. But he might have said, as I have already indicated, that the Government could have moved to provide a measure of generosity for these people at this time.
Having said that, I add that the Governor-General’s Speech, in the opinion of honourable members on this side ofthe House, can be regarded as having presented probably the most sterile programme ever presented to an Australian parliament. The Speech confirms the suspicion, aroused by the token changes made by the Prime Minister in the structure of the Ministry, that the new Government will be very much a business as usual government in the style of its undistinguished predecessors. The Prime Minister quite clearly has not been able to convert the energy and dynamism that he brought to his election into valid policy initiatives. There must be grave reservations about his ability to assert himself as an innovator of policy.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on Tuesday night detailed a series of serious ommissions from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. He referred to the failure to legislate for grants for school libraries and pre-school training facilities. These were intimated by the late Prime Minister in his policy speech at the opening of last year’s Senate election campaign. Significantly, the late Prime Minister said that the Minister for Education and Science at that time - the present Prime Minister - was examining the proposals to extend Commonwealth aid school libraries and pre-school training centres. This commendable extension of the principle of the science laboratories grants legislation appears to have been scrapped by the Prime Minister since his elevation from his former portfolio.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to Mr Holt’s proposals for dealing with the problem of the chronically ill. The Prime Minister has done nothing to convert Mr Holt’s concern for these unfortunate people into meaningful legislation. The right h onourable gentleman has ignored the opportunity to cure the ‘underlying malaise’ in the PostOffice largely induced by outmoded arbitration systems applying to workers in government instrumentalities, Nor has he said anything to allay the grave fears aroused by repeated attacks on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and on wage fixing procedures by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). The whole system of wage fixing and administering income policy in Australia is in a ferment, and all Australian wage earners are looking to the Government to clarify an immensely complex situation. The only response of the Government has been to assail the Arbitration Commission which has only done its duty according to its precedents and procedures and the industrial submissions presented to it.
– The Minister criticised the Commission immediately its most recent decision was made known to the people of this country. The Prime Minister has not answered the Leader of the Opposition’s charges about the final cost of the F111 aircraft, if indeed it is possible even at this advanced stage to determine a final cost. At question time this morning the Prime Minister said an accurate statement on the final cost of the F111 would be made in the near future. Quite clearly, the Government has not yet resolved whether or not to return six of the twenty -four planes being purchased to the United States of America in 1970 for conversion as reconnaissance planes.
This puts the Government in an intolerable position. If it decides to have these planes converted, the final cost of the aircraft might vary by as much as $20m, and this could be politically unacceptable to the Government. If it does not have these six aircraft converted to a reconnaissance role, the effectiveness of the F111 will largely be nullified. This is an incredible situation, completely in character with the whole sorry F111 saga. On the question of the F111, it is worth recalling the way in which the Prime Minister has described the policies of his predecessors. In his few brief months as Prime Minister he has revealed many intriguing examples of implied disapproval of past policies of Mr Holt and Sir Robert Menzies, and even of his fellow Cabinet colleagues. In a television interview on 18th
February, the Prime Minister gave a tantalising example of his thinking on defence purchases. He was asked whether it would be prudent to cancel Australia’s order for the FI 11 as Britain had done with its order. A transcript of the interview shows that he said:
I think it would be too late for us to cancel it, leaving aside the question of whether one should or whether one should not.
He went on to say:
I would think that apart from anything else that cancellation at that late stage, cancellation charges involved, would all, again leaving aside the question of whether one should or whether one shouldn’t, add up to the suggestion it is too late anyway.
When pressed by the interviewer, who asked whether the Prime Minister felt that the order should be cancelled, he replied:
Clearly we should not because H is far too late.
The only implication to be drawn from this incredible series of answers is that the Prime Minister does not approve of the purchase of the Fill. The only interpretation that could be put on his remarks is that we should not have bought the plane but it is too late to do anything about it. In other words, Australia is saddled with a major item of military equipment, indeed the major item in its defence armoury for many years ahead, which has not the approval of the Prime Minister.
In this he is markedly at variance with the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who, has described the Fill as ‘the greatest thing with wings since angels’, and the former Minister for Air, the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who has said interminably that the Fill is ‘a damned fair aircraft at a damned fair price’. Those are the statements of the Minister for Defence and the former Minister for Air who both believe that the aircraft is the best that this country could purchase. This is not the attitude of the Prime Minister.
– What does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition think?
– I am giving the attitude stated by the Prime Minister in his television interview. Considerable weight must be given to the right honourable gentleman’s opinion. We must concede him considerable expertise because he was Minister for the Navy for 5 years and in defence he is at least as expert as the Minister for Defence and the honourable member for Fawkner.
This is one area where it is impossible for the Prime Minister to rule off the book as he has stated. It is one of the major omissions of his speech that he did not clarify his attitude and answer the following questions for the enlightenment of the Parliament.
On behalf of the Parliament I shall put these questions to him: As a former Minister for the Navy, did he approve of the initial order for the Fill or did he even know about it? Why has he waited for so long before revealing his attitude to the aircraft? Does he think the plane suitable for Australia’s strategic and tactical requirements - particularly if it is decided not to convert six of the planes for reconnaissance? If the Prime Minister is convinced that it is not a suitable plane, why is it too late to cancel the order? What does he think of the competence of the Minister for Defence and Service Ministers who have repeatedly advocated the merits of the Fill in extravagant terms?
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the omission from His Excellency’s Speech of any mention of the 3-year defence programme which should have been ready to go into operation in July. The situation at the moment is that the Government has a Vietnam policy - and an increasingly abject and barren apology for a policy it is too - but it has no defence policy.
If the system of programming defence on a three-year basis is to be scrapped it is the duty of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to justify this decision immediately. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech is suitably vague on containment of defence expenditure, merely indicating that any future increases in resources devoted to defence would have to be weighed against other requirements. The increase in strength of the armed forces is emphasised, but there is no mention of the need to integrate common functions so that the armed forces can be made more effective and more economic. The whole planning of defence - and in particular defence purchasing - needs dramatic reassessment and procedural streamlining.
Again I would like to refer briefly to the Fill aircraft as an example of the Government’s forward planning in defence purchases. I refer to the TFX contract
Investigation heard before the Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations of the United States Senate in November 1963. Page 2524 of the transcript of this investigation records that Mr Gilpatric, the United States Deputy Secretary for Defence, was questioned about Australia’s order for twenty-four Fill aircraft. He was asked by Senator Mundt:
Just what kind of contract do you have with Australia? Are they going to buy planes willy nilly? If your figures are off $2 million and the cost is S7i million apiece are they going to buy them for $10 million? Have they no top limitation, or did they simply say ‘We will take two dozen planes at whatever price they are’?
Mr Gilpatric’s reply to these questions was, and again I quote from the transcript:
That is the way the agreement reads. It is a Government to Government agreement and I do not know how you would enforce such an agreement other than by the goodwill and the comity of the two countries involved, but that is the agreement.
Apparently Mr Gilpatric was as staggered by this incredible arrangement as the members of the investigating committee. In other words, Australia made an open-ended commitment to purchase these planes willy nilly, without a top limitation at whatever price was decided and by a Government to Government agreement based on goodwill. Mr Gilpatric’s understanding was that the agreement could be enforced only by goodwill, and successive Australian Governments have certainly manifested immense goodwill over the purchase. This is the way the purchase of the most notable item of defence equipment in Australia’s history was negotiated in 1963 by the then Minister for Defence. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister wants to dissociate himself from this dubious arrangement. This is the sort of defence planning which has placed the economy under such severe strain today.
Neither the Parliament nor the Australian people have been given even the slightest hint of the Government’s future defence plans in the light of the British withdrawal from South East Asia or of the magnitude of future defence commitments and future defence spending. There has been a blatant disregard of accepted planning principles in the defence build-up of recent years. I do not want to refer in any detail to the Governor-General’s comment on the Vietnam war. There will be a debate on this subject in this chamber next week. It has become increasingly apparent that the Government’s all-the-way commitment has been completely discredited. I do not blame this on the Prime Minister, as I think he has a genuine desire to moderate the extremity of the Government’s stand, but there seems to be little he can do. There has been a remarkable growth of dissent from conventional policies in the United States in recent weeks. Inevitably this will make its impact in Australia where there has been an unquestioning acceptance by most Australian people of the Government’s policies.
The Government can no longer rely on a complacent attitude in the electorate. Quite clearly it is now impossible for a military solution to be forced in Vietnam, and inevitably the Government must come to the Opposition’s stance that there must be a negotiated settlement to the war. As the Labor Party’s policy stresses, this must be approached initially by an end to the bombing of North Vietnam, recognition of the National Liberation Front as a principal party to negotiations and the scaling down of the scope of the war so that negotiations can begin. The Government’s attitude on this has been blindly to follow whatever suggestions have been made from sources outside this country. It has never at any stage endeavoured to follow a policy which would bring an end to the war by a negotiated peace. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, again discussing a matter of grave importance to this country, made no reference to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. There is still no indication of the Government’s attitude towards the treaty.
The Prime Minister in response to questions has revealed extreme sensitivity on this issue in the light of the statements he made when he was a backbencher and a junior Minister in another place. I urge the Prime Minister to clarify at the earliest opportunity the chaos that exists in the current economic thinking of the Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech by His Excellency the Governor-General, I join with the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), who moved the motion, and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who seconded it, and other speakers, in offering my congratulations to the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I express the wish that his term of office will give him all the satisfaction he desires and that it will bring to Australia a continuation of the stable and progressive government it must experience if it is to continue to develop and grow stronger. As I am a Western Australian it is only to be expected that I should take the opportunity to speak about my own State, and particularly that large part of it embraced by the boundaries of the Moore division. In doing so I make the point that within these boundaries can be found examples of almost every industry in the State, examples of almost every problem confronting the State and, most important of all, examples of almost every stratum of social life in the community.
I would like during my speech to touch on some of these matters, at the same time recognising that the time at my disposal will of necessity mean, in some instances, a very light touch on what is in fact a very great and very real problem. In this category will certainly come the very wide field of social welfare, and it is most gratifying to note that the Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting the people in most need, while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance. Surely the first group to receive consideration in the bracket of the most needy must be the civilian widow and her children, followed closely by the age pensioner. Only the most generous revision of the help presently being extended to these groups can bring to them the sort of social justice which can be considered to be consistent with an affluent society and a country which is always claiming that it is marching towards a greater civilisation. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that it is intended not to discourage thrift, self-help and selfreliance.
