26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., anc! read prayers.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government make money available for the emergency provision of food and medical supplies to Nigeria and to use its influence to prohibit the further supply of arms to Nigeria and to bring about a cessation of hostilities.
Petition received and read.
– ls the Prime Minister prepared to take the Parliament and the public into his confidence in respect of a matter on which 1 gather he has just reported to his Party?
– Naturally enough a matter to which the honourable member refers has been discussed by me with my Party. The decision will become a matter of public knowledge. I am not quite aware of what reason the Leader of the Opposition can advance for suggesting that this is a matter that should be discussed in Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. The right honourable gentleman will have seen reports of the earth tremors that occurred in Western Australia yesterday and of the damage that resulted. This damage has not yet been completely assessed. Will the Treasurer say whether, if this damage proves to be beyond the financial resources of the State, the Commonwealth will assist in the manner it usually does when tragedies of this kind occur?
- Mr Speaker, I, like every other honourable member in this House, regret that this accident has occurred in Western Australia. I can assure the honourable gentleman that if the Western
Australian Government, after careful examination, decides that it is beyond it-, financial capacity to finance the losses, an application can be made immediately by the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister asking that the Commonwealth give assistance. I think I can say also to the honourable gentleman that, so far as normal criteria in working decisions are involved - personal hardship, distress or such matters as damage to public property - we would look with very great sympathy at an application for assistance made by the Western Australian Government.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science: Will the Government use what avenues of approach are available to it, or what influence it has, to persuade the Council of the Australian National University to rethink its proposals for increased tuition fees and increased residence fees at the University? Does the Minister recognise that the proposed increases in tuition fees will nol affect holders of Commonwealth scholarships and that increased residential fees will not affect holders of some special scholarships, but that the increased residential fees and tuition fees will bear heavily indeed on students who are seeking to make their way through university, on their own resources or with family support? Will increased residential fees affect all students other than the few holding special scholarships? ls it true that the increase in fees will not increase the amount of money available to the Australian National University, being balanced by reduced Commonwealth grants and Australian Universities Commission payments? As the Australian National University does not provide what are regarded as the expensive courses, in medicine and science, is there any real reason to insist that fees generally should be in line with those applicable at universities in the States? Will the Government recognise that many students-
-Order! The honourable member’s question is far too long.
– I am just finishing it. Mr Speaker. Will the Government recognise that many students at the Australian National University require financial assistance to enable them to complete their courses?
- Mr Speaker, the decisions taken by the Council of the Australian National University are ones that it is the prerogative of that Council to take. I think that in the past the general practice has been to keep all the fees that are charged at the Australian National University broadly in line with the fees that are charged by universities in the States. The changes that, were announced, I think a week or two ago, were decided on very much with this objective in mind although my understanding is that some State universities still will have fees that will be higher than those that will be charged at the Australian National University. lt is true that if there is an increase in State university fees, the charge on the State Treasury concerned will be reduced because the amount provided by the State, and which is matched by the Commonwealth, has two components. State Treasury subventions and fees. So. just as an increase in fees reduces the direct charge on a State Treasury so too an increase in fees does have an impact on Commonwealth recurrent grants because we stand in relation 10 the Australian National University as a Stale government stands in relation to its. own universities in that matter. While it is broad policy for fees to be charged throughout all universities, I cannot sec any particular justification for having a much lower level of fees at the Australian National University than in other universities. Whatever difficulties there may be for students mending the Australian National University, these difficulties would be equivalent to those experienced by students going to other universities. No real reason exists why one university should stand in a favoured position in relation to these matters.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to the statement in the recent report of the Tariff Board that ‘a more comprehensive statistical framework than now exists is desirable if the Board’s analysis of protected activities is to be systematic’ and in particular that “an input-output table could provide a suitable basis for systematic analysis of the inter-industry effects of protection’, ls it a fact that so far the Bureau of Census and Statistics has published an input-output table only for 1958-59, that this table includes only 34 industrial groups, and that the Bureau is now working on a new table for 1962-63, which will not be published until next year? Is it further a fact that with efficient computers an up to date table should be capable of being produced in a fairly short time? Has the right honourable gentleman discussed the question, including the efficiency of the computers, with the Commonwealth Statistician, and, if not, will he do so as soon as practicable and advise the House regarding the prospects?
