26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr UREN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonweallh praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Beaton.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That the Minister for the Army lacks the confidence of the House because of the maladministration and misinformation for which he is responsible.
– I wish to advise the House that I will be leaving this afternoon on a visit to South East Asia. In the course of this journeyI will visit South Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. I shall return to Australia on 17th June, and during my absence the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr McEwen, will act as Prime Minister. The Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall, also leaves Australia today to attend the five-power talks in Kuala Lumpur. He will return to Australia on1 6th June. The PostmasterGeneral, Mr Hulme, will act as Minister for Defence during Mr Fairhall’s absence. The Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, leaves Australia on Saturday to attend the five-power talks and to visit other countries in the South East Asian area. He expects to return on 21st June. The Minister for Air, Mr Freeth, will act as Minister for External Affairs. The Minister for External Territories, Mr Barnes, is at present in Papua and New Guinea, where he attended the opening of the House of
Assembly. The Minister for the Navy. Mr Kelly, will deal with external territories matters in the House this week.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry in the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry. As the late Prime Minister promised in November, and as the Deputy Prime Minister gave an assurance, that all primary industries would be fully compensated lor losses due to devaluation, when willthe dried fruits growers receive payments? Would this compensation have been paid to the industry if the dried fruits industry had been under a Commonwealth stututory authority?
– All industries will not be compensated at the same time. The circumstances are different in each industry. A decision was taken earlier for particular reasons that applied to the canned fruits industry. A decision has been made and was announced recently about the export of fresh apples and fresh pears. I do not know exactly when the dried fruits industry will be dealt with, but it may well be that the review of its disability will be made after the crop has been sold. This was part of the thinking at the time the policy decision was taken. I will find out and advise the honourable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. By way of preface I point out that a Tourist Commission was set up, if my memory serves me, about a year ago; yet as far as I am aware no public statement or report has been made about its activities. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether any thought has been given, or is intended to be given, at an early stage to a report regarding the Commission’s progress and plans so that people engaged in the industry can begin to make their own preparations.
– The Minister for Works is assisting me and representing me in tourist activities. When the honourable member for Higinbotham was assisting me in this field he attended to the creation of the Tourist Commission. He had many conferences with .the State authorities and with leading members of the tourist industry. The Minister for Works is at present engaged in the same kind of activity. I think it would be found that most of the people prominent and interested in the tourist industry are familiar with the present state of affairs, but I will see to it that the Minister for Works prepares a statement of the situation for publication and for circulation to those who are particularly interested.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and is supplementary to that asked of him yesterday. I ask this question because the answer we received yesterday did not seem to me to convey all that is needed for the record. Is the Treasurer correctly reported as having said at a social function in Sydney on Monday last:
My own feeling is that we have to be extremely careful to absorb the recent increase in margins or work value decisions to the maximum extent possible. I have the feeling that, with the basic wage increase of about 3% last year and the recent margins increases, I, as the Treasurer, might be starting to wonder what will happen with inflationary tendencies.
I should like to know whether he has noted that the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has taken the unprecedented step of dealing with the matter outside the Commission and has issued a public statement saying:
My colleagues and I decide cases brought before us on the submissions made to us in the courtroom and not otherwise.
Finally, will the Treasurer in the future try to avoid dealing with industrial submissions at social functions, and see that any future submissions of this character are made in the appropriate place - the courtroom?
– It is a strange fact that a party that claims to seek the truth and to get the facts of life will, the moment it thinks its own interests are involved, turn round and be critical of statements of fact made by members of the Government. What I said yesterday is an economic truism. Quite clearly I did make the statement that wages had been rising substantially - that was the import of my statement - and I asked manufacturers to absorb those increases in costs to the limit of their capacity. Do honourable members opposite see anything wrong in that statement? Of course, they do not. They are stricken dumb when I ask them whether they object to that passage. Strangely enough, the manufacturers applauded when the statement was made. I was not making a submission; under no circumstances would I have thought of making a submission, because I was not in the Commission. However, I went on to point out that, if there were an increase in wages or salaries and the percentage increase was greater than the percentage increase in productivity, there would be only one result. We all know that the inevitable result would be that prices and costs would rise, and that this must have the effect of working us out of the export trade and of making export industries less profitable.
Will any honourable member deny that I have a right - in fact, a duty - to point out that economic truism, which was well known to the honourable member for Blaxland, who asked this question? Indeed, he could easily have given exactly the same answer as I have given. I believe that every member of Parliament has a right and a duty to point out what the consequences of this particular action might be. I believe, also, that the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had every right to make the comment he made. But I do not believe that the decisions and findings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be given a sacrosanct appearance and that there must not be any statements of an economic kind affecting arbitration decisions or any criticisms whatsoever, even in this House, of these decisions or their likely impact upon the economy.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in the Canberra Press that Special Air Service Regiment troops were used, or were called to be used, in connection with a riot in the Fremantle gaol. Although this report is not confirmed by the report that I have seen in a Western Australian newspaper, is the Minister in a position to say what the position is in respect of the SAS Regiment?
– 1 am sorry to spoil a good story, but the quite dramatic story that appeared on the front page of the morning newspapers, suggesting that Special Air Service Regiment troops had been taken to the barracks, is quite untrue. The fact of the matter is that at about 9.30 p.m. eastern standard time yesterday, in the face of an impending riot in the Fremantle gaol, the Commissioner of Police in Western Australia, with the knowledge and approval of the Premier of that State, approached the Commanding Officer of Western Command and asked him to place some troops on alert in case they were needed. The Commanding Officer fully appreciated that in a case of this kind prior authority from Canberra was necessary before troops could be used. Signals passed between Western Australia and the office of my colleague the Minister for the Army; as a result we were put in the picture. So that this matter can be clearly understood, I think I should point out that military aid to a civil authority is provided for in section 5 1 of the Defence Act, which states:
Where the Governor of a State has proclaimed that domestic violence exists therein, the GovernorGeneral, upon the application of the Executive Government of the State, may, by proclamation, declare that domestic violence exists in that State, and may call out the Permanent Forces (other than Reserve Forces) and in the event of their numbers being insufficient may also call out such of the Reserve Forces and the Citizen Forces as may be necessary for the protection of that State, and the services of the Forces so called out may be utilised accordingly for the protection of that State against domestic violence:
In fact none of the dramatic things that have been alleged in the newspapers happened. The troops - fifty of them - were on the alert to be used in accordance with the procedures I have mentioned.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question concerning matters which two of his colleagues raised in the Parliament a couple of months ago. The honourable gentleman will remember that the Minister for Trade and Industry stated that there was clear evidence of a blatant and widespread conspiracy amongst exporters of motor vehicles from Japan and some of their affiliated Australian importers. He will remember also that in another place on the same day the Minister for Customs and Excise stated that his Department had come into possession of documents which stated that the exporters of motor vehicles from Japan had agreed, and indeed had collectively conspired, to give the customs investigators false information aimed at evading our laws, and further, that these documents were instructions to the Australian company concerned which were aimed at ensuring that similar false information was tendered in Australia. I ask the Attorney-General what steps his Department has taken to prosecute residents or citizens of Australia for their part in these crimes of conspiracy.
– The Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that responsibility in this matters rests with the Minister for Customs and Excise, lt is true that the Minister has sought the advice of my Department in relation to individual cases - a great many of them - and he has received advice as to whether action will lie in various instances. The Minister has received advice as to whether further evidence may be required in other instances to sustain a successful prosecution. What he does is a matter for himself.
– Is there any limitation of time within which proceedings would have to be initiated?
– I cannot give that information offhand, but if there is such a limitation we would be well within it, so far as 1 know the facts.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Has the rate of reinforcement and resupply of the Communist forces in South Vietnam shown any variation since the United States of America restricted the bombing of North Vietnam 2 months ago?
– If there has been any variation it has been to increase the rate of reinforcement. There certainly has not been any diminution of the rate of reinforcement following the cessation of bombing. Indeed, the information reaching us is that in the area now free from bombing there is considerable activity in assembling material in dumps and arranging convoys unmolested by any allied action.
– In asking the Minister for Defence a question I remind him of the debate in this House on 28th April 1966 on the matter of courts martial in Vietnam. The honourable gentleman will recall that, referring to the code of military law, he said that the Government had been working seriously for a considerable period to bring the code up to date. He said further:
The Government has been exercising its attention on this matter and it is making the most extraordinary efforts at this very moment to bring the military code right up to date.
If in April 1966 the Government was making extraordinary efforts to revise the code, why is it now necessary to have another review of the limits of disciplinary action which may be taken in the three Services? When will the military code be brought up to date?
– I simply reiterate what was said before. The Government has been concerned for some considerable time to review the whole body of defence legislation, including of course, the disciplinary code. The honourable gentleman will be aware that some of it is a little out of date. I imagine that this is what he proposes to discuss shortly when he moves a motion standing in his name on the notice paper. This matter has been exercising the minds of members of the Government. This is not an easy problem; it is tremendously involved. It has taken much time but I am happy to say that we are approaching the end of the study and the honourable member will see some action before too long.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of complaints received from time to time from members of the public concerning the unavailability from Commonwealth Sub-Treasury offices of legislative enactments and official reports, will the Minister be good enough to take appropriate steps to ensure that adequate stocks of all Commonwealth papers are available in all capital cities?
– We have been steadily attempting to ensure that adequate supplies of Commonwealth papers are available in the various capital cities. I am pleased to announce to the honourable gentleman that we have opened a bookshop at the Commonwealth centre in Sydney and will shortly open a bookshop in Melbourne, which will be permanently staffed and from which Commonwealth literature will be available for sale. I am not able to make a decision yet about Queensland, but 1 can assure the honourable gentleman that depending upon the success achieved by the two bookshops, we will give the matter of additional bookshops further consideration. Indeed, I can go further: I assure him that to the limit of the capacity of the Treasury, documents will be available in the capital cities; that we will make known to the public the places where they can be procured, and that we will try to keep up the supply to those places.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Industry agree that the accidental or deliberate introduction of exotic diseases like foot and mouth disease can cause tremendous damage to the livestock industry and, indeed, to the Australian economy? If so, while the Prime Minister is away will the Minister consult with the Treasurer with the objective of ending the bickering between the Commonwealth and the States about who shall pay for the operational costs of incinerators designed to destroy refuse from ships and other sources that may be carriers of foot and mouth bacteria? Will he try to end the impasse and get the incinerators constructed as quickly as possible?
– I think 1 should answer this question. As Minister for Health I have stated the position concerning this matter on a number of occasions in the House. I would not agree with the honourable gentleman’s statement about bickering, the suggestion being that some responsibility for it lay at the door of the Commonwealth. In fact, the Commonwealth Government some time ago generously offered to the States to pay the full capital cost of installing incinerators at approved ports around Australia. This offer was accepted promptly by the Governments of New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. Only two States - the honourable gentleman’s own State of
Queensland, and Victoria - have questioned the basis on which the offer has been made. The Commonwealth Government has made it perfectly clear that it regards this offer as the limit to which it will go. As I said when I was last asked a question on this matter, I understand that the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of Queensland both have announced that they propose to build these incinerators. They have not accepted our offer, but officers of both governments have been conferring with officers of my Department, I presume to ensure that if the States subsequently decide to accept the offer they will have followed the conditions the Commonwealth has laid down. In view of the statements by the governments of Victoria and Queensland that they are going to proceed expeditiously to build incinerators, I do not think it is necessary to take the sort of action which the honourable gentleman suggested that my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry should take.
– I remind the Minister for National Development of his statement to the House yesterday on the Chowilla Dam, in which he drew attention to the passage in the report tabled by him which stated that, operated as a River Murray Commission storage, Chowilla ‘would provide much greater overall benefits for equal expenditure than the construction of storages above Hume Reservoir’. In view of his statement that the River Murray Commission deferred the Chowilla project because of changed relationships between the cost of Crowilla and that of alternative storages, and because of the apparent increase in the severity of the salinity problem, I ask: Firstly, will the Minister assure the House that the Chowilla project has not been abandoned? Secondly, if the apparent increase in the salinity problem is shown to be unreal and if the tender price or detailed estimates of the cost of Dartmouth subsequently prove that the change in cost relationships has not been such that Dartmouth would have greater overall benefits for an equal expenditure than Chowilla, will the Minister assure the House that the Commonwealth will support the immediate construction of the Chowilla Dam?
– The statement in the papers that I tabled yesterday in the House, that Chowilla appeared to give a greater advantage than an up river storage, was originally made in a 1961 assessment, at a time when the cost of the Chowilla Dam was estimated at$28m. It has since risen to$68m or$70m. Hence the Government had to look at alternatives to ascertain the most economic site and the site most likely to be successful. I can assure the honourable member that at the present time the building of Chowilla is only deferred - it is by no means completely written off - pending the investigation of the two sites. The final decision will be made by the River Murray Commission, and it will be a technical one. The main points that will be taken into account at the time of the making of this decision will be the increased yield from the alternative dam site, the cost of this increased yield, the effect on salinity down river in the River Murray and perhaps one or two other minor matters. Once this decision has been made by the River Murray Commission the four governments then will have to decide what action should be taken. Obviously I cannot give any guarantee as to what the action of these governments will be.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Who decides, and how, which national servicemen are selected for service in Vietnam? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that Dr Hartwig, Queensland Liberal Party President, has reported to the Federal President on an allegation that a blind woman party member resigned after a threat that her son could be sent to Vietnam? If there is substance in the allegation, will he assure the House that such a threat has not authority from this Government but is purely a symptom of the dispute between the Queensland Liberal Party factions one of which supports while the other opposes the Country Party?
– On completion of their basic training, national servicemen are allocated to various facets of the Australian Army in accordance with the Army’s requirements. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the allegation to which the honourable member referred.
– ls the Postmaster.General aware that unscrupulous salesmen are seeking advertisements from contractors to the Post Office, and likely tenderers for contracts, implying that by advertising in a certain publication their chances of being awarded new and larger contracts will be enhanced? What steps can be taken to stop this pernicious practice?
– I have received reports from businessmen that this practice is being indulged in at the present time. I did receive similar reports 2 or 3 years ago. It would appear that certain people associated with activities within the Post Office, but certainly not associated with the tender or contract part of its operation, are endeavouring to impress upon those whom they contact for advertising subscriptions that their journal is circulated amongst the people who are responsible for letting contracts and that those people will be influenced by advertisements in the journal. I am not satisfied that the Department has legal grounds upon which it can take action against those concerned. In my view it is an unscrupulous practice. All I can do is warn business people who are seeking contracts from the Post Office to make contact with the proper authorities in the Post Office rather than be hoodwinked by the approaches from these bogus individuals.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. The honourable gentleman will be aware that official Australian charts and maps show a common boundary between Queensland and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, especially between longitude 141 degrees and longitude 144 degrees, ls he aware that the islands of Boigu and Saibai, which in places are only 2 miles off the Papuan shore, are officially in the electorate of Leichhardt? Will he confer with the Queensland Government with a view to finally proclaiming these waters Australian territorial waters?
– When independence is granted to Papua and New Guinea the question may have to be faced as to whether these two islands, which are 2 miles off the shore of Papua - I thought it was H miles - should in some way go to that newly independent nation. But leaving that problem aside, they are at present part of the territory of Queensland. Territorial waters extend in a 3-mile radius and include other islands between the tip of Cape York Peninsula and Papua. A problem which I have been considering for some considerable time is whether we can assume some control over the Torres Strait which would assist us to get a greater control of the Gulf of Carpentaria. When Sir Kenneth Bailey was in Australia early this year I took the opportunity to discuss this matter with him. He is a world authority on this field of law. I am currently having conferences on this matter and on the Great Barrier Reef with my Solicitor-General and advisers in my Department who are experienced in this field of law. I am not yet in a position to suggest that any proposition should be put to the Queensland Government, although I have also taken the opportunity of discussing the matter with Dr Peter Delamothe, my opposite number in Queensland. If and when we are able to suggest some solution I will approach the Prime Minister to see whether he will communicate with the Premier of Queensland. But 1 am not convinced at the moment that we are in a position simply to declare the whole area between the islands and the mainland of Queensland to be territorial waters.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Primary Industry a question. As the legislation which provides for stabilisation of the Australian dried fruits industry will cease to be operative after coverage of the crop recently harvested, making necessary the enactment of legislation in the Budget sessional period to cover future crops, I ask: Is the Acting Minister aware that dried fruit growers have to wait many months before receiving a reasonable advance on fruit delivered to packers and that this is not in the best interests of full production or of the standard of living of growers? Will he investigate the possibility of the enactment of legislation providing for the Reserve Bank to grant loans so that prompt payment may be made for dried vine fruits delivered to packing houses? A precedent for this is the recent legislation which grants to fruit canners the right to obtain loans so that they may make early payments to growers on fruit delivered to canneries.
-Order! The honourable member is giving information.
– I am aware that dried vine fruit growers have to wait a considerable time to receive their money from the packers. I am aware also that growers in other industries have the advantage of an Act of this Parliament under which loans may be obtained from the Reserve Bank. I understand that the dried vine fruit industry has formulated a stabilisation scheme and that this scheme will come into operation next year. I think the best thing T oan do is to make sure that the point the honourable member raises is taken into consideration when negotiations are in hand.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, by referring to his recent visit to the Gurindji tribe at Wattie Creek, near Wave Hill, in the Northern Territory. It has been reported that the Minister was favourably impressed by the Aboriginals there and that he intimated that he would recommend to the Government that the Gurindji tribe be given a lease of land to enable them to develop their own cattle station. Has the Minister found strong opposition to this proposal, which now threatens this plan? If not, when is this House likely to be informed that the Government has approved the proposal?
– I think this matter was dealt with yesterday by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. It is before the Cabinet and I have nothing further to add.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation a question. As it is reported that the north-south runway at Mascot aerodrome is to be further extended to 13,000 feet, I ask: Will all possible measures be taken to avoid further erosion of the shores of Botany Bay, such as the erosion that followed the original extension into the Bay? Secondly, will planning be started now so that, when the runway is completed, more planes will use it instead of flying low over high density housing areas in the electorates of Barton and St George and thereby causing damage to houses and health because of the intensely high noise level and accompanying disturbance?
– I am not too sure whether this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Works or of the Minister for Civil Aviation. As I understand the position, when the northsouth runway was extended previously a considerable amount of work was done in an effort to find out what would be the effect on the tides in Botany Bay. I know that a consultant was employed on this project and various models were made. Also, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission assisted by putting irradiated sands into the Bay and tracing the path followed by currents. All this was done in an effort to eliminate or reduce to the greatest possible extent the problem which the honourable member has mentioned. No decision has yet been announced on the extension of the north-south runway, but when it is announced I shall sec- that the comments of the honourable member are brought to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation. I believe that the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales has in hand the building of a large scale model which will give it a considerable amount of information on the likely wave action as a result of any extension to the north-south runway. I believe also that it is highly likely that the Department of Civil Aviation will prescribe take-offs and landings over the sea so as to minimise to the greatest possible extent the noise factor which, if it occurs over housing areas, can be very deleterious.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he ascertain what progress has been made in a review of the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory to bring its provisions into line with those of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act which was amended in November last year, leaving since then a considerable disparity of entitlement between those who are covered by the Act and those who must rely on the Ordinance for their insurance cover? Will the Minister also ensure that the review is such that it will seek to remove the anomaly now existing in the cover provided for people who reside in New South Wales at Queanbeyan but who work in the Australian Capital Territory and who, when injured in New South Wales on their way to work are not covered by the insurance that their employer in the Australian Capital Territory has?
– I am aware of the honourable member’s interest in this question. 1 do not know what stage the review has reached at this point of time. 1 shall ascertain the information that the honourable member requires and shall keep in mind the points that he has raised.
– ls the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to inform Parliament of the approximate date on which the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals relating to the current redistribution will be available?
– I know that this is a matter of interest to all honourable members. I am able to inform the House that the Chief Electoral Officer has informed me that the Commissioners in all States will have the maps of the proposed redistribution for display in post offices on 18th July. There will then be a waiting period of 30 days for the lodgment of objections by interested people and parties. The Chief Electoral Officer believes that the proposals will be available to me for presentation to the Parliament after the middle of September.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that civil employees of the United States Government employed at North-West Cape in Western Australia are not covered by workmen’s compensation and do not have common law rights? Has he been requested by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to ask the Commonwealth Government to accept responsibility for these workers? If so, when will the necessary legislation be introduced?
– This afternoon.
– Has the Leader of the House yet conferred with the Leader of the Opposition with a view to allowing a free vote to members of the Opposition on the Bill concerning the abolition of capital punishment under Federal law when it comes into this House? If so, has the Leader of the Opposition been able to make the necessary arrangements to enable his members to exercise freely their conscience on this fundamental social issue so as to enable this House to express a clear and unfettered view on this Bill, support of which would be consistent with the recently self-appointed role of Opposition members as champions of the rights of individual consciences?
– I wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition following an earlier question asked by the honourable gentleman. After that we met and, having met, the Leader of the Opposition told me that he had put the matter before caucus for consideration.
– 1 did not tell the Minister that and I did not do it.
– I do not want to have a disputation; that was the impression 1 came away with, even if the honourable gentleman did not intend to convey it. But the essence of the matter is that the Leader of the Opposition told me this afternoon that the Opposition is not agreeable to having a five vote on any Bill in relation to capital punishment.
– I address my question to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I refer the Minister to the answer which the Leader of the Opposition received last week from his colleague, the Minister for External Territories. His colleague affirmed that a week previously in Queensland he had pointed out that there was no race consciousness in Australia and that any difficulties that arose in the outback and in some of our country towns were not due to a racial or colour bar but to considerations of hygiene. 1 ask the Minister: Do other Australians who are deficient in hygiene encounter problems as great as those encountered by Aboriginals who are deficient in hygiene? Do Aboriginals of impeccable hygiene habits encounter any problems which are not encountered by other Australians? Doesthe Minister regard the view expressed by the Minister for External Territories as an adequate foundation upon which to build a policy for Aboriginal advancement?
– As the honourable member would know, it is not always easy to judge hygiene habits, even those of honourable members opposite, but I hope we will have no more stirring up of issues of this character which can only do harm to the Aboriginals concerned and to all other Australians. There is no doubt that in Australia and in other places there is still some race-consciousness. There is also no doubt that in Australia we want to reduce race-consciousness to the minimum possible. I believe we have in fact done better in this regard than most other countries. That is not to say we have done a perfect job. Let us not worry about these polemics, but instead let us concentrate on the real job of raising the living standards of the Aboriginal people. I do agree that the average living standards of Aboriginal people are lower in Australia than the average living standards of other Australians. If honourable members opposite want to link this with the opprobrious talk of hygienic habits and things of that character, they are welcome to do so, but I would not like to say more than that it is demonstrable that Aboriginals in Australia are not, by and large, as well off as other Australians, and I hope that other members of the House will join with the Government and myself in trying to remove this disparity as quickly as possible.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting, and that such motion take precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move: That the Minister for the Army lacks the confidence of the House because of the maladministration and misinformation for which he is responsible.
Last night in this House the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) exposed the aimlessness and apathy at the higher levels of governmental defence policy. I want to speak today about the serious flaws that have appeared in the lower rungs of she defence administration. In particular I want to emphasise the folly of the Government in blooding its new Ministers in the highly sensitive and important Service portfolios. This policy has proved to be a disastrous failure. In the past 2 years three junior Ministers holding Service portfolios have been unceremoniously bundled out of the Ministry. The first was the former Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who for noapparent reason was dropped and replaced by the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp). The honourable member for Higinbotham has since been replaced after the Voyager’ affair. The former Minister for Air, the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson). was also dropped by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) when he made token changes to the Ministry earlier this year.
Again in recent weeks the Parliament has seen the credibility of the Government and the administration of the so-called junior Service portfolios under serious challenge. The present Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), a very junior member who entered the House only in 1966, was suddenly elevated to a highly responsible portfolio. To be fair to the honourable gentleman, it should be noted that as a back bench member he showed more evidence of ability than did any of his counterparts who entered the House at the same time. However, in the highly responsible Army portfolio, the honourable gentleman has proved to be an unqualified disaster. He has been discredited by contradictory statements, grossly misled by officers of the Army and members of his Department and treated contemptuously by his own Cabinet. The whole sequence of sorry episodes in which the Minister for the Army has been involved raises grave doubts about the whole defence administration of this Government. In less than 2 years three junior Ministers have been sacked and another completely discredited by blunders in three extremely sensitive Service portfolios. It is incredible that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) can sit safely in Cabinet and disclaim any responsibility for any of these episodes.
Admittedly there must be an element of sink or swim in the performance of any new Minister, but surely there are less sensitive policy areas where junior Ministers can be introduced to administrative processes. Quite obviously an immense amount of luck is needed if a junior Minister appointed to a defence portfolio is to survive under the present system. It is equally obvious that responsibility for defence administration should rest at the top and not near the bottom of the Ministry. It is worth recalling that in 19S6 the Army portfolio was held by Sir Eric Harrison, who ranked No. 3 in the Ministry. The portfolio has dwindled in importance until now it ranks No. 23 in the Ministry. This is worth noting, because the Department of the Army is an immensely onerous responsibility, particularly at a lime when Australia is engaged in a major conflict. The Opposition completely opposes this war as being unjustified and unjustifiable, but we insist that while the commitment exists, the Army be administered with the maximum of competence.
We claim that the present Minister for the Army falls considerably short of the necessary standards of competence and veracity. In his 4 months as Minister he has built up a sorry record of incompetence and ineffectuality. He has repeatedly made fatuous off-the-cuff statements that have been disproved subsequently by the facts. He has revealed a guileless subservience to his military advisers and has shown no evidence whatsoever that he is capable of the rigorous administrative qualities needed to handle a Service portfolio. Quite clearly the Minister has failed totally to get the ascendancy of his Department and of the Army. The Opposition completely rejects military control of any civilian administration. On the evidence, the Army has succeeded in exerting undue influence on the Minister, and this has led him to make statements which have proved to be completely false and erroneous.
I shall examine briefly the honourable gentleman’s record in this Parliament. There have been three instances of grave mismanagement of Army matters by the honourable gentleman. The first was the infamous water torture case, which the Minister dismissed as completely without substantiation; he denied the allegations publicly and said that they were untrue and that there was no evidence to support them. He was then put in the humiliating position of having to admit in this House that the allegations had been investigated in South Vietnam and that disciplinary action had been taken against an interrogating officer. In a ministerial statement in this House on 14th March the Minister had to admit that the allegations concerning the torture of a Vietcong woman were substantially correct. He said that this information had not been made known to him by his military advisers when he said publicy that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support the allegations. He said, further: ‘Why this was so when some information was in the hands of my advisers is an internal matter which 1 shall resolve with the officers concerned’. The Minister said that he accepted the responsibility and that he had not for a moment attempted to avoid responsibility in any way.
On 3rd April in this House I asked the Minister what he had done to correct the situation and to ensure that there was a flow of accurate information from his advisers to him, and in turn from him to the Parliament and to the public. The Minister replied that he had taken action, that he was continuing to take action, and that be regarded such action as within his province and not a matter which he should parade before the House, lt is apparent that the Minister could not say what action he had taken because in fact none was taken against the officers who had given him false information. I understand that the only disciplinary action taken on that occasion was the token transfer of one public relations officer to the organisation of military activities, such as tatoos and displays. The Minister for the Army was powerless to take disciplinary action against officers who had misinformed him and had caused him, in turn, to mislead the public. This reveals the complete impotence of the Minister in his relations with the Army and his Department. His inability to discipline officers who had shamefully deceived him revealed his complete ineffectuality.
The second matter that has been raised in this House in respect of which the Minister’s conduct has been quite unsatisfactory is the Captain Rule case. This matter is at present sub judice and I can make no comment on the facts of the case. However, I would like to point out to the House the highly critical reaction of members of the Ministers own Party to his conduct in this matter. Honourable members will recall how the Minister was rebuked during question time by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) for making statements in this House that could prejudice Captain Rule’s case. The honourable member for La Trobe asked the Minister to be careful when making statements in future. Also. the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was critical of the Minister’s handling of this case. These are incredible criticisms of a Minister from members of his own Party. The Opposition will raise this matter again when the decision of Captain Rule’s court martial is known.
I come now to the third example of maladministration by the Minister. This -matter was brought before the House at question time on Tuesday of last week, when the Minister attempted to answer the Opposition’s questions on Army disciplinary procedures, in particular the treatment of Private Simon Townsend in the Holsworthy Military Corrective Establishment. The questions were asked after the Press had widely reported certain aspects of Private Townsend s treatment in the Holsworthy Military Corrective Establishment. In a statement made at Puckapunyal military camp on Monday, 27th May, the Minister for the Army admitted that Private Townsend had been awakened every half hour and that he had been placed on a bread and water diet. The Minister said that there was no intention of torturing Private Townsend and that his treatment was normal military practice. The honourable gentleman is reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of Tuesday, 28th May, as having said that the Army was not trying to crack Private Townsend with harsh treatment. He is further reported as having said:
The MPs bang on the door of his cell every half hour timing the night to check that he has not escaped and that he is fit and well.
In the Ministers view that procedure was in accordance with the normal code of military discipline. In reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) about the treatment of Private Townsend, the Minister again stressed his view that no attempt had been made to break down any man in the Military Corrective Establishment at Holsworthy. The Minister said:
The conditions which apply to the person the honourable member obviously has in mind-
That is, Townsend - are in fact those conditions which apply to .-my member of the Australian Army placed in this situation. This is the normal code of military discipline which is subscribed to by the three Services. The system of half-hourly inspections, to which the honourable member also referred, was originally instituted for the safety of prisoners. The Military Board has already reviewed the matter and discontinued half-hourly checks
In essence the Minister told the House that the system of half-hourly checks applied to any member of the three armed Services placed in solitary confinement in the Military Corrective Establishment. When this matter was exposed publicly the Military Board hastily reviewed this system of checks and discontinued it. Obviously, the Military Board found that checks every half hour were an unwarranted abuse of the normal military code. Later, in question time on 28th May, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine), said that the penalties applied to Private Townsend had been prevalent for a long time in the Army. The Acting Prime Minister repeated the claim of the Minister for the Army that the Military Board had reviewed the half-hourly scrutiny and the awakening of prisoners and that the practice had been discontinued. The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) then asked the Acting Prime Minister whether the treatment of Private Townsend arose from attitudes of authority long since outmoded. The honourable member requested that the regulations in all three Services be reviewed so that sadistic treatment would be impossible and discipline and punishment would be carried out with regard to modern concepts of individual human dignity. In his reply the Acting Prime Minister said that be would consult with the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) on a review of the limits of disciplinary action applicable in the three armed Services. He said:
Having said that, 1 would like to make it perfectly clear that there is no intention on the part of political heads of departments in this country to impose their own judgment over decisions of the military authorities in respect of discipline within the limits of their legal authority and obligation imposed on them by existing regulations.
In other words, as far as the Acting Prime Minister was concerned the Army had virtually an open go in the treatment of prisoners in a military corrective establishment. According to the right honourable gentleman, interpretation of the existing regulations by the authorities was no concern of any Service Minister, the Prime Minister or the Government. Apparently these authorities may bend the letter of the law in any way they like with the full approval of the Acting Prime Minister.
Both the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army made it dear to the House that the practice of half-hourly checks had been normal military procedure until it had been abruptly discontinued by the Military Board. In effect they told the House that this procedure was laid down in a statutory rule or regulation. However, on 28th May, in a reply to a later question asked by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), the Minister for the Army made it clear that this was not so. The Minister referred to Standing Order 183 of the Australian Military (Places of Detention) Regulations and Standing Orders. According to the Minister, Standing Order 183, which is not printed in the Australian Military Regulations, contained in volume 2 of Commonwealth Statutory Rules, provides that every soldier under punishment should be visited during the day at intervals of not more than 3 hours by an appointed member of the staff. Parent instructions made it clear that the word ‘day’ referred to a 24-hour period. In other words, the system of half-hourly checks was not normal military procedure, contrary to the Minister’s repeated claim. It was adopted under a discretionary power given to the Commandant of the Holsworthy Military Corrective Establishment. The regulation stipulated a maximum of 3 hours between visits; it contained no reference to halfhourly visits or to the practice of awakening the prisoner and making him stand at attention and recite his name. Quite clearly the regulation provided only that the prisoner be scrutinised once every 3 hours. Under this regulation, if a prisoner were asleep it would be sufficient for the visiting officer merely to inspect him and ensure his safety, without awakening him. The excuse has been given that a sleeping prisoner is not visible from the door of a cell in the Military Corrective Establishment. If this is so, the construction of the cells should be adapted so that a prisoner may be scrutinised without the need to awaken him at regular intervals.
It is quite clear that under this regulation the commanding officer had the power to have the prisoner inspected as often as he wanted. Under the terms of the regulation it would be permissible to have a prisoner awakened every 2 or 3 minutes. There was certainly no provision in the regulation for a prisoner to be awakened and made to stand and give his name and other information. The Opposition believes that this treatment was enforced in a blatant attempt to break down the resistance of a recalcitrant prisoner who repeatedly asserted his objections to any form of military service. It is clear that this was not an isolated instance. In fact, 1 understand that another case involving allegations of ill treatment in the Military Corrective Establishment is now being investigated. I refer to the case of Desmond Phillipson, a Western Australian, about which the Minister for the Army will have some information to give to the House. A question relating to this matter has been placed on the notice paper by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns).