This must surely relate to the incidence of the means test and the penalty it places on those people who during their lifetime have made sacrifices in order to provide for their old age. Surely it must also relate to a widow who is left with a home and a small income accumulated at some sacrifice during the lifetime of her husband as some provision in the event of his death. I do not believe that it necessarily refers to the complete abolition of the means test, nor do I believe in the present circumstances that such a drastic step could be taken without serious repercussions on the whole economy. In fact, it could well be said that it could create more injustices than it cured at this particular time. I experience some difficulty in persuading myself that a person whose family has grown up and is self-supporting and who has retired on an annual income of, say, $5,000 or more has a claim for a pension. This is particularly so if this pension has to be provided by increasing taxation and, indirectly, living costs against a person with a young family to provide for.
Surely a country that has made possible the sort of opportunity which enables a man to maintain a wife, a home and to rear a family, and then to retire on an income of this order, has provided a reward for the industry that he undoubtedly exercised during his working life. The complete abolition of the means test is a very worthy objective to strive for, and it is worthwhile noting that today we are approaching double the percentage of people of pensionable age receiving pensions as compared with that percentage that obtained 20 years ago. But, of course, greater effort in the direction of further relaxation is called for. But the complete abolition of the means test does not sound to me like practical politics at this time.
The Speech delivered by His Excellency made the usual references to the development of our natural resources and the expansion of the mineral industry. He stated that mineral exports in 1967-68 are estimated at $485m and could reach $ 1,000m in the early 1970’s while our dependence on imports is being reduced, or will be reduced in the future, by new discoveries such as rock phosphates in Queensland, nickel in Western Australia and oil fields discovered in Western Australia, Queensland and off Victoria in the Bass Strait The spectacular growth in mineral development and exports has rightly caught the imagination of most people. But it would be unwise to allow the high pressure publicity that has surrounded these developments to mask the fact that Australia’s trading deficit over the past 10 years was $4,700m. Nor can it be ignored that authoritative estimates show that total exports will need to be running at about $5,000m a year by 1974-75 to maintain reasonable import and reserve levels. This means that with last year’s exports at just over $3,000m there is a growth gap of about $2,000m to fill in about 9 years, which would require an annual rate of increase in total exports of 5.3% a year. This position has been aggravated further by the devaluation of the English pound and the change in the other currencies which have followed the pound down.
Nothing but the greatest admiration should be accorded the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), his Department and the Australian Government Trade Commissioners’ services abroad, for the magnificent job that they are doing in promoting Australian manufactured goods in the export market. Fitting tribute also must be paid to manufacturing industries themselves for their efforts, notwithstanding the high standard of living in Australia and our resultant high cost structure and shortage of skilled labour, to develop and expand the sale of Australian manufactured goods in overseas markets. But I believe that there are very definite limits to what we reasonably expect in the way of net additions to our export income from the sale of manufactured goods abroad, particularly when the import requirements of these industries run at a very high level.
If the manufacturing industries are able to maintain their existing rate of growth, provide high wages and good working conditions as a background for a vigorous migration programme, I believe that they are making a contribution to national growth and development which should not be underestimated nor lightly appreciated. If overseas balances are to be maintained at a safe level in the face of our expanding defence commitment and development requirements, I believe that it is still our primary industries to which we must look for the maintenance of a safe working reserve and the maintenance of our development programme.
It is unfortunate in these circumstances to find a situation where the primary producer is being plagued by unfavourable seasonal conditions, rising costs due to the need to protect manufacturing industries from imports, and a rising wage structure necessary to project an image abroad of an attractive country to the suitable potential migrant. To this burden being borne by the primary producer must be added now what in effect has amounted to an appreciation of the Australian dollar. In these circumstances, it is not surprising to find a rising tide of bitterness in the ranks of the primary producers, particularly when it is remembered that this Government came to power in 1949 on a policy of putting value back into the £1, at a time of record intake of migrants, and at a time when primary industry costs were at a level which provided a handsome margin between the cost of production and export realisation.
It must surely be apparent to any impartial observer that what has happened in the intervening years is that the financial policy of Australia has been consciously managed in such a way as to take this big margin between internal costs and export values and to spread it through the whole of the community. This has been in order to promote the affluent society necessary to attract migrants as the supply of suitable migrants from overseas countries dwindled. The Primary producing industries have been called on in the final result to bear the cost of the national development and population growth. This statement, Mr Speaker, is not made in any critical sense. This, after all, has been the historic role of these industries for generations. The point that I want to make, Sir, is that if these industries are to continue to carry the burden - and I believe that they will do so willingly - of earning our overseas funds, some fresh thinking must be applied to the problems presently confronting these industries.
I do not want to sound trite, but I do say that we cannot afford to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; nor can we even afford to allow it to remain in its present unhealthy state. It is not sufficient to stand back and from the serenity of some harbourside home tell the primary producer, in a lordly fashion, that he must be more efficient. The record of the primary producer on the score of increasing efficiency is a most impressive one. It is unequalled by any other section of the community. Subject only to seasonal conditions, production records per man engaged in primary industry are seen to be broken every time fresh figures are released.
Since 1948-49, the Australian farmer has increased bis output by 65% while his workforce has declined slightly. He has fully utilised and applied mechanisation as illustrated by the fact that whereas 19 years ago he used less than 90,000 tractors, today he has more than trebled that figure and now uses over 300,000 tractors. The wheat industry provides a classic example of increased farm productivity and today, because of its modern and realistic approach to export marketing, is leading the field in the race for export outlet. In this industry, average yields per acre over the last 10 years have increased by over 30%. This increased yield has taken place against a background of extension of acreage into areas where it was believed that wheat could never be grown. But the strong pressure of increasing efficiency in overseas countries which reduces his competitive advantage in export markets, plus the ever increasing costs of his on-farm requirements relentlessly drives the wheatgrower to attain even greater degrees of efficiency. He must not only use better equipment but also he must make the best use of that better equipment. He must apply to his industry not only all the technological advances as they become available to him but also the know-how and intuition which comes to him only after years of education in the school of practical experience, and for which in the final analysis there is no real substitute.
In an examination of the unequal struggle by the primary industries to maintain Australia’s export income, it is interesting to note that counsel for the Commonwealth submitted to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that whereas in 1958-59 farm income had reached $941 m on the basis of a gross value of rural production of $2,523m, in 1965-66 it reached only $902m on the basis of a level of rural production S678m higher. Therefore costs between these years had risen by $689m. The relentless pressure for greater efficiency calling for more and more modern equipment and the increased demands for capital associated with farm development have resulted in a substantial - almost alarming - rise in rural borrowing from the main institutional lenders, notwithstanding that farmers have provided substantial amounts of capital requirements from their own resources.
Both broad acre and intensive farming in this highly competitive situation call for greater and greater inputs of capital, and if the present trends in demand for capital and narrowing profit margins continue, then surely the point must be close at hand where the ability of the industry to service even its existing financial commitments must be seriously prejudiced. It has been authoritatively stated that there has been an increase of more than 75% recorded in farm indebtedness to the main institutional lenders during the past 10 years. Further, it was estimated that the amount of rural indebtedness to main institutional lenders stood at $1,4 10m at 30 June 1966. There is still ample room for export development within the boundaries of existing farms as well as in the vast areas of virgin land being released each year. If export income is to continue to grow, as it must, then this development must proceed. But surely more thought should be given to the extent and ability of those engaged in primary industry to service this ever-increasing debt structure.
The bitterness presently obsessing some primary producers, particularly wool growers, is not reduced by the present unseemly wrangle about over award payments and whether the recent generous increases awarded by the Arbitration Commission should be absorbed in over award payments which is presently rife throughout secondary industry. But we may well ask ourselves: What is happening to the soil itself in this relentless drive for greater production and export? We should never forget that although most of us like to imagine that we own, through either leasehold or freehold title, the land that we occupy, the real truth of the situation is that we are really only acting in the role of trustees for posterity, and resting upon our shoulders is the great responsibility to hand this soil on to posterity in a condition at least equal to that in which it was before we first developed it.
I think that this is one of the great things that we must realise as we watch v/hat is happening around us today in this relentless drive for the farmer to become more efficient and to produce more and more goods for export in order to keep this country rolling along as happily as i: has been during the last 20 years. When we look at the soil and the soil structure we find a number of things. We find that soil fertility levels can reasonably be claimed to be being maintained. We can thank for this maintenance of soil fertility the establishment and operation of such organisations as the Wheat Industry Research Council, which was established in 1957, and the State Wheat Industry Research Committees which are co-ordinated on a truly national basis to tackle research not only into the problems of the wheat industry but also into the fertility of the soil itself.
It reflects great credit on these various committees and the research organisations with which they are associated that they have expended vast sums of money in the development of leguminous types of pastures and nitrogen fixing plants, particularly those suitable for growing in the more arid areas of our agricultural land. Through these means we have not only raised the fertility level of the soil in these areas in an effort to increase grain production, but at the same time we have increased stock carrying capacity which has been of immense assistance to the farming community in enabling it to compete with everincreasing costs and to attain greater productivity per acre within existing farms.
An examination indicates that the structure of the soil is holding together reasonably well, although there are many responsible people and many competent and experienced observers throughout rural areas who believe that a strong case can be made for increasing research into the question of whether we are using quite the right type of tillage implements and whether in our effort to get more and more work per man out of the machinery we are using by operating at greater speeds, we are not in fact inflicting some permanent damage on the structure of the soil itself. This is a problem which I believe could be overcome by investment in research.
I make the point quite clearly that in my opinion the greatest menace facing Australian soil today is the problem of soil salinity. The rising salt water table throughout the agricultural areas of Australia, particularly throughout Western Australia, must surely be regarded as a matter of major concern to all those people who are familiar with it. It is quite evident that as we develop more and more land and as we remove more and more trees, the natural process whereby the rainfall which percolates down into the soil and is drawn off during the long dry summer months and dissipated into the atmosphere is destroyed. We have the situation in which we are getting a greater accumulation of water underground which is becoming affected with salt and is rising to the surface during the summer months, there to leave a very dangerous level of salinity. The continuation of this process has provided obvious evidence that each year we are losing thousands and thousands of acres of our most arable soils. There is a definite call for a concentrated and co-ordinated research programme into this problem of soil salinity.