-] have nol had the great pleasure of being able to read the report of the Tariff Board yet, as I arrived back in Sydney from overseas only on Saturday. But I will do so and then refer the various questions asked by the honourable gentleman to the Treasury for analysis. I agree immediately with him that if the Tariff Board is to do its work effectively it must have the most detailed statistical structure that it is possible to obtain.
– Does it have it now?
– If the honourable member asks me a question I will give him an answer. As to the second and third parts of the question, relating to inputoutput analysis. I do not have the facts at my disposal. But I will find out for the honourable member for Bradfield and let him know. I. will also have discussions myself with the Treasury and the Commonwealth Statistician to see what further information I can give to the honourable gentleman.
– I ask the Treasurer a question arising out of the earthquake in Western Australia. On 4th October last year, in answer to a question upon notice, he told me:
He will have noticed that on the 10th of last month 1 asked him what progress had been made with these investigations. When can I expect a reply?
– 1 will find out from the Treasury just how far it has got in investigating the fund and I will let the honourable gentleman know later in the duy.
– I refer the Treasurer to a recent statement by the Reserve Bank concerning the call-up of trading bank reserves and an increase- of interest rates. While I am fully aware of the desirability of stemming inflationary pressures in the economy, 1 ask whether, in view of Australia’s need to increase export potential, preferably with Australian capital, it is intended to apply these restrictive policies to exporting industries. Can the Minister say what amount of the S87m Farm Development Loan Fund is now available and what effect the Reserve Bank’s call-up will have on these funds?
– The honourable gentleman and the House should know what is intended by the action of the Reserve Bank in the call-up to statutory reserve deposits. 1 remind the House that it is within the jurisdiction of the Bank under its Act to exercise this power without Government approval, lt is not intended that there should be an elimination of increased advances. What is intended is that the rate of increase should be reduced. The sole reason for this being done is to protect the export industries against inflation of costs and the consequent effect on their competitive position in world markets. I remind the House and also the honourable gentleman that at the time of the Budget we found that pressures within (he economy - that is demand inflation - were developing too rapidly. If to existing cost intiation was added demand inflation, we as a government felt that it would have adverse effects on production and adverse effects on our cost structure wilh all that would mean lo the primary and particularly the exporting industries.
We took action in the Budget to reduce those forces by reducing the gap between expenditure and revenue of SI 00m. What has happened since is that the strength of demand internally continues to grow at a fairly rapid rate as is indicated by the employment figures released this morning and by the gap that exists as between exports and imports in our balance of trade. I think that the Reserve Bank made a wise and proper decision when it decided to call up SRDs. If this action had not been taken we would have found that there was too much money chasing too few goods, with the effects that I have just mentioned. I hope that this is now accepted by the House.
The second point is that the Reserve Bank did point out that this was cautionary and would noi affect the basic development which was occurring in the economy. At the time of the Budget 1 pointed out to the House that I expected the rate of growth this year to be in excess of 54%. I am confident - and this is the view of the Reserve Bank as mentioned in ils release - thai the action by the Reserve Bank will make a real contribution to ensuring that the kind of growth rate that we want will in fact he achieved. But if the Reserve Bank had not taken this action I think it could have placed a brake on the development that we hoped for and at the same time affected our export industries.
– My question is also directed to the Treasurer. I ask: Why are the terms of the latest loan negotiated by the honourable gentleman to cover price increases of the FI I I purchase substantially less favourable to Australia than the terms for the initial loan negotiated by Sir Edwin Hicks? How much will the additional 2% interest rale add to the total cost of the purchase?
– When 1 went to the United Stales of America last year the United States Government held the opinion that we had no agreement to ensure that the United States Government would in fact make the money available for the increased costs of the aircraft which the honourable gentleman has mentioned. The United Stales Government and the Secretary for Defence had taken the view or officials had taken the view that they were under no obligation to finance the additional funds at all. After discussion with the Secretary of Defense - particularly in regard to a clause which had been put into the agreement in the preceding year - he agreed that the United States Government had an obligation but that that obligation was on market terms as they existed at the lime the negotiations were completed, i think this is clearly understandable.
What has happened is that the S75m that has been made available for the FI I IA aircraft was made available at rates substantially less than the going market rales in the United Stales at present. Whilst I. like everyone else, would have liked to get a better rate than that if it had been practicable, the simple fact is that it was not and if we had not taken that rate we would not have been able lo gel the money.