The case of Private Townsend is not an isolated one. I believe that sufficient evidence exists to show that the Army authorities, in order to break down the resistance of a prisoner under their control, have consistently used the methods to which I have drawn attention. In the final analysis the Minister for the Army must accept full responsibility for what has taken place. It is quite clear that the Minister and the Military Board could have had some knowledge of what was happening at the Military Corrective Establishment. Since the Minister for the Army is President of the Military Board, one would have expected that he would have been better informed on these matters than his answers to questions have indicated. In the case of Private Townsend the commanding officer of the Military Corrective Establishment has been guilty of grave breaches of the normal code of military discipline which the Minister for the Army used to justify the treatment meted out to Private Townsend. It does not matter whether the commanding officer was following long standing practice or not. He was just as culpable for the grave affront offered to human dignity and decent standards of treatment of prisoners. Such treatment would not have been countenanced under the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war which state quite explicitly that there must be no humiliation or degradation of prisoners of war. Obviously successive Ministers for Defence, Ministers for the Army and Ministers for the other Services have countenanced the continuation of a system which allows grave breaches of basic human rights to persist.
The Minister’s repeated claims that the half-hourly awakenings were in accordance with the normal code of military discipline were disproved in this House by himself. Why did it take him so long to find out that the half-hourly checks were not in accordance with the normal military code? Why did both the Minister and the Acting Prime Minister, in supporting the Minister, completely deceive and mislead this House about the true nature of Order 183 of the Australian Military (Places of Discipline) Regulations and Orders? They gave the impression that the Military Board had immediately discontinued the practice when it became aware of its existence. However, section 361, sub-section 1 of Australian Military Regulations sets out specifically the responsibility of the Military Board for control of military prisoners and places of detention. The section states that military prisons and places of detention shall be under the control of the Military Board, and orders and instructions in relation to the management, inspection, discipline, interior economy and military training therein not inconsistent with these regulations, or any other regulations relating thereto, may be issued under the authority of the Military Board. As I have already pointed out, the
Minister for the Army is President of the Military Board. Therefore, it is impossible for him to be absolved of responsibility as the Military Board is responsible for the discipline in military prisons and places of detention.
Why did he say that the treatmentof Private Townsend was in accordance with the normal code of military discipline when there was no Military Board instruction setting down such a procedure for treatment in the corrective military establishment? The Minister should have known this as President of the Military Board and he should not have made his statement that the treatment of Private Townsend was normal military practice. Furthermore, why did he give the impression to this House that the standing order which was not prescribed by the Military Board laid down a system of half-hourly checks when what the order provides is a discretionary power for checks at a maximum interval of 3 hours? Why did it take 7 or 8 years, as stated by the Acting Prime Minister, for the existence of this abominable practice to come to the attention of the Military Board?
Quite clearly there has been substantial abuse of the military regulation in the corrective establishment for many years. The Military Board, successive Ministers for the Army, and in particular the present Minister for the Army, have done nothing to correct this abuse. This adds up to an extremely unsatisfactory record of performance by the Minister for the Army. The honourable gentleman has blandly accepted wrong advice from his military advisers and has leapt repeatedly to the defence of the indefensible. The Opposition believes he has shown himself to be inadequate for his high responsibilities. There are far too many serious blemishes on his record to be passed off as mere inexperience. He has shown himself incapable of learning from the disaster of the water torture incident and has gone on to further compound this initial folly. The Opposition asserts that the honourable gentleman has lost the confidence of the House, that he has proved totally unfit for his highly responsible portfolio and that he should be transferred or removed.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I note with some interest that it is only recently that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) had a little problem about confidence in them in the rank and file of their own Party and that it took all of the best efforts of the pair of them and others to pull the Leader of the Opposition through by a short head. I predict that when this matter comes to the vote, as no doubt it will, the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) will put on a better record than that. The fact of the matter is that there is a very interesting background to this motion. The House, and the people of Australia ought to be aware of it. When we first heard about the proposal to move a motion of no confidence in my colleague, the Minister for the Army, some time yesterday, it was in almost the present terms - a motion against the Minister. A little later in the morning the motion got transformed somehow and then appeared as a motion in which the Government would be censured for its failures in the field of defence. I think the Minister for the Army was to be mentioned specifically in it. Then apparently, the Opposition had another look at it and decided it took in a little too much territory because, after all, when one takes on the whole of a government which is secure in the affections and support of the public, as this Government is, then, of course, one is biting off a little more than one can chew. So somehow the motion got itself transformed again. I am very happy ro note that J was not completely overlooked by the Opposition and this time the draft motion coupled the Minister for the Army and myself as Minister for Defence together. We were both to have the confidence of the House in us questioned.
Late in the afternoon I was reinstated completely in the sympathy of the Opposition because my name was dropped from the motion which appeared then in about the form in which the House has it today. This is a particularly interesting situation. I wonder why the Australian Labor Party could not make up its mind about how to deal with this motion. Maybe it is because the Leader of the Opposition rules only one half of the Party and there were noises coming from ‘his side of the House.
I imagine there was a little argument about the motion. It may well be that it was thrown into caucus this morning as a bone that they could worry a bit rather than let the members of the Party loose on some of the in-fighting which has characterised the Labor Party in recent days. The fact is that if there were no confidence in me in the morning - I refer again to the draft motion in which my name was coupled - how was it that I was restored to confidence in the afternoon? The real fact is that the debate this afternoon is only a Labor. Party device to run a smoke screen: it is a diversionary move.
The Leader of the Opposition will follow me and there is no doubt that he will follow his usual course. He will draw, himself up to his full and quite substantial height, take a quick look at the gallery to make sure the audience is right, and see that his jaw is at the right angle. He will take the advice of Henry V before Agincourt and lend his eye a terrible aspect, and then he., will make an impassioned speech on not very much, unless he has a good deal more materia! to offer the House than did his Deputy Leader this afternoon.
– Now push the hair out of your eyes.
– If the honourable member can do that, I wish he would tell me how. A motion of no confidence in a Minister of the Crown is a particularly serious matter. It is a matter of such importance that it ought not to interrupt the proceedings of the Parliament-r-particularly at this stage of the session when we have a heavy programme still ahead of us and limited time - unless there is a sound basis for it. The motives for introducing a motion of no confidence in a Minister at any time must be secure as to their bona fides. Neither qualification has been . met by the motion that the Opposition has moved this afternoon. The mere recital of the history of the motion, which I have given, illustrates something of the motive of the Labor Party in bringing this motion into the House today. In fact, we have listened to a particularly thin case. I would say that is the weakest case that has ever been presented in respect of any kind of no confidence motion. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had to content himself by rehashing old stuff which has been dealt with time after time in this House and which has been accepted by this House and by a majority of the public, except those who are being pushed on to excesses by the Opposition’s attitude in this House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has gone through the dictionary and brought out every word of prejudice he could find. He has thrown them all in - about three to a sentence right through his discourse in this House this afternoon. All of this is part of the Opposition’s effort to denigrate the Government and with it the Armed Services.
Last night we had an attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) after he had made an outstandingly successful trip, representing this country and probing this country’s best interests in the United States of America. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeks to tear down the image of the Prime Minister of this country after a successful trip to the United States and before a most important trip into countries of South-East Asia which the Opposition constantly seeks to remind us arc important areas so far as this country’s future is concerned. AH told, this is a thoroughly shabby exercise on which the House finds itself embarking this afternoon.
It is true that my colleague the Minister for the Army is young in politics and young in the Ministry. He is administering the Army at a time when it is heavily engaged in a difficult area, as nobody denies; when the environment at home is a peaceful one; when, with a minority of the Australian people, the war is unpopular, and when the Opposition in this House, and particularly the left wing of the Australian Labor Party and some sections of the Australian Press, are busy stirring up all the difficulties that they possibly can and stirring up all of the undiscipline of which the community at this time is capable. This is a pretty reprehensible code of behaviour. The whole situation provides a very rich field for left wing activists, and the Opposition supports and encourages them. ‘
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition drew attention to three matters: The first was the interrogration of a prisoner in Vietnam - an incident which occurred before the Minister for the Army had even his portfolio. The matter was dealt with fully in the House on 14th March. The allegations of torture were shown to be completely overdrawn. It is true that the treatment of the prisoner in this case was harsh; this was admitted in the statement. But also shown clearly in the evidence put before the House at that time was the fact that when an excess of this kind, which was thought to be important to the safety and security of our Armed Forces in the field, was brought to the attention of the commanding officer it was dealt with immediately and adequately even before the Minister had charge of the matter at all. Do we propose that the men of our Army should take secretaries into the field to report every field incident back home? We are not engaged in a paper war. We are engaged in a war, the outcome of which will be tremendously vital to the area of the world in which this country’s future is cast.
We have to have some appreciation of the burden of responsibility and effort which rests upon commanding officers in the field. The Minister’s only misfortune, apparently, was in having been misinformed by an officer who has since been disciplined. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition attempted to make out that the Minister for the Army had taken no corrective action. I am aware of what has been done in this field. The honourable gentleman need not think that the Minister for the Army or the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) or the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) is left to his own devices in all of these matters. Consequent upon the investigation by the Minister for the Army several staff changes have been made and two important staff areas have been strengthened. The Public Service Board and the Department of Defence have been brought into the matter to consider what might be done in this particular field to correct any weaknesses that are there and to make sure that deficiencies of this ki rid do not occur in the future.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has drawn attention - rightly and properly - to the fact that the so-called Rule case is now before a court martial and is therefore sub judice. I come now to the Townsend case to which the honourable gentleman devoted a good deal of his time. It is true that a third appeal by Simon Townsend is pending before a judge and therefore, in the main, this case, loo, is sub judice. I rather wish that there were greater freedom to deal with more of the background of this case and perhaps to quote from some of the court records which are available. They are virtually public documents and they can be read by anybody who really wants to understand the background of this case.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition came back to the question of the military code on discipline. He referred to the inhuman treatment foisted upon a military prisoner and asked whether the code is designed to break him down. Nobody would ever say of the average Australian that he is a panty waist - that is the best word I can think of at the moment. Australians are pretty tough boys. It is out of this toughness that the records of Australia’s performance in war has come. They are pretty tough people, and if they are to kick over the traces you do not deal with them with soft methods. 1 am prepared to admit - as 1 will later on in a more detailed fashion - that perhaps some of the aspects of the disciplinary code have come out of British regulations of a long time ago. They are in need of review and perhaps in need of correction. This is being done, not on the impetus of any complaint of this kind, but in the ordinary course of administration by the Department of Defence and the Department of the Army. Let us see what comes out of that.
I read with some little interest an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 31st May 1968. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is very fond of quoting from Press reports. This article stated:
A little over three years ago a soldier prisoner ‘ in solitary confinement at Holsworthy military prison tried to commit suicide - by knocking his head against the concrete cell wall.
Thereafter the order went forward, within the discretion given to the commanding officer of the corrective establishment, that a prisoner should be awakened and should be identified at half-hourly intervals. I quote further from this article which was written by a man who has studied this matter. He said:
This is not torture but a safeguard for prisoners and for the NCOs.
The fact of the matter is that the behaviour of the Opposition in this House and of the left wing activities spurred on by its encouragement have turned Simon Townsend into a very hot and valuable piece of left wing political property. But if the people who were responsible for keeping this man in confinement were also responsible for his safety, then I believe they would be justified in going to these extraordinary lengths. But the Military Board thought that this was not necessary. Immediately the matter was brought to its attention then the discretion - and only the discretion - of the commanding officer was withdrawn.
The fact of the matter is that the regulation provides that prisoners shall be inspected at intervals of not less than 3 hours. This is for their safety. It would have provided that prisoners shall be inspected at intervals of not more than 3 hours, if it was for their comfort. Half-hourly identification was provided for their safety and security. It is not good enough merely to see somebody wrapped up in a blanket and assume he is all right. If anything had happened to this prisoner because of inadequate precautions we would never have heard the end of it from the Opposition in this House.
– What about Phillipson?
– 1 will come to Phillipson in a moment, if the honourable member for Reid does not mind. Unfortunately the Minister for the Army used the word normal’ in referring to this kind of treatment in a corrective prison. 1 have heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - if the honourable gentleman does not mind my reminding him - use some badly chosen words in this House. This can happen to anybody. I plead that there was justification for the Minister for the Army using the word ‘normal’ in this case because he was out to destroy the fiction which the Opposition was attempting to create that this was the code of discipline imposed upon Simon Townsend only because he was a so-called, self-claimed but unproven conscientious objector. This is far from the truth.
The fact is that Townsend was in this predicament because he had twice applied for exemption on the ground that he was a conscientious objector and his application had been twice refused; he appealed on two occasions and these appeals also were turned down. He has now made a third appeal. He has had all of the benefits that the law can give him by way of opportunity to prove that he is a bona fide conscientious objector.
As his third appeal will be heard some time next week, I think that nothing more should be said about the matter. But I do point out to the House and the general public that all the things complained of by this man, who was a Regular serviceman inducted into the Army and therefore completely and legally under military discipline, were completely avoidable at his choice and he chose not to avoid them.
The quarrel of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is really not with the Minister for the Army but with the disciplinary code of the Army. I have pointed out that this is under review and there will soon be a result from that review and, I expect, some action. But surely credit ought to be given to the Military Board, of which the Minister is chairman, for having removed a discretion. This was not military interference with the law, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition charged; it was only the removal of a discretion. I do not want to go into the Townsend case any further nor do I seek to make excuses for the deficiencies of myself, any of the Service Ministers or our officers.
But it would be seeing things completely out of perspective if it was not remembered that the Services are enormous organisations and that authority is exercised from the top right down to the level of officers and non-commissioned officers. The Army in particular is under wartime pressure and it would be beyond credulity if things did not go wrong now and again. I believe that the responsible Minister or Service authority would be blameworthy and worthy of censure if, when’ deficiencies were revealed, they did not act promptly to correct these deficiencies, mitigate their effects and prevent a repetition. But no such charge can be levelled against any Minister of the Government in this respect. 1 suppose that it suits the Opposition’s book to portray defence matters completely out of perspective. The Opposition’s attitude on defence swings all over the place and in any direction in which it hopes it may get a political advantage. It is easy for the Opposition to produce so-called solutions when in fact it carries no responsibility. The truth is that the Opposition has no coherent defence policy at all. In recent years we have seen the Army expanded enormously in terms of men, material and equipment. Clearly this expansion imposes exceptional strains upon all branches of that Service - from the Minister down to non-commissioned officers. This growth has been presided over by a succession of competent and forward looking Ministers who have been aware of the magnitude of the task and have carried out their responsibility magnificently.
There is no point in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talking about Ministers for Service portfolios who are not now in the Ministry. Nobody knows better than does the Australian Labor Party the circumstances which control the make-up of a Ministry in a Parliament which involves a Senate and a House of Representatives, half a dozen States and two wings in a coalition government. I say no more about that. The Opposition has made a completely shoddy attempt to destroy the present Minister for the Army. 1 am sure that its attempt will leave no mark on the respect which this House has for the Minister and no mark on the confidence of the House or the people of this country in him.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has almost disarmed me. One is inclined to make allowances for the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), who has been a Minister for barely 12 weeks, when such a poor case is made by the Minister for Defence, who first became a Minister over 12 years ago. The Minister for Defence is showing the same attitude that the Minister for the Army and other junior Ministers in Service portfolios have shown in recent years. They have all sought to defend the indefensible when any wrongdoing is exposed. It is true that criticism could be levelled at many of these junior Ministers in the Service portfolios, but it would be ungracious and now, one hopes, irrelevant to make them of the Ministers who until recently had the portfolios of Navy and Air. It no longer lies within the range of this Parliament to express dissatisfaction with matters such as VIP records and the ‘Voyager’ suppressions. But the record of the new Minister for the Army is relevant. It has not improved.
The Minister for Defence made some references to the form this debate was expected to take. I can say no more than that I knew personally, and my colleagues had reason to know from their counterparts who arranged the affairs of this House, that although the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was about to depart for South East Asia he was waiting for the debate to take place so that he could take part in it. One would expect that he would take part in the debate because the Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, when he is the Prime Minister, appoints all Ministers. To a very real extent the choice of whom he appoints and whom he sacks is his.
The Minister for Defence said that the whole issue here is that of the disciplinary code. He said that the disciplinary code is not the responsibility of the Minister for the Army or of any other Service Minister. It is, of course, his responsibility as it was the responsibility of previous Ministers for Defence. It is a matter upon which my colleagues and I in this House and in another place have asked questions for very many years. I note that in November 1965 I received a reply from the honourable gentleman’s predecessor regarding the disciplinary code, in the following terms:
The introduction of legislation on this matter is under active consideration in conjunction with the current general review of defence legislation. This review will be completed and the necessary legislation introduced at the earliest practicable date.
– How long ago was that?
– That was on 30 th November 1965. On 27th October 1966 I asked what progress had been made and I was told:
Considerable progress has been made on this complex matter. It is intended to introduce the necessary legislation as soon as practicable.
On 29th August last year the present Minister for Defence gave me this answer:
Further progress has been made in relation to this matter but it is not possible at this stage to indicate when the necessary legislation will be introduced.
Successive years see the legislation recede. The nature of this legislation can be seen from an answer he was given in another place on 24th August 1966 to my colleague Senator Fitzgerald. I quote part only of the lengthy answer that was given.
Amendments have been made to Defence legislation as circumstances have dictated. In the disciplinary field, for example, the following important changes have been made. . . .
Then there is a reference to Naval legislation. The answer continued:
In (1964 the Imperial Army Act, as modified by regulations, was made applicable to all members of the Military Forces serving overseas, whether on war service or not (formerly this act has only applied in these circumstances when members of the Army were serving with Imperial Forces).
The replacement of applied Imperial legislation with purely Australian legislation has been under active review for some time by an interdepartmental committee. This review is nearing completion and the results will be submitted for governmental consideration in the near future.
That answer was given in August 1966 but the Minister makes no forecast as to when this overdue legislation will at last be introduced. He has been responsible in this field for some years now.
– It must be a big job.
– It is not a big job, but it is beyond him. This is not a small matter which concerns only a few people. My colleague in another place, Senator McClelland, asked a question on notice of the Minister for the Army concerning, in part, the number of servicemen who have been ordered to be placed on a diet of bread and water. The answer which he. received indicated that the numbers were 106 in 1961, 69 in 1962, 104 in 1963, 115 in 1964 and 101 in 1965. At this point the periods were altered, and the answer to another question gave the number for the year 1965-66 as 105 and the number for 1966-67 as 37. These archaic methods of punishment are still being applied. Persons who have disobeyed a military command are punished more severely than anyone who is convicted of the foulest crime under any Federal, State or Territorial statute in Australia. It is no excuse to say that this code of ‘ punishment is derived from Imperial legislation. The Australian Army still suffers under provisions taken from Imperial legislation which no longer applies to British troops at home or abroad. Yet this Government, after more than 18 years of administration of the Army and after a large build up in our forces entailing, for the first time in conditions of peace, compulsion to serve overseas, has still not got round to modernising and humanising the penal laws applicable to the Services.
Let me return to the responsibility of the Prime Minister who, we were led to believe by Canberra correspondents, editorialists and cartoonists, was delaying his departure for South Vietnam until this debate had concluded. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and 1 were led to believe that the right honourable gentleman would take part in this debate. No man bears responsibility for the appointment of the Minister for the Army except the Prime Minister. The Minister was one of the new appointees in the recently formed Ministry. As a matter of fact, he was the only new Minister under 60 years of age. This was the work of the new broom which was to sweep us into the future.
In an interview on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme on 26th February, the Prime Minister was asked about the appointment of the new Minister for the Army. The question was in these terms:
Mr Gorton, you have appointed Mr Lynch to the Army portfolio at a very young age at a time when our Army is fighting a war. Do you have fears about this appointment?
In answer, the Prime Minister said: 1 don’t think so. He’s 34 or 35 and there is usually quite a lot of energy and drive at this age. I feel he has had considerable managerial experience, personnel management experience, business experience, all of which should he helpful in the administration of a Department. Of course, neither he nor any other Minister would affect the fighting of the Department because that is a military matter which is done by the Chief of the Service.
The Prime Minister was applying a very narrow definition to the role of the Minister for the Army. I doubt whether the present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saw his former role as Minister for the Army in such restrictive terms. One result of the narrow role defined by the Prime Minister is that the House has never been given any satisfactory explanation of the reasons why our forces in Vietnam have been engaged 30 to 50 miles from their base at Nui Dat, in Bien Hoa Province and outside their area of responsibility, Phuoc Tuy Province. No Minister seems to accept responsibility for this drastic change in the nature of the Australian operations in Vietnam.
At the very time the Prime Minister is advocating an Israeli type role for the Citizen Military Forces, the Minister, with- out any explanation to this House, has reduced from 53 a year to 33 the number of days of training which a member of the CMF can undertake and for which he can receive payment. We are getting further and further from the Israeli pattern. This change came to the attention of the Parliament and the public only through questions asked in the Parliament. Yet it represents a very substantial change in the Government’s policy on the CMF.
I now refer to three incidents which have alerted the attention of the public to the illiberal policies of this Liberal Government. They illustrate the attitude inherent in the amendments to the National Service Act which are now being debated in another place. First of all there was the water torture incident. In that instance, the Prime Minister came into the House and defended the public relations performance of the Minister for the Army. The Minister was not responsible for what happened in that case, but the Prime Minister covered up for him. In the first week of March, just a week after the new Minister was appointed, the newspapers reported allegations of ill treatment of Vietcong prisoners which had been made in a book published in the ‘United States of America. On 7th March the Minister for the Army staled that there was ‘not a scintilla of evidence’ to support the allegation. The next day a Melbourne journalist, John Sorell, wrote an article which was published in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ and in which he gave a very full account of the torture of a Vietcong woman prisoner. Later that day, the Minister issued an official statement in which he promised the appointment of a court of inquiry to investigate the allegations. At the beginning of the ensuing week, the. Department of the Army began to assemble witnesses and officers to participate in the inquiry and agreed to pay for legal representation at the court of inquiry. On Thursday, 14th March, the Minister made a statement in the House. While he said that Sorell , allegation was ‘substantially true’ he refused a court of inquiry. Thus, in the space of a single week, the Minister had gone from the position that an incident concerning which there was ‘not a scintilla of evidence’ was in fact ‘substantially true’ and from the position of himself promising a court of inquiry to anonuncing that the inquiry would be abandoned. The more serious the allegations became, and the more evidence offered to support them, the less need there was for an inquiry, according to the Minister. The result is that the public remains uneasy and the whole Army remains under a cloud. However, on that occasion, at least the Prime Minister defended his new appointee to ministerial ranks.
The next incident concerned Captain Rule. It is true that this matter is sub judice. But honourable members will remember that the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) asked the new Minister a question about this subject and that the Minister read a very long reply. Obviously, this was a prepared reply. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), whose regard for the new Minister for the Army is well known, to his colleagues and the public, was moved to protest. He asked the Minister a question, in which he said, in part:
T claim that the Parliament has the right to ‘ be told what he has been charged with. I ask the Minister: ls it not a democratic principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty? Does the Minister not think what was included in his statement will prejudice this officer, his case and his family? Finally, will the Minister see that he is more careful in his statements in future?
The Minister’s concluding remarks in his reply to this question was:
I stand by what 1 said and I have no apology to make to the honourable member.
Captain Rule, an officer of the CMF who had seen service in Vietnam, was arrested at Essendon airport, in the presence of his wife and children, in relation to matters which appear now to be very trivial indeed.
The third incident concerns the case of Simon Townsend. Left wing activists, we are glad to say, were able to stir up the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who was Acting Prime Minister at the time. He stepped in and said that the discretion of the commanding officer of the Holsworthy Military Corrective Establishment was withdrawn. After this action had been taken there was no more nonsense about waking a prisoner every half hour as a safety measure. There was no pretence about the Acting Prime Minister. He came in and corrected the position. He blasted all of us for not having known about the regulation. But did anyone know about them? In fact the practice of half-hourly checks is not provided for in the regulations or the statutes. It is not provided for in the Imperial statutes. This is a matter of discretion leading to a practice which became the rule of thumb in the Army. However, there is no nonsense about the Acting Prime Minister. He did not defend the indefensible in this case. He responded to public opinion and overrode the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and, not for the first time, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). He also overrode the new Minister for the Army. Let us read of the attitude of the Minister for the Army concerning the Simon Townsend case. I quote from the Australian’ of 28th March:
The Minister for the Army, Mr Lynch, said last night that . . . Simon Townsend was sentenced to 48 hours solitary confinement on a bread and water diet in the Army prison at Holsworthy, NSW.
I know it well; it is in my electorate. The report proceeds:
Mr Lynch said: ‘This is the punishment normally given to soldiers under sentence in these circumstances’.
Yesterday, Mr Lynch denied that Townsend was being subjected to psychological torture. He said: There is no substance whatever to this suggestion’.
Now he uses English; he used to use Latin terms and legal terms such as ‘scintilla’. The report continues:
Mr Lynch said the size of Townsend’s cell - 9 ft by 9 ft - the bread and water diet and the checks made during the night were normal practice. He said: ‘Townsend is not being treated any differently to any other soldier under sentence who commits further breaches during the period of detention.
There can be no doubt as to public reaction to this incident. I quote from editorials in two Melbourne newspapers. I refer first to The Age’ of 29th May which stated:
Whether it is condemned as psychological torture or described as routine discipline, the fact is undeniable: the Army has been treating Simon Townsend in a way that is clearly designed to break his spirit, to force him to deny his conscience by carrying out military orders. The events at Holsworthy Detention Centre make a deplorable story, one that shows up the Government’s sense of timing in a most peculiar light.
Any attempt to harass him into renunciation is beyond the bounds of decency. This the army has recognised by toning down the level of harassment of Townsend. Why the harassment ever occurred, why it was not stopped as soon as it was reported, and why the Minister for the Army continues to excuse the inexcusable, are questions that remain unanswered. After the mishandling of the Vietnam water torture case, Mr Lynch should have learned to show smarter reactions to scandals involving his Department.
I quote from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of that afternoon in which this appeared in the editorial: the survival of grim, antiquated punishments in the Army must be challenged. And not only in the Army - the Navy and the Air Force must be looked at, also. At Holsworthy Army detention centre, penalties can include solitary confinement in a small, stone cell, with only four blankets and a ground sheet for a bed on the floor, and with bread and water as the sole diet for 48 hours. Until yesterday, a term in ‘solitary’ could also mean the walking of the prisoner by an inspecting guard every half hour through the night.
This particular ‘safety’ measure has been discontinued. The rest remain. The Minister for Defence blusters and brazens it out. He covers up for a man who is not his choice as Minister for the Army. One can admire the sense of loyalty of the Minister for Defence to his colleagues. He does what he is told. He would rather retain a united front than see justice done. He would paper over any of these cracks. In this House there have been three major matters on which the Army has come under challenge since the present Minister took office. On each issue he has blundered. The reputation of the Army has suffered as a result. The Army cannot afford more such blunders. Therefore, the Minister should be removed.
– 1 have listened to the debate as far as it has progressed. 1 have been in this Parliament for nearly 19 years and I can honestly say that I have never known such a spurious resolution to be moved in this House on any other occasion on which 1 have been here. It has no basis whatever, neither in logic nor in fact and can only be attributed to political propaganda of the meanest kind imaginable. There is no charge that can be sustained, nor has one been sustained, by either the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in which any serious reflection can be made on the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). No neglect of duty is charged. The matters raised are comparatively petty and are seized upon as matters of major importance or of maladministration. How small can men be when they forget to be fairminded and become petty politicians? The public must wonder what sort of men they have representing them in this House. 1 am surprised that men of their reputation - they are good men and I do not reflect upon them - can allow themselves to be used to bring into the House a resolution of this kind which has no real basis.
During my 19 years in Parliament I have served for 8 years continuously as Minister for the Army. Therefore, I can claim to have an intimate knowledge of the difficulties that are inherent in this portfolio. These difficulties arise from the fact that the Army controls a vast number of people. 1 do not know the number exactly, hut in total, taking in cadets and everyone else, it would be very close to 100.000 people who are spread all over the continent of Australia and overseas. In a complex network of establishments with such varied duties and commitments, linking those of a purely defence content with civilian undertakings, problems will always arise in this portfolio. I know that this is so because 1 occupied this post for 8 years. Notwithstanding this, 1 believe that the Department of the Army is one of the most efficiently administered Government departments. I say that conscientiously and honestly and I believe that the public will agree with it. I say that having in mind what is happening in the administration of the Army. One needs only to have regard to the results achieved by the administration in the Department of the Army in handling national service. This goes to its credit. There has been very little dissatisfaction in the handling of that very complex problem.
In this period there has been an immense expansion of the Army which has entailed a very great concentration of problems on the administration. One can judge that with this great expansion there have been extremely few occasions when one could criticise the administration of the Army. Its handling of the Vietnam war, its operations in Malaya and Borneo where perhaps the problems of administration are being handled not so much by the Department as by the individual soldiers, have been most efficient and have been commended by other administrations, particularly by the United States administration. The handling by the Army of this war in Vietnam is eternally to its credit. Of course it makes mistakes, but does not everybody make mistake’s? The Leader of the Opposition himself made a very serious mistake recently in resigning bis leadership. These mistakes can be made.
– Keep politics out of it.
– What I say is right. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) only yesterday made, a very serious mistake that we are all waiting for him to rectify. 1 am turning over in my mind my experience in the Army and my knowledge of what has happened in the past. When we are talking about mistakes, I have never heard anything from the Labor Party about a major mistake the Labor Government made when it was in office. Immediately after the Second World war the Labor Government decided to dismantle our defence forces and in fact the organisation of the Army. At that time enormous quantities of goods of all kinds were held by the Army. Some were of value and some were not. A very critical examination had to be made before disposal. The way the disposal of valuable Army assets was handled al that time was nothing short of a public scandal. As some honourable members may recall, certain mcn in Australia have been made almost millionaires in the process of the disposal of Army assets. It has cost this country since the war many millions of dollars to replace assets that were disposed of when the Army was under the control of the Labor Government. As one of my colleagues reminds me, these assets are still being sold in Sydney today. These assets should never have been disposed of, but they were because of the decision of the Labor Government to dismantle the defence organisation as it then stood.
In my opinion the present Minister, although very new in office, is doing a veryfine job indeed. He is a splendid young Australian of real ability, devoting himself enthusiastically to an understanding of the complexities of his very important portfolio. One thing I like about him - and if others in this House are honest about this, they also must like him for it - is that he is very frank and very straightforward. When he walks up to the table to answer a question, he answers it in a straight and manly fashion. Another point in his favour is that he does not consider himself all-important simply because he is a Minister. He seeks advice from people who should know. This is a good practice and one I like to see a young man follow. He exercises good judgment. On many occasions I have tested this; it is very good judgment indeed.
It is a dreadful thing in my opinion, and it is a mean and paltry thing, for the Opposition to move a resolution of this kind wilh the amount of evidence that it has. What misdemeanor did this Minister commit? What reprehensible conduct can be laid at his door? What has he done, in fact, to deserve censure? It is very easy for members of the Australian Labor Party, for political motives, to move a censure motion directed against a young man who is making his way in life. Do they not realise what they are doing? They are attempting to degrade this young Minister for the sake of politics.
– Do you mean all this?
– I do mean it. ft is a dreadful thing and it is to the eternal discredit of the Australian Labor Party that it should move a censure motion of this kind against a young man who has occupied the portfolio for only a matter of weeks. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned three specific matters. The first was the torture of the Vietcong woman. I do not agree with tortures at all - none of us does - but what part did the Minister for the Army play in this? He was not even a member of Parliament when it happened. What was he to do when this story broke as a result of somebody writing a book or a newspaper article? He had to seek advice from his Department. He was given advice. He came straight into this House and stated honestly what he was told. He had no personal knowledge of the facts. Then he was advised the next day that his previous statement to the House was in error. 1 do not want to go over the detail of this because it has been recounted so many times in this House, but the fact is that he immediately came and corrected his previous statement. Was this a dreadful sin? Was this a calamity? Was this something deserving of censure? As a Minister he did everything that he could have been expected to do in the circumstances. I do not hold with torture but sometimes I wonder whether the public and honourable members opposite forget that this Vietcong woman was operating only for the purpose of killing our own Australian soldiers.
– Are we supposed to be a civilised nation?
– We are, and I do not condone torture, but one can- imagine the feelings of the men in the field when incidents like this occur. Human emotions being what they are, some of these things can be understood.
The Simon Townsend case was mentioned and also the case of Captain Rule, which is sub judice. I do not propose to say anything about the latter case. In the Simon Townsend case it seems to me that the only charge that has been levelled at the Minister is that he came into this House and said that it was normal action to wake Townsend every half hour and to give him bread and water. To say that the Minister approved of this is quite wrong. It is quite clear that the Minister for the Army was under the impression, as we all were, that the accusation of the Opposition was that Private Townsend had been specially selected for some kind of dreadful treatment which would break him down. This was the attitude of the Opposition, and the Minister came into the House and said that what was happening to Townsend was what normally happened to any man in the Army who defied the law. In other words, he said there was no special treatment being meted out to Townsend. I do not hold with the practice of waking prisoners every half hour, but I think much too much is being made of this. We have to realise that this man was in a corrective establishment and that in this instance the close confinement lasted for only 48 hours.
– Did you know about this treatment when you were the Minister?
– Not specifically. I do not recall any instance of it, but this has been going on since 1948 when a Labor Government was in office. I do not agree with it. I am not suggesting that for one moment.
– What did you do about it?
– In this case action was taken to ensure it did not occur again. I do not want to say too much about Townsend’s case, because it also is to some extent sub judice. But after all is said and done he was defying the law and he was not at that time, when he was in the custody of the Army, a conscientious objector. He was a member of the Army.
– He was not.