We have the spectacle - and those of us who travel throughout the rural areas see it every time we make a journey to any part of our electorates - of farmers spending literally thousands and thousands of dollars in the provision of contour banks and absorption banks. The object of these banks on the higher land is to stop the run off of water, to bank ft up, to stop gullying and erosion of the surface soil and to allow water time to seep down through the ground and find a lower level. But what no one really knows is where this water goes and what its ultimate effect is. Quite a number of us believe that this water ultimately percolates down through the more permeable strata of soil, picking up salt as it goes and finally breaks the surface at the lower level as very brackish if not just plain salt water. Huge areas of Australia are becoming more and more damaged by the accumulation of salt each year, and whether the farmer spending this money is in fact doing the right thing or the wrong thing is a point on which we need to carry out research in order to tell him whether in fact he is doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I question very strongly the effect of contour and absorption banks. But I believe that there is another and even greater danger looming as a result of indiscriminate development of land and insufficient attention to and research into this problem of soil salinity. There is a huge area east of Dalwallinu which is probably one of the worst areas of salinity in the
Moore division. In my opinion the solution of this problem is not that of putting water underground because this is a vast tract of country with heavy concentrations of salt at depth. The water passes through these concentrations and without doubt comes to the surface at lower levels, carrying the salt with it. So quite obviously the solution of the problem must be one of drainage. But where do we drain the water to? Do we drain it into Moora and flood the town? This town already gets flooded every time an excessively wet winter is experienced. We have the same sort of problem in the Avon Valley. Do we drain the water into the catchments of the Mundaring Weir or the Canning Weir? This . obviously is not the answer. The answer is drainage into the sea. This means that we must start from the sea and work back. These are programmes far beyond the resources of the State of Western Australia. They should be tackled on a national basis.
I want to take the last few seconds of my allotted time in making an appeal to this Government first of all to establish a properly co-ordinated Commonwealth and State organisation to investigate the problem of soil salinity, not only in the interest of present day farmers, but indeed, in the interests of posterity.
– Before I begin my speech I wish to extend my sincere sympathy and that of my constituents to the widow and relatives of the late Prime Minister. 1 also extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) upon his maiden speech. May he continue to grace this House by his presence for many years. May I also, in passing, congratulate the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), because his dissertation on agriculture is one that could be well marked by every member of this House and every government in Australia. The land is a living organism and we live in a state of ecological balance - man, plant, the animal and the soil. Mankind in this world literally lives by the fertile 7 inches of top soil. This is the margin between us and starvation. I commend the honourable member for his effort on this occasion as it is something that transcends the acerbities of party politics.
Tonight the House is not to be graced by the presence of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) during this, one of the major debates of any Parliament. It can be said that tonight we are presenting Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. The young Lochinvar who came galloping into this House from precincts in the west is not here tonight to give us the pearls of his oratory. As a matter of fact, apart from his appearances at question time, his only oratorical contribution was in the recent water torture debate when, as has been so aptly said, he was blooded and bloodied. No doubt he has not come up for the next round. His failure to speak here tonight will not go unnoticed by the Australian people. It is incredible that a new and unknown Prime Minister, the most obscure figure ever to reach the highest political rank in our land, should not have felt it his duty to address this Parliament and the nation in this debate. Parliament ls after all the Grand Assize of the Australian nation and it is probably true to say that this is the first addressinreply debate since Federation in which a Prime Minister has not spoken. Sir Robert Menzies spoke on each address-in-reply and in each Budget debate during his 18 years of office. The late Prime Minister did the same. These are the two big set debates in the life of the Parliament. Yet how much more duty bound was the present Prime Minister to speak? After all, Sir Robert Menzies was not exactly an unknown. But the people of Australia know practically nothing about the philosophy and the policies of the new Prime Minister.
The Governor-General’s Speech will certainly not enlighten or inform the people of this nation. To speak in this debate was not only the Prime Minister’s opportunity; it was his duty. By his silence he has shown a contempt for Parliament and a contempt for the people. The Governor-General’s Speech is the Prime Minister’s speech - by repute his personal drafting. Is he so mesmerised or spellbound by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam)? Their respective roles have been reversed on this occasion and the Opposition Leader spoke like a Prime Minister which he will surely be.
– Don’t kid yourself.
– The Minister for Amwu” I have a chance later to make his contribution. Meanwhile, there are certain courtesies which he should observe if he knows how. The respective roles, as I have said, have been reversed and the speech of the Prime Minister, delivered through the lips of the Governor-General, was that of an inept Leader of the Opposition.
Last Tuesday week we had an archaic opening, by an archaic Government, comprising some of the finer minds of the 19th century, of a young nation’s Parliament - a Parliament itself fettered by an archaic constitution. With solemn mummery and military panoply, with the trappings of aristocratic privilege of a departed age, and with musty ceremonial, Parliament was duly opened. Much of the solemn ritual might have been transacted 300 years ago. It was verging on a charade in an age of technocracy. Pursuant to the forms of a constitution, the least amended in the world, which perpetuates a traditional form of Parliament devised for former colonial territories, the Governor-General suitably intoned, and sought to inject warmth and reality, into the flattest and most flatulent exordium ever inflicted on an assembly of Australian Parliamentarians. Outside the crows squawked in derision - who could blame them - and the sheep stood in searing heat. Canberra withered and shrivelled. Water holes and dams became cracked expanses of clay and mud. The gaunt spectre of a general drought stalked over the broad landscape of Victoria and southern New South Wales. The metropolis of Sydney watched its food bowl, the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area, die by inches. The metropolis of Melbourne faced its most drastic water restrictions. Australia’s greatest water engineering feat, the Snowy Mountains scheme, was down to less than 20% of storage capacity, and the mighty Burrinjuck Dam was dry. With a perfunctory comment, the GovernorGeneral duly noted that a drought existed. But the Government did not repeat through his lips even its barren assurance of $50m to be spent - a paltry $50m - over the next 5 years on general water conservation assistance to the States.
So much for national development from this self-styled Australian visionary who is now our Prime Minister. Inside the Senate chamber, his former stamping ground, this fledgling Prime Minister celebrated his triumph created by the prorogation of Parliament. For 44 months Australia had been without operative parliamentary government, whilst the Prime Minister’s translation from Senate to Representatives has been consummated. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech was a complete anticlimax, lt was Sunday’s cold roast served up as Tuesday’s hash. It was a speech drafted by an ex-Senator, groping his way in the House of Representatives, straining his ears for a ghostly Government from a phantom Parliament to pass on for Senate consideration legislation initiated elsewhere.
Of the Menzies regime it has been correctly said that ‘throughout a period in which Australia had been in need of orientation towards Asia, and towards technology, it had been governed by a man who had deeply absorbed the provincial standards of Melbourne at the beginning of the century’. With this new national leader we have now regressed even further into antiquity. Here is a new Prince Rupert and his cavaliers, a galloping Prime Minister, a clanking cavalier, who leads parliamentary cavalry charges in the era of electronic warfare. In his euphoria we have had a remarkable succession of statements and self contradiction from a ‘dangerous simplifier’, a Prime Minister who has never yet faced the Australian electors in his own right as the leader of a national party with his own national policy, who flaunts arrogance as a substitute for judgment, and who is already identified by all Australians as a master of impetuosity.
– What happened in Higgins?
– That was a by-election. He has never presented a national policy, and the honourable member knows it.
– He was Prime Minister and he won handsomely.
– By proxy. After his performance in the torture debate of last week, his chances of repeating success in a further party leadership ballot would be dim indeed. Obviously good Sir Robert and Premier Bolte were only too correct in opposing his gallop to leadership. Ranged behind our dashing tyro in the Senate chamber were his ministerial cohorts, with a bigger tail then the Australian cricket XI. Striding behind him into the GovernorGeneral’s presence was the Deputy Prime
Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), Australia’s kingmaker, the Warwick of Canberra and the real ruler of Australia today. His philosophy, tried, tested and confirmed, is that it is better to be the man who makes the king than the king himself. Here was a man capable not only of vetoing the candidature of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for Prime Ministership, but even of lobbying intensively to deprive him of his deputy party leadership.
Our new Prime Minister is in the weakest position of any incumbent in this office. He has to face the consequences of being the choice of only a small minority of his Ministers in the battle for leadership last January. A bloc of Senate cronies, and the frantic support of panicking oncers in the House of Representatives, together with the support of a handful of older kindred spirits among the Government backbenchers, constitute his grand army. With the support of the least experienced and the least influential members of his Party he has now to face the unremitting hostility of those whom he had overridden. He merited the rebuke implicit in the words of the former Minister for Air, the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who, in his obituary tribute to the late Prime Minister, said in referring to Harold Holt:
He became Prime Minister by the unanimous choice of his Party and said ‘I walked over nobody to get here’.
The comment of Sir Robert Menzies on the degrading manoeuvres of the Prime Minister’s succession were scathing and justified. Hence our new Prime Minister’s determined manoeuvres to create a super Gestapo in his own Department, with its tentacles reaching into every Ministry and particularly directed at those least favourable to his leadership.
The programme of legislation in the Governor-General’s Speech is the most abjectly pathetic ever presented to a parliamentary session. The Prime Minister seeks to dive for cover into another parliamentary recess while he concentrates on consolidating a Party stranglehold through his new super bureaucracy. Let us examine in detail his Ministry of all the talents. Prime Ministers may come and Prime Ministers may go, but the Deputy Prime Minister knows what he wants and achieves it without difficulty. The New Ministry is a further gain for him and his Party. The Country Party empire grows, and its domination of the Government is complete. The portfolios of Trade and Industry, Primary Industry and Shipping and Transport - the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), who is now at the table, would be interested in this because he has been rapidly and unceremoniously moved from his former portfolio - are all of major economic and political importance. Today the whole of the Australian economy is the plaything of the Country Party. Its tentacles, by loaded Tariff Board terms of reference, extend into the Department of Customs and Excise. By permanent control of the Ministry of the Interior, problems of electoral redistribution and political survival, with special reference to Country Party needs, are fully under control.
The egregious Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) survives to blunder on for future months. The humiliation of the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is now the Minister for Air, is complete. He has been literally kicked into the atmosphere as Minister for Air - a minor posting to complete his defeat in a notorious feud with the Deputy Prime Minister. The battle between Trade and Treasury will continue with unabated fury. All this has been achieved by consummate political leverage from an agrarian pressure group which has never secured more than 9% of the total votes of the Australian electorate. Hag-ridden by the Country Party, the new Prime Minister has a delightful choice of feuds and animosities in his ministerial cockpit. Top billing goes to the four-way tag wrestle, Gorton and McMahon versus McEwen and Bury. Solo bouts continue between Bury and McMahon, McEwen and McMahon and Freeth and McEwen. To receive a junior Service Ministry is the kiss of political death in this Government. Ask the former holders of the portfolios of Navy and of Air.
The defence group of five departments is the largest and most complex of all Australian Government organisations. It is also the most destructive of political careers. At the top level of defence and administration are five Ministers, five permanent secretaries, four deputy secretaries and forty-nine first assistant or assistant secretaries. Most of these merely duplicate the roles of their counterparts in kindred departments. Is further justification required of defence integration as recommended by the Morshead report?