– My question is directed lo the Attorney-General. Has his attention been drawn to the fact that secondhand car dealers throughout Sydney have different standards of displaying prices? Some use the pound sign, others use the dollar sign, and some are now employing commercial artists and use hieroglyphic signs. Would the Attorney-General please call a meeting of State Attorneys-General and ask that legislation be passed to ensure that the dollar sign only is used in the sale of cars?
– The Attorneys-General have considered packaging and weights and measures. 1. have nol yet seen any reference on this particular use of the pound and dollar signs. The Attorneys-General are meeting on the 31st of this month in Perth and I will take the opportunity to raise the matter then.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the reported election discussions which are alleged to have been held between the Prime Minister and the Federal leader of the Democratic Labor Party, can the right honourable gentleman tell the House whether an election for the House of Representatives will be held this year?
– There were no electoral discussions between myself and the leader of the Democratic Labor Party. 1 think what the honourable member is probably referring to is an occasion when the leader of the DLP came to tell me what his attitude was on the matter. This is quite different from discussions. A decision on this matter, [ can assure the honourable gentleman, has nothing whatever to do with either the leader or the members of the DLP.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that in relatively advanced countries such as Taiwan mail is delivered on light motor bikes? Are motor bikes used for this purpose in Australia? As the Postmaster-General’s Department is labour intensive as an instrumentality, has a study been made of the costs involved in using push bikes as compared with motor bikes in this country? If not, will the Postmaster-General authorise such a study with a view to effecting economies and to increasing the efficiency of mail delivery services?
– An investigation has been made within the Post Office of the type of transport that should be used for mail deliveries. In many areas of Australia, including areas outside the closely settled suburban areas, motor bikes are used. The honourable member will appreciate thai the Australian public and, I think, the traffic authorities accept that a push bike on a footpath does not create a traffic hazard but a motor bike would. Where the frontages of houses are relatively narrow, it would not be economic for a motor bike to be used. lt would be necessary for the postmen to stop the motor bike opposite each letter box and to walk backwards and forwards across the footpath. On the other hand, in the outer areas where the frontages are substantial, a motor bike does become an economic proposition. The economics of letter deliveries are constantly under review, but I will again take up the mailer wilh the Department.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Does he know that more than 120 local government authorities in New South Wales have now endorsed a petition seeking positive action by the Australian Government in promoting the decentralisation of industry and population? Will he accede to the reasonable requests of the local authorities to achieve the objectives set out in their petition to him? Will he agree to meet the local government leaders in conference and to outline to them the role of the Australian Government in country development?
– I have not noticed the matter referred to by the honourable member nor have I received any request for a meeting with the individuals to whom he refers.
– 1 have your letter.
-Order! The honourable member for Macquarie will resume his seat.
– I am directing the Prime Minister’s attention to the letter I received.
-The honourable member has already asked his question and will remain silent.
– The honourable member may bring it along later: [ am answering his question now. The point that the honourable member did mention that 1 thought was significant was decentralisation and the building up of country areas. I think the Government’s efforts in this direction are evident throughout Australia now. One has only to look at such towns as Townsville. The action of the Commonwealth Government has resulted in the building there of an Army camp, the part provision of a university in association with the State Government, the provision of a teachers’ college and so on.
– And CSIRO.
– Yes, and CSIRO. These matters are helping to increase the population of that city in the north. One needs to look at what is being done in Darwin; one needs to look at the assistance being given to other northern areas to see that in fact decentralisation, taking Australia as a whole, is being greatly assisted by the Commonwealth Government. If the honourable member has some past correspondence with me about the particular matter he raised, it is not in my mind. Let him bring it to me later.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask him whether he has seen this magazine with a blasphemous picture on the cover, called The Children of Vietnam’, a Ramparts Extra publication. Docs it contain grossly inaccurate information about child casuallies in Vietnam and does it falsely depict maimed children who have been wounded by Vietcong barbarism as being victims of American action? Has the falseness of these claims been publicly demonstrated by the Department of External Affairs? Is the Prime Minister aware that a person who claims to be a well known academic in New South Wales, and who ought to know the booklet to be grossly misleading, recently has been distributing it in the streets of Haberfield in my electorate? Will the right honourable gentleman consider urgently the necessity to make it an offence to publish false information knowingly and wilfully, particularly when it can affect public interest and security, and when it purports to be genuine and sincere comment and can have the effect of destroying the basis on which the Australian people can make free and valid political judgments?