– He was. He was legally enlisted in the Army. The question we are debating is: What did the Minister do that is so culpable? He simply said that this procedure was normal and he explained it in a later statement. Nothing that he did, nothing in his own personal conduct, can be criticised. But these issues are expanded into matters of maladministration and the suggestion is made that the young Minister should be tossed into the wilderness. [ have never heard anything so utterly foolish in my life. If I chose to do so, I could move a motion censuring a number of Opposition members and I could produce evidence of substance to justify my motion. Some Opposition members, without a doubt, deserve to be censured. They are not concerned with better administration, as they claim to be in this resolution. They have no constructive criticism of the Government or constructive suggestions to offer. They simply want to destroy and create chaos. They deliberately incite others to break the law, and they say so in this House. The honourable member for Yarra not very long ago said that if he were in the same position as some of these young men are he too would’ disobey the law. That remark came from a member of the Parliament.
– Did he make the same remark when he was in the police force?
– We could well ask that question. Other Opposition members have intimated that they are on the side of the people who break the law. They defend the boys who have burnt their registration cards and encourage them not to register. Opposition members have encouraged illegal demonstrations to the detriment of the defence of this country. Yet they dare to challenge the integrity and veracity of a young Minister who is doing his duty in a proper way. They lend themselves to the whipping up of propaganda thai helps the enemies of our democratically determined way of life. In the face of this, why in the name of heaven should they come forward with a spurious resolution that attacks a young Minister who has been in office for 12 weeks? Why should they suggest that he is not a fit and proper person to be a Minister of the Crown. I challenge them on this matter and I am sure that the people of Australia will be disgusted with this resolution which has come from Her Majesty’s Opposition.
– 1 support the motion .that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). 1 listened to the speeches of the two honourable members on the Government side who have already spoken in this debate. They raised the old bogeys about the left wing and the activities of members of the Australian Labor Party in supporting demonstrations. I say now in the Parliament that no honourable member on the other side can level a charge at me of leading any demonstration or of speaking at any meetings that have been organised by people who oppose the Government’s actions in Vietnam.
I want to refer to the Townsend affair. I brought this matter to light after I had gone to the Holsworthy camp and interviewed Simon Townsend. I rang Senator McClelland and took him along with me because he had previously raised the subject of bread and water in the. other place. I went of my own accord and not because anybody asked me to go. The brother of young Simon Townsend rang me and asked whether I could do anything to help him. I did not go to the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), because I thought -an attempt might be made to whitewash the affair. I sought permission to visit the young gentleman concerned because I wanted to learn at first hand whether the allegations made to me were correct. 1 waited from 8.40 a.m. to 4 p.m. and I was then given permission to see him. We all know the result of the interview. He told me that the information given by his fiance was correct. 1 know the young man personally and there is no doubt in my mind that what he said was correct. I am opposed to the form of treatment that has been meted out to him. This is the matter that we have brought to light in the Parliament. This treatment did take place in the Holsworthy camp and the Minister for the Army is the responsible Minister. This Parliament is the right place to raise the matter. This is the voice of Australia and this is where wc are supposed to raise matters. This National Parliament is where we bring matters such as this to light.
What we want to know is exactly who is running the Department of the Army. Is it the administration, the professional soldiers or the Minister? I have no doubt that there are three separate organisations in the Department and one does not tell the other what is happening. We have been able to force these matters into the open and in consequence we have initiated this debate today. This is democracy at work. The people of Australia are entitled to know what is happening and this is where these issues should be raised. The length of time a Minister has held his portfolio does not count. The point is that he is the responsible Minister. He is responsible to the Parliament and he is the Minister who should give us the information that we seek. That is why we have raised this matter in the Parliament. Why should we go outside the Parliament? Why should we not raise it here? Every honourable member can take part in the debate if he wishes to do so.
I have said before and I say again that I have no doubt that the torture of young Simon Townsend was political torture. The Government knows that this young man is against its policy on Vietnam. We know that other men have been treated in the same way. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said that one young man attempted to commit suicide. Was he driven to it? Was his spirit broken to such an extent that he at least attempted to commit suicide? There is no doubt that the Minister said that this happened. I did not know about the incident. I had heard that suicide had been attempted, but the Minister said they were driven to it. This was the result of torture. I do not think any member of the Parliament would favour the use of torture. Perhaps one or two would, but I will not mention names. I am sure that most honourable members would not favour the use of torture. These are matters that we must iron out once and for all in this Parliament.
The Belsen camp, or whatever we chose to call the Holsworthy Military Corrective Establishment, should be shut down. The Government should recognise that something is wrong with the treatment that people have received there. In the National Service Bill, which has just been passed by this House, the Government provided that any young national service trainee who was convicted by the courts could be sent to a civilian prison. Why? Because it knows that Holsworthy is not a corrective establishment, that it is not achieving the results that the Government wanted. The Government admitted this in its recent legislation, so honourable members on the other side should not support the action that has been taken at Holsworthy.
Another matter stands out like a neon sign. The people responsible at the detention camp were using it to administer a form of punishment that was not allowed under Army Regulations. In other words, they were breaking the regulations that have been issued by the Minister. Who are these people? Are they to be held responsible to the Parliament? Are we going to allow them to get off scot-free? How many other times have they done these things? If they are doing these things in Australia, one can imagine what they are doing in Vietnam to the persons mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They have said that five national service trainees were on bread and water in Vietnam, but what other treatment would they be receiving over there? I can imagine that the Minister for Defence gloated when he saw the result of the forms of treatment they were receiving.
I believe these are matters that we should raise in this House. The Minister has the main responsibility, but he has allowed these people to be treated as political prisoners. Of course, the Government believes that the majority of these young fellows have been given instructions by people from outside organisations, that noone is genuine, and that anyone who bucks the establishment is not genuine. So far as the Government is concerned, these people should be in there anyway. We have to be concerned about exactly what is going on and what is to happen to these young fellows. They have no rights; they have no franchise, and cannot exercise a vote at the ballot box.
We heard from the Government side of the House that the Government members were concerned that student organisations all over the world were starting to have riots and to stand up because of the treatment they have been receiving from governments. We might have this in future if we do not do something or give these 20-year-old people some say in the community. It is all right for a Parliament to pass legislation and to say that these young fellows, who do not have a vote, shall do this and that. It is all very well for the Government to force them into doing it, but the time will come when it will not be able to force them. Then we shall have trouble on our hands. If we are going to allow this country to be turned into a police state, this will happen. That is what we are doing. There is no doubt in my mind that there was an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation report on the interview between the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns) and Denis O’Donnell. The Minister read it, and it was read by quite a few others - six all told. Many of the staff in the place have read it. Many people know that these reports do exist. I am pointing out that as a result of the Minister’s irresponsibility, this country is going to turn into a police state. This is why I am raising the matter.
Previous speakers have mentioned the water torture incident. I believe that the Minister was misled by his departmental officials, although I do not know whether they were from the administration section or from the Army section. At any rate, he was misled and the result was that he had to come to this Parliament and apologise for not knowing that these things existed. The people all round him knew about them but did not pass the information on to him. I am giving some indication as to how the Minister has misled the Parliament and the Australian people. These are the matters we should know because, after all, they are important to the Australian nation. When the Minister was in Vietnam on 22nd April he said:
At first sight, Saigon was a far more peaceful city than in 1966. WhileI was there then, there were numerous riots put down by police using tear gas grenades. This time, there were no overt signs of civil disorder.
I do not know who his advisers were over there, but 2 days later the Tet offensive began. On that occasion the Vietcong went in and took over the American Embassy. If the Minister did not know about this, let us say that he ought to have known about it. Surely his advisers must have told him what was going on in the place before he went there.
We all are concerned about these matters, which are blowing up in the Government’s face. Indeed, the Government’s policy on Vietnam is simply going down the drain. There was eventually talk by members of the Government about wanting to supress any news coming out of Vietnam. On the 8th March in the ‘Canberra Times’ the Minister denied that the Government had any intention to vet the war news, and said that the only censorhip of news from South Vietnam would be if the Press published information which inhibited operations against the enemy. On 28th March the Minister was reported as saying that ‘Australian soldiers in Vietnam are to be banned from giving Press interviews’. The newspaper said:
The Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) will spell out the reasons for the ban to officers in Vietnam during his visit next month.
When he did go to Vietnam, it was reported:
The Minister for the Army, Mr P. Lynch, during his recent visit to Vietnam said the question of Press coverage of the Vietnam war was under consideration in Canberra.
One moment he said it would be announced in Vietnam and at the next moment he said that it would be decided in Canberra. There is no doubt in my mind now that the Government is supressing certain information from the news media in this country.
I have here a copy of a letter that was sent by a national service trainee in Vietnam to his family. In the letter he mentioned some matters that we should know, in order to give an indication of what is happening under this Minister. This young man said: ‘Things aren’t too good at the moment. There have been quite a few blokes killed as you probably know by now. There have been five from my platoon already and six wounded so our platoon is down to about half strength at the moment. We were sent out here to replace the ones that got hurt. To be honest I didn’t want to come either but I didn’t have much choice. Last week we were attacked by the VC. They mortared us first and then put in an infantry attack. The closest we came was a mortar bomb landing about 20 yards away. The action went for about 2i hours. I think there was about three Australians killed. I’ve noticed from the newspaper clippings we’ve received here that they are keeping the details of the first attack very quiet. The reason being that the Commanding Officer’ - I will not mention names - made an unforgivable mistake. He left a battery of artillery and two mortar sections on their own without Infantry support. To have mortars unprotected by infantry is unforgivable with the result that 5 blokes were killed from mortars and 2 from artillery. Everyone over here knows about it but I doubt whether anyone at home will find out. I’ve noticed the papers aren’t printing a thing about it.’
I do not know whether the Minister knows about it, but he should if people are making mistakes and servicemen are being killed. This young man then went ob to some personal matters in his letter, and later he said: ‘I don’t really think this country is worth fighting for. It’s hot as hell and everything stinks including the people. I think they’re all VC.’ This is a letter from a national service trainee and I mention it because I believe the Minister has done nothing on these lines and has given no instructions. We all know about the system that has been operating, and I have raised these matters in Parliament. I am a great believer in retaining civil liberties. They have only to issue a D notice in respect of certain material and the people do not know anything about it; accordingly, the truth cannot be told. The Minister knows that these things are happening there. He is responsible to the Parliament.
I wholeheartedly support the motion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because we hope that as a result of it there will no longer be any more of this type of political torture which has been going on under the Minister’s administration, and that no young fellow 20 years of age will be subject to any form of torture, be it water torture or another type.
– It must be obvious by now that this debate has trailed off. It must be equally obvious that the Opposition has initiated the debate for political purposes and not for the purpose of being critical of my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mi Lynch).
– Just a moment. Opposition members have had an opportunity to speak. No one interrupted them when they were speaking, despite the futility of their arguments.
In this debate attention has been drawn to three matters associated with one woman and two men. The first matter relates to the alleged torture of a spy at Nui Dat. The second matter relates to Captain Rule. The third matter relates to Simon Townsend. In each case it is claimed - erroneously - that the Minister for the Army has been guilty of suppressing information and of bad administration. I think that in respect of each matter we can prove that exactly the opposite is the case - that the Minister’s administration has been sound and that he has disclosed the facts to the limit of his capacity and as they were known to him at the time.
– I will not have that.
– The honourable member for Grayndler may not accept that proposition. He will not have anything, nor will anybody - certainly anybody in this House - have him.
– The Minister is being insulting.
– The honourable member started it. Let me refer to the first matter, involving the alleged torture at Nui Dat of a spy. I think that to refer to this incident as torture was an exaggeration. I admit that the woman was ill treated. Ill treatment is abhorrent to all of us. None of us can countenance actions of this kind unless there existed some extraordinary situation involving the security of a whole force or a large proportion of a force. I think the facts of this matter are of enormous importance to us as Australians. There was at Nui Dat an Australian Task Force. It had been under very severe enemy bombardment. Seventeen Australians had died and twenty-one had been wounded. Has any member of the Opposition said one word about those young people losing their lives? Has any honourable member opposite expressed to the relatives of the young men who died sorrow that they should have been deprived of their opportunity to live? Not one word of humanity has come from the Opposition. Instead it has played up (he idea that the spy was very badly treated. A search was made by the Australian force of the area surrounding Nui Dat and the young woman was found in possession of a large quantity of electronic and radio equipment. She was taken into custody. I admit that she was maltreated. She should not have been maltreated. It is anathema and foreign to all of us that treatment of this kind should have occurred under the circumstances that then existed.
– That is not what the Prime Minister said.
– I am stating the case as I see it. If the honourable member for Reid had sought an opportunity to speak he could have done so.
– She was maltreated.
-Order! There are too many interjections. They are out of order. That applies to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I think you are right, Sir. We have listened for long enough to the feline and mischievous tendencies of the Leader of the Opposition.
What happened next in this case of the woman spy? We in Australia did not hear of it until a report was written by an inconsequential young American reporter, who referred to the torture incident and who alleged that Australian troops did not face up to their responsibilities and were in fact cowardly. This matter was raised immediately in Sydney with the Minister for the Army, who replied on advice from the military authorities that there was no truth whatever in the allegation. Let me go back a little into history and tell honourable members why the Minister for the Army made that statement and why he cannot be criticised for it. The simple fact is that the Task Force commander was informed by a padre of the ill treatment of the young woman. The commander had an inquiry held and immediately after an adverse finding had the warrant officer concerned transferred to another job. The commander of the Task Force took immediate action and then tried to ensure that in future the provisions of the Geneva Conventions would be complied with. The Conventions may not have applied in this case because the woman was a spy and not a prisoner of war. But 1 stress that action was taken immediately. However, the incident was not reported to Army headquarters in Saigon; it was not reported to Army headquarters in Australia. Consequently, when the matter was raised with the Minister for the Army he turned to the officer who was with him - the officer had been seconded from the Army - and, having spoken to the officer, stated that there was not one scintilla of evidence to back up the allegation that had been made. Of course it is understandable why the Minister made that statement. If he had added: T have just been informed’, no-one could have been critical of what he had said.
– The Minister has been careful to do that.
– Can anyone imagine what would have happened to the spy if the honourable member for Hunter had had anything to do with her? To continue the story: The details of this incident were not within the knowledge of the Australian authorities and consequently there is no credibility gap so far as my colleague is concerned.
Later the Minister discovered that the views that had been expressed on this matter by two witnesses differed and he ordered an inquiry into the matter. That was a proper course for the Minister to take at that time, because of the disagreement about the evidence. The evidence taken at the proceedings in Vietnam was sent here and it was found that action had already been taken - that the Army authorities in Vietnam had taken steps to ensure that the Geneva Conventions were observed. This meant that it was not necessary to pursue inquiries: The facts had become known and remedial action had been taken.
The other criticism of my colleague was that he had said that action was being taken within the Army machine to ensure that an incident of this kind did not happen in the future. I believe that this is the critical factor. It has not been referred to by any member of the Opposition. The Minister saw to it that four measures were taken within the Army to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that this kind of briefing should not happen in the future.
The Adjutant-General’s Branch has in fact been re-formed. It has been split into two sections. One section is intended to cover public relations and to maintain a closer association between the Army and other sections of the Australian people. Secondly, the Minister took action to ensure that the officer who had given him information which turned out to be wrong was transferred to another job, notwithstanding that he was a capable officer. He was placed elsewhere so that he’ might have an opportunity to develop his talents. Thirdly, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has agreed to a Press officer being attached to the Minister for the Army. Lastly, the Army has decided that its communications with individuals, the Press, the Parliament and the general public should be improved. The Army has had several conferences in order to ensure that whenever a problem of this kind arises machinery will be available to facilitate communications between the Minister, his advisers, the Parliament and the people. So the first matter in relation to which the Opposition criticises the Minister - the spy incident - has been dealt with in the House and it has been proved that the Minister told the truth and acted in a thoroughly responsible way.
The second matter of criticism concerns Captain Rule. I would have preferred that he be left out of this debate altogether. I want to point to the circumstances surrounding the Minister’s statement on this matter in answer to a question. It is true that Captain Rule had been under interrogation in South Vietnam. I do not want to use the phrases that were used by the Leader of the Opposition because I think he went pretty close to disobeying the rule that when a matter is sub judice one does not prejudice the case of a person who may be charged.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I said that the Leader of the Opposition got pretty close to disobeying the rule. I think the Speaker acted correctly. Nevertheless, knowing the tendency of the Leader of the Opposition. I regard it as something of which he and very few other people could be guilty. But what did happen? I want this to be put in perspective. A few weeks before LieutenantColonel McDonagh of the civil aid section of the Army was returning to Australia from South Vietnam he agreed that he would have a discussion with the Press the moment he arrived in Sydney. At that time the Army felt that too many officers were making their views known and consequently the Army gave an instruction to Lieutenant-Colonel McDonagh that he should not have the Press conference. When it was heard that Captain Rule was coming to Sydney and would not be available to the Press some people jumped to the conclusion that this was another attempt to suppress civil liberties and to prevent this officer from having free access to the Press and expressing his point of view. It had nothing to do with this or with LieutenantColonel McDonagh. Consequently the basis on which the agitation commenced was wrong.
I put it to the House that what did happen was that the Army authorities, because of the controversy over the question of preventing an officer from having his say, thought it was better to clear up the doubts and to explain the true reason why Captain Rule was not available for a Press conference. On the advice of the legal authorities in the Department of the Army the Minister was advised to make the statement. He was informed that his statement would not be sub judice and that it could not prejudice a court martial if one were held in the case of Captain Rule. We know, and I hope the House recognises, that Captain Rule is accepted as a brave and capable officer. I do not want to detract from that in any way whatever.I accept it. I want to put the matter in perspective and to explain why the Minister made the explanation and why, in the opinion of the law officers it could not have been sub judice. He had received advice and it was his responsibility to put in perspective the actions of the Army authorities in relation to Captain Rule.
We come now to the case of Mr Townsend. Here again we have a difficult case. I immediately say that I believe the idea of solitary confinement, of a man being awakened every half hour, of having bread and water for meals and of being deprived of a mattress is archaic and barbaric, and consequently I welcome the Government’s decision on this matter.
– Why do you not discharge him?
– Order! I have already warned the honourable member for Reid and if he offends again I will have to deal with him.
– This young gentleman was like many other young Australians. He was called up for military service as a national serviceman. He had his obligations to serve in the military forces the same as other 20-year-olds. He did not want to serve. He went to court to see whether he could be declared a conscientious objector. The court said that he was not a genuine and legitimate conscientious objector. He then took his case to Judge Curlewis who held that he was not a true conscientious objector. He then went on appeal to Judge Prior. In his judgment Judge Prior said:
I have read the whole of the evidence a number of times and cannot rid myself of the view that the conclusion the appellant reached at West Wyalong in June 1965 upon reading that conscripts were likely to be in Vietnam by the middle of the following year was not one which would form the foundation on which to build beliefs to establish that he was a conscientious objector but one purely of self-preservation of his person and of his career as a journalist.
He exercised his right of appeal on two occasions and on both of those occasions independent judicial tribunals held that he was not a conscientious objector.
– But the Department opposed his appeals.
– Do you know that?
– Yes, I do.
– I do not think you do. 1 doubt it. In any event, it is no use cross examining me.
– Order! Any comments should be directed through the Chair and this applies to comments from both sides of the chamber.
– This young man was then sent to the Holsworthy military detention centre. There he disobeyed orders on four occasions - orders that were given legitimately. In each case it was not a serious offence, but nonetheless there was a combination of offences which all showed that this man was determined not to take orders that were given legitimately to him by the military authorities in charge of that defence establishment. He was put in solitary confinement, was given the bread and water treatment, was wakened each half hour and was deprived of his mattress. The moment this became known, the Minister for the Army approached the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and said that he would like the matter to be raised in Cabinet. Within a matter of hours the Acting Prime Minister called the Cabinet together and we were then informed that the Military Board had taken action to ensure that the young man would not be wakened each half hour. We discussed whether he should be transferred to a more benign establishment at Menangle where he would be subjected to corrective treatment of a different kind. The moment the Minister for the Army and the Military Board were informed of what was happening a decision was made to cease the waking of this man each half hour. I think there is some rationale, some common sense, in observing a prisoner frequently. What would happen if in a military detention barracks a young man did, by mischance, commit suicide? What an outcry there would be. Had that happened the Minister for the Army would have been accused by some of ministerial responsibility for not taking adequate precautions.
But what did happen? What was done? I have mentioned already that the waking of the prisoner every half-hour stopped. He was shifted to Menangle where he will be treated more leniently until the result of his third appeal to a judge of the District Court is determined. We have gone a stage further. In respect of national servicemen the Government has brought into the House a Bill designed to ensure that if young persons disobey orders and do not want to participate in normal Army activities they will be handed over to a civil tribunal which will deal with their cases. In other words, they will not be treated as normal members of the military forces. They will be treated differently. My colleague has been accused of having said that the treatment meted out to Townsend was normal treatment. The Leader of the Opposition referred to dozens of cases in which exactly similar treatment had been given to members of the Regular Army. Consequently he proved the point made by my colleague, the Minister for the Army, that this was at that time normal. It is no longer normal. My colleague was explicit and accurate in what he said. He has the confidence of the Government; he has my confidence. He is an able young man with plenty of energy and plenty of brains. I venture to say that when he has served his apprenticeship - and he has been a Minister for only 12 weeks - he will do well and this House will have cause to regret that the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to create difficulties for him and to prejudice his career at what has been a very satisfactory opening to it. I hope he will show continued application to his duties in the days to come.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– lt is truly amazing that in a debate dealing with a lack of confidence in the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) neither the Minister for the Army nor the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has taken part in the debate. The best that the Government can offer is a speech by the assistant acting Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon).
-Order! I. draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that that is not the correct title of the Treasurer.
– Could this be one of the crumbs that falls from the table of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen)? One of the other two speakers who have taken part in the debate from the Government side was the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). He is the man who described the FI 1 1 as: a super battle bird, the greatest thing with wings since angels. It is the ‘Cadillac of the Air’. It flies high and low, fast and slow, throws a power punch tougher than five World War II heavy bombers and sniffs out targets like a thirsty vampire.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself. I have already warned him on two occasions. If he interjects again I will deal with him.
– The Minister for Defence went on to say: . but whatever may be said about this aircraft, … we will be getting our money’s worth, regardless of cost.
I do not think that the United States of America is allowing the Fill to fly very frequently at the present time. The other speaker who look part in this debate from the Government side was the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), who was formerly a Minister for the Army. His greatest faux pas in the years during which he was Minister for the Army was when he said at the time of the Suez crisis that he had 20,000 Australian troops ready and waiting to go into battle. The three speakers on the Government side who have taken part in this debate spent most of their time explaining away the water torture treatment.
I do not relish taking part in this debate because I feel a great deal of sympathy for the present Minister for the Army. He is in no way responsible for the disciplinary powers that have been in the hands of the Army authorities down through the years. He was not even Minister for the Army at the time of the water torture treatment case, on 25th October 1966. The wrong Minister is in the box. The Minister who should be in the box is the present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I will grant the Minister for Education and Science that since this debate commenced he has sat in the same seat in the House for most of the time. Certainly he has had his head down and a red blush on his face, but he has been unwilling to get up and take any part in this debate at all.
Between 1966 and March of this year when the story of the water torture case broke, the present Minister for Education and Science had reviewed the troops in Vietnam on one or more occasions. Because of the repeated accounts of torture of prisoners by the North Vietnamese and by the South Vietnamese and because of allegations that the Americans and ourselves were also treating our prisoners harshly, surely the present Minister for Education and Science made some inquiries about the treatment of prisoners by our own Australian soldiers. If he was misled in Vietnam in the same way as. the present Minister for the Army was misled in Australia by his advisers, the whole of the Army administration deserves a thorough investigation. But the present Minister for Education and Science was not the only Minister to travel to Vietnam. The former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, also travelled there. During all this time the Army authorities in Vietnam knew about this water torture treatment and the discipline that had been meted out to the warrant officer. But at no stage did they deem it advisable to inform the former Prime Minister or, apparency, the former Minister for the Army.
The present Minister for the Army was the mystery appointment in the first Gorton Ministry. He came from nowhere. He was the dark horse in the field. He was not mentioned. The honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Irwin), the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) and two or three other members were mentioned as being likely to be appointed to the Ministry, but certainly not the present Minister for the Army. But he has one thing in common with the present Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) - he has a swimming pool and barbecue amenities in his backyard. There is a great deal of similarity between this case and the case of the Voyager’ disaster. The present Prime Minister, who was Minister for the Navy for 4 or 5 years, up to a few weeks before the Voyager’ disaster, allowed the whole responsibility of dealing with that disaster in debates in the House to rest upon the then new Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Perth. The honourable member for Perth was in office for a short time before he was dismissed and his portfolio handed over to someone else.
The same circumstances apply in this case. A member who had been in the Parliament for 15 months was given the portfolio of Minister for the Army. The Minister who had held the Army portfolio for at least 3 years before then made a short speech in this House when the water torture case was debated on 14th March, but he has not said anything at all today. The water torture case is not the responsibility of the present Minister for the Army. It is the responsibility of the previous Minister for the Army and he should at least face up to that responsibility. The present Minister for Education and Science had his warning while he was Minister for the Array. There was the famous Gunner O’Neill case - the case of the soldier who was handcuffed to a picket fence. That happened while the Minister for Education and Science had the portfolio of Minister for the Army. Surely that was a warning to him that there was something wrong within the Army. Then there was the water torture case about which, apparently, the previous Minister for the Army knew nothing. But he should have been aware that things were npt as rosy in the garden as they appeared to be. He should have had a look at these matters.
Now I come to the present Minister for the Army, and here 1. make my major criticism. Despite the fact that the Minister has been let down on at least two occasions by his advisers, he is inclined to become more and more arrogant in answering questions. One only has to look at his answers to questions in this House since the Townsend case received publicity in order to appreciate this fact. The Minister must have known something about Army discipline because he had the Gunner O’Neill case and the water torture case to look at. He should have been aware that there was something wrong internally in the Army, and he should have been watching these matters. When he was so badly let down around about 7th March he should have been even more watchful than he has been. Instead of coming into the House, admitting these things and then hoping to get out, and, when questioned further on the topic, adopting an arrogant attitude, he should at least have made some attempt to see that a review of disciplinary powers in the Army was carried out much more quickly than is proposed. He should have seen that not only half-hourly wakenings were cut out, but also that various other harsh disciplinary measures were cut out.
In answer to a question asked on 28 th May 1968 by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) concerning changing the military regulations, the Minister for the Army said:
This is the normal code of military discipline that is subscribed to by the three Services.
On the same day the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) asked the Minister a question regarding the treatment of prisoners in civilian prisons compared with the treatment of Army personnel. The Minister gave the following reply:
In answer to another question on the same day by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) as to whether torture treatment was intended to break the resistance of prisoners the Minister said:
The system of half-hourly inspections, to which the honourable member also referred, was originally instituted for the safety of prisoners.
Whose leg does the Minister for the Army think he is pulling and whose leg does the Minister for Defence think he is pulling by trying to tell us that a man is awakened every half bour in order to see that he is safe? When 1 was in the Army we had a saying that the Army could do everything to you but make you love the baby. The Government has been allowing torture to go on. This treatment is given not only to national servicemen who are in the Army against their will but also to volunteers - those men who joined up in order to serve their country in time of peace hoping to make a career of the Army. Because these people kick over traces for some reason or other or fight against the system this inhuman, barbarous treatment is meted out to them. I do not think that the Opposition or the people of Australia will be satisfied unless the Minister for the Army gives a firm assurance that the disciplinary code and the practices followed at present will be revised and soldiers will be treated as human beings.
– I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest-
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon.W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Barnard’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is the Bill mentioned in the notice I have given for general business Thursday No. 7. my notice reading:
To present a Bill for an Act to abolish capital punishment under Federal laws.
Capital punishment can be imposed under laws of the Commonwealth for treason, in some cases under the Defence Act, for grave breaches of the Geneva Red Cross conventions and under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act, and in the mainland Territories it can be imposed for murder. A sentence has been imposed for murder and is awaiting execution in the Northern Territory. A fortnight ago when I was there the Catholic Bishop of Darwin issued a statement against the death penalty. I quote the following passage:
Surely in the Northern Territory the time has come for the abolition of capital punishment. It cannot be proven that it is required for the protection of the community; it does nothing in itself to rehabilitate the criminal; nor need we resort to it for the vindication of justice. . . . Finally, human justice is always fallible, even when administered by men of integrity. In the past mistakes have been made and innocent men have been sent to the gallows. Until the death penalty is abolished there will always remain this possibility. No Christian, mindful of the miscarriage of justice when the innocent Christ was crucified can regard with equanimity the retention of capital punishment.’
There have been few occasions on which the abolition of capital punishment has been debated in this Parliament. The last occasion but one was on the Crimes Bill in I960; the last occasion was on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill in 1963. Last year the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) asked the late Prime Minister whether he would facilitate a debate on this subject in this House. The late right honourable gentleman pointed out that means were available to private members for initiating such a discussion. The honourable member thereupon, on 1st March last year, moved for general business Thursday No. 5:
That, in the opinion of this House, capital punishment should be abolished in the Australian Capital Territory.
The matter was not debated before the Parliament was prorogued. Accordingly, on the second day on which Parliament sat this year, I moved for general business Thursday No. 7:
That, in the opinion of this House, capital punishment should be abolished in the Territories.
Shortly thereafter the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) announced that an Ordinance had been introduced abolishing capital punishment in the Australian Capital Territory except for murder. He announced that a similar ordinance would be introduced into the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. Thereupon I gave the notice which is still in my name on the notice paper.
Twice this session the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), who is well known for his opposition to capital punishment, has asked questions of the Leader of the House, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), about the debate and the vote on the notice which is in my name. On each occasion the Minister has pointed out that my Party would be unlikely to have a free vote on this matter. He is quite correct. It is a matter of conscience for my Party to work for the abolition of capital punishment. It did so well over a generation ago in Queensland. It did so two decades ago in New South Wales. It has tried to do so in the Victorian Parliament. lt has tried to do so in both Houses of this Parliament. I recall to honourable members the many efforts made by Mr John Galbally, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Victorian Legislative Council in this respect. I recall to honourable members the debate which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate initiated on the 14th of last month. The Labor Party at State elections and at Federal elections has consistently advocated the abolition of capital punishment. Accordingly, no Labor man in any Australian Parliament can forgo the opportunity to advocate and, where possible, implement this matter which has been so long on our Party platform.
Surely it is no answer to say that because Labor men are committed to this principle, whereas the Liberal Party of Australia is divided on it and the Australian Country Party appears to be opposed to it, therefore there can never be a vote on it in this
Parliament. The honourable member for Higinbotham is quite clear in his opposition to capital punishment. The honourable member for Bradfield is quite clear in his opposition to capital punishment; the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) is quite clear in his opposition to capital punishment. In actual fact the honourable member for Warringah will support me when, next Wednesday, at Melbourne University Union House, I launch the ‘Sun’ book entitled ‘The Penalty is Death’ which has been compiled by the Anti-Hanging Council of Victoria and edited by Mr Barry Jones, the Secretary of that Council. Honourable members will read, and I hope that partly as a result of this debate many thousands of our fellow citizens also will read, the articles, the views and the statistics on this question of capital punishment. ‘The Penalty is Death’ costs $1.75. It is an admirable publication explaining in Australian terms the practice and the ideals which have been applied in all the countries with which we compare ourselves.
There should be no delay on this occasion in having a vote in this House just as one was taken in another place. In another place all members of my Party voted in favour of this Bill. They were supported by one member of the Liberal Party, one member of the Australian Country Party and one member of the Democratic Labor Party. If a free vote were accorded to Government supporters in this chamber, I believe that Australia might at least adopt this one rational reform insofar as it is within the power of this Parliament to introduce it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, I was pointing out that there were not many offences under Commonwealth or Territory laws which attracted the death penalty. There have been very few cases, I would go on to say, in which the death penalty has actually been executed. The latest figures I have are in an answer which Sir Garfield Barwick, when Attorney-General, gave me on 24th September 1963. This answer read:
No sentence of death has been passed in that time-
That was since 1950 - under Federal law. In two cases, sentences of death were passed under the law of the Australian Capital Territory, one on a conviction for rape and one on a conviction for murder. Under the law of the Northern Territory, sentences of death were passed on three persons on convictions for murder.
I have said that there is one death sentence which has been imposed for murder in the Northern Territory. Whatever attitude the Attorney-General or whoever follows me on the Government side may adopt on this Bill, I hope that the assurance can be given that that sentence will be commuted. Hie Attorney-General has taken steps to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except murder and treason, in the two mainland Territories. There were in the Australian Capital Territory more offences which attracted the death penalty than in any other jurisdiction in Australia.
The size of the reform in abolishing the death penalty for this great range of archaic crimes was the subject of an editorial in the “Daily Telegraph’ on Saturday, 16th March 1968. 1 apprehend that very few honourable gentlemen or members of the public read editorials in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ except on Saturday, lt is the day of the week when the ‘Daily Telegraph’ almost justifies its existence. The- literate persons whom it employs are given their head on one page of literary reviews and in the editorial. I will be making some quotations during the remainder of my speech but there is none, I imagine, which will give so much pleasure to the audience as this one from the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Saturday, 16th March. It is headed: ‘Our Inland Pirates’. Piracy, of course, attracted the death penalty in the Australian Capital Territory before the Attorney-General introduced this colossal, epoch-making reform. The editorial reads:
The Federal Government has decided to make a controversial change in the law.
It will shortly abolish the death’ penalty for piracy in the Australian Capital Territory.
Canberra pirates will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment instead.
Government supporters argue that the change is in line wilh humane trends.
Many Canberra people, however, fear that a prison sentence may not be a strong enough deterrent.
They predict that gangs of public servants, in search of weekend excitement, will hoist the Jolly Roger on Lake Burley Griffin.
The buccaneering spirit is said to be especially rife in the Taxation Department.