In the Gorton three ring circus are three political buckjumpers. The ex-Minister for Works, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), is now ‘the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee’, and placed as far from tariff discussion as possible. The new Minister for Works (Senator Wright) is fittingly rewarded for his perpetual dissidence in the Senate chamber, and that permanent thorn in the flesh of all his Party leaders is the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The ringmaster - or should I say the keeper of the political snake pit - is the arch repudiator of his impulsive utterances, whose most recent claim to fame is his ability to talk first and think later. Well might the new Prime Minister plead to his Government Party meeting last Wednesday for loyalty and unity. Let us consider the motley crew with which Australia faces its future destiny. These are the people whom the Australian electorate has chosen to guide this country at one of the most critical periods of its history.
– Tell us how Dunstan went in South Australia.
– Government supporters can hand it out but they cannot take it. Statistics taken from the 1967 edition of the World Bank atlas on per capita production show that Australia’s gross national product exceeds the aggregate of those of Indonesia, the Philippines Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Our Hi million people together produce more than the 244 million people of the whole of South East Asia. Australia can do a great deal more to develop credible, independent, military strength based on its own resources, backed up by a real Australian technology. The French economic commentator. ServanSchreiber, has truly said: . . electronic technology is something on which future industrial development is directly dependent. After the first industrial revolution in the 19th century, physical force was replaced by that of machines. Today we are taking part in a second industrial revolution, which allows the replacement, each year, of a growing number of the tasks of the human brain by the work of new machines.
This passage is of the utmost importance to Australia:
A country which buys from the foreigner the essentials of its electronic equipment will be in a position of inferiority similar to that of nations which, 100 years ago, were incapable of mastering the mechanisation of work. These nations placed themselves for a century outside of the brilliant civilisation which passed them by. If the present vulnerability of Europe in electronics becomes confirmed, Europe itself will risk, by this simple deed and in one generation, ceasing to be a region of advanced civilisation.
I suggest that ‘Australia’ could be substituted for ‘Europe’ in that quotation. At this stage we in Australia depend largely on United States defence technology. As a nation we skimp in our expenditure on education. We are confronted with Japanese industrial technology in a struggle for leadership of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean regions. We have the natural resources. We must multiply our manpower by horsepower and technology if our country is to survive and to achieve its destiny.
In the time remaining to me let me examine how Australia’s manifest wealth is shared internally among the privileged, the wage worker and the chronically deprived. In recent weeks there has been a most enlightening controversy between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Treasurer. The former stated correctly that the increase in the yield of Commonwealth personal income tax, boosted by a 5% rise in the tax rate in 1965-66, had been sufficient to cover practically the whole of the jump in defence expenditure. Resources have been transferred from consumption to meet the climb in defence expenditure. The proportion of gross national product available for personal consumption has dropped from 66% in 1957-58 to 59% in 1966-67. Personal income tax in Australia rose by S596m between 196.7-M ; nd 1966-67. In the same period defence expenditure rose by S570m.
Thanks to the graduated income tax scale, the typical married man with a wife and two children, who was paying 5% of his wages in taxation in 1957-53, is now paying more than 10%. Truly, wages are losing more than ever in the race with prices and taxation Delegates at the recent annual conference of the Federated Taxpayers Associations of Australia proved that, whereas 10 years ago a basic wage earner worked for 4i weeks each year to pay his income tax, now he works for more than 6 weeks to meet the same obligation. This is the story of indirect taxation today: The Austraiian consumer, the ordinary Australian man in the street, is paying more in excise duties alone than is being paid by all companies, both public and private, throughout this nation in company tax. These are the figures: In the last year for which statistics are available, $71 6m was paid in company lax. In the same year $325m was paid in excise on beer and spirits; $190m in excise on petrol, dieselene and other petroleum products; $200m in excise on cigarettes and tobacco; and $367m in sales tax.
The Federal Treasurer is the Artful Dodger of fiscal extortion in this country. A recent gallup poll correctly showed that for the first time in almost 10 years the majority of Australians felt that their living standard was falling rather than rising. The guns before butter’ speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, as he exhorted the wage earner to tighten his belt made no reference to Government incompetence or extravagance; nor was there any exhortation to the major profit earners in big business to curb their rapacity.
To rub salt into the wounds of the Australian wage earner, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission recently abandoned the 60 years old concept of a basic wage and substituted a total wage principle which has pleased neither party ut has created more problems than the Commission ever hoped to solve and reduced the prestige of the Commission to an all time low in the eyes of the Australian trade union movement. If the Government’ is to avoid industrial turmoil similar to that of the late 1940s it must firmly seize the opportunity to examine the functions and performance of the Commission. What is urgently needed is an entirely fresh approach to the problem. Until now Liberal Government thinking and effort have been directed at prohibiting strikes and punishing unions that violate bans. It is now clear that such a negative stand can only worsen matters. Australians can be led, but never driven.
The only commodity that is still universally under full price control in Australia today is human labour. The procedures for fixing its value and determining and enforcing fair working conditions are antiquated, obsolete, ineffective and discredited. The very name of arbitration is a complete and utter misnomer. Many of the matters put into issue for proof before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ought properly to have received prior and continuous consideration by economic researchers attached to the Commission. The provisions of the Chifley Government’s legislation for a bureau of economic research, which were never implemented and which were repealed by the Menzies Administration in 1956 before they were given a fair trial, could well be revived. Eternal delays, frustration, huge legal costs and deliberate delaying tactics will spell the death knell of arbitration in its present form and will lead to industrial chaos-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– When I entered this Parliament 15 months ago I hardly thought that I would hear from a member of the Australian Labor Party’s front bench a speech as negative in approach as the one that we have just heard from the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). For the first 20 minutes we listened to a tirade of abuse of Ministers. We listened to a lot of rot. We wasted our time. I wonder why he did not give us something constructive. He might have given us a rundown on the people on the Labor Party’s front bench.
Tonight I wish to speak for a few minutes about Indonesia. But before I do that let me say that there has been much criticism, particularly from the other side of the House, in relation to the drought in Australia. Anybody would think that the Government had brought the drought into being; that the Government had stopped the rain. Only today it was announced that the Commonwealth Government, through the Australian Wheat Board, would assist primary producers by providing wheat on terms and that the Victorian Government would provide a subsidy on wheat. Also today the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced that a further Sim would be spent on assistance to people in declared drought areas. I am very thankful that this action has been taken.
Let me pass from the prophets of doom to the aid that Australia is to give to overseas countries. To me, one of the most pleasing features of the Governor-General’s Speech is the mention of the doubling of our aid to Indonesia. Recently the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) returned from overseas with some first hand knowledge of conditions in some of the poorer countries. He has spoken about overseas economic aid. I should like to follow up what he said. I am concerned that he found that schemes carried out under United Nations agencies are expensive and uneconomic. If this is so it follows that Australian contributions to these funds are not being used as effectively as they should be. It seems that Australian contributions might well be diverted to a needy country which is close to our shores. Such a country, of course, is Indonesia.
It has been announced that Australia has promised to double its aid to Indonesia, but I think that we should try to ensure that such aid is put to good use. Millions of dollars have already flowed into that country and to what effect? Let us see what has occurred in Indonesia since the Second World War. Australia was sympathetic to Indonesia’s claims for independence, but subsequent events might well call into question the wisdom of abandoning Dutch rule so soon. Independence was conceded. What was to be next? Under a militant government came the claim for sovereignty over West New Guinea. This claim met with success. Confrontation with Malaysia was the next issue. The cost of these expansionist policies was crippling to the Indonesian economy. Fortunately for the people of Indonesia and South East Asia generally there was a radical change of government, and recently some effort has been made to correct the economic situation. But despite good intention these efforts have met with only limited success. I propose to quote from the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’ dated 15 February this year. The writer is speaking of mild demonstrations that occurred early in the year in Djakarta and Bandung. He states:
These demonstrations have much deeper roots than mere youthful vandalism and, basically, they are completely justified. The economic conditions for the common man have deteriorated to a level not previously experienced. It must be said that the Government has proved itself unable to provide basic commodities at reasonable prices, a much emphasised point since the overthrow of Sukarno. The Suharto Government certainly did not create the preconditions of such a mess. They were inherited from Sukarno. But it has failed to bring relief on the most sensitive of all issues - rice, a key problem economically as well as politically. There have been appeasing statements by the Government, meaningless proclamations of the parties, high sounding resolutions of Parliament - but that is all.
Since independence Indonesia has received aid from many countries of various political colourings. Today its debts are reported to stand at approximately $US3,000m, about one-third of which is owed to the Soviet Union for the purchase of modern arms during Indonesia’s disagreement with Holland on the West New Guinea issue. That figure of $US3,000m does not include the direct grants and gifts which Indonesia has received from countries such as Australia.
To Australia’s credit, we have maintained a consistent policy of economic assistance over the years - even through the difficult days of confrontation. But there are many problems facing Indonesia before it can become stable and prosperous. Unfortunately the enormous aid programme has not benefited Indonesia as a whole, but it has undoubtedly made a certain group of people rich beyond measure. Some of the people responsible for economic crimes have been arrested, but many of their counterparts are still at large today. There is no doubt that in the present new order there are people who were involved in corruption during the old order. Many people are not unaware that under General Suharto corruption is still prevalent and that people involved in corruption far outnumber the clean ones. Let me quote again from the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’. The report reads:
The Government has also failed to convince the public that the anti-corruption drive is ;.n full swing. The prevailing opinion is still that the sharks are spared and only small fry are caught in the nets.
This is a very great problem and one that is difficult to eradicate.
I do not want to be too critical of another country, but I do want to point out that if Australia is to give aid to Indonesia it is essential that we know where that aid is going. In Indonesia today wages are extremely low. Public servants and members of the armed forces generally get much lower salaries than are paid to employees of private firms, overseas companies or foreign embassies. Let me give some examples. An Indonesian Army colonel recently stated that for his services in the Army he received monthly 1,200 rupiahs, plus a rent free house, uniforms, a rice ration and the use of a motor car. When asked how long the money lasted the colonel said that it lasted for only 2 days. I wonder how a colonel in the Australian Army would get on if he received only enough pay to last 2 day’s pay a month. What would he do to make up the balance? We can only surmise what the Indonesian colonel has to do to feed himself and his family for the remaining 28 days of the month. And yet in Indonesia it is reported that members of the armed forces own a number of beautiful sedan cars, good homes and other good things. How do they manage to get them? Many public servants need at least ten times their salary in order to live. What do they do to cover the deficiencies? These people appear to be prisoners of the economic conditions. An Indonesian Government doctor is reported to be paid 1,500 rupiahs, a month. In addition he receives 60 litres of rice. The money is sufficient for only 3 days, but fortunately he and other doctors are allowed to practice privately in the evenings.