– A copy of the magazine to which the honourable member refers has been drawn to my attention. I believe it has been demonstrated that a number of the pictures that-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question appears to be identical with one which was asked by the honourable member for Boothby on 5th September last year and which was answered by the Minister for External Affairs.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– There may, perhaps, be no harm in repeating the facts which were no doubt given about this matter last year by the Minister for External Affairs. Yes. this magazine has been drawn to my attention. There appears to be no doubt that a number of the pictures included in it of casualties, of children who were hurt in one way or another, are in fact pictures taken of civilians who were hurt as a result of Vietcong atrocities, it having been possible to trace the pictures to those sources. They are not, of course, presented in that way but rather are presented as casualties due to United Slates action. I think this gives a clear indication of the propaganda basis of this publication and of the untruthfulness with which it seeks to present its point of view. I am not aware of who is distributing the magazine in the honourable member’s electorate but it is published, I understand, in New South Wales, lt is for the State Government to control the publication of matters of this kind published within its own boundaries, and perhaps the honourable member might care to take it up wilh the State authorities.
– I desire 10 ask the Prime Minister a question. As a programme has been issued staring that the Parliament will be meeting until 21st November, in order that 1 may make my personal arrangements will the right honourable gentleman be so good as to inform me whether Parliament will be meeting on 21st November next?
– 1 am not quite sure - although I think 1 have a fair idea - of the personal arrangements to which the honourable member refers. 1 do not know what day 21st November will he but the meetings of Parliament will depend, of course, upon the speed and celerity wilh which the business put before the Parliament is dealt with by members of Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the keen public interest in the performance of Australian athletes taking part in the Olympic Games, will the Minister draw to the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission the desirability of both the direct broadcast of descriptions of Olympic events and earlier and more frequent summaries of results and replays of description highlights?
– I presume that the honourable member is referring to satellite telecasts of the Olympic Games, and if that is so, I would indicate that this is a tremendously expensive operation, lt should not be expected that day by day, during the period of the Olympic Games, the ABC will meet the cost of a full telecast of the events. He will also appreciate that there is a time difference between Mexico and Australia and that it could not necessarily be a direct telecast, lt would have to be a tape-in. telecast at a suitable hour for viewing in Australia. My understanding of the position was that the ABC and the commercial stations had in fact combined in some way to present what 1 might call the highlights of the performances at the Olympic Games - a programme which may last, perhaps, for half an hour each day - and 1 would not expect that I would interfere so as to cause some other arrangement to be made.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House when the long awaited defence statement will be made? Will it he made this year?
– I am not quite sure about the timetable. As 1 have said in the House before, the strategic basis is under review by the Government. When that review is completed the finishing touches will be put on the defence programme and the honourable gentleman will be informed in due course.
– My question is addressed lo the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that the amount of finance now allocated to rural roads is insufficient lo cope with the increased use of these roads by traffic in all categories, bearing in mind the increasing national need for export income as emphasised in our National Export Week, and recognising that most of our export income - 60% or more - is still provided by rural industries, will the Minister give the House an assurance that the allocation of 40% of Commonwealth aid road funds now required to be spent on rural roads will not be reduced to satisfy the demands of the intensive campaign being waged for a greater allocation of funds for urban road development? Will the Minister also urge the Government to treat urban road development as a problem to be dealt with in some way other than by diminishing the already inadequate funds being spent on rural roads which are vital if rural industries are to continue to make their invaluable contributions to export income and national prosperity?
– I think that freight costs are of concern to every honourable member in this chamber and the provision of funds by the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth aid roads programme to facilitate the reconstruction of roads, both in the metropolitan capitals of Australia and in rural areas, is one way in which costs can be contained. As I understand the position, approximately 75% of freight in Australia is moved by road transport. Of course, this factor, as well as the actual road needs of country and city areas, will be taken into account by the Government in reviewing the submission that is to be made to it, towards the end of this year, by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. When that submission has been made by the Bureau and when the Government has had an adequate opportunity to examine it, the Government will take a decision both on the amount of funds to be provided for the next quinquennial period and the various areas to which the honourable gentleman has referred which naturally have an interest in knowing what percentage of funds they will receive.