Officials there have been heard singing: ‘Yo ho ho and a vacuum flask of tea!’
The danger of piracy discourages boating in the Federal Capital.
It is no fun walking the plank in the lake’s notoriously cold waters.
Another offence which will no longer be punishable by death in the Australian Capital Territory is ‘maliciously altering or removing a signal to bring a boat into danger’.
This leniency may tempt irresponsible diplomats to take up wrecking as a sideline.
Despite these changes there must be no slackening of efforts to put down lawlessness on the Canberra Main.
A Treasury man does not have to be a pirate king to acquire treasure.
At the first sign of the black flag the Navy should go into action. lt must show that this Government is opposed to piracy - and no Kidding.
– These laws apply to the Jervis Bay area as well.
– Indeed I am not vouching for the correctness of any legal opinions expressed in this editorial.’ For instance, I would imagine that diplomats who did alter signs on Lake Burley Griffin would plead diplomatic immunity and would suffer no worse fate than being declared personae non gratae.
Many articles have been published in Australia in recent years in which the arguments for or against capital punishment have been canvassed. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senator (Senator Cohen), 3 weeks ago referred to the article by Mr Justice Barry in the ‘Sydney Law Review’ of March 1958. The last time I spoke on capital punishment in the debate on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill of 1963 I quoted a report to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in January of that year. The report read:
The Committee thought it might be of assistance to the Economic and Social Council if it summarized the main headings of the arguments for and against capital punishment to assist the Economic and Social Council in its deliberations. The arguments most frequently advanced in favour of capital punishment are: capital punishment is a uniquely effective deterrent and thus better protects the community; man’s innate sense of justice sees this punishment as bearing a just relationship to certain heinous types of crime; there is no satisfactory alternative to capital punishment; public opinion strongly favours its retention. Those favouring abolition reject the truth or force of the above contentions and further argue that: it is morally wrong for the
State, in the name of the Law, deliberately to take life; miscarriages of justice occur and, if this sanction is applied, cannot be rectified; capital punishment is potentially subject to misuse; capital punishment runs counter to the modern penological aim of rehabilitating the individual offender. In turn the retentionists repudiate these major abolitionist arguments.
The Committee noted that abolitionist policy represents the major trend among experts and other practitioners in this field, and that even those who do not support abolitionist policy tend to take an increasingly restrictive view of the use of capital punishment.
It will have been noted that the attitude of Sir Garfield Barwick underwent notable modification and modernisation between the time in 1960 when he advanced or so peremptorily dismissed arguments in the debate on the Crimes Bill and 1963 when he put or dismissed arguments in the debate on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill.
Perhaps I might briefly put some arguments myself. The death penalty does not deter malefactors or edify the community. There are no statistics which show that when the death penalty is abolished, as it has been abolished in Queensland and as it has virtually been abolished in New South Wales, the crimes for which it was formerly prescribed have increased in number. There have been a few countries in the world where the death penalty has been restored for some offences. There are no statistics which show that in those cases the occurrence of those offences has decreased.
My colleague in another place cited the fact that in the last 3-year period in which there was a Labor government in Victoria, and accordingly no executions, the number of convictions for what were still nominally capital crimes was greater, on a percentage basis than in the ensuing 3 years, when there was a Liberal government and there were some executions. The severity of the penalty is counter productive. Fewer convictions are made by juries, which feel that the punishment is too drastic for the offence. If sheer severity of a penalty deters crime, we should not boggle at inflicting the death penalty by hanging but should revert to some of the more protracted and spectacular forms of death penalty that our ancestors enjoyed, such as hanging, drawing and quartering.
There is no statistical argument and there is certainly no logical or humane argument for preserving the death penalty. There have been cases in which persons convicted of capital crimes have been executed and later proved innocent. The sentence, of course, made it impossible to resuscitate or resurrect them, and there is no vindication for them except in the eyes of posterity.
Another reason that ought to prompt us to abolish the death penalty is that capital punishment is just as barbaric and inexcusable in the hands of states as it is in the hands of individuals. It barbarises and unsettles the executioners themselves. There have been many instances in which people who have earned their living as executioners - the greatest number of them these days is in South Africa, which is the capital of capital punishment - have in fact become deranged. Not long ago in Australia’s history executions were carried out in public, and it is to the disgrace of our forebears of a few generations back that they used to Hock to such spectacles. We are ashamed of them now. We should be glad that we have rid ourselves of this Madame Defarge mentality. The whole community is barbarised by the taking of this short way of vengeance.
All the arguments for and such arguments as there are against the death penalty are lucidly and effectively set out in this Sun’ book, ‘The Penalty is Death’, edited by Barry Jones, which I shall be launching next Wednesday, supported by the honourable member for Warringah.
– What is the price?
– One dollar and seventyfive cents. It would be impossible in any of the countries with which we compare ourselves for any author or editor to make a dividend let alone a living from publishing a book on capital punishment. In all these countries, capital punishment has been abolished for a generation; it has not been imposed for more than a generation. In this Parliament we cannot modernise all the laws in Australia. This is one field in which the State governments have a very great role, as we saw in South Australia for 3 years until 2 months ago. In the matter of capital punishment this Parliament can bring us up to date. I know the Attorney has frequently postponed reforms in the Australian Capital Territory because he says it then will become a resort for criminals.
– Hardly frequently.
– The Attorney has occasionally put’ this argument. He used such a vivid example that it is fresh in my mind. I hardly think that potential capital criminals will resort to Canberra to perpetrate their vile designs. We run no risk by abolishing capital punishment under Commonwealth and Territory laws.I commend the Bill to the House.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. As the title of the Bill stales, this is a Bill for an Act to abolish capital punishment under the laws of the Commonwealth. The Act is to apply through the whole of the Commonwealth and the Territories and beyond the Commonwealth and the Territories. It provides that no person shall be liable to the punishment of death for any offence and states:
Where by any Act, Regulation, Ordinance or other law it is provided that a person shall be liable to punishment of death, the reference to punishment of death shall be read, construed and applied as if the penalty of imprisonment for life were substituted therefor.
It used to be a common gibe against our English forebears, particularly the hunting squires, that they would say to their followers: ‘This is a particularly fine day; let us go out and kill something’. We of the English speaking world might be said to be the historical heirs of the Roman Empire, with strong, united government, with stern laws, with criminal codes of monumental severity. These in our case were tempered, as they never were with the Romans, by the good sense of the Jewish system and the clemency of the judiciary. To this day the criminal codes of all the States in Australia are severe compared with those in other parts of the English speaking world and the democratic countries of northern Europe.
It has, of course, been the policy of my Party for many years that capital punishment should be abolished. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) in a ministerial statement on 13th March said:
In the meantime some eight offences in addition to murder under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory carry the death penalty. This scale of penalties for crimes is the most severe that can be found in Australia. Also, the laws of the Northern Territory require the death penalty for the offence of piracy as well as for murder.
The Attorney-General then went on to give the eight offences. The offences for which the death penalty was required, other than murder, were piracy with violence, certain attempts to murder, rape, carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 10 years, breaking and entering a dwelling house with intent to murder or to inflict grievous bodily harm, maliciously setting fire to a dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft knowing any person to be in such dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft, maliciously setting fire to or casting away or by any other means destroying any vessel which is afloat, any person being in such vessel, and maliciously masking, altering or removing any light or signal with intent to bring any vessel or boat into danger. This is quite a miscellany of offences.
If we examine the criminal codes of the various Australian States that still prescribe the death penalty, we find that in no case is there uniformity. The legislatures have been quite eclectic in their choice of the types of felony for which they impose the maximum penalty. In this measure the Senate has literally given a lead to Australia. We are the National Parliament and it is correct in these matters that we should give a lead: It is correct also, and it is typical of this Government, that in matters of refurbishing the criminal attics, of sweeping out the hidden spots, it has been reluctant at all times to act. The opportunity is here for it and we throw out the challenge to it. Australia has the opportunity to join with no fewer than 37 countries that have either abolished or substantially abolished capital punishment. We can take a lead from such notable parliamentary democracies as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, West Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy; these are the main countries of Europe. The Soviet Union abolished capital punishment up to 1950, but it has now reintroduced it in relation to certain political offences which might be the equivalent of sedition and high treason in our criminal code.
– The American Federal law also has abolished it.
– That is so. The matter being discussed tonight turns on a consideration of a question that has given rise to one of the classic controversies of our time; indeed, in the past century or two much discussion has centred on the question as to whether and when society is justified in taking the life of a person because that person has taken the life of another or has been found guilty of some other crime for which it is proper to impose a penalty of maximum severity.
This is a matter that requires the most dispassionate consideration. Whenever the issue has been raised in public discussion unnecessary heat has developed. If the statistics are examined, it will be seen that in most’ States of Australia few hangings have taken place in recent years, lt is notable that in Queensland, where capital punishment has been abolished for 48 years, the incidence of murder is certainly not as great as in some of the other States that’ have retained the death penalty. When the records of hangings and murders are examined, the retention of capital punishment is found to be of no more use in the prevention of crime than the vermiform appendix is to the human body, lt is vestigial, and therefore it should be abolished.
I shall examine the primitive concepts on which criminal penalty and liability have been based, in prehistoric times primitive man, walking through the forest and barking his shin against a stick, would kick angrily at the stick; he would kick it out of his way. In early criminal law a principle known as piacularity was introduced. In the treatment of primitive crime it is remarkable to note the extent to which blame was attached not only to the person who committed the crime but also to the means by which it was achieved. It was common for a dagger or some other weapon to be condemned to be destroyed. Even worse than that, the deodand was treated in that fashion and was condemned to be destroyed, or in certain cases was forfeited to the church, in other cases it was quite a lucrative source of income for the royal revenue.
That is typical of the primitive approach to crime, and I fear that it still exists in the lurking depths of public opinion. In more recent times, in the period of the Norman conquest, not only was there a strict liability for the person whose act or conduct appeared as the visible cause of harm but also condign physical punishment was inflicted by the Norman regime. At that time Britain was under a system of peonage and the punishments were of appalling ferocity. With our inheritance from those days, it isno wonder that the valued jury system is the sword and buckler of individual liberty. In terms of savagery, perhaps the peak was reached in the law dealing with treason. In the time of Edward III our bloodthirsty ancestors, in the Statute of Treason, provided not only for the death penalty but also for special acts of horror that were attached to crimes considered to be of supreme heinousness. These were offences such as an attack on the royal person, violating the person of his wife, waging war against the king, and aiding and abetting the king’s enemies. In those cases the offender was partially hanged, then cut down, drawn on a hurdle to a scaffold and disembowelled while still alive; he was then beheaded and quartered, the quartered parts - made in God’s image and likeness, mark you - were then boiled in salt to prevent putrefaction. Then there was this charming touch - the estates of the condemned persons were forfeited to the Crown. This is our violent and bloody inheritance of feudal barbarity.
Coming to more recent times, my home State of New South Wales was originally settled as a penal colony. People there still have a deep memory of the monumental severity of the criminal law because when men and women were transported in the First Fleet, and later, they came from a country in which more than 600 offences carried the death sentence. Often it depended upon the connivance of the jury to secure transportation rather than hanging. Henry I, the Lion of Justice as he was called, ruled at a time when larceny of goods to the value of1s was sufficient to attract a neck tie party. Apparently at some stage in the darker recesses of English jurisprudence the bowels of compassion were opened, and by 1780 this was eased so that larceny of goods to the value of 5s had to be involved before a man was hanged. In many instances juries entered into the spirit of the law by returning a verdict that the value was less than 5s, although the goods were of gold, silver or some semi-precious metal. At least the poor wretch was saved from the gallows, although transportation was inevitable.
As to hanging being a deterrent, the gallows at Tyburn were notoriously never empty, and hanging was a form of public entertainment which attracted the worst and most bloodthirsty of English society. Of course, this made a field day for the pickpockets, who would go about their trade while the spectators were enjoying the blood sport and concentrating on the contortions of the victim. In this way one crime bred another. In New South Wales, even to this day, one can almost hear the hiss of thelash and the scream of the victim stretched on the triangle. The late Clarrie Martin, a brilliant and humane AttorneyGeneral in New South Wales, once said: In New South Wales our forebears built strong gaols. They erected court houses which, for their day, were of monumental architecture. They had a stern criminal code and left the malefactors to their devices.’ He mentioned also that the punishment books of some of the earlier days of the colony were missing; apparently some of the best families in New South Wales had a record in those earlier years. With an inheritance such as this it is time we examined thoroughly our collective consciences and got down to the serious business of abolishing capital punishment. We live in a new era. We prate of our enlightenment; we believe that there is a case for common Christian charity to be extended. Many of the traditional arguments against the abolition of capital punishment have been dealt with most effectively by Mr Justice Barry, a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Chairman of the Department of Criminology of the University of Melbourne and Chairman of the Parole Board of Victoria. For appropriate insertion in Hansard I quote comments by Mr Justice Barry in a paper of his - a classic - published in the ‘Sydney Law Review’ of March 1958. Dealing with the death penalty, he wrote:
The argument that the penalty of death is unique in its deterrent effect rests reallyupon personal intuition; upon the feeling that each one of us has, that awareness that his life will be forfeit if he docs a forbidden act will prevent him from doing that act. Implicit in that awareness is, of course, the assumption that discovery and conviction are certain, or, at least, highly likely. Where that assumption is not made or is rejected, plainly the awareness does not operate effectively or universally as a restraining influence, for it is notorious that many planned murders have been committed by persons who felt sure their guilt would not be discovered. The argument involves, too, that no lesser form of punishment will be as effective. But if the argument is to be regarded as coercive, it is applicable to every crime, and thus the whittling down of the list of capital offences during the nineteenth century in England from over 200 to 4 was done in disregard of it. Experience has demonstrated its falsity in connection with the crimes that were made non-capital, for the adverse consequences predicted did not occur. Moreover, if deterrence is the object, the logic of deterrence requires that the penalty be attended by more than simple death.
In refutation of those who refer to the old Mosaic law, again I quote the remarks of Mr Justice Barry, who stated:
The argument that death is the appropriate penalty for him who kills is less of a rationalisation than some of the other arguments, and reveals more clearly a significant factor operating on the minds of the retentionists. It rests upon the deeply implanted desire of the human being to equate evil with evil; it is expressed in the lex talionis embodied in the Mosaic code; ‘life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe’.
Mr Justice Barry’s quotation from the Mosaic code is found in Exodus XXI. His honour continued:
This doctrine, let it be said, was a considerable advance on the unlimited right of vengeance which it replaced; at least it demanded a proportion between the injury and the penalty. We have, of course, abandoned all the equations except life for life, and stripe for stripe, and even here society could not now endure a complete application. Even the retentionists do not mean that all murders, let alone all killings, should be visited with the death penalty.
It is high time this Government listened to the voice of enlightened civilised countries. It is high time this Government abandoned its obmutescence on this issue, faced up to its responsibilities and finally and fully abolished capital punishment by accepting this measure.
Motion (by Mr Bowen) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The question is that the debate be now adjourned and the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Will all those in favour say Aye?
Government supporters - Aye.
– Will those against the motion say No?
– Is a division required?
– I am afraid that I cannot accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition. The Standing Orders provide that so long as copies of the Bill have been circulated amongst honourable members, the honourable member in charge of the Bill may exercise an option to move the second reading immediately after the Bill has been read a first time. The Standing Orders state also that if this option is exercised, the debate shall then be adjourned to the next day of sitting. As the Leader of the Opposition exercised his option, the debate has to be adjourned unless leave to the contrary is granted or other action is taken. There can be no division. The question is resolved in the affirmative. The resumption of the debate will accordingly be put down in the name of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), who moved the adjournment of the debate. The relevant standing orders are Nos 217 and 218.
– I accept the indication which has fallen from you, Mr Speaker, and move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate proceeding forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . ..21
Question , so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - Australia will be participating in the financing of a drawing by France from the International Monetary Fund valued at $US745m. Australia has agreed to supply the equivalent of $US20m from the Fund’s holdings of Australian currency and a further SUS8.5m through the sale of Australian currency for gold. The net effect of these transactions is that Australia’s foreign exchange holdings will fall by $A26m but our gold holdings will increase by $A7.6m and our reserve position with the International Monetary Fund will increase by $A18m. Australia’s reserve position in its gold tranche’ with the Fund, which is available automatically in case of balance of payments need, and which is gold guaranteed, now amounts to $A217m. It is a matter for satisfaction that it has been possible for Australia to co-operate with other Fund members in this operation to finance the French drawing.
– by leave - I have to inform the House that this morning a naval Iroquois helicopter crashed into the sea off Jervis Bay with the loss of the lives of three of the crew members. The helicopter from the Naval Air Station at Nowra was on a range clearance flight over the Navy Beecroft Range at the heads of Jervis Bay. The helicopter had landed on Beecroft head to land a crew member who was to take charge of a rifle shooting exercise later in the morning. After taking off. the helicopter completed a circuit of the range when the pilot appeared to lose control of the aircraft which struck the ground. It rose into the air again, rolled over and hit the cliff edge before falling into the sea. Two Wessex helicopters from the Naval Air Station soon after made a low level search of the area for survivors. The wrecked helicopter was sighted in about 10 fathoms of water. Two bodies were later recovered from the wreckage. A naval clearance diving party left Sydney soon after the report was received to help in investigating and the mine sweeper ‘Teal’, which was in the area, was sent to help in recovery operations. A second diving party left Sydney later today with air compression equipment which will be used in the salvage operations. A naval board of inquiry will be convened at the Naval Air Station tomorrow. I know that I speak for the Government and for both sides of the House when I say that we extend our deep and sincere sympathy to the relatives of the crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident.
– I move:
The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal to erect, in two stages, a 600 bed hospital complete with staff accommodation. Buildings will be of reinforced concrete construction with external brick, finish. The Committee recommended the extension of air-conditioning to both hospital blocks and the Government has approved this recommendation at an estimated cost of $480,000. The estimated cost of the proposal is now $17,480,000. it is proposed to accept the further recommendations of the Committee relating to the provision of a small swimming pool for the equivalent cost of two of the proposed tennis courts; the close scrutiny of each of the suggestions made by private witnesses about the design of the project; and the possibility of achieving continuity in the contractual arrangements, although the implementation of this latter recommendation, involving a much earlier commitment and expenditure of funds, will need to be reviewed in the light of later programming and budgetary considerations.
The Committee also recommended that the Commonwealth should initiate discussions with the States with a view to establishing an agency responsible for the collection, evaluation and dissemination of hospital planning and design information. My colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), is considering the inclusion of this item on the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the Commonwealth and State Health Ministers. The recommendations of the Committee concerning the need to commence planning of subsequent hospital accommodation for Canberra and other matters which concern the policies of the Department of Health are under consideration by my colleague the Minister for Health. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– In speaking to the motion I would, first of all, commend the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for the way in which it carried out its inquiry into this matter. It is quite obvious, not from the report itself but from the daily Press reports of the proceedings, that the Committee examined the witnesses carefully, made a substantial assessment of the evidence and bestowed praise where it was deserved and chided where this remedy seemed to be called for. I am pleased also to note that the Government - and I commend it for it - has accepted the recommendations of the Committee, particularly in relation to the future planning of hospital construction. It has also agreed to take into account the views of the private witnesses, as referred to in the speech of the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly).
The Committee, in its report, expressed a considerable degree of criticism in the planning of hospital needs in Canberra. The Committee said that the failure to plan hospital services sufficiently in advance of their needs would result in a critical shortage of beds if schedules for the Woden Hospital or the Calvary Hospital, which is to be built by an order of the Roman Catholic Church at Belconnen, fell behind. The planning phases for the project at Woden should have been undertaken at least 12 to 18 months earlier than, had actually occurred. That is one of the major findings in the report. The Committee did not recommend any major changes in the basic design for the hospital, other than to request that both hospital blocks be completely air conditioned at an additional cost of $480,000. I am delighted that the Government has accepted that recommendation. The Committee’s report - and it is easier to refer to these matters from the newspaper reports than from the transcript - stated that critical shortages of beds could develop if population projections were exceeded or the construction schedule of either the Woden or Calvary Hospitals fell behind. The Committee went on to say:
We are conscious that 9 years will have elapsed between the appointment of the ACT hospital planning committee and the occupation of the first beds at the Woden Hospital. The first additional beds after the completion of the Woden Hospital will be required about 1977-78 and we strongly recommend that positive steps be taken now to commence planning subsequent hospital accommodation.
The report noted the initial recommendation in 1960, that work should begin immediately on future hospital planning and that 4 years had elapsed before the suggested planning had begun. The report continued:
We have not held a post mortem an the reasons for the inactivity between 1960 and 1964, but we do wish to emphasise that, according to the present population projections, bed shortages will occur intermittently between now and 1975. The shortages will be minimal if the population increases are as predicted and hospital schedules are kept up. Time only will tell whether the failure to act on the 1960 recommendation will have serious consequences, but it seems anomalous that with the planning expertise in Canberra and the information available about future development that a potential breakdown should be possible in a vital community service.
It seems clear that the 4 years lost time will result in a grave shortage of hospital beds in the Canberra community before the Woden Hospital is completed. We are working now on the basis of six hospital beds per 1,000 of population. There is an argument about this basis. Some people say that eight hospital beds per 1,000 of population is necessary. It is not sufficient merely to take the population and divideit by a number of beds per 1,000 to assess the needs, because in any hospital there are sections which cannot be made available for general use. I refer to the obstetric, geriatric and children’s wards. The beds in these areas cannot be taken into tally for general use by the population in the case of an emergency or in the case of pressure being built up by the growth of population.
It became apparent from the hearings of the Committee that the people responsible for the planning and design of the Woden Hospital had not sought the views of those who might be expected to be able to advise, with some degree of value, on the actual design of a hospital building. It is true that in this city we build schools without consulting the teachers and we build houses without consulting experienced housing officers who know the requirements of their clients. Now it is perfectly evident that we have embarked on the planning and architectural design of a major hospital - a 600 bed hospital - without having sought, or taken into account beforehand, the views of those people who could have given valuable advice. One has only to refer to the daily Press reports of the hearings of the Committee to make this point abundantly clear. A report which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ on 26th March quoted Dr Saw as saying that the demand for hospital beds was increasing from 5.1 per 1,000 and he wondered whether the population of the surrounding districts had been taken into account as specialised services became available. He said that the fixed nature and complexity of many of the hospital facilities made no provision for the most rapidly advancing technical areas such as radiology and pathology.
Dr Mitchell, a physician, said that there was no provision at all for computers or the use of radio-isotopes which would be a basic need by 1975. A surgeon, Dr E Fleming said, when referring to the actual hospital building as it is planned, that the theatres should be isolated with graded access. He continued:
In this ‘sterile’ area there are no less than six means of access, including one entry through a pantry and another through the cleaners’ utility room. Operating theatre staff are to use toilets in the public area; the orthopaedic theatre (‘dirty’ or non-sterile) is next to the sterile theatres; the theatres are inadequate in size and there are not enough of them.
Dr Saw, to whom I referred earlier, is reported as having said that he believed the Health and Works departments and the architects had not consulted the local branch of the Australian Medical Association or the Medical Superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital when planning the new 600-bed hospital. Dr R. G. Blumer, a gynaecologist, also gave evidence before the Committee. He generally criticised and disapproved of the obstetrics ward. He is reported as having said that sharing facilities with the operating suite on the eighth floor would be embarrassing and awkward. It was reported in the Canberra Times’ of 26th March 1968 that a witness also criticised the fact that no provision had been made for a coronary care unit, which is rapidly becoming acceptable in other areas. I again refer to Dr Saw. He is reported to have said:
We don’t want partitions. There is one part of the babies’ ward at Canberra Community Hospital which can’t be opened because it is unsuitable and can’t be worked. The same thing is planned for Woden.
I am quoting these extracts because it was stated officially that advice had been sought by the architects and planners from people with lengthy experience in the medical profession. Here we have evidence that doctors in private practice, the Medical Superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital and others were not consulted on these vital matters; nor was the A M A. I could go on quoting the opinions of other doctors regarding the planning of the Woden hospital. For example, a submission from the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Dental Association was presented to the Committee. This indicated that only one dental clinic, 16 feet by 12 feet, was included in the plans for the hospital. And this is a 600-bed hospital! When replying to questions the witness representing the Dental Association is reported to have said that the hospital proposal was inadequate in its provision of dental facilities and that his Association had not been consulted in the planning of the hospital. The nurses also were not consulted. One would have thought that here was a field of practical experience that was available to those who were embarking on planning a major hospital of this kind. The ‘Canberra Times’ of 27th March 1968 reported:
Senior nursing staff at the Canberra Community Hospital, making submissions from the Hospital Employees Federation, made strong criticisms of the plans Ibr the Woden hospital.
The supervisors of the theatre and casualty and outpatients departments said the provisions would not be as good as at the Canberra Community Hospital.
They will not be as good as the conditions at the existing hospital. That report continued:
The general ward layout, the intensive care unit, the maternity, children’s, geriatric and psychiatric wards and nursing education and accommodation were all considered unsatisfactory.
In reply to a question asked by the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), Sister C. O. Thomas, President of the nursing branch of the Federation, said that the Federation had not been consulted by anyone. This comment was made in reply to a remark that, there, had apparently been an amazing gap between the original submission from the Health Department and that of the staff. The theatres supervisor at the Canberra Community Hospital, Sister M. G. Docker, is reported as having said that the theatre area, as planned, would be most difficult to work in. At a later stage during her evidence it is reported that she was asked by Senator Branson:
This is fairly damning evidence. If we went ahead and built this, would it be as good as Canberra Community?
Her answer was no. More evidence was given on behalf of the nurses. Sister E. McHugh is reported as having said that she had worked in the obstetrics department at Canberra Community Hospital for 20 years and considered the present set-up ideal. But she said that she was unhappy at the prospect of having labour wards on the eighth floor of the Woden hospital as they would be separated from the maternity ward. She also said that she considered the area was unrealistically designed. The clinical superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital, Dr Elvin, is reported as having attacked the planning of the Woden hospital, which is to cost the Commonwealth 517,480,000. He told the Committee:
To plan in splendid isolation, as seems to have been done with the Woden hospital, is quite wrong.
He is also reported as having said that evidence revealed at the Committee’s hearing showed that the planners had not taken advantage of all the knowledge available on hospital planning. He pointed out that the cost of the new hospital would equal the then cost of two FI lj aircraft. Probably it will cost less than two Fills according to the latest figures. Dr Elvin also said that the systems proposed for the Woden hospital were totally unimaginative. He said that some are known nol to be good in the 1960s let alone the 1980s.
These are criticisms from people who are staffing and managing hospitals - the doctors who are staffing and operating in hospitals and the nurses who are caring for patients in hospitals. This is evidence that was not sought by those who were planning this new Woden hospital. I have brought these points forward to show that the planning was not as it should have been and that the amazing loss of 4 years between the recommendation of the earlier Committee and the date on which planning will proceed has meant that Canberra will be short of hospital beds long before the Woden hospital is completed. I conclude by quoting from an editorial that appeared in the Canberra Times’ on 20th May 1968. This editorial seems to accurately sum up what has happened insofar as planning for this hospital is concerned. The editorial is headed The Lagging Hospitals’ and states:
No one will die in a Canberra street for want of a hospital bed, but if population projections for the next few years are exceeded as they have been in the past, or if the construction schedules for the Woden Hospital or Calvary Hospital in Belconnen fall behind, ‘the shortages (of hospital space) could be critical’. This, broadly, is the conclusion of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works after an investigation into hospital planning for the ACT. The committee foresees that ‘intermittently between now and 1975’ the provision of beds in ACT hospitals will fall below the accepted ratio of six for each 1.000 residents. This may not be too serious; the population of Woden and Belconnen will be young and may not need this number of beds. In a few years, however, when the people are older, something more to this order will be needed and it is wise to furnish it now. It is clear that the fairly smooth process of planning and constructing this city has stumbled badly in the area of hospital services.
Such an interruption of the planning process - and in a planned city this means the governmental process itself - rarely has a single cause. Without conducting a post-mortem of the reasons the Public Works Committee criticises the. Department of Health, which is responsible for hospital planning in Canberra, for doing little or nothing between I960 and 1964. The department reasonably may reply that during this time it was working to a planning philosophy very different from that which subsequently developed. The philosophy then was that the ACT would have only one city, surrounded by extensive suburbs, in which the Canberra Community Hospital would provide base facilities for a number of smaller hospitals, each with about 200 beds, scattered through the area. This concept was shattered, as the committee recognises, by the decision to build a series of distinct yet complementary cities in the. Territory; the department was forced to think afresh on the basis of a large, self-contained hospital for each city.
But given this explanation of why planning of the Woden Hospital was deferred until August 1964, when the ACT Hospital Planning Committee was established, the Department of Health has to explain why the committee’s work ran so far behind its own schedule. The planning committee recommended September 1966 as the date for the reference of plans to the Public Works Committee, but the Public Works Committee was not able to begin hearings on the plans until March this year. Somewhere, somehow, bottlenecks developed within the planning system. It has been suggested that the presence of several committees to oversf». progress was accompanied by too few officials actually making it - too many chiefs and too few Indians with too little practical experience, lt is probable, too, that the Department had difficulties getting its proposals accepted by the inquisitors of the Treasury, who could be expected to quibble over the ratio of beds to population provided. If this was the case the Health Department was wise to insist upon its original specifications, which an older population can be expected to justify.
The fact remains that hospital planning in the Australian Capital Territory has lagged. Whatever factors have been responsible - the Department’s own structure, inadequate staff, or external interference - they must not be allowed to impede future planning. The Public Works Committee has pointed to the need for still further hospital accommodation in 1977 or 1978; it has rightly urged that positive steps be taken now to provide it. The Department of Health should be more strongly placed, now, to do so. It has a small team of full time planners on the job and has engaged a leading English consultant, Lord Llewelyn Davies, as an adviser. The Public Works Committee has made a further useful recommendation; that an agency be set up to marshal experience in hospital design for use throughout Australia. Pending the establishment of this body the Health Department might consider sending its planners overseas to broaden their experience. It would be a pity, when making this fresh start, to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar.
I point out that the words ‘to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar’ have been misquoted. The correct wording is ‘to lose the sheep for a ha’porth of tar*. I conclude my remarks as I started, by commending the Public Works Committee on the job it has done in undertaking this inquiry and furnishing its report. I hope no further time will be lost in the construction of this hospital and that the evidence that has been given by experts will be taken into account in the final planning and construction of the buildings.
Mr BOSMAN (St George) 19.12]- 1 rise to comment upon the motion now before the House. As a member of the Public Works Committee 1 wish to make particular reference to some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). I think it is fair to say that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is at the table, is in the House at a very opportune moment. He could well give an indication to the House, if he chose to do so, of events that took place in the 4-year period between I960 and 1964. During this period there was a lapse of activity for which no-one can account. This is particularly so in regard to planning undertaken by the Department of Health. I will leave it to the Minister to deal with this matter, on which the Public Works Committee commented in its report. 1 believe it is important to get across to the House and the public the facts relating to the evidence given before the Public Works Committee. From the time the Woden Valley Hospital was first put on the plate of the officers responsible for planning the building, a splendid job was done. Dr Spears is due for commendation on the creditable manner in which he was able, in the relatively short time available since about April or July last year, to bring this project before the Public Works Committee and steer it through the Committee’s inquiry.
The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory quoted newspaper reports of the evidence given by the variety of witnesses who appeared before the Committee. I ask honourable members not to rely on newspaper reports but to refer to the minutes of evidence and the subsequent summary of evidence arrived at by the Committee. In this way they will gain a proper appreciation of the true situation. It occurred to members of the Committee that if it accepted all the propositions put to it in evidence, the cost of the hospital would be about $50m. In such a case it would be questionable whether the project would be a hospital in the long run. It would more likely be a monolithic structure which would do everything but render the service required. At all events, I appreciate the commendation by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory of the work put in by the Committee. Its members sifted through the evidence that was available. We looked into the background of the evidence with respect’ to the provision of a central centre for research into hospital administration and hospital construction. We believe we have come up with reasonable findings in relation to the Woden Valley Hospital. It is important that we get across to the public the fact that the newspaper reports quoted by the honourable member should not be taken just in the context in which he read them. Rather, they should be regarded as excerpts, taken out of context, from a variety of music that was played over numerous days at the inquiry conducted by the Committee. I would commend to those who are interested a study of the evidence and particularly of the summary of evidence and the summary of findings.
One criticism made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory was that only one room is to be made available for dental work at the hospital. In evidence which was given before the Committee, it was explained that in a general hospital such as the one we are discussing, one dental surgery is sufficient. In fact, the type of work undertaken by the dental section in this hospital will be mainly orthodontal. The dental section will be concerned mainly with repairing disfigured faces or broken dentures caused by the multitude of ordinary accidents that occur in everyday life. This is just one example of the type of argument raised by the honourable member. Further instances can be given in regard to access to cleansing rooms, operating theatres and so on. Very good reasons can be advanced as to why the construction proposed was adopted. Again I urge interested people nol’ to run wild on hearing the remarks made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. Rather, they should refer to the records of the evidence taken by the Public Works Committee. I believe it’ is sufficient to leave the matter there.
I conclude my remarks by saying that the Committee has recommended that a centre for research into hospital administration and construction should be established. We believe the construction of the Woden Valley Hospital, and the appointment by the Department of Health of a leading English consultant on hospital design, Lord Llewelyn Davies, are steps in the right direction. Whatever may have been the shortcomings of the past, I believe that the recommendations made by the Committee and the action already taken by the Department of Health enable us to say with confidence that the Territory’s hospital needs will be well looked after in the future, despite the pessimistic and even jeremiah attitude of the local Press towards the Committee’s recommendations.