So much for the past. What of the future? The new Indonesian Government faces a lot of difficulties, but it seems to me, on good advice, that one of the steps that should be taken by the Indonesian Government is a reform of the wage structure so as to put enough purchasing power in the hands of the consumers. When this has been done severe punishment should be meted out to those guilty of corruption, without regard for rank, position or family relationship. There is no doubt that wage reforms and the accompanying monetary reforms cannot be sustained unless developmental work is undertaken at the same time. This is where Australia can help. There is no doubt also that the time has not arrived for the present Government of Indonesia to be too ambitious in its developmental projects. Friends of mine have lived in Indonesia and it seems to us that the Indonesian Government should concentrate its energies in the immediate future on the development of basic and light industries.
For this, Indonesia will need, and should be given, aid. This again is where Australia can help. Above all we must see that our aid does not leave any loopholes for corruption.
If in past years the aid was simply given in the form of money, which can go to the wrong coffers, and goods, which can be sold for the benefit of the rich, the Australian Government should stipulate that any money now given must be used only to purchase certain things necessary for specified developmental work. The Australian Government must insist also that Australian administrators and experts be used to supervise projects in order to see that the work is properly done. This will discourage any undesirable action, such as pilfering. At the same time Australia must help to train Indonesian technicians and administrators - a job which has already commenced.
It is no secret that Indonesia lacks skilled and qualified personnel, who are indispensable in modern society. Factories and plantations which were taken over by the Sukarno regime did not get proper maintenance as distinct from proper administration. The lesson of the buses given by the Australian Government to Indonesia a few years ago under the Colombo Plan, which were allowed to run without proper maintenance until they broke down, should make us acutely aware of the necessity of lending Australian technicians to Indonesia and of helping to train the Indonesians.
I hope that I have not been too critical of another country. I do not wish to be destructive in my comments, but if Australia is to increase her aid to our friends across the Timor Sea we must see that such assistance reaches a destination where it will be effective. So much money has gone already and appears to have been ploughed into the wrong hands that we must ever be watchful. Sound administration and a lot of planning are essential in order to see that this aid reaches the right quarters. We have increased our aid to $1 2.7m for the year. This is good, but when one learns that Canberra is to have a new hospital, which alone will cost $17m, one wonders whether we really are so generous after all. Most of the money that has been allocated to Indonesia will be set aside for credits within Australia for the purchase of food and other goods. This will be good for both countries. Only SI. 25m is earmarked for specific projects, which Australia itself will undertake, and $750,000 for schemes for bringing students here and sending experts to Indonesia. It seems a pity that only $2m is being spent on capital works and the training of the people, while % 10.7m has to be spent on more immediate needs, such as food, no matter bow necessary that may be.
I am sure that we could do a good deal more for Indonesia, particularly in the field of capital works, such as planning and building factories, roads, telephone exchanges, dams and power stations, and in training the people to maintain and to operate these facilities. This is important because in the past it seems that the Indonesian people have been inclined to let things go. Indonesia is a country rich in natural resources. Why could not Australia recruit a team of young Australians who would be willing to offer their services sacrificially for, say, a term of two years? Young graduates, technicians and tradesmen could work as a team under older dedicated people, on specific projects. These teams could be backed by the knowhow of the Department of National Development and the Department of Works and they could be put in to complete specified projects in co-operation with the Indonesians. Would this not appeal to the imagination of Australian youth? Voluntary private schemes of a smaller nature have caught the imagination of Australians. Many have gone to New Guinea and northern Australia in working parties. Why not a Government sponsored scheme for Indonesia?
Perhaps I could suggest a model aid programme. Imagine that the Government, after discussions with the Indonesian authorities and the necessary feasibility studies, were to decide to allocate a certain amount of money as aid in the building of meat canning factories. An outstanding executive from the industry in Australia would need to be chosen to supervise the work, and a team would have to be sent to plan and to build the factories. Cannery managers would be required, technicians to look after the machinery and foremen to supervise the work. After training, a group of young Australians could go along to work with the Indonesians in the factories.
The aim, of course, would be to integrate the Indonesians into the organisation as soon as possible. Eventually they would take over most of the jobs in the factories.
In conjunction with the overseas aid programme, I call for opportunities for young people to channel their enthusiasm and energy into fruitful work of goodwill. For want of better things to do, some young people are tearing about the suburbs and the country towns at weekends in old cars, many getting into trouble with the police, because we, the more conservative people in the community, have not provided them with something useful to do. Certainly, we have provided high wages, high-powered cars-
– They are swift hearses.
– That is true. I think they have too much spare time. Many do not know what to do with themselves in their spare time and they ride around in these swift hearses. Every weekend many teenagers are killed on the roads. Those young people in their late teens between the time when they leave school and when they marry, could be encouraged to do what I am suggesting. That is the time when they could give some period of their lives in sacrificial service for their country, perhaps as an alternative to service in the Army if they are conscientious objectors to the national service scheme. Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia all need a new pioneering spirit. Let these young people loose on a worthy project and they will not fail us. There would be nothing more fascinating nor more rewarding than building something for some of our needy neighbours.
I do not subscribe to the statement that our efforts are mean and amateurish. I think that we come second to France, as one member mentioned today, in our overseas aid programme. A great deal has been achieved. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to throw stones from a great distance at the work that the Government has been doing. Wherever there has been a need, the Government has tried to be of assistance. I could mention Papua and New Guinea, which is our own special responsibility, Colombo Plan Aid, South East Asia Treaty Organisation economic assistance, assistance in Africa, in the Indus Basin and in Laos. Mention might be made of the South Pacific Technical Assistance Programme, disaster relief and emergency food for India, as well as very generous contributions to the International Development Association, the United National Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, the World Food Programme, International Red Cross, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. On top of all these we should remember the special work carried on by Community Aid Abroad and the Freedom from Hunger organisation. These are private enterprise functions and it is good that the community at large has joined in these projects. Last year the Freedom from Hunger organisation organised another appeal, the major new project being to combat malnutrition in Indonesia. ‘Give aid for self-help’ was the slogan for the 1967 appeal. While cries for immediate help cannot go unanswered, the solution to the economic problems of these countries lies in massive development which will provide food, jobs and overseas balances for these countries. We must help win the battle against starvation and want.
I ask the Government, despite all the pressures for financial help from within Australia and despite its huge defence programme, to press on with its help for the underprivileged, the undernourished and the starving peoples of the world, with particular emphasis on Indonesia, our nearest neighbour. With its petroleum, coal, iron and nickel deposits, its rubber and spices and tropical products, it is a potentially rich country. It is just beginning to struggle out of great economic difficulties. Disregarding New Guinea, Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. I think specialised projects under strict control is the best form of assistance that we can give, and that young Australians who have become increasingly mobile on the world scene should be given the opportunity of taking part in this programme.
– In speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, delivered at the opening of this session of Parliament, I join with all other speakers in expressing my sympathy to Mrs Holt and her family in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the passing of the late Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold
Holt. 1 was in the United States when the tragedy occurred, and one of the things which struck me was the great publicity that it received in that country. Many people expressed their regret and sorrow at the passing of the late Prime Minister and the matter received great coverage in the Press, over television and in al) other forms of news distribution in the United States. I join with all the other honourable members in expressing my sympathy and condolences to the Holt family.
One of the disappointments in this debate has been the failure of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to come forward in this House and to give the Parliament an outline of what he proposes to do. I understand that he was listed to speak in this debate at 8 p.m. or as near as possible to that time. I believe that the sitting was suspended a quarter of an hour earlier than normal this evening to enable the Prime Minister to get the call at 8 o’clock. What has happened? Has he taken ill?
– He has been to the dentist.
– I accept the explanation but I am certain that if I were expected to make an important speech in the Parliament I would not go to the dentist but would be in a fit condition to tell the Parliament and the nation what my future policy would be. The Prime Minister should not have waited until the last night of this debate to speak. The debate was to have concluded at 6 p.m., but to enable the Prime Minister to speak there was an extension of the time allotted to the debate. The Prime Minister should have been in this chamber over a week ago to outline what his Government proposed to do so that every honourable member would have had the opportunity to comment on that policy.
The Prime Minister was elected after one of the most bitter fights and power struggles within the Liberal Party. It does not say much for honourable members opposite that not one of them was capable of being appointed to that high office. For the first time in the history of the Federal Parliament - since 1901 - it has been necessary to elect a senator as Prime Minister. According to the Press, radio and television, there was a mighty and bitter struggle in the meeting room and behind the scenes in the Liberal Party. It is evident from what has taken place that bitterness and division still exist in that Party.
One question that arises is: Did the Prime Minister withhold his comments in this place so as not to divulge to honourable members the reason why the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) stated that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was an unfit and unacceptable person to be Prime Minister of Australia? Is not the Treasurer the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party? When Sir Robert Menzies retired from the office of Prime Minister did not his Deputy Leader take over as Leader of the Liberal Party and automatically become Prime Minister of Australia? Why did not the Treasurer, who is Deputy Leader of the Liberal Parly, become Leader of that Party? I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to come out into the open and say why the Treasurer is unfit to be and unacceptable as Prime Minister. If he is unfit and unacceptable for that position is he not likewise unfit to be and unacceptable as Treasurer? What is the reason for the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement? Is there a personal vendetta between the two Macs? Is it a question of the honesty of the Treasurer? Is it a question of the way he runs his Department? Why do they not come out into the open and tell us the facts? Is this a reason why the Prime Minister has not taken the opportunity to speak in this debate? Did he not want to outline the reasons for the difference of opinion between these two senior Cabinet Ministers? Or did he not want to tell us the cause of the difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) on the state of the economy? These are not backbench members, nor are they a Minister and a backbench member disagreeing on a matter of policy. They are members of Cabinet, the inner circle, and they are disagreeing on the policy that is being pursued. Just what is the state of the economy?
I am disappointed, as are many honourable members, that the Prime Minister did not outline his policies more than a week ago. When he was elected as Leader of the Liberal Party he emphasised that he was to have a great national development programme, that he was to do something about health and that he was to provide justice for the pensioners. He had two defence policies in as many days. We all remember his saying that there would be no more Australian servicemen for Vietnam. But what has happened since he made that statement? Did the backroom boys get at him? Did they needle him and tell him he was off the beaten track and get him back on the road again? So we are to have another statement from him in a few days. What will he do about education? Surely a man who was Minister for Education and Science, as the Prime Minister was, now knows what he, as Leader of the Government, wants to do. The things he wants to do are no longer subject to the dictates and decisions of the Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister. Why has he not told us in the House what he proposes to do about education? All these things require an answer. We want a lead from the Government. We want to know what it will do on these matters. Will it only talk about them?