– Did the Prime Minister recently inform his Party that there would not be an early election? Is his unwillingness to inform the Parliament explained by his recognition of the need to be very careful in making his explanation so that he may endeavour to recoup the loss of face that would come to him from having climbed down from his position?
– As the honourable member, perhaps owing to the amount of news disseminated from his own party room, may not bc aware, discussions inside a party room are supposed to be discussions inside a party room and not public, and not to be made public. On the second part of the honourable member’s statement I should like to make this comment: I have made no statement whatsoever on the question of whether there would or whether there would not be an election, but it does seem to recur to my memory that one most definite and unequivocal statement was made by the honourable member as to what he would do and that he completely altered his mind on the public statement he had made.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs and ask: What information can he provide to the House regarding the Paris peace talks on Vietnam?
– At the present stage there is no additional statement that I would care to make. The talks are proceeding and, of course, we are still hopeful that eventually they will have a satisfactory outcome.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether there are any remaining reasons for delay in heeding the Senate’s request to refer the Queensland redistribution proposals back to the commissioners?
– The position is as I stated it earlier. If there is to be an election, the Queensland redistribution proposals will not go back to the distribution commissioners. If there is not to be an election, the Queensland proposals can go back to the distribution commissioners. This does nol mean that they have to.
– In directing a question to the Minister for the Interior I refer to a speech which I made in this House last year and in which I presented a case showing anomalies and abuses in the present postal voting system, particularly as it applies in Queensland. Referring to the ifs and buts of today, I ask: If there is not to be an election this year can we have the Minister’s assurance that something will be done in the very near future to clear up this situation so that if something is done soon it can be done cleanly and fairly?
-I have received representations from many organisations and people throughout Australia seeking amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, including the amendments mentioned by the honourable member in respect of postal voting. These matters are presently before the Government. Until it makes up its mind on this matter I am not able to make any further comment other than to say that the matter he has referred to will be considered along with many others.
– Has the Prime Ministers attention been directed to views expressed by farmers at Kununurra regarding the removal of the cotton bounty and its effect upon growers at Kununurra? Has his attention been directed also to the comment of the Minister for the North West in Western Australia that such views could come only from inefficient farmers? Does the Prime Minister support the views of the Minister for the North West or does he see the farmers on the Ord River as being pioneers of an important industry for the north who have proved not only their own efficiency but also the value of the project? If the latter, does he see them also as people whose views and claims should be respected and who should be encouraged to remain on their farms, or is it correct that his Government agreed to finance the second stage of the Ord project only on the understanding that existing farmers would be squeezed out and their properties handed over to companies, foreign or otherwise?
– The answer to the last part of the honourable member’s question is clearly no. In relation to the bounty matters which he raised, the Commonwealth Government has just recently altered the provisions under which the bounty applies in order to enable last year’s crop from the Ord River to receive the same bounty, even when sold overseas, which previously it would not have received. The Commonwealth Government has also continued a bounty on cotton growing in the area for a period of 3 years at a reducing rate in order to give the farmers in that area time to decide whether they can. with the bounty at the rates spelt out, continue profitably to grow cotton. commonwealth official papers
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. 1 refer to a question I asked him some time ago with regard to the availability of Commonwealth Acts, reports and other official papers from SubTreasury offices in the various capital cities. I now ask the Treasurer to take steps to ensure that when such papers are not in stock when asked for by members of the public immediate action is taken to obtain them from Canberra rather than merely telling people the papers are not available?
-I regret to hear of the practice that has just been mentioned by the honourable gentleman. If he can give me a specific case in which a person requiring documents has been informed that they are not available, and in which no reference has been made to Canberra for a further supply of such documents 1 will take the matter up immediately to ensure that an improvement in the situation is effected. In any event I will discuss the matter with Treasury officials. 1 am quite certain that they make regular inquiries to see that books and pamphlets are in fact kept in stock.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to a road safety youth rally at the Sydney Showground last Sunday which was organised by the New South Wales Catholic Youth Organisation and attended by at least 20,000 Christian youths? Has he noted the lack of publicity given to this magnificent rally which had as its special guest Bishop H. P. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans, United States of America? Can he give any reason for our Press, radio and television barons giving such a poor news coverage to a rally based on Christian brotherhood and concern for our neighbour when they will allow, and even encourage, their servants to devote feet of film, inches of newspaper space and thousands of words to portray the stupid exploits of a few professional weirdos, beardos and great unwashed who are defying the laws of the land? Can he do anything to raise the standards of Press, radio and television reporting?