– I will detain the House only very briefly. I thank the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) for making the very valid point that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) would have done much better to exert himself and read the transcript of the evidence given before the Public Works Committee rather than to rely on newspapers. If he had done so he would have found that the statements he made in relation to lack of consultation were unfounded. Advice was sought not only from some of the most expert people in Australia in this field but also from people in Canberra itself. Statements that there had been lack of consultation turned out to be absolutely incorrect. They were answered by officials of my Department when they replied to evidence which had been given before the Committee. Naturally it did not receive the same publicity in the ‘Canberra Times’ as the critical statements which were made by other people earlier. I do no more than refer to the fact that the record of the evidence given to the Public Works Committee shows clearly that a very great deal of consultation took place in this field. Obviously there is a limit to the extent to which one can consult; otherwise we would never build a hospital at all. A record of the consultation having taken place is in the evidence and if the honourable gentleman had read that instead of relying on the ‘Canberra Times’ he might have had matters more correctly in perspective.
I should like to compliment the Public Works Committee on its report which has been most helpful and most useful. As the House will have realised from the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) who represents the Minister for Works, the Government has accepted most, if not all, of the recommendations which were made by the Committee. Much was said by the Public Works Committee about the pressures on available hospital bed accommodation in the Australian Capital Territory in the second half of 1970 and the first half of 1971. Because this is a very important matter I should like to comment on it. I want to reassure the population of Canberra that these pressures can be met by the use of temporary accommodation within the present Canberra Community Hospital. The permanent capacity of the Canberra Community Hospital is 600 beds and, in addition, there are temporary facilities to accommodate ISO patients which can be used for as long as is necessary. I have been assured by the experts that in a hospital the size of the Canberra Community Hospital there is always flexibility to provide emergency beds should the need for them arise.
The Committee expressed concern that bed shortages could occur if population projections proved to be inaccurate or if the planning and building of the Little Company of Mary hospital at Belconnen or the Woden Hospital fell behind schedule, but in planning hospitals on a large scale and for a fast growing community it is extremely difficult to achieve a situation in which a constant bed to population ratio is maintained. Obviously we try to maintain it, but for obvious reasons hospitals have to be built in large units with a large number of beds coming into use at the one time. Therefore, the needs of the community have to be balanced carefully against budgeted cost. The aim is to ensure that the hospital accommodation which is necessary is available at all times so that public money is not wasted by having excess accommodation.
The Committee criticised the lack of departmental activity in the years 1960 to 1964. The only comment that I would make on that is that the need for intensive planning in this period was not apparent. The population projections indicated a population of 104,000 by 1970 as against the 132,000 which is now expected, and Canberra was being developed to have a high density population close to the centre. Departmental thinking at that time was towards a base hospital - the Canberra Community Hospital - of 600 beds and a series of satellite hospitals of about 200 beds. It was not until 1965 that new projections indicated a population of 132,000 by 1970 with Canberra being developed as a series of self-contained satellite population areas and the departmental planning was based on new premises in view of these developments. As I have said, the department is not unreceptive to the constructive suggestions which were put forward by the Committee.
Comments made by private witnesses at the hearing will be studied, as the Minister representing the Minister for Works has said, during the preparation of final drawings for the hospital. In fact some of the suggestions have already been incorporated in the sketch plan.
– Will the Minister say why the Government did not act on the 1960 recommendation of the Public Works Committee?
– -The honourable member has had a good chance to have his say. The only other point that I would make is that every effort is being made to ensure that the programmes for the Little Company of Mary 200 bed hospital at
Belconnen and for the 600-bed hospital at Woden Valley progress according to schedule. There is every expectation that the hospital bed needs of the Canberra population will be met.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1471), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament for a supplemental agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to provide for an additional $600,000 for the Mt Isa railway line. This amount is additional to the $34. 5m loaned to Queensland by the Commonwealth under the original agreement of 1961. The reason for this supplemental agreement and for the need to provide an additional $600,000 arises from litigation which was not finalised till after 30th June 1965. Because of this, the additional finance required by Queensland for this purpose could not be included in the original schedule to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. The railway to which I refer and which runs from Mt Isa to Townsville and Collinsville was reconstructed for the express purpose of catering for the expanded needs of Mt’ Isa. At the same time considerable weight was given to the possible expansion of the beef cattle industry from the Gulf of Carpentaria areas and the northern Channel country, as well as the sheep areas. After considerable debate and considerable pressure the Commonwealth provided this money for Queensland. The first approach for this finance was made to the World Bank which, after an investigation of the proposal rejected the application. This had been expected because this was not the type of enterprise with which the World Bank would be associated on the terms which were stated by the Commonwealth Government in its reference to the World Bank. One of the conditions which the World Bank wanted to impose on Mt Isa Mines Ltd was a promise or guarantee of a certain freight level for 29 years. Mt Isa Mines refused to give this guarantee and I believe that it was quite right in doing so. No mineral company can afford to give a guarantee for 29 years into the future.
The original agreement caused fierce controversy in this Parliament both before and after the Bill was introduced. We saw the rather unusual spectacle of even the conservative ‘Courier Mail’ not hesitating to criticise the Government for the terms and conditions attached to this loan. I will quote from that newspaper later. The very gentlemanly Premier of Queensland of the day, Mr Nicklin, made no bones about what he thought of this agreement. He said it discriminated severely against the State of Queensland. It would be true to say that the Federal Government displayed its indifference to Queensland in formulating one of the toughest, unfairest development agreements ever made.
Federal finance was provided to Queensland under such rigorous financial conditions that the loan of $34m will entail ?. total repayment of $57m. Interest will amount to $23m. The railway itself is one of the most valuable assets that we have in North Queensland. It is of very significant value to the Commonwealth because it is a major contributor to our overseas balance either in terms of direct export income or in terms of money saved by import substitution. It is just as important, if not more important, to the economy than some of the lines which the Commonwealth Government has financed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. In all cases Queensland has been the Cinderella State when finance has been required for major railway works. Whereas the southern States have received at least 70% of the total cost of railway construction in non-repayable grants from the Commonwealth, Queensland has received nothing by way of such grants. All of the money received by Queensland has been in the form of a fully repayable interest-bearing loan. In addition, Queensland has had to bear the crushing burden of making its repayments over a far shorter term than any other State. The periods for repayment for the other States have varied between 35 years and 50 years. Queensland also has to pay the highest rate of interest applying in any of the railway financing agreements entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. All these conditions added together make a very tough agreement.
Only a week ago we saw another example of discrimination. A total of $10m is to be provided to New South Wales by way of a grant for the construction of the railway from Parkes to Broken Hill. Compare this with the fully interest-bearing loan for the Mount Isa railway. What was the Government’s excuse for discrimination in the case of the Mount Isa railway? The excuse put forward by the then Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, was that the Mount lsa railway was not a standardisation project; in other words, the principles governing standardisation agreements could not be applied. I must question the logic in this, because I believe the criteria should be those laid down by the Commonwealth for development projects. These are that the project should be capable of earning export income or should be of some developmental assistance in a particular region. It was obvious that the reconstruction of this railway would be of great benefit not only to Mount lsa but also to Townsville, Collinsville and North Queensland in general.
Let us have a look at the position in South Australia. In that State the Commonwealth provided all the funds for the standardisation of gauge of the railway line between Adelaide and Mount Gambier, 70% by grant and 30% by loan. The Commonwealth contribution was $10m. The rate of interest was 4i% and the time for repayment was 50 years. Compare these terms with those of the Mount Isa loan - 5i% interest over 20 years. All the funds for the line from Wodonga to Melbourne were provided by the Commonwealth. Of the total amount of $29m, 70% was by way of grant and 30% by way of loan. The rate of interest was 5±% and the terms were over 50 years. In Western Australia 85% of the amount required for the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana line was provided by the Commonwealth, and Western Australia was required to pay back 65% of that amount over 35 years. In actual fact the agreement stated that half the amount was to be paid back over 50 years and half over 20 years. The average rate of interest was 51%, and approximately $70m was involved in the original agreement. The Mount Isa railway reconstruction cost less than the original estimate; two-thirds of the total cost was provided by the Commonwealth, the actual loan being $34m at a rate of interest of 51% over a period of 20 years. These figures show quite clearly why the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government of the day made no bones about describing the loan as discriminatory action against that State. Queensland has received less money by way of grants than any of the other States. In fact Queensland has received nothing. It faces the highest rate of interest for railway finance provided by the Commonwealth to the States and the shortest repayment time. The amount of money to be repaid on a loan of S34m is $57m, including interest of $23m. That is the kind of Commonwealth financing that I do not agree with. The conditions are too severe and are certainly not in the best interests of Queensland’s development. As I said before, the reply of the Prime Minister of the day to the criticism in this House, in the Senate and in the Queensland Parliament, was that the construction of the Mount Isa railway was not a standardisation project. I do not believe that argument is valid because, as I said before, the criteria should be economic feasibility, ability to earn export income and the contribution that will be made to the development of the region. The Mount Isa railway satisfies all those requirements. Generally, the line is causing a very large amount of worry. The foundations of some of the pylons on the major bridges are worrying the authorities and the line itself is subject to an extraordinary amount of buckling, probably indicating that the foundations were put down a little hastily.
All Queenslanders, irrespective of the political party to which they belong, should take some notice of the discrimination to which I have referred. The former Premier, Mr Nicklin, who was renowned for his gentlemanly approach to most subjects, made no secret of his dislike for this agreement. That in itself shows the very harsh nature of the agreement. I will quote a question put to the Premier at the time the agreement was signed. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the Hon. John Duggan, asked the Premier of Queensland this question:
In view of the enlarged major contribution to Australia’s oversea funds which will result from the reconstruction of the Townsville-Mount Isa railway, primarily through the consequential increased output of minerals from Mount Isa, does he not feel that Queensland should have received much more favourable treatment from the Commonwealth in the provision of finance for the railway?
The answer given by Mr Nicklin was yes. Mr Nicklin was then asked:
Is not the Commonwealth’s attitude towards Queensland niggardly in view of the fact that 70% of the cost of similar projects in Western Australia and South Australia is being defrayed by the Commonwealth Government?
The Premier’s forthright answer was yes. Other questions in the same vein were put to the Premier and his answer to each was yes. This was the view not only of the Australian Labor Party but also of State members of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party. It was at this time, honourable members will recall, that, our dynamic former Minister for Mines in the State made the remarkable statement that he thought Queensland should secede from the Commonwealth. This was the way he protested about the harsh provisions of the agreement.
One might ask why Queensland accepted these provisions. The point is that it had no alternative. At that time it was most conscious of the very poor condition of the railway and it was under great pressure from Mount Isa Mines Ltd to undertake work on the railway. In addition, it was very conscious of the revenues which could be earned from the railway and which would go into Consolidated Revenue of the State. The railway would also make a significant contribution to the pastoral areas of the Gulf. For all these reasons, the Queensland Government had no alternative but to get the money from somewhere. It could not get the money from the World Bank and its only alternative was to get the money for most, if not all, the railway from the Commonwealth.
I do not intend to speak for very much longer, but I would like to make a few remarks about the deficiencies in Queensland railways. It is my opinion and it is the opinion of many other honourable members in this House that the Federal Government may have to take a more positive attitude in future towards railways in the States, especially in States like Queensland. We are seeing now the closing down of branch lines which are of fundamental importance to pastoral and agricultural areas. The lines are being closed because the State simply does not have the finance it needs to continue to run them. The Federal Government may have to look more closely at this problem in the future. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth can operate and regulate interstate shipping and interstate airways. It has full power to do this. It can build roads, provided the roads are interstate roads, but it cannot build a railway, whether it is an interstate or an intrastate railway. It can build a railway only with the express consent of the State.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pointed out in 1961, and time has shown him to be correct, that the Federal Government should have written into the agreement with Queensland a provision that would have enabled it to extend the railway into the Northern Territory, if this were necessary. Just before be made this suggestion, a comprehensive investigation was being made of railway construction across the Barkly Tableland to link up with the Northern Territory railway around Birdum. This would join the Queensland system at either Dajarra or Mount Isa. The route at that time being investigated was the Dajarra route. Of course, the missing link would have been from Camooweal to Dajarra or from Camooweal to Mount Isa, because this was State property. We could have reached the absurd position of the Commonwealth being able to construct a railway to the Northern Territory border but being unable to proceed any further in Queensland unless the State was willing to construct the remainder of the line.
The other point relating to the Queensland railways that I wish to make is one that I have made in this House on several occasions. It is quite relevant to the Bill. The level of freight rates in Queensland is too high. I believe it is high because the State Government has no alternative. It is scratching for finance, it must earn finance and the revenue from the railways gives it a valuable addition to its finances. However, the Queensland Government refuses to see that these harsh freight rates are inhibiting development, particularly in the wheat growing and the beef cattle areas in central and southern Queensland and in the sugar areas of north Queensland. The freight rates are simply too high by any economic criteria. The Government is making a profit on the railway lines west of Toowoomba and it is making a substantial profit on the railway lines north of Bundaberg. But it is making a tremendous loss on the railways in Brisbane. What has happened is obvious. The profits from the western and northern railway systems are being used to subsidise the extraordinary high level of losses in Brisbane and to enable the metropolitan railways to compete with road transport.
All these things must be considered, and I believe that the Federal Government will have to take a much greater interest in the railway systems of the States, especially in Queensland where, because of policies, possibly forced upon the State Government, there is no alternative but to consider closing down valuable trunk lines which should not be closed down. Also, excessive freight rates inhibit production, thus causing a great loss of export income to the Commonwealth. This is happening now, and therefore the matter must be examined more closely in future.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill but reiterates what it said in 1961 - that this is one of the toughest, most unfair and most discriminatory pieces of legislation ever introduced by the Commonwealth in respect of a State, especially in the field of development finance.
– This measure seeks to supplement the agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland in 1961 whereby the Commonwealth made a loan of up to $40m to that State for the rehabilitation of the TownsvilleMount Isa railway line. It is appropriate that during this debate we recall the circumstances under which the loan was made, and the fact that it was a glaring example of discrimination against Queensland. 1 would be lacking as a Queenslander if I let this agreement go by without commenting on the manner of the discrimination.
I realise that some of these points have been touched upon by my colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) but J must point out that the Queensland Government had to find onethird of the cost of this project and has to repay the loan, together with interest at the rate of 5i%, to the Commonwealth over 20 years. This compares unfavourably with Commonwealth assistance given for railways in other States. For instance, it compares unfavourably with the assistance given to Victoria in respect of the Melbourne to Albury standard gauge conversion; that given to South Australia, which received £1,325,000 for rolling stock for the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line; and the assistance given to Western Australia. 1 might also mention the assistance that is to be given to New South Wales in legislation that will be dealt with during this session of the Parliament in relation to the Parkes-Broken Hill line.
I believe that the arguments that have been advanced in respect of the TownsvilleMount Isa line are spurious. The arguments put forward by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer at the time were that this was not a standardisation project and that it could be paid for mainly by the carriage of produce from Mount Isa to the smelters at Townsville, where the export would take place. But I have no doubt - and I am sure that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as a Victorian would have no doubt - that the money spent on the standard gauge from Albury to Melbourne, which also is a worthwhile project, would be repaid if a similar levy were imposed on it. However, the 30% loan, which was given with the 70% grant, was repayable over 50 years, compared to the 20-year repayment period for Queensland. While much has been made of the argument that had the Queensland project been a standardisation project the money would have been made available as a grant, at least two Government members who have been actively interested in railway projects have had something to say on the matter. I refer to the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was formerly the Minister for Railways in Victoria, and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). They proposed an amendment to make the money available to the Queensland Government if a standard gauge line was built. Of course, the difficulties associated with such a proposal: were that the rolling stock used on the standard gauge line would be available only for that line, and there would be problems associated with the changing of carriages and loading and unloading at Townsville.
While we might all decry the lack of foresight of many of our pioneers who built railways with various gauges throughout Australia, we must agree that no State has more miles of rail way line than Queensland. From an economic viewpoint, perhaps the 3 ft 6 in gauge was considered appropriate for this very reason. Also we must remember that no railway system in Australia took such a belting during World War II as did the Queensland system. This applied not only to the engines, rolling stock and permanent way, but also to the railway men who worked long hours to ensure that troop and supply trains were kept going. For a number of years after World War II, Queensland’s railway system bore the brunt of the deterioration brought about by the emergencies that arose during the war. While we might all decry the fact that Queensland has a narrow-gauge railway, we must appreciate the wisdom of adhering to this gauge, for the present at least, on the Townsville-Mount Isa line. For this reason - it is probably a good reason - two members on the Government side on a former occasion saw that Queensland was being discriminated against. It was not only in 1961 that this approach was made. The honourable member for Dawson told a little of the story of how the Queensland Treasurer went to the United States of America for financial assistance but was rejected because Queensland was unable to give the guarantees that were requested.
In 1959 the Minister for Mines in Queensland, Mr Ernie Evans, when speaking at the Mossman Show said that the Commonwealth was discriminating against the State of Queensland. This Country Party Minister said: ‘The Commonwealth helped New South Wales, Victoria and
South Australia out of revenue. If we do not get the money from the Commonwealth Government the simple answer is that there are other interests that do not want to see Queensland developed.’ That was the attitude of a man who was always noted for his forthrightness on these matters. The Liberal member for Capricornia at the time described the measure as being crumbs for Queensland. Therefore, not only Labor has this feeling that Queensland is suffering from discrimination. The project was carried out below the estimated cost. Various statements were made by people associated with the railways and with the unions who had members employed on the railways. They believed that at the time many short cuts were being taken. The people in Queensland are now paying for them. The first heavy rains following the completion of the line caused washaways, and culverts that had been constructed to carry water away from the line were no longer there. The water banked up and its pressure caused untold damage to the line. Certain events that took place in Queensland made it necessary for the State to. seek from the Commonwealth an advance of $600,000. Queensland has not approached the Commonwealth for funds to repair the line. The cost of repairs has been absorbed by the State.
I support the making of this money available to Queensland in order that the State may complete payment for the Collinsville-Townsville-Mount Isa railway project. I endorse what the honourable member for Dawson has said about the value of this project to Queensland, lt will be of value not only to Mount Isa but also to the pastoral and mining industries in the areas served by the line, particularly in north-western Queensland. But I object to the discrimination which the Commonwealth has shown towards Queensland in this matter. Funds made available for railway projects in other States are made available on the basis of two-thirds of the amount being a grant and the remainder being a loan repayable on terms better than the 20 years term offered to Queensland. I support the measure but I would be lacking in my duty if I did not draw the attention of the House to the discriminatory principle on which it is based.
– This Bill seeks Parliament’s approval of a supplemental agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland to permit additional financial assistance of up to $600,000 to be made available to the State to meet the cost of improving the CollinsvilleTownsvilleMount Isa railway line. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) claimed that the Commonwealth had been guilty of discriminatory tactics in its dealings with Queensland. Whatever may have been the ambitions of the Queensland Government in 1961, when the Commonwealth undertook to provide the State with loan finance to meet part of the cost of improving this railway, I do not think that the agreement is any more unfair than was the argument advanced tonight by members of the Opposition, who claimed that the terms under which assistance was provided for Queensland differed from the terms applying in respect of rail standardisation projects. The Commonwealth’s approach to the provision of financial assistance for Queensland was conditioned by the fact that the railway in question was a State line of 3 feet 6 inches gauge and had none of the characteristics associated with rail standardisation works. Moreover the improvement of the line for the expenditure proposed was expected to be fully economic. This situation is entirely different from that of standardisation. lt has been pointed out - by the honourable member for Wide Bay, I think - that this project could not have been dealt wilh satisfactorily as a standardisation project, because the rolling stock used on the line could not have been used on any other line. The honourable member for Dawson said that Mr Nicklin had made no bones about describing the Commonwealth’s treatment of Queensland as discriminatory. Speaking in the debate on the Railway Agreement (Queensland) Bill 1961 on 19th October 1961, the Prime Minister - Mr Menzies, as he then was - said:
In effect, despite the burden that it would place on our resources, we-
That is, the Commonwealth - undertook to put ourselves in the position that the international Bank would have occupied if it had provided a loan of £20m. The Premier of
Queensland wrote to me a few days after I had made the offer, expressing pleasure and accepting it without qualification, lt was for both Mr Nicklin and me a very notable event.
So there are two sides to this story. I do not blame the Premier of Queensland and the Queensland people for trying to negotiate the best possible deal on this or any other occasion. I will go further and say that in the interests of northern development and the balanced development of this Commonwealth it should have been possible to provide finance for this project on terms similar to those under which finance was provided for rail standardisation projects. But it is not fair to compare a rehabilitation loan such as the one provided under this Bill with a loan for a rail standardisation project, which sometimes requires that an existing line be put out of action completely pending completion of the standardisation work, loss being incurred as a consequence. It is about 900 miles from Brisbane to Townsville, and this would be the distance between where the standard gauge line finishes and where the Townsville to Mount Isa line begins. It is quite true that under this agreement Queensland will have to repay fully the amount advanced, with interest, whereas only 30’/« of the finance provided to Sta es for standardisation projects is repayable. However, if one places these matters in their proper perspective and takes into consideration all of the factors, including the difference between the two types of projects, I think one must agree that it is very unfair constantly to attack the Commonwealth for its treatment of Queensland in this legislation. For example, could the Commonwealth be expected to rehabilitate all of the Stale railway lines which help lo provide some export income for Australia’.’ Most railway lines would fall in this category. I submit that the attitude adopted by the Opposition tonight has been somewhat unreasonable.
The Bill is a short one. It provides simply for Parliament’s approval of the supplemental agreement and for the appropriation of the necessary funds. The original estimate of the cost of the CollinsvilleTownsvilleMount Isa railway project was S60m. The original agreement provided that the Commonwealth would make available lo Queensland loan finance up lo a limit of $40m to meet two-thirds of the cost of the project. That money was to be repaid with interest charged at the rate of 5%. As the honourable member for Dawson pointed out, under the agreement repayment of the loan and payment of interest commenced on 30th June 1965. Because of litigation, certain claims against the State by one of the contractors engaged on the project had not been settled by that date. Under the terms of the agreement further assistance could not be provided by the Commonwealth after that date. The claims have now been settled. No doubt they would have been admissible under the original agreement if their settlement had been possible by 30th June 1965. The supplemental agreement is intended to remove any doubt that the Commonwealth is authorised by Parliament to provide the additional finance to complete the project. Some complaint has been made about trouble being experienced on the line. Surely nobody lays the blame for this trouble at the door of the Commonwealth. After all, the Commonwealth has provided the finance for this project.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to rail freights. I agree with him that this is a matter deserving of a great deal of consideration by the Commonwealth. The honourable member is not the only one who has shown an interest in rail freights. I could fill a scrap book of reasonable size with the reports and correspondence relating to my efforts to bring this matter to public notice.I believe it is time the Commonwealth assisted the States in the matter of rail freights, particularly those States which, like Queensland, bear a heavy burden in developing their lengthy rail communications through sparsely populated areas. A good case can be made out for the Commonwealth to intervene in the interests of balanced development and decentralisation, which in the final analysis will benefit all Australians. There is room for the Commonwealth to enter into some agreement with the States in order to reduce their transport costs. This would not be easy of implementation, but the idea is sound. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill, which is very necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lynch) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1472), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this measure. Its purpose is to provide a loan of $47m to the Tasmanian Government for the completion of hydro-electric development works in that State. The Government now has three major schemes either under construction or contemplated. This money will be spent in the lower Derwent and Mersey-Forth areas where the State Government has been developing a hydro-electric power scheme. It will be used also to provide a 120-mega- watt thermal station at Bell Bay to assist in providing power for the aluminium industry and other industries in that area. It will be included also in the provision that the Government is making for the first stage of the Gordon River power scheme. This is a major scheme which will involve the State Government in much expense over the next 3 or 4 years. Altogether the Government proposes to expend $2 1 2m in Tasmania on the schemes to which I have referred.
The State Government is in a position to provide $165m required to complete the projects. This leaves a balance of $47m and the Commonwealth has accepted the proposition put to it by the State Government that this amount should be made available to Tasmania as a loan repayable over a period of 8 years. The interest rate will be determined by the Loan Council. Tasmania has been transformed in recent years, changing from a largely agricultural State to a State of heavy industries. This has required the provision of power and the Tasmanian Government has tried to keep pace with requirements. It has already completed many schemes in Tasmania that are supplying power to those industries. When the Government’s present plan is completed more money will have been spent on hydroelectric power in Tasmania than the Commonwealth Government has spent on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Tasmania still has the cheapest source of power in the Commonwealth, and this reflects great credit on those who have accepted the responsibility for providing such undertakings in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government recognises that there will be an increased need for power in the future and it has decided to complete a number of projects to increase the power output during the next 3 or 4 years.
I have referred to the schemes that the Government has in mind and to the amount that will be spent in completing the schemes planned already. The Commonwealth has met the requirements of the State Government and has agreed to make a loan of $47m available for this purpose. The assistance that the Commonwealth is providing is appreciated by the State Government and the Opposition supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lynch) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1474), on motion by Mr Fairbairn:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to provide funds to the Western Australian Government in order that that Government can proceed with the second stage of the Ord River project. It is not my intention to go over the history of the Ord River project. I have done this frequently in this House and on many occasions outside the House in written scientific and economic papers. I have never deviated from my original belief that this is a project which, if given a chance and if it has applied to it the same criteria as are applied to all other development projects in Australia, including secondary industrywhich is substantially protected by tariffs, will develop into a great national asset in the northern part of Australia. When one looks at the Ord River project one can be excused for being somewhat optimistic about it, as were the people who first mads recommendations and investigations concerning it. I do not think there is any area in Australia which has the natural physical characteristics of what one might say is an almost perfect site for a major dam and a diversion dam with a large uniform tract of country suitable for a water conservation scheme. I am speaking purely from the physical point of view and not from the economic point of view.
In the Ord River project there are not the problems associated with water reticulation and the loss of water through evaporation that there are in many of the projects in the south because the diversion dam is located in close proximity to the area which is commandable from the dam. It is an excellent natural site which is suitable for the construction of a major dam. In actual fact, I think it is true to say that for the impounding of water it is the second cheapest large scale water conservation project ever constructed in Australia. This, of course, is the result of a very good dam site, a very good catchment area - it will provide 4 million acre feet - and the engineering ability to construct a dam on the site. AsI have said,I am speaking only from the physical point of view and not from the economic point of view.
The enthusiasts who looked at this project many years ago could see two very essential factors. The first was the harnessing of water and the second was the close proximity of uniform tracts of land commandable from the dam and situated close to the coast. The climate is unique in the sense that it is possible to grow two cotton crops per year and to grow and harvest sorghum all the year round. There are very few areas in Australia where this can be done. It has been shown already that inexperienced farmers - they were inexperienced when they went there and they still are inexperienced in terms of years - have been able to achieve very high yields of cotton. In fact, they have been able to obtain yields which are comparable with yields obtained from the best irrigation areas in the world
Shortly after the last world war the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government, following the recommendations of the Northern Australia Development Committee, established the Kimberly Research Station which carried out joint research on soils and tropical agricultures. In addition, the Ord River area is surrounded by an inbuilt cattle industry which has a major deficiency. Because of the nutritional distress caused by insufficient soil moisture in the critical months from September to December, there are very large losses of cattle each year. The losses have been estimated by a Commonwealth agency to be approximately $3m per year. If the Ord River project proceeds. the by-products of irrigation and the products obtained directly from irrigation could be used to minimise losses in breeding stock as well as to increase the live weight gain of store cattle and fat cattle that are being topped up. The enthusiast could see all of these things in th beginning.
As research progressed over the years, people in Western Australia became very enthusiastic towards the Ord River project because it seemed that it could be a wonderful asset in the northern part of this very remote area of Australia. My first association with the Ord River project was in 1952 when I was employed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on doing work with cattle in the Kimberleys. I spent a considerable time in the area carrying out land classification. From the back of a horse I saw, at first hand, the soils and the catchment areas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I would say that 1 also became an enthusiast. But it is no good being an enthusiast for a project unless one can put forward arguments in support of it based on some semblance of economics.
Then the politicians entered the picture and this is when the problems commenced. In 1958, because of a promise to the Western Australian Government, the first loan of SI Om was promised by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government which could spend the money virtually in any way it wanted to spend it. The Western Australian Grant (Northern Development) Act refers to ‘projects approved by the Treasurer’. This is a sound provision and one must pay a tribute to the Treasury for inserting it in the Act. But I do not believe that the Government takes the slightest notice of it. The Commonwealth Government wanted to make a handout to the Western Australian Government at that time. I think, from memory, that the State Government spent approximately $8. 5m on the construction of the diversion dam. and the rest of the money was spent on the rehabilitation of jetties, particularly the Wyndham jetty.
As a result of this loan the Ord River project was launched. But then people in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia began to get worried. They wanted to know what farmers were going to grow there. The Commonwealth Government was giving money to the State to construct a dam but nobody was sure what crops could be grown there economically. There was no doubt that from the scientific point of view rice, oil crops, cotton and sugar could be grown in the area. But the burning question was: If farmers were to settle there, what were they going to grow in order to make a profit? At that time the Bureau of Agricultural Economics carried out an investigation in the area and it recommended that cotton should be grown. It recommended that cotton should be the principal crop grown because it was the most profitable crop. The unanimous decision of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at that time was that it would be better to forget about some of the crops about which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation had been most enthusiastic, because the cold facts were that from an economic point of view farmers would not make a profit, and you cannot expect farmers to settle in an area unless they can make a profit.
From that point on great emphasis was placed on research into cotton growing, and the Ord River project was launched, agriculturally, on cotton. Only a few people who have gone to the Ord have failed. One could say that in terms of the yield per acre, in terms of the efficiency of manpower and in terms of agricultural capital on particular farms, the project has been a huge success from the agricultural point of view. But can anyone answer the question put forward by those academic economists who are starting to buy into the subject: Is the scheme economically justified? Is the Commonwealth justified in spending money on the Ord scheme when it could spend that money somewhere else?
These questions could be debated for many hours. One must first examine the economic justification for the project before comparing its estimated yields with yields from comparable levels of investment in other parts of Australia. It has always been my belief that before a government embarks on an irrigation project the most crucial thing it has to decide is whether the hard core of the project is sound. The hard core of an irrigation project is agriculture, if that hard core is sound and the farmers can make a profit by whatever criteria are taken into account then the next question to be decided is whether the scheme is justified from a regional or national point of view. If the hard core of a project is not sound I believe there is no point in going on with it because the only way it could then succeed would be by subsidising the farmers.
But what criteria should be adopted for assessing whether a farm is sound? Should it be the import parity price for the products or the domestic price? Should subsidies be taken into account? lt is straightforward matter to measure the farmer’s costs but how does one value the produce from a farm when measuring benefits? The usual method is to value at world parity prices or import parity prices that are free of any subsidy. I. do not entirely agree wilh this proposition because we are a developing country and it may be valid economic policy in the short term, while the project is growing to give some type of assistance until that project can stand on its own feet.
I have always argued that an irrigation project should not be penalised in an economic analysis by charging produce at world parity prices when the costs that the farmer has to bear can be and are often heavily influenced by government policy with respect to secondary industry. For example, if the farmer were able to buy his tractor, fuel or cement direct from Japan without any import duty, then one could strongly argue that it would be correct to value his benefit from the point of view of export parity prices. But he cannot do this; he has to pay for his fuel, labour, machinery and supplies at the ruling Australian prices. That in itself creates a problem with respect to measurement in strict economic terms. If one wants to measure in terms of the current actualities then obviously one has to take the farmer’s costs and the returns measured by the present level of costs and the present value of the amount received for the product. That is the first point. But there is a lot of nonsense talked about irrigation, as there is about other projects. 1 think that if the rule is followed that a government only proceeds with an irrigation project if the hard core is sound then that government is on safe ground. But the next question that has to be answered is a difficult one. lt is this: Is the total capital cost involved justified? Assuming that the primary cost of the construction of the project - and I am not taking into consideration the costs of hospitals and schools, which are ancillary to such a project - is $100m, the problem facing a government is whether it is worthwhile investing that sum in that area, and I am assuming that it has a viable economic unit. Top international economists in the field of development all agree on one thing and one thing only, and that is that the most important decision-maker in the spending of public finance is politics. They all agree on that basic fart. Agricultural economists or economics scientists can argue on the merits of a project but the final decision rests with a government and a government does not take its decision based purely on economics, lt takes its decision on other things. I suppose it could be said that a government’s objective should be to maximise welfare - if that phrase can be defined. It is a very strange thing that every decision taken in regard to development projects in northern Australia has been on the eve of an election or following an election of political adversity.
– Do not be so suspicious.
– I am stating a fact. I. think anybody who studies development economics will agree. Any government of any colour makes its decisions on political grounds. This does not necessarily mean that it is wrong to do so. Some people might argue that a government should take a laissez-faire approach and should only make decisions based on strict priority ratings and economics. But how can it do this? Academic economists have criticised the Ord scheme but they have criticised it in isolation. These people always say that the money would best be spent in some area in southern Australia. They have regard for a type of accounting criteria for a project, say, in Sydney or Melbourne, but they do not take into account the infrastructure costs - the resultant increased losses associated with the railway system, with levels of tariffs and the costs of traffic congestion. In other words, they do not take into account all costs but only those bona fide costs that an accountant would use to measure income or a return on an investment in a particular project.