Much has been said in the last few days in this House about the plight of pensioners. Why has the Government not brought down a supplementary budget to increase pensions? Since pensions were last increased almost 2 years ago there has been an increase in the basic wage and there have been substantial increases both in margins and in the cost of living. But there has been no increase for pensioners, who are not living but barely existing on the pittance that is handed out to them. This Government should during this session bring down a supplementary budget to increase not only pensions but also repatriation benefits, about which plenty will be said next week. But it has not announced that it will do so. We used to hear a lot from the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) from his place in the back row of the government beaches, but his senior Liberal colleagues did not take long to tame him. He now meekly accepts the decisions of the Government. That is the end of him. It is sad indeed that this great revolutionary, this outspoken back bench member has, as the honourable member for Bendigo interjects, changed from the role of a lion to that of a Iamb - and he is a pretty tame old lamb at that.
I should like to deal with a number of other matters, the first of which is the proposed gerrymander by the Country Party.
In the proposed redistribution of electorates the Country Party hopes to create a situation similar to that in South Australia where the Labor Party though it polled 54% of the votes, could win only nineteen of the thirtynine seats. Does Labor in that State get into government after winning 54% of the votes? Of course it does not. The people sitting in the corner benches in this chamber will try to do again in the coming redistribution of electorates what they have done in South Australia. Because of the 20% differential that is allowed two country voters can be equal to three city voters. When we challenge this system we are told that the country voters produce the wealth of Australia. I shall quote facts and figures to give the lie to this statement and to show who the real producers are. I should like the figures to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Read them.
– I shall read them, of course. I would not miss the opportunity to let our friends hear them on the air. The figures show that in 1961-62 the net value of production for Australian primary industries was $2,431,736,000 or $229.3 per head of population. For the same year, the net value of production by secondary industries was $4,394,635,000, or $418 per head of population. This shows that the workers in secondary industry are the real producers. In 1965-66, the last year for which the complete figures are available, the net value of production for primary industries was $3,076,182,000 or $268.8 per head of population, whereas the net value of production for secondary industries was $6,275,355,000 or $548.3 per head of population. With the concurrence of the House I incorporate the table in Hansard:
Just what does the term primary industries cover? Primary industries are rural industries and they include agricultural activities, pastoral activities, dairying, poultry farming and bee farming. Non-rural industries include trapping, forestry, fishing and whaling, mining and quarrying. Bear in mind that the figures 1 have quoted do not include the explosion that is going to occur in the next few years so far as mining and quarrying are concerned. But surely mining and quarrying cannot be classed as primary industry. So far as I am concerned, when people talk of primary industry they really mean agricultural and pastoral activities, dairying, poultry farming, bee farming and trapping - and I will throw in fishing and whaling for good measure. In my opinion the real producers in Australia are those people engaged in secondary industries, not those engaged in primary industries. We of the Labor Party believe m the principle of one man, one vote, one value. Any system other than one based on that principle is not a democratic system. It becomes a gerrymander such as the Liberal-Country League has created in South Australia.
I want now to deal with a matter that is of importance to Australia. I refer to what is taking place in the shipbuilding industry today and to what this Government has allowed to happen. The firms engaged in it have built up most efficient undertakings. I had the opportunity just recently of inspecting many efficient overseas shipyards. Those engaged in the Australian shipbuilding industry today, particularly the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd subsidiary at Whyalla, Evans-Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd and the dockyard at Newcastle are, in my opinion, almost comparable with such organisations in Japan, the Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, and other countries. But because of the manner in which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), and his predecessors, on behalf of the Government, are arranging orders there has been introduced a most vicious system of cut-throat competition. If honourable members read the financial newspapers these days they will find that although Evans-Deakin has spent a considerable sum of money to build and improve one of the most efficient and best laid out dockyards - comparable with any in the world - it is losing money. They will see that likewise the State Dockyard at Newcastle is losing money because of cut-throat competition. Tendering for ships is being regulated In a manner to force these undertakings to cut one another’s throats instead of getting together and fixing a reasonable price. We do not know how the BHP yard is functioning for the simple reason that that organisation does not publish any financial statement.
The shipyards do have orders at the moment. The BHP shipyard at Whyalla has under construction a 54,000-ton bulk carrier, a 55,100-ton bulk carrier, a 22,000- ton tanker, two 10,000-ton tankers and a 54,750-ton bulk carrier. But this yard re- quires an additional order within the next to 12 months. At the moment the Government has not put any order on the market. This indicates that the shipbuilding yards generally will not receive sufficient orders to keep going. So far as the State Dockyard at Newcastle is concerned, we know that it obtained an order yesterday for a bulk container ship. At the moment that yard is constructing one tanker for British Petroleum, a vessel of 19,000 tons which is to be completed this year; a passenger cargo vessel of 3,250 tons and a bulk container ship. This yard wants another order, not next year but this year. Tenders should be called for now. I will show honourable members in a moment just how this could be done and how it should be done. The Evans-Deakin organisation is in a similar position. Its yard is building three vehicle deck cargo ships for the Australian National Line of approximately 4,000 tons deadweight each. It also has another small order. But, like the Newcastle dockyard and the Whyalla shipyard, it also needs new orders.
Some time ago a statement was made by a former Minister for Shipping and Transport claiming that it was going to be the Government’s policy that all tankers trading on the Australian coast were to be Australian built and Australian manned. Has the Government honoured this pledge? The position is that we have at the present time the BP ‘Endeavour’ which was built at the State Dockyard at Newcastle. The P. J. Adams’ was built some years ago at the yard of the Whyalla Shipbuilding and Engineering Works, which is a subsidiary of BHP. As there is insufficient work for this ship on the Australian coastal run it is used part time on the Australian coast and operates part time between Sumatra and Australian ports. The ‘Australian Progress”, of 13,857 tons, is a foreign owned ship. The ‘BP Explorer’, of 15,000 tons, is foreign owned. The ‘Caltex Manchester’, which will be leaving here in April which will be replaced by two smaller ships, is a foreign owned ship. The ‘Caltex Kurnell’, of 5,200 tons, is foreign owned. The ‘Caltex Port Kembla’, of the same tonnage, is foreign owned and will commence operations in April of this year. The ‘Caltex Port Sydney’, of 5,200 tons, which will commence operations in April of this year, is foreign owned. The ‘Esso Macquarie’, of 16,645 tons, is foreign owned. The ‘Hemiglypta’, of 18,153 tons, and the ‘Hemiplecta’, of 18,116 tons, are foreign owned ships. The ‘Millers McArthur’, of 18,500 tons, the ‘R. W. Miller’, of 18,400 tons, and the ‘W. G. Walkley’, of 18,200 tons are foreign built ships. That is the position that exists today on the Australian coast as far as the tanker trade is concerned. The Government gave an assurance to the Australian shipbuilding industry that orders for tankers would be placed with it. All the tankers operating full time on the coast are foreign owned or foreign built. Not one order has been placed locally for the construction of a tanker. I ask what the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) is doing about the position. The oil companies were given permission to bring tankers on to the coastal run. Do all the oil companies intend to place an order with an Australian firm? They should place orders in such a manner that the yards would not have to indulge in cut throat tactics or cut throat competition whereby they lose money. The oil companies will undermine the confidence of the Australian shipbuilding industry and will ultimately destroy it if they carry on as at present.
I turn now to other recent events. An announcement was made that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd had chartered a 68,000- ton bulk carrier on a long term arrangement. The carrier was built not in Australia but in the United Kingdom. Since 1964 BHP has had on the Australian coastal run the ‘Iron Clipper’, of 35,000 tons, and since 1965 the ‘Iron Cavalier’, of 35,000 tons. I ask the Minister: Why has not an order been placed with an Australian shipyard for the construction of two ships of similar tonnage to meet the requirements of the company? I have referred to a number of tankers and the three bulk carriers. Why has not the Minister done something about the situation? I consider that the Government, by its actions is, leading the shipbuilding industry up the garden path.
On 2nd February of this year the Australian Shipbuilding Board approached the Australian ship building yards and asked them whether they were interested in building a container ship. On that date, tenders were invited, but sufficient detail was not available to Australian shipyards at that time. I emphasise that point. What the Board did in the next four weeks was to feed to the yards, at different times, a certain amount of information as to what the design of the ship would be. The Board gave the yards this information and then, without warning, announced in the Press on 29th February that an order for this ship had been placed with a shipyard in Japan. Is this a fair go for the Australian shipbuilding industry? The Minister gave a Press release. I have to refer to Press statements because the Minister does not see fit to make a statement in the House and give us the facts. We have to refer to Press statements to obtain them. An article that appeared in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ on 27th February 1968 stated, amongst other things, that the price given by the Kawasaki Dockyard was fully competitive. How do we know it was competitive? Not one of the three dockyards in Australia had sufficient information to complete a design, prepare a tender and submit it to the Australian Shipbuilding Board, so how do we know that the Japanese price was competitive? I leave that to honourable members to judge. As far as I am concerned, the Australian shipbuilding industry was not given a fair opportunity to submit a tender for this particular order.
I call on the Government to provide orders for these shipbuilding yards that have carried out a modernisation programme and brought their yards up to a standard comparable with that of any shipyard in the world. I feel that the Government should engage in a long term shipbuilding programme to give confidence to the industry and, if need be, extend the activities of Australian shipyards. I realise that Australian shipyards are not building ships as quickly as they can be built in places such as Japan, where there is a surplus of labour compared to the shortage of labour in Australia. This is where the trade unions have a responsibility to ensure that the Australian shipbuilding industry has an adequate supply of skilled labour. The trade unions can provide labour for the industry and they should provide it.
Another problem which can and must be eliminated from the shipbuilding industry is the demarcation dispute. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) and I know about this problem, as we both worked in the industry for many years. We know what the real position on demarcation is. Demarcation is a problem which the unions themselves must tackle. I believe that the shipbuilders and the shipbuilding industry must be tolerant with the unions, but at the same time the unions have to solve the problem of demarcation disputes. As the employment and the livelihood of their members is involved the unions have to play their role in eliminating the unnecessary and wasteful demarcation disputes that occur. Demarcation is only a matter of taking labour from the members of one union and giving it to the members of another union. It is the responsibility of the unions to tackle this problem of demarcation and eliminate this one facet of waste, this antagonism, this competition over employment that occurs in cases where the unions are worrying whether it should be an engineer, a boilermaker or a shipwright who should do a certain job. The whole problem centres on the fact that the unions want to retain as much work as they can for their own members, and when they see a job tapering off, reaching a stage where there is only work for another trade, they start looking around and getting the blue book out to see how much work they can claim in order to keep their own members employed. If there were continuity of work and continuity of employment this would assist in overcoming the problem of demarcation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Fox)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to join with other honourable members in expressing my deep regret at the loss of the late Harold Holt and to express to Mrs Holt and her family once again the condolences of the constituents that I represent in this House. His memory will be held particularly dear by those of us who came into this Parliament under his leadership in November 1966. To several of us. the most lasting impression will be the physical courage he displayed under very trying conditions, the like of which 1 hope will never be the experience of a political leader in Australia again. It occurs to me that it would be most appropriate for the Commonwealth Government to consider a memorial to the late Prime Minister that would reflect his great love of the sea. I humbly suggest that this Government may care to make the newly-developed motorised surf boat rescue organisation, within the surf lifesaving movement, an appropriate memorial which would serve the Australian community as actively as the late Prime Minister did for the whole of his adult life. I would also like to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his election to this House and to refute some of the allegations that were made by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones).