– 1 am afraid I cannot give any reason, nor indeed can I be held in any way responsible for what those who run the newspapers or other media of communication choose to publish, either in their newspapers or on their television screens. But one can indeed express regret that a rally of the kind described by the honourable member should have been given no publicity and no space at all. 1 cannot give the reasons why this should have occurred, but it is a pity that it did occur.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister: Can he say whether his advisers have statistics to show, firstly, how many Australian manufacturers are unable to plan the modernisation of their plant and technology because of the Government’s failure to lay down the principles to guide the Tariff Board in its foreshadowed inquiries, thus leaving industry in serious uncertainty about the future; secondly, how many Australian producers, workers and homebuilders will curtail or stop production, employment or construction because of the credit squeeze and the interest increase recently imposed; and thirdly, what is the final estimate of the reduction in gross national product and loss of employment and income that will be needed to check the decline in Australia’s overseas funds?
– The question asked by the honourable member makes a lot of assumptions which are not at all necessarily true. Indeed, I should think we will not know for sure for a little while that they would turn out to be quite untrue in the sense of being forecasts which were inaccurate.
– What do your advisers think?
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question.
– As the Treasurer has explained to the House, the action taken to call up special reserve deposits and the other actions taken by the Reserve Bank have been taken because of the pressures upon the economy and because we do not wish to see developing cost inflation because that, were it to be allowed to develop without action being taken at an early stage, could reach a situation where serious action would need to be taken. Having taken action at an early stage, our advisers believe, and the Reserve Bank believes, that we have avoided the necessity of taking what might have been serious action lately if we had not acted when we did. As to the other part of the honourable member’s question, I think it verges on the ridiculous for him to suggest that there are large numbers of factory owners in Australia who are unable to plan or who are not planning for the development of their factories. All he needs to do is, not ask a question, but look at the statistics available on the development, both in plant and machinery, which is taking place in Australia today and which is presented in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures.
– The Prime Minister has just said that the action taken by the Reserve Bank was designed to counteract inflationary trends within the country. Will the right honourable gentleman agree that the increases in indirect taxation contained in the Budget - increased postal charges, increased company tax and increased sales tax - have been among the causes of the inflationary trend?
– 1 would agree that the action taken in the last Budget to see that the deficit which occurred in the previous Budget did not occur again and the action taken by the Reserve Bank in this case are actions designed to ensure that inflation does not take place in this country. They are actions taken to ensure that those who are most hurt by inflation - those on fixed incomes or those on low wages - are protected, as they are being protected by this Government by the actions that have been taken in both cases.
– In accordance with the. provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Extension of north-south runway and associated pavement works at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport; Extension of submarine maintenance facilities, Cockatoo Island, New South Wales.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Bill now before the House provides for amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1968. It includes the changes introduced into Parliament as tariff proposals from 14th May to 15th August 1968, inclusive. Broadly speaking, the Bill covers changes arising out of eight reports of the Tariff Board and one report by the Special Advisory Authority. Other changes in the Bill include amendments which provide for further additions to the range of products on which Australia accords preferential rates of duty to imports from less developed countries and some administrative changes to simplify the tariff. I do not propose to reiterate all that was said at the time of the introduction of each of these proposals but with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard particulars of each of the proposals including the pages in Hansard when the tabling speeches were made. The table reads:
In addition Hansard extracts relating to these proposals are available in my office for any honourable member who desires a copy. There is also a summary in some detail covering all the amendments in the Bill which is now being circulated for the information of honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr 3. F. Cairns) adjourned.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject:
Wet Blue’ goat and kid skin leather - Tariff classification.
The report does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the report be printed.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1968-69 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 10 October (vide page 1897).
Proposed expenditure, $74,141,000.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, in rising to speak on the estimates now before the Committee, I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) very briefly to the fact that once again this Parliament is being held in contempt by the Government. Some weeks ago when we were dealing with the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation the annual reports for the Department of Civil Aviation, the Australian National Airlines Commission which operates Trans-Australia Airlines, and Qantas Airways Ltd were not before the Parliament. If these reports had been before the Committee, honourable members would have had an opportunity in considering the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation to discuss and to debate the functions of those two organisations and the Department of Civil Aviation.