This is a complex subject. But, as I said earlier, the most important1 initial issue to decide is whether this hard core is sound from the point of view of the economists who advise a government. Then it is up to that government to make up its mind whether it will spend, say, $100m on that project or whether it will grant the same amount of money towards the construction of, say, an underground railway in Melbourne, on a water conservation project for the people of Sydney or on some other such project. This then is a matter which comes down to politics. It does not matter how much we argue, it will always come down to politics. This does not happen only in Australia. For example, it happens in the United States of America. I have stated that every major development project in northern Australia since 1958 has been associated with an election or based on a political adversity, and I instance the remarkable announcement of the Ord River project on the eve of the Senate elections. It is of no use for the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to say that he wanted more time last year. The harvest season finished months before the decision was taken. That decision could have been taken in August without any trouble at all. Nothing was to be gained by waiting until November, except of course that November was on the eve of a Senate election.
Some honourable members said, when I criticised the timing of the Nogoa announcement - also on the eve of an election - that the same decision could have been made on the eve of the Capricornia by-election. Those who say this do not really understand how the Government makes decisions. It could not have made a decision on the Nogoa scheme without making a decision on the Ord scheme also. At that time the Ord was the top priority project; those who were pressing its claims were the No. 1 pressure group in the north. It had been under consideration for a longer period than had the Nogoa project. The blow to Western Australia would have been very serious if, out of the blue, the Government had made a decision to go ahead with the Nogoa scheme and not to go ahead with the Ord project. It was obvious to blind Freddy that the decisions to go ahead with these projects had to be made together. 1 forecast this several times inside and outside this House when we were discussing development investment. I said on one occasion that I would not be surprised to hear before the Senate election that $50m would be spent on beef road projects. Legislation for this purpose was introduced the next day. I naturally criticised the Government for this. But this is the way it works. Whether it should work this way is problematical. I believe it should not. It should be able to frame its Budget and make decisions on development which are divorced from politics. But this is probably wishful thinking.
– Would the honourable member say we have lost anything by the current delay?
– I would. There are two ways of looking at this. If the predictions of the scientists and the agricultural economists do not come true with respect to yields of crops such as sorghum, or soil behaviour, we shall have lost nothing. In fact, we shall have gained something. All the scientists and agricultural economists associated with the project in a practical way - I am not speaking of people in the Treasury down here who are not intimately associated with it - are unanimously of the opinion that it is sound from an agricultural point of view. I believe that Western Australia and the Commonwealth have lost something because the Ord project was not proceeded with at least 2 years earlier. Because of the Commonwealth Government’s decision not to go ahead with the project for the time being, there was grave uncertainty in the business world about the project, and good farmers who would have gone to the Ord region did not go. It is not just a question of going up there, as the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) well knows, and growing cotton or sorghum. People also have to live there. They have to raise families in a remote area of the north, and this is not easy. Families need amenities such as hospitals, schools and dental services.
I would say we have lost something in terms of real income, though perhaps not much over a very long period, by not proceeding with the project. If the State Government can speed up the programme to develop the Ord River region, we can catch up in terms of production. But I do not think we should make too much of this. The most important thing for those who support the project is that the decision to proceed with it has been made. We have to do everything possible to make certain that the money the Commonwealth intends to spend on this project is spent wisely. I remind honourable members that a great deal of money is involved - $48m under the terms of this measure.
I have one very serious criticism to make about this project. For some unexplainable reason, the Northen Territory side of the project has not been properly investigated. The blame for this rests with the Federal Government. Full credit must be given to the Western Australian Government, and those Commonwealth agencies involved, for the investigations carried out on the Western Australian side of the project. But at least one-third of the potential area of the scheme lies in the Northern Territory. A sizeable portion of the catchment area of the Ord River lies in the Northern Territory. This area has not been investigated properly because the Government of the day, through the then Minister for Territories, bitterly opposed the Ord project. The Northern Territory Administration was not allowed to investigate the Northern Territory side of the project. This is a serious criticism. The Ord project does not lie just in the State of Western Australia. The boundary between Western Australia and the Northern Territory should be forgotten for the purpose of this scheme. The fact that a boundary does exist is an argument adopted by the Commonwealth Government against the scheme. The Commonwealth did everything possible, up till last November, not to encourage the project. As a result, investigation of the areas involved in the Northern Territory was inhibited. These were catchment areas and areas that had been devastated by over-grazing on the Northern Territory side.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, referred to 1,400 square miles of country that had been eroded, probably because of overstocking with cattle. I think he said about 1,200 square miles of this country had now been resumed by the Western Australia Government for regeneration of native pastures. What about the rest of this area? What is to happen to it? Certain areas of the Northern Territory should be resumed. These are areas which are controlled by large companies under lease. If the Ord scheme is to be given every chance of success, all areas where there is a danger of siltation should be fenced off. No stock should be allowed on the land until it is 100% free from siltation. These are the issues that have to be faced in the future. My colleagues from Western Australia will say more about them. Most of the other points I wish to make in regard to the Bill have been made by me in this House on other occasions.
I have never said that the Ord project was the one priority in northern Australia from the standpoint of water conservation or from any other standpoint. I have never said that the money spent on this project could or could not be better spent in other parts of northern Australia. I do not know whether it could or could not, though I have my own ideas. Here again, we must level criticism at the Government because no attempt has been made to establish priorities for water conservation in northern Australia. Attempts have been made to establish priorities for beef roads, which are the subject of another measure that will be debated later tonight or in the early hours of the morning, in accordance with the usual practice of the Government when development projects are brought forward. But whether the Ord project is the best water conservation project, I cannot say. The point is that the Government should be able to give us some guide. If, over the last 17 years or so, it had been doing its job properly in regard to the establishment of priorities in a proper and systematic approach to water conservation, the Government should have been able at least to indicate priorities. A statement made by the Minister for National Development about two weeks ago indicated that the Government has finally accepted the principle of planning in respect of water conservation projects. The Minister listed 6 priorities out of 28 put forward by the State Premiers under the national water resources development programme. I am looking forward with much interest to the answers to the questions which I put on notice to learn how the Government decided on these six projects, lt is a strange thing that projects in Queensland, which is the State with the greatest potential for water, were left out of those selected for further investigation, lt is strange also that Western Australian projects also were left out.
– What about the Emerald?
– It is very clear that I am talking about the additional six specific projects of the twenty-eight and not about the Emerald scheme which was part of the water conservation programme in the first place. I have said that it is very strange that no Queensland scheme was included in the additional six projects chosen. Investigations should be made of the Burdekin, the Kolan-Burnett and Broken Rivers. The Commonwealth Government has stated previously that two of these projects will be investigated. I reiterate that it seems strange that Queensland and Western Australia were left out of the programme, although it is not so strange if one understands the way that governments work. It is obvious that political pressure is such that the money for this purpose has to be distributed between each of the States. If we consider beef roads as an analogy, 1 could argue on very strict economic grounds that all the money involved in the beef roads programme up to the present should have been spent in one State only - Queensland.
– Where does the honourable member come from?
– I am not arguing that this should have been done. I am merely saying that a government does not work in that way. Political pressures cause it to spend so much in one State and so much in another State. For example, what is the justification for the Birdsville-Marree track? I would like to see the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) prove to me that that project is economically justified. But that is another issue. AM I am saying is that with respect to the six water priorities announced by the Minister for National Development I shall be very interested lo find out what criteria were used by the Department of National Development to establish the priorities. I should like to know why the Government completely omitted the Burdekin and the Kolan-Burnett water conservation projects as well as all other projects in Queensland for further investigation. I believe that their omission is a disgrace. But exactly the same position exists in Western Australia. I suggest that all projects that are worthy of consideration should be investigated with the application of a benefit cost analysis or similar methods.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he is developing subject matter that is not relevant to the Bill. While there may have been some point in using some of these projects as illustrations, 1 suggest to him that he should not devote so much time to matters that are outside the scope of the legislation before the House.
– The point I am making, which I think, with respect, is quite a valid point, is that this Parliament and the people want to know whether the amount to be spent on the Ord River project should be treated in isolation from all other wafer projects. The Minister made it quite clear in his second reading speech that he was referring to water conservation projects in northern Australia. The Ord River project is in this category and is a vital one. The theme which I have developed is that there is and has been a lack of priorities with respect to water conservation projects, lt was not until’ the announcement that was made a few weeks ago that the Government established priorities. I and everybody else would like to know how the priorities were established for the six projects and what criteria were used in establishing those priorities.
-Order! I point out again to the honourable member that this is not a general debate relating to priorities in relation to water conservation. Although the honourable member may use the subject matter to illustrate a point, I would not want him to debate the full matter of water conservation under the Bill which is now before the House.
– I shall get back to the Ord River project. J believe that the project is a sound one within the criteria which I have mentioned. 1 do not necessarily argue that it is the best water conservation project that we have in the north nor that it is the development project with the greatest potential in northern Australia. Looking at it in isolation as the Government does and, so to speak, putting a wall around it. I believe that it will be one of Australia’s greatest assets in the north. This area enjoys a unique climate, it has unique physical characteristics with respect to water and soil and it is in an advantageous position with respect to South East Asia. The Ord River project will not send cotton or other produce to Melbourne. Sydney or other parts of Australia once the subsidies have been removed. There is no doubt that the Ord project will become closely integrated with trade with Asia. One has only to speak to officials at the Japanese Embassy in Canberra to realise how much the Japanese are looking to the Ord project us regards future trade.
With those reservations and those criteria in mind with respect to how a government makes decisions on development projects. I have pleasure on behalf of the Opposition in supporting the Bill. However, I make the criticism that the decision to go ahead with the second stage of this valuable project should have been made at least 2 years ago so that the people of Western Australia, the Western Australian Government, the farmers at the Ord River and the business people who wanted to invest money in the scheme would not have been kept dangling on a hook until the political climate became such that the Commonwealth Government could not delay any longer a decision on the project.
Mr CLEAVER (Swan) [10.581-1 believe that the merit of the speech made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) lies in the extremely deep association that he has had with the early research for the Ord River project. He has spoken as an academic man and as one who has lived closely with the early preparations and investigations for the scheme. Unfortunately, being a member of the Opposition, he has found it necessary to be critical. He has brought out the political content. He has informed us of developments of recent years. 1 discount that criticism to a large extent as I pay tribute to his intimate knowledge and the earnestness with which he has advocated, with other honourable members of this House over the years, the adoption of this development at the Ord River.
The Bill as we have it before us relates to the ail important agreement to provide money to the Western Australian Government to enable that Government to proceed with what is known as stage 2 of the irrigation project. I remind honourable members that in the two schedules attached to the agreement it is clearly defined that the constructional moneys for the dam, which I understand will be about $21 m, will be in the form of a non-repayable grant by the Commonwealth to the Western Australian Government, whereas in the second schedule there is reference to the irrigation area apart from the dam construction. Here, estimated over a period of 15 years, there is reference to the repayable loan which will approximate in the aggregate $27. 25m. The Bill is but the machinery measure to make available under agreements these moneys which are set out clearly in the two schedules.
I move on to the intrinsic value of the whole scheme. 1 want to try to pick up the spirit which the Western Australian public, led by the Western Australian Government, has endeavoured to bring to this over the years, for I believe that what we do in the House tonight is the culmination of many of the hopes and ambitions of people who have worked so earnestly. It so happens that there was a holiday in Perth in Western Australia on Monday to mark the foundation of Western Australia and one newspaper ran a heading: ‘Happy Birthday to Us; Western Australia is 139”. This month of J une marks the 139th anniversary and it is appropriate that at this time we should be discussing this agreement which the Western Australian people regard as an achievement. 1 start with an expression of thanks for the early research which was the foundation of the interest developed in the Ord. 1 believe that the honourable member for Dawson will agree that the first men posted to the Kimberley research station were among the pioneers of this scheme. We pay our tribute to them. I am confident that had we not had men in the Western
Australian Government with vision, determination and sound leadership, this project would not have been brought to reality. We pay tribute therefore to the leaders of the Western Australian Government. 1 mention vision, and I want to emphasise that without vision even the best idea can perish. If the men of Western Australia had not had a vision of what could be accomplished in the north, and particularly at the Ord, this project would not have proceeded very far.
What of those men who were the first farmers on the land first irrigated by the diversion dam? These men in my estimation have a truly pioneering spirit, and I take my hat off to them. 1 well remember that amongst the first group who went there was one family, a father and several sons, from the metropolitan area of Perth who I believe were venturing everything in going so soon and with so many experiments ahead of them. We pay our tribute therefore to the initial farmers. Finally we come tonight to recognise that there has at least developed in a concrete fashion » piece of national co-operation, because here the Commonwealth Parliament has endorsed the proposal of the Western Australian Government. This is a contribution by a National Parliament to something which in time I believe will have great national significance to the whole of our national structure. If time permits - and my time is limited because of the hour and other conditions - I feel that I ought to refer to the criticism and frustration that such a project has brought in its train. Then I must refer to the progress already made and which has been acknowledged in a variety of ways. I will be frank and realistic. I do not want to be accused of being up in the air with airy-fairy nonsense. I want to refer to some of the problems as I see them and which have been mentioned, such as siltation, prices, the need for diversification in the farming operations. One must constantly keep in mind that stability must be achieved as this development goes further. Then we can well conclude, I believe, on the necessity to develop a spirit to succeed, a desire to go into something with a will to succeed. I want to suggest that those who have been associated with this project in the past and those who will be associated with it in the future must not have a faint heart, because with a faint heart in this field of development there is little to be achieved. A journalist a few days ago wrote an article in a Western Australian paper under the heading ‘Money for Water’. He said that whilst attention was drawn to the fact that Western Australia was today the only State not mentioned in the Federal Government’s $50m 5-year national water resources development programme, it was pleasing to note that the Ord River Irrigation Bill was to be put in legislative form before the House at about this time. His further comments were:
But with Federal backing for the main Ord scheme now at this particular stage Western Australia through grants and loans will receive more money for water conservation outside that general programme than any State will receive from within the programme.
So here we have a balancing. With the funds now available the Western Australian people should recognise that there is a reasonable equality. In fact the equality is not exact, because on these figures I have mentioned we are well in advance of other States in the field of water conservation. What we are talking of is the culmination, I. say again, of years of research, planning, negotiation and persistence on the part of many people. When thinking of this debate I. reached for my own Ord River file and realised how substantial it was. I was able to refresh my memory from this file. In the 13 years I have been here as a member from the western State I seem to have been advocating, in one form or another, this development. Soon after I arrived here as a member it was my privilege to go to the Ord. We had contact at that stage with the Kimberley Research Station, and we listened with interest to the reports of the experts who were there on the site and their clear cut recommendations, as they saw the position at that time, for the development of certain crops if only this rich soil on the banks of the Ord could be irrigated from a storage system. Prior to my visit the State Government had since the year 1941 been active in carrying out surveys and analyses and wide spread research to lay a foundation for that we are now enacting.
It is interesting to be reminded that although the scheme was rejected by the Commonwealth in 1949 the State continued its work, but did not resubmit its case until 1959. Since that resubmission in 1959 I and my colleagues from Western Australia on the Government side have accepted a responsibility to support this proposal consistently. It was for this reason that on several occasions 1 deliberately went to see for myself the development, particularly the commencement of the scheme and the later development of the diversion dam. We need to be reminded, I think, that the inner working of a political team involves discussions with State members and officials. We had to consult the Ministers of the Western Australian Government to get their views and a clear understanding of their wishes. We had to participate in and evaluate various debates on the subject in this House. We had discussions within our own Government party conference room. There were frequent negotiations. This prolonged and persistent negotiating and talking naturally drew on one’s loyalty to the primary conviction that the original concept was correct. It was pleasing to hear our own Minister for National Development when presenting his second reading speech relative to this measure say:
The Ord scheme has pioneered one of Australia’s last frontiers.
He further said:
We can develop our remote area, given sound research and thorough investigation.
Again he said:
In the Ord we see a catalyst for further development in the north. lt is splendid to hear such statements, for this was the Minister who did not in the early stage give Western Australian members such confidence. Of course at that stage the Government had yet to be convinced. In 1966 there was an urgency motion from the Opposition on the Government’s failure to approve a grant for the main dam construction. The same Minister refused to allow one Western Australian Government supporter to participate in the debate. If he were here. 1 would be pleased to remind him that I was the member who stood wanting to contribute to the debate and who was refused the opportunity. The Minister at that time preferred lo have a Queensland member talk about the problem of siltation and in doing so to push the scheme further away from fulfilment as far as the Western Australian Government was concerned. So I remind him today that it was our desire not to interrupt the debate, not to frustrate the Government in facing the urgency motion, but to re-enunciate one’s own personal belief in it, and then to agree with the Government that perhaps at that stage some further delay, some further research was warranted.
This is where I part company with the advocacy of the honourable member for Dawson. J interjected, as. he earnestly presented his case, and asked to what extent the delay had retarded the development of the Ord. I wonder how many more farms would have been sited there at this stage had the Government’s decision been a little earlier. I wonder how many more acres of cotton or other crops might have been sown. It is in this context that I would have supported the Government at the time of the urgency debate in saying that until we had further questions answered, until we were more convinced, perhaps the committal of all this money was not fully justified.
I mentioned that many people have played an important part in this development. Perhaps no-one has been more sincere in his advocacy than the Hon. C. W. Court, Minister for the North West in Western Australia. This man has travelled throughout Australia and overseas telling the story of the fantastic development of that State which is one-third the size of the Commonwealth. Particularly has he told the story of the north west and the Ord project. If I had time. I would refer in some detail to his address to the Summer School in 1962. In that year, Mr Court gave as a gem of his confidence, an address to the Summer School entitled: ‘A Bright Dawn over Western Australia.’ In it he specifically dealt with the confidence he and others had in the Ord River project. He called for action ‘now*, in 1962, and in that context he did not see the Commonwealth Government giving him the action that he was requesting in the fairly immediate future.
He also talked of the spirit of optimism, the spirit of adventure that has to be applied to developmental projects, tempered, of course, with some common sense and adequate research. He was not the only one who spoke in this way. I refer with appreciation to some of the businessmen of Western Australia who added an edition of this pictorial review of Western Australia which I have in my hand, and which is entitled: ‘Future Unlimited’. This publication is now a few years old. but it demonstrates that even then certain businessmen were prepared to back the Western Austraiian Government. Another article which I have dealing with the Kimberleys and the Ord and which makes interesting reading indeed displays the confidence that brought forth from the Western Australian people a definite vote which indicated that they wished these funds to be made available. Another publication from the Western Australian Government, a small one, is entitled: ‘Breakthrough in the Kimberleys’. In it the farming of the Ord is set out in an attractive and challenging manner on page 5.
During 1967. during this period of frustration, of wondering whether the advocacy for the funds under this agreement would be forthcoming, I was in touch with the Minister by question and correspondence seeking the then position as the Government saw it concerning cotton. I. am now looking at a table contained in the reply I received in March 1967. lt shows that in the year 1963-64 there were eight growers of cotton on the Ord on those first few farms with an area of 1,641 acres planted to cotton. Those first farmers saw only an average yield per acre of 430 lb of lint. In the next year the farmers numbered twenty, the acreage has gone up to 5.400 odd and the yield had risen to 616 lb. In 1965-66 the farmers numbered thirty, the acreage 8,400 odd and again the average yield had increased to 748 lb. The Minister told me that earlier reports of the plans of cotton growers for the year 1966-67 showed that between 12,000 and 13,000 acres might be sown to cotton. He also gave us other information, factual and some of it indicating problems. But in the main it showed a confidence that the development was starting to pay off.
May 1 now pay tribute to the excellent explanatory notes that accompanied the Minister’s second reading speech. All honourable members who are interested in the subject must have drawn profit from a study of it. 1 hasten to point out that on pages 8 and 9 there is reference to the problem of siltation. This links with a statement made by an honourable member, a colleague of mine from Queensland, during the course of the debate on a matter of public importance lo which 1 referred previously. Here in a cotton symposium held in 1 966 the Director of Engineering for the Government of Western Australia spoke of the silt problem. He said:
Frankly the silt problem is a major one on the Ord River, in fact on any river in northern Australia. The average silt content is between .5% and 1% by volume but can rise as high as 1.5% by volume, lt has been estimated that the Ord River brings down about 12,500 acre feet of suspended sediment.
This was dealt with factually and frankly at that stage and now in the latest document it is shown that the Ord River carries a high silt content. The amount of 12,500 acre feet per annum, if unchecked, can affect the active storage capacity of the main dam over a period of years. But the document, evidently to the satisfaction of the Government, goes on to talk of the catchment regeneration measures already costing $100,000 per annum that have been pursued for the past 7 years by the Western Australian Government. There is an indication here that the remedial treatment being given to the land will reduce and in time overcome the problem of siltation. I only wish that my honourable friend from Bowman (Dr Gibbs) was here to learn that I genuinely reject the emphasis he placed on this some little time ago.
Cotton problems frankly do exist. I would be surprised, in an area like this, which is still in the experimental stage, with not very many farmers yet established, if everything in the garden was rosy. I suggest that the farmers may find that they must experiment with a number of types of cotton. If the cotton of last year is not as successful as it ought to be, who is to deny that a change of cotton type may prove eminently successful? We have seen this in a variety of forms of farming. The farmers who are there, being of pioneering spirit, will, I am confident, experiment and continue to experiment. Even with all the modern achievements of science, we have not mastered all the pests that they have experienced. As fast as one pest is overcome, perhaps they will find that there is another with which they must battle.
I want to conclude by referring again to the honourable member for Dawson. In the years when he was associated with the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, he was responsible for a paper ‘The Economic Justification of the Ord River Project’. I do not mind referring to his findings. He may have been a little reticent about them. In bis own paper, having set out a tremendous amount of valuable detail, he said:
The results clearly illustrate that in any economic analysis of development funds, the results obtained must be treated with the utmost caution.
He went on to say:
With the above important proviso in mind, the conclusion which 1 have reached with regard to the Ord urea is that if producers can secure yields of around 2,000 lb seed cotton per acre the overall investment of public funds in the Ord River Project may be judged as sound. The present results from the Ord show clearly that this average yield can be considerably increased.
The general conclusion that he came to on his analysis was couched in these words:
The general conclusion of this analysis is that under known technical and economic data applicable to the Ord area, the Ord River Project based on cotton production alone, or on cotton production and sorghum, is a sound financial proposition.
Time will not permit me to develop my theme more widely. I simply want to say in conclusion that it has been because of the indomitable spirit of leadership in Western Australia that we have seen this project brought to the point of fruition. Abiding confidence has been shown by many - not just by those who are in government leadership in the West. Those who constitute the very fabric of business life in Perth and Western Australia have backed this project. I cannot say that everyone has been 100% for it; nor have all my colleagues supported Western Australian members and myself in regard to this matter. Not all of us have said: ‘Now is the time to act.’ But we did reach the stage when, on the evidence of the type that J have mentioned tonight, we said to the Government: ‘The Government should provide these funds. The diversion dam has been justified. The main dam should now be constructed.’
I share some concern with the honourable member for Dawson, and others who may refer to it, that adequate preparation and research may not have been done in the Northern Territory where there is this large expanse of ground related to the scheme. But basically I am taking part in this debate tonight to pay my tribute to those who have fought the fight and, it appears, have won to this stage. I am grateful to the Commonwealth Government for its endorsement of the application. I believe that the funds will be sensibly employed in the spirit that we have been advocating and that the plans and the promises set out in the White Paper to which I have made reference will be fulfilled in the years to come. It will be my ambition to visit the Ord many times within the next few years to see for myself the success that I am confident will crown this particular achievement.
– The Western Australia Agreement (Ord River Irrigation) Bill 1968 is a Bill for an Act to provide over several years certain financial assistance to Western Australia. This finance will allow that State to proceed with the second stage of the Ord River project. That stage will include the construction of the main dam, about 30 miles upstream from the existing diversion dam at Kununurra. That dam was constructed during the first stage of the project. These moneys also will be used to include certain irrigation and associated works which overall will mean that a much larger area of land can be put under cultivation and irrigation. 1 was very surprised to hear the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) congratulate the Government on its action, long delayed, in relation to this project. I was surprised particularly because up to a couple of years ago honourable members opposite generally adopted the attitude displayed by the Government. But we know that prior to the last Federal election the Liberal Party of Western Australia issued instructions to its members, for political purposes, to support the project. So I was surprised that the honourable member for Swan should continue to congratulate the Government for delaying the project.
As honourable members will be aware, the part of Western Australia to which this Bill refers is in the Kimberley area in the north, and is a part of the Federal electorate of Kalgoorlie which I have the honour to represent in this Parliament. With the full support of honourable members on this side of the House, 1 have been a most consistent and, I hope, a reasonably vocal advocate of the completion of the project. Further, 1 have never had any doubts about not only the wisdom and value of extending the project to its original target but also what it will eventually be worth to Western Australia and to Australia as a whole. Therefore, I was very pleased - indeed all members on this side of the chamber were - when the Minister introduced the Bill. Unfortunately, and rather regrettably, I cannot say the same for all honourable members opposite. While I would not expect them tonight to vote against the measure. I am afraid that some Liberal Party members and Australian Country Party members are not very enthusiastic. That is a great pity, but I hope that, as time goes on, they will see the wisdom and value of the project.
The Schedule to the Bill sets out that the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia have agreed that funds to meet the cost of constructing the main dam will be provided by the Commonwealth as a non-repayable grant and that the cost of constructing the main irrigation channels and associated works will be repayable by the State, together with interest at the rate of yield to maturity of the long term loan last raised by the Commonwealth for public subscription prior to the date upon which the amount covered by this Bill was paid or advanced. The interest charge commences from the date of advance, and the repayments must be made within 24 years of the date of the advance. While a period of grace of 9 years is applicable in respect of repayment, the interest charge commences immediately. No-one can suggest that these rates of interest or terms of repayment are in any way generous when measured against the value of the project to the Commonwealth generally.
It is all very well to say that this arrangement is made by agreement with the State. Everyone knows that the Government has delayed and sidestepped the decision on this matter for so long that Western Australia had almost reached the position where it was prepared to go it alone. Therefore, any offer of financial assistance by the Commonwealth, under any terms, had to be accepted. I am afraid that Western Australia will not find it easy to measure up to the terms of this agreement, and we can only hope that the result of this arrangement will not oblige Western Australia to curtail any other vital project.
I do not intend to deal with the history or economics of this project; they have been covered quite adequately by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who, I am sure everyone will agree, is the member of this Parliament most competent to deal with this aspect of the subject. His competence in this regard results from his experience and association with this project and other projects in the north when he was Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. Although I am pleased and relieved that the Bill has, at long last, come before the Parliament, I believe some of its features require further explanation if we are to obtain a complete picture of what is intended in both the near future and the more distant future. For instance, the total amount of finance to be made available is $48,180,000, which is almost $12m less than the amount first asked for by the Western Australian Government in order to complete the works. Since that application was originally lodged with the Commonwealth, costs have risen very considerably and, as a result, the work value, or construction value - whichever term one likes to use - of the difference between $60m in 1964 and $48m today must be considerable.
I was surprised that the Minister for National Development, in his second reading speech, did not give honourable members some details of what the difference is likely to be in relation to the overall project. I realise that on page 7 of the explanatory document that was presented with the Bill cost estimates were mentioned; but what is set out there only lends force to the argument that estimates for identical work would be much higher in 1968 than in 1964.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to midnight
Thursday, 6 June 1968
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had drawn attention to the difference between the amount of $48m to be provided under this legislation and the amount of $60m first requested by the Western Australian Government. I was about to say that if certain works stated in 1964 to be required to complete the programme are now to be left undone because of insufficient finance, or for any other reason, we are entitled to know the reason. I understand that the plan for the spillway has been changed and as a result the cost of the project will be reduced. However, I also understand that that reduced cost will only balance the extra cost involved in increasing the height of the dam. Irrespective of what the situation may be, members of this House are entitled to be told the correct position.
On 12th May 1965 I proposed that a debate be held in this chamber on a matter of public importance, namely, the Federal Government’s failure to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in the development of the Ord River project. In that debate the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) drew attention to the original application of the Western Australian Government for assistance of £3 Om. He said:
I point out to the honourable member that the original application from the Western Australian Government for the extra £30m was made to the Commonwealth Government before the first crop had even been harvested on the Ord.
Again that day and in a subsequent debate he referred to that amount of £30m. About 12 months later, on 10th May 1966, 1 again raised in this chamber the subject of the Ord River project as a matter of public importance. I referred to the failure of the Government to proceed with the next stage of the Ord River irrigation project as requested by the Western Australian Government. On that occasion the Minister said:
This does nol mean that because we have proved cotton can be grown there the taxpayers of Australia automatically should be asked to produce $70m to enable the construction of the major dam.
Honourable members will notice that the amount was increased over that period of 12 months from $60m to $70m. It is clear that there has been no error in that figure because the Minister went on to say:
We cannot rush in to commit $70m in addition to the amount we have already committed.
I have a report, which appeared in a Western Australian newspaper, of a statement by Mr Crawford Nalder, Deputy Premier of Western Australia. He should certainly know what his Government requires. On 3rd August 1965 he is reported to have said:
Ten months have passed since the Federal Government decided once again to defer its decision on the financing of $70m for the second stage of the Ord River irrigation scheme.
The first figure of $60m was increased to $70m, but the Federal Government is providing finance of only $48m. Surely we are entitled to learn from the Minister the reasons why a much smaller amount than that requested is to be made available. I am aware of an agreement between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government but I do not think that alters the fact that we are entitled to know why $60m was first requested, then amended to $70m, and why $48m is now considered to be sufficient. We should be told whether the reduction in the amount means that there will be a cut-back in some parts of the project. If that is so, we should be informed of the effects on the project generally. If no cut-back is contemplated we are entitled to know whether the last figure requested - $70m - still stands. At a later stage is it planned that a further S22m will be made available to complete the project as it was originally designed?
Naturally, 1. am rather concerned to think that there may be a dilution of the original plan or that the initial programme could suffer. If that occurs, it will be bad for the Ord River area and it will also cast doubts on the intentions in respect of other water conservation projects in northern Australia. I hope that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) will be able to tell us what this is all about. I know that the original intention was to build a main dam of concrete gravity construction but that it was subsequently decided to build an earth and rock fill structure, which would be cheaper. However, 1 do not think an earth and rock fill structure would be as much as $20m cheaper than a concrete gravity structure, so there must be some other reason for the choice that has been made. As I have said, the document that has been circulated suggests that the cost of the dam will be even higher than was first envisaged, so it seems likely that there will be a reduction in the associated works.
At present there are about 30 farms under production at the Ord. It is contemplated that with the completion of the second stage of the project the number of farms could increase to about 200, depending on whether the size of the individual farms has to be increased. Whatever the eventual number of farms may be, the fact remains that the farmers at Kununurra are the pioneers of the project. They are the people to whom most of the credit must go for proving the success of the scheme. The majority of them, if not all of them, have put their entire savings into the project. They went heavily into debt to prove the productive capacity of the area. Those men, with the assistance of knowledge gained over the years by the Kimberley Research Station, have established what are the best varieties of cotton to grow in the area. They have proved the value of stub cotton. They have proved that the bugs and wogs can be controlled over large areas. They have established what is the best fertiliser to use in order to achieve the best results. They have proved that sorghum can be grown successfully as an alternative or in addition to cotton. They have shown what can be done with safflower and rice crops. Above all - this is no mean feat - by their courage, tenacity and faith in the Ord they have brought about a situation in which the Government can no longer continue to refuse to recognise the value of the area. By the same token, we should congratulate all those other people who have done so much to make this project a success. I refer to the business people, to departmental officers and to all others employed in the area. We would be failing in our duty if we did not pay a tribute to the Wise Labor Government and the Hawke Labor Government of Western Australia for the work they did in getting this project under way. We appreciate also the work that the Liberal Government in Western Australia has done in continuing the job started by Labor.
But notwithstanding that the farmers, have done so much to develop the area and notwithstanding that their experience must be of tremendous value in proceeding with the second stage, they have not received the assistance and encouragement which they so richly deserve. For instance, they have experienced difficulty in raising finance for cropping purposes. They have to some extent missed out on a fair distribution of government bounty. It would seem that they are much less favourably placed in those respects than are cotton farmers in New South Wales. If this is so, the situation should not be allowed to continue. We do not ask that the farmers on the Ord receive preferential treatment or special concessions, but we do expect them to be treated in the same way as cotton growers in other parts of Australia. For instance, I believe that farmers on the Ord have difficulty in obtaining and in fact are not able, in many cases anyway, to obtain finance from the bank as early as required for the next season’s crop.
The present situation seems to be that their applications for finance are not approved or determined until the financial result of the previous crop is definitely known, and that result is not known, or is generally not known, until well after the time that fertiliser, spray and other requirements for the next season’s crop have to be determined and ordered, and in fact it can be as late as half way through the growing period of the crop for which they sought to obtain finance. This delay in advice on finance can mean that to reduce costs the farmer is inclined, or perhaps even obliged, because of his own financial situation, to order a smaller amount of the requirements than he would order if he were certain that the finance was available to him. This reduction in cost may seem on the surface to be a good thing, but unfortunately the crop suffers either from insufficient fertiliser or fewer pest sprays or both, and it naturally follows that the yield is lighter than it would have been otherwise and the return in cash is also much lighter.
The delay that can take place in determinging the financial result of a crop is well illustrated by the document handed down by the Minister with the Bill. The table on page 4 shows the pattern of yields and other data from and including 1964 up to and including 1967, but though it shows for 1967 the number of growers and the area - cropped and the lint yield, we find when we come to average cost per acre and average net return per farm, that this information is not available. There is no date to this document, but no doubt it is fairly recent, and we are now at a stage where the 1968 crop is almost ready for harvesting and apparently the Department of National Development has not been able to give us figures regarding the returns from last year’s crop. If the banks will not advance until they receive that information, it can be readily seen that the farmers can be placed in rather a difficult position when they do not know prior to cropping what amount of financial assistance they can expect to obtain.