– He should be here.
– Where is the previous speaker indeed? it did not go unnoticed that when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was speaking during the AddressinReply debate he had only twenty-three of his colleagues behind him. They did not include the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) who saw fit to leave the chamber 10 minutes after the Leader of the Opposition began his speech. Let not the Opposition criticise this side of the House for the attendance of its executive or backbenchers.
In congratulating the Prime Minister, I also bring the congratulations of the people of Hughes who look forward to greeting him in person when he attends the national surf championships to be held at North Cronulla during Easter. It is my understanding that this will be the first occasion on which an Australian Prime Minister has attended a national surf championship. Not only will this visit be welcomed by the people, it will also be taken by the surf lifesaving movement throughout Australia as a sincere tribute by the Prime Minister acknowledging the sacrifices and dedication of the tens of thousands of young men who regularly devote their leisure time to the well being and safety of the millions of Australians who take their relaxation on the surf beaches as a matter of course. It is indeed regrettable that the general public does not fully understand the debt it owes to these lifesavers who regularly endanger their own lives so that others may enjoy themselves.
The announcement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Department of Territories will be reconstitated will he- very well received by all residents of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It will indicate once again the sincerity of this Government in tackling the herculean tasks which must be undertaken if ever the problems of the Territory and its residents, both indigenous and expatriate, are to come close to solution. It will not have gone unnoticed in the remotest areas of the Territory that the Government is now firmly committed to the policy of developing Papua and New Guinea into a self-governing country when, and only when, the majority of the indigenous population regards the time as opportune. Far too much uncertainty has existed in the Territory in this regard and it is heartening to have heard the Government’s policy stated so clearly.
The fact that no date has been set for this important event is of little consequence. Whether it be 5 years or 30 years, the important factor lies in the careful preparation of the Territory economically, politically and socially to meet its international responsibilities without fear of domination from any source, including Australia, if that is the wish of the Territorians at the time. Self-determination must be taken to mean just that.
One of the generally unrecognised factors in the dramatic - and it has been dramatic - development of the Territory in the past 20 years is the genuinely dedicated service which has been given to the Territory by the mainly Australian civil servants. I listened with some interest to the views of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) when he postulated the theory that the whole civil service of the Territory should become attached to the Australian Public Service. He may well have come close to the solution of the dilemma which faces the civil servants in the Territory.
Perhaps that would overcome the problems associated with the golden handshake. Perhaps that would give the expatriates confidence in the future because the future certainly confuses them at the present time.
However, I believe such a blanket suggestion would not overcome the position of those Europeans who regard the Territory as their permanent home. It would not solve the problem of the indigenous worker who must assume leadership only when he can demonstrate personal leadership qualities which will not be encouraged if he belongs to a two level public service, restricted on racial grounds. I do not pretend to have the answer to the unrest which exists among the civil servants there and which will not be resolved one bit by a number of indigenous officers assuming higher seniority as, unquestionably, they must. 1 would certainly commend to the Minister the urgent need for an independent inquiry into the presently confused state of the employment conditions of civil servants in the Territory.
I believe the position of the specialised and professional worker may be more easily solved. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation could well create an external territories division which could encourage mobility of specialised workers who in facing, for example, the problems of tropical agricultural diseases, need the stimulation of experience beyond the Territory if they are fully to contribute their skills to the welfare of the Territory over the longest possible period. Again I would suggest the need is urgent to see that an independent inquiry is made in this field as well.
The great problems facing the Territory do not lie only in the degree of confidence among many dedicated civil servants regarding their own uncertain future. We have heard much said about the need for education, the lack of tertiary students, the need for the teaching of English and the alleged failure of this Government to face the reality of educating the population quickly enough to permit an adequately early appreciation of the advantage of home rule. These are vital factors which will confront Australian governments for a long time, just as they confront Australian domestic policies. Already we see labour shortages in some areas of activity while paradoxically children who have been educated to the fourth form level are returning to their villages due to the shortage of appropriate jobs in which they could take advantage of their education.
The problem facing these people lies not in the lack of education or in the wrong type of education but in the shortage of job opportunities which will only be aggravated further as time goes by. Somehow, then, we must attract investment into the Territory. Australia has made and must continue to make large grants. It is essential that we share in the industrial investment that is presently searching the Asian area for a place to settle. Japanese, Hong Kong and Malaysian capital must be attracted to the establishment of labour intensive industries. Why should New Guinea be bypassed by those international investors who seek a place to manufacture their goods for supply to Asian markets? Samarai, Lae and Madang offer opportunities equal to those of Rabaul, where Japanese boat builders have recently established themselves. We must see that these international investors are encouraged to come in and play their part in the economic development of Papua and New Guinea. We must see that the incentives offered by the Government of Singapore, for example, are at least equalled.
I have not been able to find one trade mission that has left Australian shores which has promoted actively the advantages that can accrue to investors in New Guinea. It is difficult to see why the Territory should not share in the fine achievements of the Department of Trade and Industry in encouraging investments in Australia and this part of the world. Of course, the surest way to capital accumulation in Papua and New Guinea is by ensuring that the savings of the expatriates are invested in the Territory and not as a matter of course invested in Australian real estate or other securities. To achieve this, the problem of expatriate civil servants will have to be resolved and this suggests another reason why the inquiry that I have already advocated should take place.
I was interested to hear my colleague, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) describe his interview with the Liberian delegate to the United Nations Trusteeship Council in which the excellence of Australian guidance in promoting political wareness was praised. From my own observations earlier this year, I would endorse his remarks completely. Undoubtedly, the future political development of the Territory lies in the success of the local government councils. What has been achieved here? In 1951, there were 5 such councils with 89 councillors who were concerned with the affairs of a population of some 17,900 people. By 1961, this figure had grown to 43 councils and 1,223 councillors who were concerned with a population in excess of a quarter of a million. Now, the figures show some 140 councils, and more than 3,000 councillors responsible for well over half the population of the Territories. What, then, is the significance of this? How important are these councils? What functions do they perform that would indicate political progress? First of all, let me say that I am more concerned with the success of these local councils than I am with the success of the House of Assembly. Important though this latter body is, unless the principles and philosophies which surround the local councils can be transferred to the House of Assembly it will never assume the role that it will one day properly have as the parliament of an independent country which will be still, I hope, favourably disposed towards Australia.
It was my good fortune to sit in on two council meetings in different parts of the Territory when I was there in January. In both councils the estimates for the year were being discussed. In one of them, the Gazelle Peninsula Council, the members had reached a degree of discussion and contemplation which would have done many Sydney councils proud. The locally trained indigenous council officers were alert to nuances of statement while the councillors were prepared to discuss not only the difficulties and policies relating to their own wards, but those of other areas as well. In Mumeng, near Bulolo, the council was less formal, but again concern was being expressed about a wide range of subjects and the debate would have done credit to many Australian councils. The criticism is often levelled that many of the indigenous councillors remain silent too long. I would welcome the opportunity to illustrate to persons who offer that criticism the lack of contributions of some Australian councillors.
The fact remains that local government councils are working and have done so for quite a long period. We are now entering a new period of multi-racial local councils and this represents a further stage of progress. Time would not allow me to describe in any detail the matters I heard discussed but they ranged from responsibilities regarding schools, the renting and hiring of buses and trucks to the provisions of essential services to particular villages.
The point to be taken lies in the fact that these village people, amongst whom most adults have had no formal education and have been brought up in the tradition and experience of looking after only their own very local affairs, have been encouraged by this Government to accept responsibilities beyond their own bailiwick, and on matters which would never have concerned them 20 years ago. A tea planter with one of the largest properties told me that after travelling through the African continent recently where, in some cases, independence may have been granted somewhat prematurely and without due preparation, he found that one of the real joy.s of returning to New Guinea was the friendliness displayed by the indigenous New Guineans to the expatriates. Let us hope that no matter which Australian Government controls the destiny of New Guinea for the rest of this century, this relaxed, friendly and hopeful relationship will remain.
Although the results of the elections in the Territory are not yet complete, I hope that honourable members will not jump to wrong conclusions about the success of the Pangu Pati. I was in the Territory during the campaign and it was an unexpectedly familiar sight to see posters extolling the electorate to vote. Of course, it was not possible to determine which issues were being debated, but I was impressed by the width and depth of feeling among educated indigenous New Guineans and Papuans against too quick a political development, either for home rule or self government. Above all, there was the continuing wish that Australia would maintain its close aS” 0.ciation with the Territory for all lime. I was left with the distinct impression that there was in the House of Assembly a keener regard for the personality of the candidates than for their policies. I hope that honourable members will agree that
Australia has achieved much since World War II by its policies of encouraging a political development which will hasten slowly but very surely, and which, to date, has been successful.
Economically there has been progress also, although here again not enough publicity has been given to the concrete advancement towards an eventual integrated economy. In the 10 year period from 1956 to 1966 the quantity of electric energy generated was more than doubled. The value of factory production increased from $4,076,000 to $17,201,000 in the same period, while the number of factories increased from 123 to 397, employing about 9,400 people of all races. In 1966 cargoes handled on the wharves totalled about 879,198 tons or about 2i times more than the total 10 years earlier. In 1965 there were over 8,000 miles of road, while in 1950 the total mileage was less than 2,700. In the last year for which figures are to hand exports from the Territory totalled about $49.8m. Of that sum timber products accounted for $3 .7m, yet in 1949 the value of timber products exported was only $46,414. So the story goes on. It is one of the surprising achievements which gets not nearly enough publicity or acknowledgement. I could go on in this vein, but I suggest that it would be more beneficial if more honourable members were to follow the story themselves from the wide range £f statistics and publications available,etter still, honourable members should visit New Guinea and see for themselves the progress that is taking place. Yet so much remains to be done.
Australia is still New Guinea’s major customer. We took some 46% of its exports amounting to $23m in 1966. However, with Australia alone, there is a trade deficit of $38.6m in this year. In toto, New Guinea puffers a trade deficit of large proportion and, in 1966, this figure was $59.2m. So, Mr Speaker, it can be seen that although much has been achieved much remains to £e achieved economically. I repeat my urgent plea for the Australian Government actively to court the investment capital which is looking for a place to settle in the Asian and South Pacific areas.