Today honourable members are again being asked to discuss the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport without having seen either the annual report of the Department of Shipping and Transport or the annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. The Commission has a most important function in the Department, but when will honourable members be given an opportunity to debate the activities of this Commission? The Government is in error and is holding the Parliament up to contempt by not having made sure these annual reports were available and in the hands of honourable members in time for us to study them closely and make a reasoned judgment on the activities of the Department and the Commission. 1 register my personal protest at what is taking place today.
The first aspect of these estimates I would like to deal with is the Government’s policy on roads and its attitude towards the States and the motorist. The motorist today is being socked by this Government’s imposition of sales tax and excise on petrol and diesel fuel. No attempt is being made by the Government to introduce a national roads programme or to stir up the various States to do something about the large number of people who are being killed on the roads. In all, we have no clear plan about where we are going with roads. What national plan does the Government have today to build Commonwealth roads in the way national roads have been built by the Government of the United States of America? The United States Government drew up a plan to build roads in the interests of Americans so that vehicles could move in the quickest possible manner from one place to another, lt investigated how it could give Federal assistance to the States and local authorities, and in many cases accepted the responsibility for road construction. Australia’s Federal Government has a sorry record and has to provide an answer for the people of Australia, particularly the motorists, about what it is doing today.
The Opposition believes that a national transport commission should be appointed to co-ordinate the activities of road, rail, sea and air transport. Such a commission would certainly mean a great saving to the national economy when we consider the costs that are involved in transport today. It is difficult to get any information, but I would like to quote a few lines from the Australian Financial Review’ of 1st October. A statement made in the annual report of Mayne Nickless Ltd by the Managing Director. Mr Ralph C. Davis, was reported in these terms:
Every minute a truck was delayed in traffic or at loading or unloading points cost between 5c and 10c.
When thinking about road transport we can bear in mind the traffic chaos that exists in the major cities today, where traffic is banked up for hours on end, the time that is wasted by trucks having to wait when held up by traffic lights and at intersections, and all the rest of it. This Government should be giving some answers about whether it proposes to initiate a national road network not only in the cities but right throughout the country. I would like to quote a few figures from tables supplied to me by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Research Service. They show the revenue derived by this Government from taxation on motorists. The first table deals with the amount of fuel tax collected and payments to the States over the last 10 years. The second table deals with the amount of sales tax which has been collected over the last 10 years on new motor vehicles and station wagons. This information is available from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard the following tables.
T do not object to the motorist having to pay sales tax on the vehicle he buys. I would like to qualify that statement by saying that we. members of the Labor Party, do not agree with sales tax. We believe that the most equitable form of taxation is a tax on income. This means that those better able to pay do pay the most tax and those less able to pay do pay the least tax. I believe that the motorist is just as much entitled to pay tax on a motor vehicle as someone else is entitled to pay excise on beer or cigarettes or sales tax on something else. Whilst I object in principle to a flat rate tax, as sales tax is, I believe that if we have a sales tax the Government is entitled to levy this tax on motorists. But, as far as petroleum tax is concerned, it was always accepted and was the general opinion that revenue derived from excise and customs duty on fuel should be used for road construction. I accept that theory
In principle. I say that the Government should return all of the money received from fuel tax to the States and local government authorities for this purpose.
In the last 10 years almost S600m has been retained by the Federal Government. The exact figure is 3598,422,000. I would like the Minister, when he replies, to give us some indication as to when the Government is going to break down the system and why the amount of almost $600m should not have been returned to the States for the construction of a much better road system than is in existence today. Traffic is bogged down for hours on end in the capital cities. I recently travelled from one side of Sydney to another, which is a distance of 28 miles. I had an experienced driver who knew the route much better than I do, yet, it took us li hours to make the journey. The General Manager of Mayne Nickless Ltd, in his company’s annual report, said that it costs between 5c and 10c every minute a truck is held up in traffic. Does the Minister and the Government take into consideration the total effect this must be having on the economy as a whole? We know that our transport costs are one of the major costs in the economy today. Yet money derived from fuel tax is being used for revenue purposes. This money should be turned back to the States to enable something to be done about the situation. lt is not only the economy that should be taken into consideration. Loss of life is another important aspect. I would like to quote a paragraph from the publication Main Roads’ for June 1968. This publication is issued by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. I do not have time to quote from it at length, but on page 110 mention is made of the number of deaths that have occurred on the completed section of the tollway between Sydney and Newcastle. It is clear that the number of people that are being killed per million passenger miles travelled over this tollway is much less than those that occur on nontollways or non-divided roads. Under the heading ‘Tollway Accidents’, the publication states in part: lt is of interest to know that on rural highways two or more vehicles are involved in 59% of all accidents whereas on the tollway only 12% of the accidents involve two or more vehicles.