My information is that the Commonwealth Development Bank considers that it has played its part by making finance available up to a certain stage, and that from then on it is up to other banks to take over. Perhaps this is fair enough, but there seems to be no reason why the Commonwealth Trading Bank or some other financial institutions should not now come to the party. I understand that at Namoi the private banks advance money against the next year’s crop and not just on the results of the last year’s crop. If this can be done at Namoi, surely a similar method could be used at the Ord. After al], the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) did say in August 196S that the Ord was the most suitable area for cotton in Australia, and that it had a much better climate for growing cotton than the irrigated cotton areas of New South Wales. If the private banks are willing to gamble against the next year’s result in a less favourable area, surely the Commonwealth, particularly now that this further stage is to be developed and now that the Government itself has decided to support the project, can do something to ensure that these pioneer farmers who have done so much will not have to continue to suffer these problems relating to ready finance.
Speaking of finance, I noticed that the document to which I referred earlier also mentions the establishment of two cotton gins at Kununurra, and it could be taken to mean that they were built with government money. The fact is that the farmers themselves are financing one gin and will be paying it off over the next 4 or 5 years at a rate of some $13 per bale of production, which is quite a substantial sum. I ask the Minister to make some inquiries regarding finance for the farmers on the Ord because, as I said earlier, if this is not made available the production could be cut down and also the acreage. It appears that the average price per bale of good quality cotton this year will be something like $12 to $15 less than last year, and this will be due, in the main anyway, to the increased number of bales produced and the fact of the fixed total bounty. This is a fairly substantial reduction in price per bale and it will in turn of course mean a considerable reduction in the return per farm. A drop in return per bale has of course been occurring year by year as production has increased. In 1964-65 the gross return per bale was about $200. It went down to about $170 in 1966- 67 cue to both the fixed bounty effect and also a slight reduction in price, and it could be around $160 or less this year. 1 fully expected that the Minister, when he introduced the Bill would have made some mention of the bounty position and of the Government’s future intentions in this regard. The bounty, as it now operates, will continue until January of next year, which is only a few months away. One could surely expect that the Government would by now know its intentions. The maximum amount of bounty to be paid out each year is limited to $4m at 13.437c per lb of 1-inch middling white with premiums and discounts on grades and staples above or below, but that price per pound is paid only if the total weight of cotton which attracts subsidy is no more than that which would exhaust the $4m. If the amount of cotton is greater, the bounty per pound is reduced accordingly, so that instead of almost 13ic per pound, a producer may receive 9c, 7c or even less depending on production and use. I understand that about 60,000 bales is sufficient to exhaust the total bounty at the maximum rate. This year in Australia we expect to produce from 140,000 to 150,000 bales. Therefore it can be realised that the value of the bounty per bale produced, or more particularly perhaps per farm, has decreased considerably and unless the maximum limit of bounty is extended it will, before long, have very little value per farm. I think that the maximum could be doubled and still be exhausted on local consumption by Australian spinners.
I expect that each and every one of us would hope and would be happy to see the cotton produced at a price and cost sufficient to give the farmers a reasonable return without any bounty at all, but we cannot really expect that situation to occur in the early developmental stages such as exist at the Ord now and which will exist for a few years ahead. Earlier 1 said that I. understood that farmers on the Ord were at some disadvantage regarding the amount of bounty they were able to attract compared with the farmers on the Namoi. Because of the earlier season and earlier harvesting in the Namoi area the farmers are better situated to sell both their better grade and lower grade cotton to the Australian spinners than are the farmers on the Ord River. The bounty is paid only on cotton sold for use in Australia. When the present Act was brought down the bounty was sufficient to meet the maximum payments on all, or almost all, cotton produced but today the home market for raw cotton is about 130,000 bales, of which 15,000 bales are special and imported. As we are producing between 140,000 and 150,000 bales this year, there will be about 25,000 bales that the Australian spinners will not be seeking.
This year the Namoi area is expected to produce about 100,000 bales. This means that the Australian spinners can, to a large extent if they so desire, satisfy their demands before Ord River cotton comes on the market, and as a result the Ord River farmers will receive the bounty on a far smaller proportion of their crop than will the Namoi farmers. They will receive the same bounty per pound on the cotton they sell to the Australian spinners, because the Act sets out that this shall happen. However, there is nothing to prevent the spinners from buying their total requirements from one area if they wish to do so. If they bought their total requirements in one area or from one or more processors in that area and bought nothing at all from processors in another area the farmers in the latter area would receive no bounty at all because they would have to sell their cotton for other than Australian use. If this is the situation - I think it is - and the farmers on the Ord are in this particular respect at some disadvantage, then something should be done to ensure that those farmers get a fair and equal share of the Australian market. Otherwise the Act should be amended to give them the same effect as an equal market. As 1 said before, we do not want special treatment for the farmers on the Ord. We do not expect any concessions at all. All we ask is that they be given a fair deal.
As a result of work carried out in Western Australia by the Western Australian Government a large proportion of the potential irrigation area will be within the Northern Territory. The construction of the main dam and the completion of associated works inside Western Australia will permit almost an additional 150,000 acres of land to be brought under irrigation. Approximately one-third of that area, some 50,000 acres, will be within the Northern Territory. Whilst the irrigation channels and works no doubt will stop at the Western Australian border, the main channels up to that point must be big enough to take water into the Northern Territory. Power and pumping stations will have to be of larger capacity than would be necessary if only the area within Western Australia were being served. I am not quibbling at this work being done; neither do I deny the need, because it seems an obviously sound proposition to do the work as one project rather than as separate projects.
By the terms of the financial agreement covering this matter the Commonwealth will get the work in the Northern Territory done on the cheap and at the expense of Western Australia. The cost eventually will be met by Western Australia, which in fact will repay by way of interest an amount sufficient to meet not only the total of the grants but also the cost of the necessary irrigation and development works within the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth’s intention may be to make this area of land available to Western Australia. I do not know whether there is any intention to do this, but certainly there are some very good reasons and arguments why it should be done. One reason is that all the necessary equipment is available on the Western Australian side of the border. I understand that a duplication would be very costly to the Northern Territory because it would entail the setting up of at least a new section of the Public Service, and perhaps even an entirely new department. One problem is that the only way in which Western Australia can receive a return for this expenditure in relation to the Northern Territory work is by way of moneys payable for the supply of water or power to the Territory. It cannot recover anything until such time as production starts.
I should like to know the Government’s intention in relation to the Keep River and VVeaber Plains within the Northern Territory. Does the Government intend to push ahead with the scheme or to do anything at all? I thought that the Minister for National Development would have given us some information about the matter. Honourable members on this side of the House have been seeking this information for many years. The previous member for the Northern Territory, Mr Jock Nelson, who took a keen interest in the Northern Territory, was forever seeking information about the Ord River project in relation to the Northern Territory. One of the problems has been a cloak of secrecy around the whole matter.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
I am opposed to the scheme. Predictably the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), in whose electorate the Ord River is, supports it. Predictably the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), who comes from Western Australia, supports it. Predictably many other honourable members, who seek to draw about themselves the cloak of statesmanship, will support it also. For this purpose a statesman may be described as a member of Parliament who does not count the cost. The speech that interested me most was that of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) because it omitted several important matters. The honourable member is an expert, although we should remember also that he is a politician who has built bis political career on the myth of development of the north. Firstly the honourable member mentioned that the scheme would not stand up without protection or some form of support. He set out to find excuses for this, but he did not find them. Secondly the honourable member quoted the figure of about $100m for the final scheme. I think that is very close to the mark. Thirdly he admitted that the political factor was paramount in the establishment of the scheme. Fourthly, he admitted that there had been very limited investigation. He referred particularly to the lack of any investigation on the Northern Territory side. Fifthly, he admitted - he hedged this admission about in various ways, but his intention was quite clear - that the money could be better spent in other parts of northern Australia and, of course, even in southern Australia.
The Opposition is supporting the Bill. I should like to make one or two preliminary observations. First of all, I want to make it clear that I do not regard the Gorton Government as in any way to blame for this proposal. It was, unfortunately, an inheritance from the previous government. Secondly, my criticism has nothing to do with my attitude to the Government’s defence policy or with any of the other alleged factionalisms in the Government parties. It is simply based on the belief that the taxpayers’ hard earned money should not be squandered, especially at the present time when there are so many more uses for it.
What does the Bill do? It authorises the expenditure of $48m of Commonwealth money for the construction of a dam in the north west of Western Australia. Part of the money is to be made available by grant and part by loan, although this is not very clear from the speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) or from the flimsy document that he circulated with his speech. An amount of S8m of Commonwealth money has already been spent on the Ord River project. The honourable member for Dawson said that $8. 5m had been spent. He also included the rebuilding of the jetty at Wyndham. Perhaps this would make it nearer to $10m - I do not know - that has been spent on the Bandicoot dam and the associated irrigation works and channels. It seems to be admitted that it would cost another $20m to irrigate additional land in the Northern Territory which is adjacent to the proposed new dam. The sum of S8m or $10m plus $48m plus $20m adds up to a total expenditure of approximately $78m. The honourable member for Dawson mentioned $10Om. The figures that I have given are exclusive of money spent on the scheme by the Western Australian Government and the normal structures and equipment provided by farmers themselves on their farms. So the figure of $100m is pretty close to the mark. It is a very considerable investment of public money.
What is the area to be irrigated? The Minister said that the area will comprise about 100,000 acres in Western Australia and 50,000 acres in the Northern Territory. Of course, that part of the scheme which lies in the Northern Territory has not been investigated at all; I take the word of the honourable member for Dawson for it. The Minister said that the farms will be rather larger than 600 acres each - maybe 800 acres or something like that. He told us that the area will settle 200 families as farmers and 400 families as farm labourers. This means a capital investment by the Australian taxpayers of between $80m and $100m to provide irrigation for 200 farms. On these figures it is an investment of approximately $400,000 per farm, and each farm, as I said, will have an area of perhaps 800 acres. Maybe my figures are wrong, but they are figures that can be deduced from the very vague and flimsy information that the Minister has given to the House. If they are wrong the fault is his and not mine. The population settled would be 600 families plus, of course, the people servicing their requirements. If my arithmetic is wrong, as I have said, it is because the Minister’s information has been scanty and vague.
Public investment on this scale, one would think, would be justified only if the return were to be considerable. This Bill will go through. As far as I am aware, 1 am the only member who opposes it. Why then should I speak on it? The result is a foregone conclusion. I might as soon throw pebbles idly into a pond. Yet one hopes to add one grain to the scales on the side of sanity in the hope that such insanity as this will never again be contemplated so light heartedly. Perhaps I should have said a gramme rather than a grain, because we are rapidly moving into use of the metric system. Who are the protagonists of this scheme?
I would say - no doubt this will upset some honourable members - that they are parochial politicians in Western Australia. I have heard them referred to in rather more exalted terms by the honourable member for Swan. Perhaps there are even some in Canberra who seek to wrap the mantle of statesmanship about themselves and mount their miserable pedestals in the. guise of national heroes. Or perhaps they choose to go along with the pressure groups that exist in this situation. Well, they will strut their hour on the stage and bask in their moment of glory but I venture to prophesy that their memory will shrivel in the cold and contemptuous eye of history when time proves whether I am right or wrong. The attitude of the Opposition is interesting. It seeks votes in the north in the hope of winning there a marginal majority in this Parliament. Therefore it cynically panders to the self interest of business and pastoral organisations in the north and propagates the myth of northern development. The honourable member for Dawson has built his political career on just that. For such motives the people of Australia - the humblest taxpayers - will pay with the sweat of their brows. This indeed is my reason for speaking in this debate. I have constituents, as other honourable members have, who are paying for this scheme, and 1 believe they would not wish me to remain silent when their interests are involved.
There are two arguments for the scheme. Let us consider them. First of all, it is said that this is an economic proposition. 1 will examine that contention later. Secondly, there is the rather vague claim that development of the north assists in the defence of Australia. There are certain myths behind these overt arguments. The first is that the only possible form of national development is irrigation. This is a myth that is accepted universally in Australia. It had some relevance in the past and no doubt it will become relevant again in the future, but other forms of national development are far more relevant in the present, as 1 shall show later if I have the time to do so. The irrational belief exists that irrigation should be the first priority. The second myth is that somehow a desirable development is to spread population as evenly as possible across the surface of the continent, though the idea of impoverishing a nation in order to subsidise colonies in the Sahara Desert has never occurred to any other people outside Bedlam. But the myth persists that this would be a good thing.
The facts of development are quite different of course. Private capital has been attracted to the north to develop profitable projects in the fields of mining and cattle raising. In a few. years this has achieved more than governments have accomplished in a century, or are likely lo accomplish by means such as this. The argument about the defence value of schemes like the Ord project, is of course, complete bunkum. Would the settlement of 600 families or 1,000 families have the slightest deterrent effect on a hostile propagandist or an invading army? On the contrary, it might rather provide him with a somewhat better bridgehead.
I turn to the economic arguments, because this is said to be an economic proposition. I will not again quote the Vernon report, as 1 did in the course of the debate on the Nogoa Dam, in which it was said that there should be an expert body which would examine schemes of national development and would publish its reports so that not only the Parliament but the people as well would be able to see whether schemes of national development would stand up economically. The Government might then proceed with them but it would have to adduce arguments other than economic arguments to justify flying in the face of economic facts. Instead we have a few flimsy pages which the honourable member for Swan has dignified by describing them as a White Paper. A proper parliament would scrutinise the details through a select committee - we cannot do it in a House like this - and would hear evidence from engineers, agronomists, experts engaged by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, agricultural economists from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and people like Dr Davidson, for instance, who holds a contrary view about this scheme. But, no. We do not do things in that way. We are asked to discuss this measure at 25 minutes to 1 in the morning, in a debate that is, of course, utterly futile.
I will state these propositions categorically because I do not have time to argue and support them in full. The most profitable crop grown on the Ord is cotton. I accept this. Of course, the honourable member for Dawson has admitted that the yield for sorghum, which is the second crop, is lower than was predicted. The growth of cotton on the Ord depends upon a bounty. The produce of the farms will not pay interest, let alone any capital repayments on the dam and irrigation channels in the Ord project. I state these things categorically. Water rates will pay for nothing more than the maintenance of the dam and irrigation channels.
Let us consider the detailed estimates of profitability. Suppose the farm price for lint and seed, without bounty, is estimated to be 20.39c per lb. The yield, of course, is purely guesswork; no-one knows what it will be. The cost will not go down as the Government has indicated. The price will go up according to the area sown because as the area increases more fertilisers and sprays will be necessary. Also, labour costs must go up as the amount of crop increases. Cotton farming is not the same as operating a sheep station where a farmer might take 1,000 extra sheep and still require no more labour. As the amount of cotton sown increases, the labour costs go up. As a result, 1 do not think that cotton growing will be profitable unless there is a bounty.
What are the market prospects lor cotton? Australia is already producing all the cotton it requires domestically. Therefore, all the cotton grown on the Ord will have to bc exported and we will be concerned with world market prospects. The United States of America a few years ago released a flood of cotton on the world markets. Who is to say that this country will not do the same again? Of course, the United States has a limited cotton acreage. But, if the cotton growers of that country become more efficient and produce more from their limited acreage, then they could well dump their surplus cotton on to the world markets. Of course, a break through in cotton growing techniques could occur on the Ord. We could have better varieties of cotton. The varieties of cotton on in Ord that have so far been the subject of experiment have, as yet, been unsatisfactory. We could develop better varieties or could find better or cheaper fertilisers. New methods of insect control might improve the crops. Better machinery for harvesting could also be developed. AH of these factors could reduce costs. But, if we are seeking to reduce costs for these reasons, what do honourable members think our competitors are doing? I suggest that our competitors will be doing exactly the same thing and that we will be no better off. Therefore, the . argument for a breakthrough does not hold water.
Australia has been trying to assist developing countries. What are we doing in this case? We are competing with developing countries by growing cotton. We could produce other products, but we do not. We compete with these countries and deny them a market that they might otherwise have. The price of cotton in the world has been stationary for the past 5 years, lt has suffered in precisely the same way as the price of wool and for precisely the same reason - the competition of synthetics. But cotton can be much more cheaply grown on the Namoi than on the Ord. The yield there is higher; labour costs are lower there because it is a relatively densely or thickly settled area; and since it has not the isolation of the Ord more casual labour is available there and people are prepared to offer their services as labourers much more cheaply, because of the amenities of a more closely settled district, than they would have on the Ord. In any event, cotton-growing on the Namoi is so profitable that the growers could pay water rates sufficient to pay interest on the Keepit Dam. Naturally, we never ask farmers to do anything like that. But it could be done.
Cotton is also the most profitable crop in the Emerald scheme which we debated in this place a little while ago, on the Gwydir and possibly on the Macquarie, irrigated from the Burrendong Dam. There is talk of another dam on the Namoi. Perhaps a dam will be built on the Dumaresq. All of these are areas in which cotton can be grown much more profitably :han on the Ord.
– What about the Gwydir?
– I mentioned the Gwydir earlier. As 1 say, these are all areas in which cotton could be grown much more profitably than on the Ord, because it has been grown there more profitably. The honourable member for Dawson contends that profitable crops other than cotton could be grown on the Namoi. He suggests crops such as maize and sorghum. But they are not as profitable as cotton - at least they have not been so in the past.
Does all’ this mean that we are to have another stabilisation scheme? Stabilisation is something that may be defined as the taxpayers coming to the rescue and paying a large part of the price to the grower. Are we to have another stabilisation scheme like the dairy industry stabilisation scheme, with the Namoi and the other river districts in that region in the situation of, say, Gippsland - gaining lush advantages from the bounty - and the people on the Ord struggling along like the people in the dairy industry on the north coast of New South Wales - in relative poverty? At any rate, will the taxpayers have to foot the bill once again, or can we limit the subsidy to one area, such as the Ord? I think not. I think that farmers are much too clever to put up with anything like that.
So perhaps cotton is the major crop. But what about sorghum? In Australia this would be the equivalent of the maize or corn that is used for the fattening of cattle in the United States. Japan is the market for sorghum, especially for pigs and poultry. It is possible that the Japanese could pay a profitable price for sorghum from the Ord or anywhere else in Australia on account of the high protection of the cattle industry in Japan. For that reason they can afford to pay the kind of price that is profitable to the farmers on the Ord. That is not possible in the Kimberley area, where the price obtained for beef is half that obtained in southern markets.
In America, of course, cattle can be fattened on corn, or sorghum for that matter, on account of the high price offered for beef on the protected market of that country and because Americans prefer beef to most other meats. The American type of fattening has been tried in New South Wales and Queensland, and it has failed. It is just not profitable. So why would it be profitable on the Ord? The fact is that all the sorghum production on the Ord has been exported to Japan; it has not been sold to graziers in the Kimberley area. They could not afford to pay for it, for the reason that I have mentioned. So, it has all been exported to Japan. Similarly, cotton seed grown on the Ord has been shipped to Japan where it is crushed and the cake is fed to animals. It has not been sold to graziers in the Kimberley . area.
What are the alternative investments for public money? 1 said that I would deal with this matter. There is the brigalow lands scheme in Queensland. Estimates of what it could pay vary. I do not think the honourable member for Dawson would deny that he has said that it could pay 14% on the capital investment. Some experts put the figure lower than that - maybe 8% . But the brigalow lands scheme is a highly profitable one. This, I believe, is why the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) did not commit himself to the proposition that the Ord should be given first priority. After all, the brigalow country is closer to the honourable member’s electorate. Beef, of course, has a surer market than cotton, both in America and in Europe. The spear grass scheme falls into much the same category as the brigalow scheme. These are really profitable ventures if we have $100m to spare, and both these schemes would further northern development. Of course we do not need to confine ourselves to the north if we are looking for profitable propositions. We can increase the carrying capacity of land for sheep in the cleared lands of New
South Wales and Victoria, which are good rainfall areas, if we like to spend all this money on such things as new superphosphate factories, loans to farmers for the purpose of purchasing and using more superphosphate, and so on.
We do not have to confine ourselves even to land development of one kind or another, whether in the north of Queensland or in the south. If we are intent on national development, what about education? What about improving the quality of our human beings? lt might, perhaps, be more valuable to improve the intelligence, the skill, the training of human beings than to fatten cattle, lt is just conceivable that this might be a better form of national development. Indeed in Europe there have been debates lately as to why there is a technological gap between the United States and the European countries, and the answer that has been given is that it is due to the higher quality of management and the better educational qualifications that are apparent throughout the American nation as compared with European nations.
It is a waste of money to spend SI 00m on the Ord scheme. This money comes out of the pockets of the citizens of Australia, the taxpayers of Australia. Make no mistake about that. Money may be borrowed from the people of Australia, either from individuals or from institutions, but if it is. borrowed and then invested in something that makes a dead loss, in the long run it comes back lo a dead loss to the people who lend the money. It does not increase productivity to a point where the Government can pay interest on money that has been lost in a bad investment.
The money can. of course, come directly from taxes. A great deal of the money used by the Commonwealth Government for national development has come directly from taxes. This is taken out of the pockets of people who are not necessarily wealthy. J revolt at the idea of taking money from widows on small incomes to waste on schemes like the Ord.
– - You would do nothing about it?
– I am thinking about people other than those heroes who stand on pedestals and waste the peoples money for their own glorification. What is needed is real economic development in profitable fields. If we are going to spend the money in Western Australia it could well have been better to spend it on a naval base on the Indian Ocean. We have all sorts of demands on our money. We have demands for social services. We have demands for increased wages in the context of a revolution of rising expectations. But 1 do not want to waste time in going through the many alternative uses for the SI 00m that is about to be spilt on the lands of the Ord.
All we are fed on is myth, and we have nothing tangible but the loss that is involved. The statesmen who prate about national development turn out to be nothing more than petty party or parochial politicians. Let us have national priorities. Let us h;ive some astringent thinking about these things. Let us taughten the flaccid muscles of the economy. Let us as a nation have purpose lest drifting inanely we perish.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity of taking part in this debate. I wish to comment briefly on some of the remarks that were made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). He referred to the Ord scheme and to the Ord generally as the myth of the north and suggested that the Ord scheme was a waste of the taxpayers’ money. If he is opposed to developing the north, what does he propose we should, do with it? Surely it is our job to develop this area, to harness the water that goes to waste in this area year after year. Does be ignore the expert opinions of Sir William Hudson and Sir Harold Raggatt in regard to this matter? He said that this type of development could be a waste of money and looked al it purely from an economic aspect. I direct his attention to what Sir William Hudson had to say. In an article under the heading ‘Hudson: More Ord-type work needed’, he is reported to have said:
The United Stales led the world in undertaking projects, including water conservation schemes, taking into account the value of indirect benefits. If they were analysed economically on the same basis as some of our schemes America would not have them.
He went on to stress the importance :of water conservation in Australia and referred in particular to the Ord. The honourable member for Bradfield said that this scheme was the result of pressure from parochial politicians from Western Australia. If this is so, all credit is due to them for the work being undertaken, but one cannot call Sir William Hudson and Sir Harold Raggatt parochial politicians from Western Australia. The honourable member will go down in history on this matter as one of the knockers. 1 am pleased that at long last some finality has been reached in regard to the construction of the main dam on the Ord River and the associated works. Although not entirely satisfied with the financial terms of the agreement that the State government has been forced to accept, the people of Western Australia will at least be pleased that this great project is to be proceeded with, ft is clear that the Commonwealth Government has had to bow somewhat reluctantly to the overwhelming evidence that supported construction of this main dam. It should have been commenced years ago. The Ord project had to prove itself in the face of overwhelming opposition from certain vested interests and some others including the honourable member for Bradfield who should have known - better. This Government has the unenviable record of having us.ed the Ord River project as a political football.
Whenever an election was in the offing some promise would be made about the Ord, only to be shelved immediately the election was over. When he opened a pilot scheme in 1963 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said that the project was needed desperately for the future of the country. Of course, that was just prior to the 1963 election when the Government had a majority of one. Although the project was needed desperately for the future of our country, it was allowed to languish for a further 5 years before the scheme was proceeded with. True, on the eve of the Senate elections in 1964, when this was a vote catcher in Western Australia, the then Prime Minister said that the Ord scheme would be one of the first items to be considered by Cabinet after the elections. It was well down on the agenda, and when it was reached it received scant consideration, the decision being that the scheme should be further delayed. In May 1966, the Federal Government, after talks between Commonwealth and State Ministers, expressed the view that it would be wrong to go ahead with the scheme at that time. But on the eve of the 1967 Senate election it had a re-think about the matter and in another vote catching stunt announced the start of the main Ord project. Delay pyramided on top of delay. The Government had treated the advice of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development shabbily. So much was this so that the head of the Division resigned, contested the seat of Dawson on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, won it handsomely, and has been a consistent supporter of this project from this side of the House ever since.
Procrastination on the Government’s part caused frustration amongst its own staff. As I pointed out earlier, it ignored the advice of Sir William Hudson, the former head of the Snowy Mountains Authority, who had said that the Ord scheme was typical of water conservation projects which should be going on in Australia. Sir William Hudson was urging that the Snowy Mountains Authority should be kept intact for this and other similar projects, but the Government did not take his advice and this great team is being allowed to break up and fall apart. In 1965, Sir Harold Raggatt, a former Secretary of the Department of National Development, declared unequivocally that delay with the second phase of the Ord scheme could not be justified, but the Government dithered and allowed a firm decision to languish for another 2 years or so.
I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) tonight try to justify the delay. The Ord River scheme has always been a non-party matter in Western Australia and credit is due to the persistence of the present Western Australian Government for keeping it that way. All political parties support the Ord River scheme. It appears that their untiring efforts have at last borne fruit. Credit is also due to the ‘West Australian’ newspaper for the part it played. That newspaper always had faith in the Ord scheme and has been most critical of the Government for its procrastination in making a final decision on this project. Together with some Ministers and other members of this Parliament, I had the pleasure of being a guest of the West Australian’ on a charter flight to northern Australia in 1956. This flight was arranged to impress some Ministers and members of Parliament who did not know much about the scheme and its importance. 1 do not know whether it achieved that result, but I think it did help in some ways. However, 11 years passed before any significant progress was achieved.
In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that the purpose of the Bill was to provide financial assistance totalling $48. 18m to the State of Western Australia for the construction of that portion of stage 2 of the Ord irrigation project which lies within Western Australia. He pointed out that the financial assistance was being provided on the basis of a non-repayable grant for the construction of the dam and an interest bearing loan in respect of irrigation work. 1 believe this project should be treated as a national project similar to the Snowy Mountains scheme and should no more be considered as a debit against the State of Western Australia than the Snowy Mountains scheme is considered to be a debit against the States of New South Wales and Victoria.
As the honourable members for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) pointed out, it should be remembered that one-third of the area that is to be irrigated lies in the Northern Territory and that a big proportion of the cost of irrigating this area will be borne by Western Australia. I repeat that it should be considered as a national project. As a matter of fact, projects such as the Ord scheme will make Western Australia a much stronger economic unit of the Commonwealth, will result in bigger markets for goods from eastern States and will also add foreign exchange by supplying more exports. Similar schemes to the Ord project could be repeated in other parts of Western Australia, such as on the Fitzroy River, where water is going to waste because it is not harnessed. There are areas of Western Australia which abound in natural resources and which will support a big population as well as earn export income. But it seems that this Government is primarily concerned - and if the honourable member for Bradfield had his way it would be more so - with looking after the more densely populated areas where the votes are. The
Government normally turns a blind eye to the north. Let us hope that at last it has seen the light as far as the north is concerned. The Government should remember how close this area is to Asia and the hungry millions of Asia. The Ord project is one of many that can be proceeded with in that area.
It is well known that certain pressure groups were opposed to the Ord scheme - and still are - and that many Ministers were being influenced to delay this project by the cotton growers in northern New South Wales. They were concerned that the cotton bounty of $4m should not be spread over more cotton growers. They feared that their share would be reduced. Dr Alex Kerr believes that the Ord River farmers should soon approach the point of profit where no subsidy would be required, and I think he may be correct in that point of view. There will be an assured water supply when stage 2 is completed. It is estimated that the cost of water, when harnessed, will be the cheapest in Australia. According to reports the capacity of the dam will be many times that of Sydney Harbour. The rate of flow at the main dam site could fill the Canning Dam in Western Australia in 50 minutes. As the Minister points out, stage 1 has already provided for 26,000 acres of irrigable land. Stage 2 will allow for the development of a further 150,000 acres of which about 100,000 acres will be in Western Australia and about 50,000 acres, or one-third, will be in the Northern Territory.
There are now about thirty farmers, the main crop grown being cotton. The area under cotton has increased from 1,600 acres in 1963-64 to about 12,000 acres in 1967-68. As has been pointed out, the alternative crop to cotton is sorghum for which there is a growing demand in Japan. Despite the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Bradfield, it seems that this market will continue to be available to us. Farmers at present on the Ord are interested in growing sorghum but the water limitations of the existing diversion dam are preventing the growing of this crop in commercial quantities. The completion of stage 2 will enable sorghum to be grown in commercial quantities. Almost any crop can be grown successfully on the Ord. Over 20 years of research work has gone into the Ord scheme. The Kimberley Research Station was established in 1946. lt was established by the Chifley Labor Government, jointly with the Western Australian Government, the Commonwealth providing half the expenditure up to a maximum of $130,000 a year and the Western Australian Government providing the balance. Apart from cotton and sorghum, the Research Station has revealed that sugar, rice, wheat, linseed and safflower can be grown successfully on the Ord River. Some of these crops have no commercial potential at the present time, but the future will reveal that some of them will have commercial possibilities.
The cattle industry will get a tremendous boost when stage 2 is completed. The honourable member for Bradfield conveniently forgot about the importance of the cattle industry, but the Minister, in his explanatory notes, had this to say:
It has been estimated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that some .60,000 head of cattle, worth $3.5m at current prices, die annually in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. A large proportion of these deaths are breeders and weaners and therefore the loss is cumulative. Hie loss is due mainly to the low level of nutrition in the natural grasses towards the end of the dry season.
The Minister went on to point out that the provision of protein feed supplements during periods of protein scarcity is also necessary if breeder losses are to be reduced. He pointed out that cotton seed by-products will provide an excellent means of reducing this mortality. He stated that a trial had already been held. Again I draw attention to what he said in his explanatory notes which, apparently, the honourable member for Bradfield has not even read. The Minister said:
At the conclusion of the trial all cows in the group which had received the cotton seed supplement were alive and a calving rate of 58% was achieved. Oh the other hand, in the control group, which received no supplement, only 55% of the cows survived and the calving rate was only 18%.
He went on to say:
There are also possibilities of an integrated system for finishing store cattle, from the stations, on irrigated pastures and crop stubbles, thus extending the present short killing season of the Wyndham meatworks.
Up to 50.000 acres of grain sorghum stubble could be available when the Ord scheme is completely developed. This stubble could afford good nutritive grazing at a time when the natural gra-ses are at a low nutritive level. Nearby stations could take advantage of this additional pasturage not only to maintain the condition of breeders and weaners but also to improve the condition of the cattle sent to the meatworks.
In earlier debates I have drawn the attention of the Minister to the importance of cotton growing to the cattle industry. The United States has 26 million acres under cotton, producing 13 million bales a year. California treats 480,000 tons of cotton seed a year and from its by-products thousands of cattle are topped off each year. We need the by-product not only to top off but also to save 60,000 head of cattle which, according to the Minister’s report, die annually in this region. Wyndham has a modern and efficient meatworks that deals with fewer than 30.000 beasts a season, but its full handling capacity is more than 80,000 beasts a season. The Minister referred to the Wyndham meatworks in his report, but I do not want to quote any further passages from the report. The Minister estimated that the area to which we are referring could cater for 1 million head of cattle. All this could add to our export income and aid our balance of payments. -
Dr Alex Kerr, economics reader of the University of Western Australia, believes that this area will have a population of 100,000 by 1980. He . points out that America has cities with populations of more than 1 million persons in areas that enjoy a similar climate. At present the population in the area with which we are dealing ;s three and a half people to every 100 square miles of the 577,000 square miles above the 26th parallel. The Minister pointed out that the thriving towns of Mildura, Renmark; Shepparton, Griffith and Leeton are examples of the indirect benefit of irrigation development. He said:
As in the districts served by these. towns, there would be created employment opportunities not only to absorb migrant labour, but also for the local Aboriginal population.
This will be so, but more is needed. The Ord scheme is one of many such schemes that can be developed in the north. I am pleased that at long last some finality has been reached about the great Ord scheme.
I hope it is the forerunner of other schemes of development in the north of this great country.
We have just heard two very interesting speeches taking two extreme points of view. One was made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), who was extremely pessimistic and who denied that the establishment of a community on the Ord River had any value whatever for Australia. The other was made by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who painted the picture of the Ord River project as a real bonanza, a Utopia, a place that will in the next 12 years, by 1980, attract tens of thousands of people from the south of Australia. Of the two speeches, that given by the honourable member for Stirling is the more misleading and the more damaging to the cause of settlement -in northern Australia. It presents an entirely false story of development in this part of Australia. Settling the Kimberleys is no pushover. It never will be a pushover, because the climate is uncongenial. It is a harsh and hard area. It has resisted settlement throughout the years, even before Australia was settled by the British people. It is quite obvious to anyone who knows this country just why this should be. It is hard, difficult terrain. The climate is not one that attracts permanent settlers. It is very far removed from the type of country which we strike on the eastern coast of Australia, even though it may be on the same parallel of latitude.
I do not rise tonight to speak in a carping sense about the Ord River project. I think that we must treat it as a project primarily designed to demonstrate to the world that we Australians have settled Australia and that we are determined to occupy it by permanent settlement. That does not mean the permanent settlement only of the southeastern portion of the continent. We must demonstrate to the world that we intend to occupy and develop the whole of this vast continent. If we regard it in that light, the Ord River scheme becomes more than simply the provision of a dam to satisfy 200 farmers.