So far I have mentioned the economic and political progress in the Territory. But what of the social pressures? What of the housing problems that are saturating the outskirts of the urban areas of Port Moresby and Lae? Integration, per se, does not seem to be a major problem. I have been with indigenous officers who were accepted as social equals. But to stress this point would be to give it an implication which the naturalness of the association does not suggest. The social problems would seem to lie not so much in the different wage levels and standards, shocking though these are, as in the inability on the part of the Administration in the Territory to understand the social motivations of the indigenous Papuans and New Guineans who are flowing to the main urban areas to follow those members of their families who are making progress. Another indigenous officer, who would demand anonymity, claims to have been kept poor by members of his family who came to live with him in his Government supplied home. Social protocol and personal attitudes do not allow him to refuse hospitality to any of his family, no matter what the conditions. His senior expatriate officers believed that he need only send his relations away to overcome the problem.
This problem is, I realise, Mr Speaker, not unique to the Territory. But it will never be solved if there are not more anthropological studies carried out throughout the many tribes and clans of this country. I was pleased to come across several anthropological teams while I was there. But I am led to believe that the much publicised University of Papua and New Guinea has not established a chair in this vital local subject. Why in heaven’s name has this not been done? The Administration should have a fresh look at this need and actively canvass the anthropologists of the world to devote their studies to the enlightenment of the Australian Government on the rightful position of social policies within the traditions and superstitions of the varied clans of this fascinating area.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I seek to make a short comment on the role of the Administrator. Being responsible to a Minister of the Crown, the Administrator himself represents the embodiment of the Crown. In fact, he is advocate and judge of all matters in the Territory. Here I would agree with the honourable member for
Fremantle when he suggested that the role of the Administrator in this modern age must be reassessed and reconstituted. In conclusion, I pay a tribute to the success of the policies of the present Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). Now that he has had the burden of his responsibilities proportionately reduced, I am sure that he will find more time to be in the Territory on as many occasions as possible. I know that were he able to do this, it would do much not only to encourage the people of the Territory in their difficult endeavours but also would go a long way towards providing the confidence which is basic to the successful development of Papua and New Guinea. Mr Speaker, it is abundantly clear that as colonials we have been good colonists.
Debate (on motion by Mr Turnbull) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Barnes) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not intend to keep the House very long, but I felt that as the member representing the seat of Angas I should say a word or two on the matter of the Chowilla Dam. I think that possibly the House will have read into the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), in answer to a question recently, the fact that at least the proposal looks as though its implementation may be doubtful for some time yet. The delay might be for the purpose of assessing new facts or it might be for other reasons. I rise tonight to point out that, on the information available to me, I see no reason to suppose that the dam should not go ahead.
Honourable members will be aware of the fact that the technical committee of the River Murray Commission has produced new facts. They are not available to me at this point of time. Therefore, I am forced back on the facts as I know them. What are the problems that apply to the immediate building of the Chowilla Dam? Firstly, there is the cost factor. I do not know the cost of alternative schemes. I have heard rumours - though I have not seen figures to prove it - that there is a cheaper source of water upstream.
Until that is proved I maintain my opinion that the Chowilla Dam should go ahead for the benefit of South Australia, in particular. The second problem relates to salinity. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) referred to this matter tonight in relation to drier agricultural areas. The third problem concerns a matter which is important to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) - the flow past river towns such as Mildura and Wentworth. I should like, very briefly, to discuss these three aspects.
As regards the question of costs, 1 get back to the original agreement which was signed by the four Governments which are signatories to the Chowilla agreement and which was approved by the four Parliaments. I suppose, if we assume that the South Australian Government could take this matter to the courts, that it is possible - although not probable - that it could get a favourable decision. I imagine that if it did there would still be the problem of getting the four Governments that are signatories to this agreement to agree to find a greater amount of capital than originally was required. As honourable members know, the tender price has increased. I say to the House - and I mean it - that there is still a moral responsibility on the signatories who agreed to go ahead with the scheme situated at Chowilla, with the prime object of providing for the future development not only of the agricultural areas in my electorate, but also of the industrial and urban areas of Adelaide. There are certain cost contingencies attaching to the tender price which, I believe, have not been considered.
I do not believe at this point of time that sufficient investigation has been made into the economies of the scheme. I know that the economies that have been suggested in relation to the smaller Chowilla scheme have never been costed out and put against the total cost of the scheme. Quite apart from this, in this area today roads, railway lines, access bridges and many buildings have been constructed. The value of this work is $5m. I hope that when the Chowilla scheme is costed out on an acre feet basis, the cost of this work will be deducted from the total cost of the Chowilla scheme.
I shall deal briefly with the question of salinity. The latest agricultural work of which 1 have heard in the last 6 months leads me to suppose, as has been found in Israel, in the Ganges Valley in India and in America, that in well drained soils waters with a salinity level of 500 parts per million can be regarded as being extremely pure. What is the lesson of this? I would have thought it meant that a lot of the argument that once went on, that Chowilla should not be proceeded with, has been invalidated. In other words,, there is a much bigger margin in favour of building a dam at Chowilla, putting up with salinity levels we have thought were high. New agricultural developments and advances in element application have considerably tapered down the effect of saline on irrigation settlements. I put this forward in case it has not been considered. I do not know what has been considered at this point of time.
I move to the third point, which concerns the flow past Victorian towns, which will interest the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). The prophets of gloom have been saying for some time that if you build at Chowilla under the early conditions, the monthly allocation of water that flows past the towns of Mildura and Wentworth might provide for a situation that does not allow the high salinity to be diluted to a great enough extent due to lack of flow. I say that until we stop the wastage of River Murray water going straight out of the plug at the mouth of the Murray - and a lot of the South Australian quota of water does just this - we will not necessarily have enough water left to increase the flow past Mildura and Wentworth. At the moment 850 cusecs of water flows past this town. The requirement of the Victorian Government is for 900 cusecs. This is awfully close to the present position. The water has stopped flowing altogether at my end of the Murray. If we stop South Australian quotas of water from going out of the mouth of the Murray and allow South Australia to have its proper storage, then I believe the position past Mildura and past Wentworth and elsewhere will be considerably improved. 1 feel that people have the wrong end of this argument and are not aware that a national wastage of water will occur if the Chowilla project is not proceeded with. South Australia has had to win water rights on the Murray the hard way. A previous Premier of South Australia had to fight for these rights through the courts because this is South Australia’s only source of water to increase the State’s industrial and urban expansion. Therefore, water is a very, very vital matter for South Australia. I would say that possibly through wise leadership South Australia has led not only Australia but possibly the world in its ability to exploit all possible catchment areas in order to conserve water. The State of South Australia has had to do this, and it has done it.
Finally, I put it to the Government that if you find thrift, if you find hard work, if you find farsightedness, if you find that the South Australian Government has allocated more of its State resources to water conservation than other States have needed to, woe betide the government or anyone else that penalises this thrift. Do not take away or discourage the natural or traditional attitude of a people who have looked after their own water supplies to a greater extent than anyone else. Do not do this by stopping what I regard as a vital move, the building of the Chowilla Dam. I believe the Chowilla Dam will be built. The problem is, when. I will be here to try to insist that this dam will be built. According to new figures that come forward, which I have no access to, and future proof, I will be here to try to make sure that the dam is built at Chowilla as soon as possible.
– As the honourable member referred to me on two or three occasions, I would like to reply briefly, not against what he said but to put the point of view as I see it. First, the honourable member referred to a question he asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). I happen to have the Hansard report of the answer given by the Minister. At the end of his answer the Minister said:
All I can say at present is that from studies so far undertaken it appears that there are more suitable and cheaper ways of obtaining water up river than by the construction of the Chowilla Dam.
We all know that the Minister for National Development did not make this assessment on his own but has been conferring with experts on this subject. He would not come into this chamber and say this unless he had a sound reason for doing so. Consequently, I believe that we must wait and see what further information the Minister can supply. It is well known that the Commonwealth Government has appointed consultants and engineers who have much information on and experience of salinity in other countries to make a complete study of the problem of salinity in the Murray River, its tributaries and other large rivers. We will have to wait to hear what they say. That is quite definite. Some people of South Australia try to blame Victoria for the condition of the water in the Murray.
– I was not doing that.
– I am not suggesting that the honourable member said that; 1 said that some people in South Australia blame Victoria. Some South Australians have tried to blame people at Mildura, an area through which the river flows, for not using appropriate measures to stop the salinity of the water. It is well known that the Federal Government has made available $3.6m to combat this salinity. It is known also that river gaugings taken recently have shown a much improved condition of the water. I do not suggest that its condition has improved because the grant was made; there has not been time for that to take effect. It is only natural that the salinity will be at its worst when there is a very slow flow of the river. In a drought year like this it must be expected. On the other hand, when there is a flood it washes the river out. Just now, not much water is coming down the river and South Australians who have come to Canberra to make representations to the Minister on behalf of the citrus industry have complained that they cannot spray their citrus trees because the spraying is causing the leaves to drop. The situation is so bad that the Federal Government, which finances the soldier settlements in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland finance their own schemes - has provided money to introduce what are known as ‘low thrust sprays’ because the other sprays which sprayed water over the trees were playing havoc with the leaves and would have played havoc with the trees generally if spraying of that kind had been continued. The low thrust spray is designed to keep the salt off the trees. I appreciate that what was said by the honourable member for Angas on this subject was said because the Chowilla Dam project is within his electorate.
– Has not the honourable member a drought in his electorate also?
– I know there is but I am speaking about the Chowilla Dam which is in the honourable member’s electorate. I am not finding fault with the honourable member for Angas. Now that the Minister has made this statement, I think that we must wait for a full investigation. The honourable member for Angas knows that from the time that it was first mooted that the Chowilla Dam would be built, certain people in Mildura and in New South Wales have been pointing out in articles in the Sunraysia Daily’ newspaper and by other means that the scheme should not be proceeded with as it would only cause greater salinity in the area. Furthermore, the honourable member for Angas has said that the contract price has gone up. Of course it has gone up dramatically. If my memory serves me correctly, the Federal Government undertook to provide the State of New South Wales with the amount for which it would be indebted because of the scheme. It agreed to let New South Wales have a loan of that amount over a long term. So the question that has to be considered is: For how much is the Federal Government committed? It is committed for its own share and for the New South Wales share. Generaly speaking, the financial position will be very serious.
Finally let me say that I have made various statements on this matter tonight. I heard the honourable member forAngas speak and appreciated what he said. But I say that we have to wait and seewhat happens as a result of the investigations that are being made by consultants, engineers and the Federal Government on the question of salinity. 1 hope that the Minister for National Development will be able to give us further news of what is to take place and what the investigations have revealed as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680321_reps_26_hor58/>.