It is a very expensive dam and one that is costing directly an amount well over S50m. In direct costs we have not only the construction of the dam itself but also we have the associated waterworks and soil and conservation works. Those are direct costs. But there are also indirect or secondary costs which unfortunately have not been mentioned by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) in his second reading speech and which are not mentioned in the explanatory notes which have been provided to honourable members to inform them on this project.
These secondary costs include the provision of roads, telephones, power, schools, hospitals and all of the facilities and amenities that will be required by people who will settle there either to work on the farms or to service the farms. When we tot up the cost to the community and the public purse of these secondary costs we find that our total bill will be well over $100m. Putting it one way, this means that each farm will cost $500,000. I do not say that in a critical sense. I say it for this reason: I believe that it is wrong of the Government and the Minister to fail to take the secondary costs into consideration in assessing the value of the project.
We cannot have two sets of rules for evaluating dam construction in Australia. It is quite wrong for us for example to speak of the Ord River dam as costing some $48m - the figure that is quoted in the document to which I have already referred - and in another breath to speak of the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River in northern New South Wales as costing an equal amount. This is not the position at all. In fact, as I have said, the Ord River dam will cost approximately $I00m. The dam on the Gwydir River will cost in total $48m. When we take all figures properly into account, we can arrive at a reasonable assessment of the value of investing in one place or in another place. Although 1 am not offering any destructive criticism of this new venture, I urge the Government, in order to aid the planning and development of similar resources - in other parts of Australia, to put down, in comparative terms, the costs of each project so that we can make a proper and sensible evaluation of the different schemes. Also, T urge the Government to make representations to the Western Australian Government, which has the primary interest in this matter, to do something about commemorating the spirit of the pioneers in the Kimberleys where this scheme is being undertaken. I suggest that the Government should put it to the Western Australian Government that the Ord River dam should to be called the Durack Dam, to commemorate the pioneers who in 1885 settled at Argyle Station, which is at the dam site; in this way their efforts, and the epic of the pioneer days of Australia, will be commemorated. I put that suggestion to the Government for its consideration, and 1 wish the project well in the future.
– As has been stated already, the Bill relates to a financial agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Western Australia. The agreement proposes that the Commonwealth Government will grant financial assistance to the State Government to construct the main Ord River dam and the associated works. 1 do not intend at this late hour to delay the House. The proposal has been fully explained by the Minister not only in his second-reading speech but also over the years since 1963 when the diversion dam and the construction of the main dam have been discussed. The agreement envisages that the expenditure will be spread over 15 years and that the main cost to the Commonwealth Government will take place in 1971-72, when $9.8m of the total grant of almost S21m will be paid. Then the Commonwealth Government will be responsible until 1980 for approximately $3m per annum.
Honourable members on this side of the chamber are generally in agreement with this form of development in the north. Water conservation is one of the most urgent problems in Australia, and the Government Members’ National Development Committee has always considered that this type of development should take place in Western Australia and Queensland. We realise - and I am sure that most honourable members realise - that 70% of the water that falls on Australia falls north of the 26th parallel.
A dam to divert the Ord River at Bandicoot Bar was completed in 1963, and the Opposition and some members of this side of the House had tried all means then and since to induce the Government to make a decision regarding the main dam. So far as the Opposition and honourable members on this side are concerned, two aspects seem to be left open. Logic was rarely used; it was mainly emotion, and the economic viability of the scheme or the possibilities of the full use of the expenditure in this area in the north were never fully explained by the proponents of the dam. However, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has 1 believe gone too far in trying to wreck the scheme.
After 1963 the Minister and honourable members on this side of the House were uncertain of the economic viability of the scheme and the expenditure of this money in the Ord area because insufficient experience had been gained from the operations of the farmers who were then growing cotton in the area. They were also concerned, as the Minister has explained when answering questions in this House, about the world future of cotton. Since 1963 the Government has granted to this new industry an annual bounty of $4m. That indicates to me that the more cotton that is grown in the areas of the Ord, Namoi and Nogoa rivers, and in the south western parts of New South Wales, the less bounty will be received by the growers for each pound of cotton they produce. The Minister has said - and he has been supported by his Committee - that other cash crops should be tried in the Ord River area before a final decision is made. Al least three farms have grown sorghum in the Ord River area, with reasonable results. There is a more optimistic outlook on the world’s cotton markets because the stock build-up of over 30.3 million bales was reduced last year to 25.3 million bales. I. think the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) said that the reduction was brought about by the fact that cotton growers in the United States are not producing as much cotton as in other years. However, it could well be that they will decide to increase their production.
In 1966-67 world cotton production was reduced by 10.5%. A total of 47.5 million bales was produced in that year. In the same period the world consumption of cotton increased by 52.4 million bales, or 3%. It seems that there is a rosier outlook for cotton growers in Australia.
The International Cotton Advisory Committee in various reports has said that the bulk of the surpluses of cotton throughout the world is comprised of the lower grades of cotton; that is, cotton of short staple length. It is plain that cotton growers in the areas of the Ord and Namoi rivers and elsewhere should be concentrating on growing longer staple length cotton types. Two cotton growers from the Ord River area visited this Parliament 2 or 3 weeks ago. They pointed out that in that area they are concentrating on the Acala type of cotton, which has longer staples. It is to the benefit of all cotton growers in Australia to concentrate on cotton with a longer staple length. It is my understanding that the Japanese in particular, and Hong Kong spinners pay premiums for such cotton.
The International Cotton Advisory Committee also has reported that the per capita use of cotton in under-developed countries should expand. In respect of the. Ord River project we are looking ahead to 1980 and thereafter. I wonder whether man-made fibres will make inroads not only into the wool industry but also into the cotton industry. I believe that Commonwealth advisers should have a great deal more information about these matters than I have been able to collect in such a short time.
In 1964 five farms were in operation in the Ord River area. I am told that in 1967 27 farms were in production there. At least the farmers there believe that there is a good opportunity for agricultural production in the Ord River area. Otherwise they would not be there. It seems to me that three areas in Australia will be growing sufficient cotton for our requirements. I refer to the areas of the Ord, Namoi and Nogoa rivers. Reference was made to the Nogoa River area during the debate on finance for the Maraboon Dam. Each of these three areas could produce all of Australia’s requirements, but perhaps not of the particular quality that we require. So it would be necessary for one-third of our production to be used in Australia and for two-thirds to be exported. How can the industry expect the Government to continue to pay a bounty of $4m a year or to increase it at the expense of the taxpayers? The bounty must increase if costs of production at the Ord and in other northern parts of Australia continue to increase.
I understand that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has statistics from which may be calculated the economic viability of the Ord and other areas, as well as the productive possibilities of the areas, not only in cotton but in linseed, safflower and sugar. From the statistics a calculation may be made of the profits or losses likely to be sustained in the growing of the various crops. The Kimberley Research Station, which has been operating at the Ord since 1946, has acumulated a wealth of information from which Commonwealth officers surely can make valuable calculations as to the economic viability of various crops. The CSIRO has reported that over the years many attempts have been made to establish reasonable pastures on the heavy soils of the Ord but without real success. I would ask all of my friends on both sides of the House who represent country electorates to examine the reports of the CSIRO and to make their own assessment of the likely success of pastures established on the Ord.
Some people have suggested that a beef cattle industry should be established at the Ord. This suggestion has been made on many occasions, although not to any extent during this debate. There is an urgent need for a study of the likely profitability of a beef cattle industry at the Ord. We are spending taxpayers’ money al the Ord and it is our responsibility to ensure that the crops grown there, or anywhere else for that matter, will require less and less subsidy or bounty, not more and more. If we are to grow cotton as the main crop at the Ord, we must make ample provision for increasing the amount of the bounty. I contend that in cases such as this the States should be told that where the Commonwealth provides finance for the initiation of a scheme, bounties or subsidies payable to the States will not be increased. It should be the responsibility of the States to assess the economic viability of the crops grown in a particular area after finance has been suppled, whether wholly or in part, by the Commonwealth. The States should be told that in future subsidies or bounties will not be increased. The States should be given to understand that money provided by the Commonwealth will be spent to the advantage not only of the people of one State - in this case, Western Australia - but of all Australians. We should be content financially to aid the establishment of worthwhile projects similar to the Ord scheme but 1 do not think that we are justified in regularly supporting the commodities produced by such schemes. As have said, it is the intention of honourable members on this side of the House continually to aid State projects which have a national purpose. I support the BUI.
– I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill this morning. Its purpose is to make $48,180,000 available to the State of Western Australia for the purposes of building a dam on the Ord River and doing certain irrigation works. This evening honourable members have heard rather a variety of thoughts about this project, but I contend that, provided the results of preliminary surveys are satisfactory, the construction of any single water storage and reticulation project in Australia is a sound and encouraging investment. From results over recent years H is perfectly obvious, to me at all events, that in future we must look to the north for the water supplies of this country - more so than we ever have before, because obviously they are not in the south.
Earlier tonight the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) made some rather interesting observations about this project, though I am afaid I could not agree with many, if any, of them. He spoke about something that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said. I did not hear all of the speech of the honourable member for Dawson, but apparently he said that the project would require some protection and some support, and the honourable member for Bradfield mentioned this.
– I never said that.
– I am sorry; I was not here when the honourable member spoke. However, the honourable member for Bradfield, if I understood him correctly, said that it would not stand up to an economic examination. Judging by the strain of his speech, I should say that he was speaking mainly in terms of economics, and he claimed that this project would not stand up to an economic examination. But if we proposed te put out of business all industries in this country, including primary and secondary industries, that were not able to stand on their own feet, we would lose practically all of them. If one were to make a thorough examination of industries throughout Australia one would find that the primary industries are far better economically than any other industries.
The honourable member for Bradfield spoke about the Ord scheme having a streak of insanity in it - I am not sure, but I think we will find that in Hansard. This sort of talk was going on in the last century. I remember one of the great engineers of this country who designed many big projects, mainly on the west coast, towards the end of the last century. He fought politicians, the public, and the Press, but he made a success of what he set out to do. His two main projects were Fremantle Harbour and the Kalgoorlie water supply. The Press took him to task, the public took him to task and the politicians took him to task, but he said he could do the work and he did it. He committed suicide just before the water got through to Kalgoorlie, but the project is still there today in a. bigger form. It is being expanded in every direction. I hope that in the not too distant future Western Australia will get more assistance from the Commonwealth Government to extend this great project. This illustrates that this sort of criticism is always going on, with people saying: ‘It cannot be done. It is not an economic project. It is no good.’
The Ord project is a perfect example of what has been said here tonight. As my time is limited at this hour of the night, I shall not deal with the question of investment, but I shall say a little about the project. Speaking of stage 1 of the project, I am afraid I may get out of line with some of the previous speakers, who say that it started in 1946. However, I refer to its commencement as occurring in 1945, with the establishment of the Kimberley Research Station. That station has an area of about 2,000 acres and is operated jointly by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. Work began on the station in 1945. The immediate objectives of. the research programme were to determine whether the soils were satisfactory for irrigation and whether a stable system of irrigation could be developed to provide a sound basis for settlement. That was the basis of it in 1945, when the research station was started. In my book, that was stage 1. The second stage came in 1959 when the Commonwealth Government approved the construction of the diversion dam. This was followed by the development of some 31 farms, including the original pilot farm. A total of 26,000 acres was put under production. In view of what was said by the honourable member for Bradfield this evening I thought I should put the record straight. I am a practical person who likes to look at the facts of life, which is precisely what the Government has been doing over the years. It has studied the experience gained from the farms to determine which means of production are best suited to the Ord. In 1945 a research station was established to examine the growing of cotton, rice, sugar cane - the production of sugar cane was discontinued because of the world situation - and many other crops and pastures.
Mention has been made of beef production, which has been examined at the research station, and further research will be undertaken at the West Kimberley Research Station. Beef production has a great future on the Ord. The Duracks went into the Kimberleys a long time ago and they have done a good job, but there is some good soil in the Kimberleys and beef production can be increased in that area. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) quoted figures showing stock losses but losses can be overcome and the beef industry will progress if we undertake a project such as that which was mentioned tonight.
A survey of 22 commercial cotton farms on the Ord River in 1966 was undertaken at the conclusion of the picking season late last year. The average area planted to cotton was 322 acres compared with 283 acres in 1965. The average seed cotton yield was 2,578 pound per acre planted, or an increase of 28% on the previous year. Lint yield increased by 25% to 794 pound per acre. Two farmers had an average yield of over 1,000 pound per acre. The highest yield was 1,100 pound per acre and only two farms had yields below the 1965 average. Much of the large increase in yield was brought about by the experience which farmers had gained in the two previous seasons. One major aspect was the technique of growing the crop into the dry season with the picking being done in the July to October period. I will refer to the gross returns presently, but my point is that the Government has said repeatedly that it required more experience of production in the Ord area.
The average net return on the five farms growing their third crop was $30,435 or $79 per acre. In contrast, the six farms growing their first cotton crop had a net return of $2,153 per farm or $10.7 per acre. Second year growers had a net return of $6,192 per farm or $16.9 per acre. These results indicate that experience in cotton growing under local conditions has a marked effect on the farm return. Both technique and area of cotton planted per farm contribute to the difference in farm income. With more experience and farm development it can be expected that yields will increase further, per acre costs will be contained, and hence net farm returns will be improved.
I invite honourable members to consider the following figures to see what the returns are. I think the honourable member for Bradfield mentioned that it is quite uneconomic to work this project. In 1965 an average of eighteen farms was taken. The area planted in that year averaged 283 acres per farm. The seed cotton yield was 2,01 6 lb per acre. The lint yield was 636 lb per acre. The farm gross return was $201.6 per acre. The total costs were $156.9 per acre. The return on capital, which is the important point, was 22%. In 1966 an average of twentytwo farms was taken. The area planted on an average was 322- acres. The seed cotton yield was 2,578 lb per acre. The lint yield was 794 lb per acre. The farm gross return was $213.6 per acre. Total costs were $184.4 per acre. The net capital return that year was 21%. There is very little difference in the return for each of those 2 years, although the return for the second year was down. This indicates what in fact is happening on the Ord. I think that 21% and 22% respectively for those 2 years, which were about the time when the decision on the project was being made, are reasonable returns. It is obvious that the more years that the farmers have experience the better their returns will be. I think we should take note of this.
The third stage, as I see it, is the Bill which we have before us this evening and which will make this money available to build the dam and the irrigation works. Of course, cotton is one thing; beef is another.
Sorghum has been mentioned here tonight. It has been mentioned on a number of occasions. As yet I have not heard any returns mentioned. I wish to cite some tonight. I wish to say something about the sorghum situation on the Ord River project, as I see it, because 1 feel that this is quite important to the future of the scheme. Yields of 2 to 3½ tons per acre, as I understand the position, can be expected. This is worked out on the basis of experimental yields and likely crop yields for farmers on about 100 acres being cultivated at present. Two harvestings can be made from one planting, with a yield of 2 to 2½ tons per acre from the first and 1 to1½ tons per acre from the second harvest. The main market for grain sorghum is in Japan, as we know, and the return being received is about $55 per ton f.o.b. Wyndham. The estimated net return per acre over 600 acres is about $34 at a yield of 2 tons to the acre and up to $79 at 3 tons per acre. These returns depend on investment capital. They are based on the assumption of bulk handling of grain. In bags, the cost of handling would be more than doubled. We have had lots of experience with many other grains that can be handled by bulk handling methods and we know what can be done.
Looking at the facts of the case as far as sorghum is concerned, looking at the costs, and working on a 600 acres basis, as I mentioned, the cost - I shall not go into all the details because of the time factor this evening - works out at about $54.55 per acre. The total cost over 600 acres works out at $32,730. On the sorghum returns, working on the figure of $55 per ton f.o.b. Wyndham, as I mentioned previously, and taking into consideration the various carting and bulk handling charges, etc., the farm gross return equals $44.50 per ton. If you take yield into consideration, as you must, at 2 tons per acre it gives a return of $20,670; at 2½ tons per acre it gives a return of $34,020; and at 3 tons per acre it gives a return of $47,370. Those are a few of the facts of life. They indicate what is being done on the Ord River today and what the economics are as we see them today. What they will be in the future, nobody knows. If we waited to find out and if we did not proceed with these projects until we were all sure that, in fact, they would be economically sound, to use the words of the honourable member for Bradfield, of course we would make no progress at all.
It is interesting to note that of the total area of 3 million square miles in Australia, only 1.9 million square miles are regarded as contributing to stream flow. This gives us some indication of what we can expect in this country if we are to develop it as we should and as we must, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Gwydir. It is also interesting to note that in 1965-66 Western Australia had 67,407 acres under irrigation; New South Wales had 1.3 million acres; Victoria had 1.2 million acres; Queensland had 332,000 acres; South Australia had 128,000 acres; and Tasmania had 45,000 acres. So when we consider the vast area of Western Australia, it is obvious that we must move ahead in this field of water conservation. I have not the slightest doubt that over the years all the critics will be answered and we will find that the Ord River project will be a success. There are a number of other points that I wish to raise but I know that the Whip wants me to sit down. I support the Bill.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise to speak to the motion for the third reading of the Bill purely and simply because I object violently and most emphatically to the tactics of our Whip. He has gagged this debate although I have waited here for a long time to speak to the Bill. If he likes to gag me again, as I was gagged last night, he can do so. Surely honourable members in this House have some rights. Surely, if I have to stay here late at night listening to some honourable members speaking about the National Service Bill, when 1 want to speak honourable members can stay here and listen to me. If we have not the right to speak it is time that we gave up coming to this Parliament. I think the present position is an absolute disgrace. I was told only about half an hour ago that this Bill was being debated. I was asked to cut down the time I would occupy with my speech but I said: I intend to speak for 30 minutes or until I am gagged’.
– Order! 1 point out to the honourable member that he may speak only to the Bill as reported.
– Having voiced my protest 1 return to the Bill. Many people, like myself, are pleased that this Bill has finally been launched. 1 have been in favour of the scheme since stage I commenced in 1951. I have listened to a lot of knockers tonight, including the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), who have tried lo tell us that the whole scheme is a waste of lime and that the money we are spending on the Ord could be better spent somewhere else. Of course, money can always be spent better somewhere else, but to the people concerned the allocation of funds is most important. As one of my colleagues has pointed out, we could spend in Victoria on an underground railway.
– Or in South Australia for the Chowilla dam.
– That is right. But the north west of Western Australia is part of Australia and is entitled to its share of the money that the Commonwealth Government makes available for development. Anyone who looks back on the history of Australia cannot help being amazed at the number of projects that became successful years after they commenced in spite of the knockers who opposed them originally. When it was first proposed to grow wheat in Western Australia everybody said the idea was crazy. They were worried because we could grow all the wheat we wanted in the eastern states. They thought the soil in Western Australia would not be right and that the rainfall would not be adequate.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that he must confine his remarks at the third reading stage to the strict provisions of the Bill. He is not entitled to engage in a wideranging speech.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to.
Thai the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1475), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in his second reading speech told us that the salaries of the Senior Commissioner, Commissioners and Conciliators of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were last adjusted by amendment of the Act in 1964. He also stated that in the past it has been the practice to review the salaries of those officers in association with the salaries of Second Division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The last review of salaries of Second Division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service resulted in increases which became effective from 23rd December 1966, but no adjustments were, then made to the salaries of the members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to whom I have referred. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill provides for retrospective payment as from 23rd December 1966 of those increases that would bring the holders of statutory offices in line with officers of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service, lt provides for the payment of $ 1 1 ,250 a year for the Senior Commissioner, $10,250 for the Commissioners and $9,050 for the Conciliators. The Opposition agrees that these increases should be made retrospective. In my opinion retrospective payment should also be made to workers whose claims have been delayed because of the shortage of Commissioners and Conciliators. I understand that many unions which have lodged claims with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission could wait many months and possibly years before the claims are determined. The Bill goes further in adjusting salaries. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in bis second reading speech, drew attention to positions held by officers of the Commission and said:
The Government, however, has given further consideration to the determination of salaries for these statutory offices because it has become increasingly evident that the responsibilities of the holders of these offices are of such a nature that an alignment with the generality of positions in the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service is no longer appropriate.
The Minister went on to say that the salaries of the holders of these officers would be increased again from the date of assent of the Bill. He said that the salary of a Senior Commissioner would be increased to $12,850, the salaries of Commissioners would be increased to $11,850 and Conciliators would receive $9,650.
I strongly agree with the remarks made by the Minister that the responsibilities of these positions have been ignored far too long. The annual reports of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have repeatedly stressed the responsibilities of these positions and urged the appointment of more of these statutory officers. At long last the Government has acted. On Tuesday 14th May the Minister informed the House of the appointments of Mr Watson as a Commissioner and Mr Deverall as a Conciliator. I think these appointments were made to fill vacancies that already existed. The Minister also staled, in reply to a question by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Harrison! that after the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is passed he intends to make other appointments.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has also urged the appointment of more Commissioners and Conciliators. The Minister for Labour and National Service recently claimed that the delay in making these addition.il appointments was due to the inadequacy of salaries; the right type of men could not be attracted to these responsible offices. The Minister also claimed that a Bill had to be prepared to authorise the increases in salaries. I consider that this is a lot of rubbish. Honourable members should have a look at the size of the Bill. Surely there is not much involved in the preparation of a Bill which merely increases salaries by amending a few words in the principal Act. What is there in this amending Bill that warranted any delay in its presentation to Parliament and caused a consequential delay in the appointment of these officers? The eleventh annual report of the President of the Commonwealth and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 1 3th August 1 967, under the heading ‘Conciliation By Conciliators’, stated:
The continued value of conciliation in the working of the Act continues to bc reflected in the number of matters which have been handled by Conciliators.
The President referred to the fact that he urged the appointment of more Commissioners and Conciliators. The word ‘Conciliation’ appears first in this Act. lt is placed before ‘Arbitration’ and it is important in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But not enough emphasis has been placed upon conciliation. People are used to talking about arbitration systems and there is a tendency to forget that the title of the Act is the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The placing of the word ‘Conciliation’ ahead of the word ‘Arbitration’ is clearly significant. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 9th February 1968 referred to the value of these commissioners. Under the heading ‘More arbitrators wanted’, it stated:
But the Commission’s real and pressing problem is the present and prospective burden of work which it faces with a demonstrably inadequate number of people of the high competence required for the task.
This Bill will enable more of these very important officers to be appointed. The Minister for Labour and National Service is wise in increasing the salaries of these important people in order to attract more experienced and skilful men to undertake this very specialised work.
Recent decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have been contradictory and uncertain. There was a great discrepancy between the December and February decisions of the Commission in the metal trades case. The February decision deferred a portion - namely 30% - of the wage increases granted in December; but in that decision the Commission went further and decided that the metal trades decision was not to be taken as a set pattern for other industries. That means that there is a terrific backlog of industries that have to prove work value cases. This in turn means that more of these officers will be required urgently to eliminate that backlog. That is why we support this measure. We realise its value in attracting men of the type that is needed for this very important position. We support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 995), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill makes provision for a further extension for the next 3 financial years of grants by the Commonwealth to the States totalling $30m, or $10m a year, to finance the construction of technical training schools throughout the States of Australia. The principal purpose is to facilitate the training of people in technical fields. The question of technical training has occupied the minds of many educationists over the years. J believe that the place of technical training has now become fairly fixed as ancillary lo the work of the universities. Those engaged in the training specialise in the practical aspects of academic training in the universities. The training fits very well into the picture in respect of those young people who wish to make a trade a career, as one might say. For example, I am very pleased to see agricultural colleges included in these grants, because after all agriculture is just as much a science as is a trade learned at a technical college. The grants include provision for the Longreach Rural Training
College and the Emerald Rural Training College in Queensland, the South Australian Institute of Technology and the Roseworthy Agricultural College. Three of these are agricultural colleges which are located strategically in the States as regards agriculture development, lt is considered that the provision of Commonwealth finance for such institutions as these will materially assist the States and certainly will assist to further education of students attending them.
One criticism that can be levied at this Bill is that it does not provide sufficient information as to how and where this $30m will be spent over the next 3 years. If this is left entirely to the States, there is the danger that the States will lean towards colleges which are in the electorates of certain members. I believe that in th.’s respect the Commonwealth should give us more information about the way in which this money is being spent and particularly the institutions at which it will be spent. The Opposition has no argument against the provision of the additional $10m a year over the next 3 years, and does not. oppose the Bill.
– I would like to follow up some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He queried how, where and why this money is being spent. I do not doubt that everybody in this House is very much in favour of the extension of technical education. I myself think it is very much more important than the university education which has been stressed so very much in recent years. We do require a lot of professors and a lot of people to do university . courses, but after all they can enter some very peculiar faculties. New faculties are being dreamed up all the time.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Honourable members will be delighted to know that I do not intend to speak for very long. I support the Bill. There is a constantly increasing need for education, particularly for scientific education. I should like to refer to what I might term a rather enigmatic sentence in the second reading speech of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Eraser) Having referred to similar projects in other States, he said:
In addition there will be further assistance for agricultural education in Victoria.
I know that the Minister, from his own extensive practical experience, is well aware of the needs in this field and I sincerely hope that the aid to which he referred will in fact be substantial. At present an agricultural revolution is going on in Australia, more particularly in the high rainfall areas, in relation to stocking rates, pasture utilisation and agricultural methods generally. All of this brings with it a requirement for greatly improved standards of management for the man on the land. It is no longer sufficient merely to have experience, although there is no substitute for that. It is essential to be able to make the best use of the techniques and, above all, to have a sound knowledge of the economics of farming.
With constantly rising costs allied to, at best, static prices and in many cases falling prices for agricultural products, primary producers today are facing a great economic challenge. Australian farmers are already acknowledged to be amongst the most efficient farmers in the world, but they must strive to improve their efficiency still further. I have always maintained that extension work of all kinds is probably the most valuable weapon we have to improve efficiency, but it is of no use if the results of research do not find their way into practice. This is the job, of course, of extension services and agricultural education establishments. Already we have in Victoria in the Marcus Oldham Farm Agricultural College, near Geelong, an excellent example of the type of institution needed.
– Order! I remind the honourable member that the debate on the third reading is particularly narrow and that he must confine his remarks to the clauses and the schedules to the Bill.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. My object is to show that the needs for agricultural education are already covered by certain types of institutions andI hope that the institutions already in existence and providing the sort of training that we want will in due course be included under the terms of this legislation. I am certain that today’s young prospective farm managers are ready and able to absorb the knowledge which will be more readily available as the proposals in this Bill are implemented. I hope that this will enable them to maintain Australia’s position as one of the world’s most efficient primary producing countries.
– I appreciate the points made by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). At the time when I moved the second reading of the Bill some of the details of the projects on which the States will be spending the money to be made available were not entirely clear. This was the cause of the vagueness in some of the indications in the second reading speech as to the precise projects and institutions on which the funds to be made available to the States would be spent. I rose to indicate that since the second reading speech was presented I have been given later information by New South Wales as to the projects to which it wishes to devote the funds that will be made available. I do not have with me the precise details of the revised . projects to which the New South Wales Government wishes to devote the funds to be made available to it, but those details will be made available when the Bill is introduced in the Senate.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Business of the House
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise purely and simply to express my disgust at the behaviour of the people who are responsible for controlling the business of the House tonight. Apparently back bench members on the Government side are not to be allowed to express views which they have held for a long time and about which they have gone to a lot of trouble to prepare reasoned and proper speeches. Unfortunately honourable members did not hear the speech that I proposed to make tonight on the measure relating to the Ord scheme. It would have been a much more intelligent speech than the one I am now making. After sitting here and listening to a lot of words I found to my amazement that those in control of the business of the House saw fit to move the gag just as I was ready to make my speech.
What are back benchers supposed to do? Why are we in this Parliament? We are told that we are merely rubber stamps. How long are we to take this? We spent the first 4 weeks of this sessional period doing absolutely nothing that was of any constructive use. Admittedly, a breathing space was necessary because members of the Ministry had not seen fit to do enough work during the recess to have Bills to enable us to go ahead and do some work. The Western Australia Agreement (Ord River Irrigation) Bill could have been introduced in the first week of the sessional period. The Copyright Bill, which was debated at some length last night, also could have been introduced then. But what happened? We fooled about and did nothing. I had to sit here and listen to honourable members talking, and tonight, when 1 wanted to speak on the Western Australia Agreement (Ord River Irrigation) Bill I could not do so. A former Whip, Joe Gullett, told us a long time ago that we were of no use and that we might just as well send our wives here to Canberra. And what happened to Joe? He went to Athens. I will put in a claim now myself. If the Government does not want me here, it can send me overseas.
– What about Portugal?
-Order! The honourable member for Balaclava is outside the chamber.
– Unless the honourable member who is interjecting decides to move the gag or move that I be thrown out, he can go home.
– We want to go home.
– I know that the honourable member for Swan wants to go home, but I have 7 minutes left in which to speak, unless I am gagged. I shall think of something to talk about. If I cannot. I may have to sing a song. Throughout this sessional period I have been trying to bring home to the people responsible for arranging the business of the House that it should be more orderly. I have had several conversations with the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who is Leader of the House, and a few talks with the Whip, the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Erwin), with whom I have breakfast on most mornings. The business of the House should be arranged in a much better fashion to suit the convenience of honourable members. We have been told that this is to be the last week of the sessional period provided we get through all the business. Parliament should sit next week. It was generally- understood that Parliament was to sit next week but we have been told that if we do not stand up and speak we will be able to finish this week. What sort of way is that of running Parliament? Should a carrot be held in front of us and it be suggested that if we do not speak we can go home this Week? This way we will be getting our money for nothing.
If the. business of this House were intelligently arranged and spread out evenly over a suitable period we would all be able to express our views on various subjects. I do not want to talk on every subject, but I want to have the. right to express my point of view on odd occasions. I am not going to be told that I should come along here and vote for the Government any time it wants me to do so. The Ministers who are responsible for introducing legislation should allow time for us to peruse and make a reasonable assessment of it. They should not introduce highly technical Bills in the last week of the sitting, as is happening on this occasion. Three or four weeks ago the Leader of the House said to me: It will not happen this time. We used to do it in the past but we have cured it this time. There will not be any last minute rush.’ But we are sitting here at 2.20 a.m. We have not had the opportunity properly to examine such complex matters as the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill or the export incentives legislation. Unless the Ministers are prepared to get on with their job and see that the business is presented before the House in reasonable time,I think that we backbenchers have at some stage or another tolet them know that we do not agree with their way of doing things. The only way I can do that is to get up and voice my disapproval. I have complained to Ministers in the passageways but they do not take any notice of me. The only thingI can do is to make a nuisance of myself. The Opposition does this on occasions by calling quorums and requesting divisions so that the business of the House isdelayed. If Ministers have sufficient legislation to provide enough work for this House for 90 days I do no see any sense in trying to condense the sessional period into 60 days. If we are to sit these late hours then why do we not start at 9 o’clock in the morning? Why cannot we have a little sense in the running of the Parliament instead of this nonsense of the House having to listen to me at this time of the morning? I hope Hansard will forgive me for this suggestion, but there is no reason why we should not sit continuously throughout meal hours and have someunderstanding among ourselves so that no quorums will be called during the meal hours. We could get through the business much more intelligently if the Ministry did not try to push legislation onto us. I do not want to talk about the Ord at 2 o’clock in the morning.I would much prefer to talk about it at some reasonable hour, such as half-past 9, or at some hour when we are on the air. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) would like to hear what I have to say about the Ord. Unfortunately I cannot oblige him now, but 1 have copious notes and will be pleased to make them available to him.
– There has been a meeting in Tdowoomba to consider the increasing problem of finding work for hundreds of young girls leaving school. The mayor of Rockhampton, after offering confidently to place any such girls with good school passes, has now agreed that it is very hard to place them. It is not only in Rockhampton that this problem arises. Throughout Australia young girls who leave school are virtually forced to leave home at 15 or 16 to go to a large city to get work. It is the responsibility of the Minister for National Development to do something to help the States. They have tried tapered freights and all sorts of methods within their competence to help promote decentralisation, but it is only with finance from Commonwealth sources that they can hope to overcome this problem of establishing light industries elsewhere but in the big cities which have ever increasing problems of traffic tangles and fumes, and are beset by crime. Decentralisation is the responsibility of the central government of this nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.26 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Can he state the reason why Governors of the Australian State: fly the Union Jack and not the Australian National Flag?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I understand this is a matter for decision by the States concerned. The Governor of a Stale is the personal representative of the Queen in the Slate and derives his authority from his appointment by the Queen on the recommendation of the State Government.
Royalties on Bauxite and Coal (Question No. 110)
asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Royalties to be paid for the commodities concerned in the areas mentioned are set out in the respective agreements with the Queensland Government. It is understood that they are:
Thiess Peabody Mitsui Coal Pty Ltd: 5 cents per ton on all coal won.
Total value of royalty paid to the Queensland Government in connection with the mining of bauxite at Weipa or with the mining of coal at Moura is not available. In 1967 a total of 2.8m tons of bauxite was produced at Weipa but tonnages of export shipments are not available and the tonnages of bauxite for domestic use are not recorded. It is estimated that 1,746,000 tons of coal were exported from the Moura field in 1967. The Queensland Department of Mines would be in a position to supply additional details.
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that it is not possible to give a current average value of exports of bauxite from Weipa as, in accordance withthe confidentiality provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1966, the quantity figures for exports of this commodity are no longer available. He further advises that the average value of exports of coal shipped from Gladstone derived from export statistics was$8.71 per ton during 1966-67.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the amount paid in superannuation to former Commonwealth employees during each year from 1957 to 1967, inclusive?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is set out in the following table, which refers specifically to cash payments made in respect of:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680605_reps_26_hor59/>.