If a reduction from 59% to 12% can be achieved, is it not in the interests of the people of the country for the Government to make available the additional S600m which has been derived over the last 10 years to the States? Can honourable members imagine what this would mean to their States or cities if this money was made available to their main roads departments or councils? If this money were made available, State highways could be improved and the needless deaths that occur on Australian roads which are brought about in the main by roads that have not been constructed to carry the vehicles now using them will be reduced. Manufacturers build cars thai have the capacity to travel at 120 miles per hour. Honourable members could not tell me of more than a few sections of road in Australia thai could carry a car travelling al this speed. As a matter of fact, I do not know how many sections of road or highways would safely carry a car travelling at even 60 miles per hour. Certain sections of the Pacific Highway between Newcastle and Brisbane are not safe for a vehicle travelling at even 50 miles per bour. In fact, one risks one’s neck and everyone else’s neck if this speed is reached. Only a few years ago two of my friends were killed in two separate accidents a few minutes apart on one particular section of this road. Some of the sections were very uneven. Yet. the Pacific Highway is the No. I highway in the Commonwealth. Those accidents were caused by the bad surface of the road. The people were travelling al an excessive speed - but not an extraordinarily excessive speed. They were killed needlessly because of the condition of our roads system. 1 ask the Government and the Minister in particular to tell us what they propose lo do about the withholding of money which is derived by way of petrol tax. I know that the average motorist would not object to an increase in petrol tax on one condition; that is, that all the petrol tax which is collected at present is handed over to the road construction authorities for the improvement of roads. Likewise, if the petrol tax were increased, the additional money derived therefrom should be handed over to local government authorities or the State main roads departments so that bigger and better roads could be constructed. There is a need for this action.
Many of our highways have bridges that cause a lot of accidents because they represent traffic hazards. Vehicles are runRing into them, particularly at night. I think that the time is long overdue for the Government to do something positive to improve our national road system.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Failes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr JESSOP (Grey) 13.40]- The estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport provide for the appropriation of $l70m as grants to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement for 1968-69. This is an incresae of SI Om on the allocation for last year. Of this amount, S90m is subject lo the States providing a similar amount. 1 have been especially interested in transport matters since I have been in this place, not unnaturally because transport plays a vital pari in the lives of many people in my electorate. Last year, in the debate on the estimates for this Department. I referred to the Eyre Highway and supported an appeal’ that had been made by the South Australian Government and the Western Australian Government for special assistance from the Commonweal) h to complete the construction and sealing of this very important interstate road. The South Australian section is used by many interstate vehicles. In fact. 62% of the vehicles using the road are registered in States other than South Australia. This highway will play an important part in the great development of Western Australia. I asked that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads examine the Eyre Highway and other roads in my area, assess their importance and determine whether the Commonwealth should provide special assistance.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport when this request was made, said that it was not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to provide for any particular road and, provided that 40% of the money granted to the States was spent on rural’ roads other than main highways, it was up to the Slates to arrange priorities and to allocate the balance of the moneys to areas and roads of their choosing, lt seems very odd to me that a statutory body such as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is unable to report to the Parliament on its findings. 1 would very much like to know whether the Bureau of Roads at that time reported to the Minister on the Eyre Highway and any other roads in my electorate and I would appreciate an opportunity lo examine any such report in detail, if the Minister can make it available. T understand that the South Australian Government has renewed ils representations about the Eyre Highway. 1 am still strongly behind this request and ask that it be reassessed now. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) will be able to reply favourably to the request by the South Australian Government for special consideration.
I should like to remind honourable members of some of the functions of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. They are set out in sections 14 and 15 of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Aci and they bear looking at. Section 14 provides:
The function.- of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to lime to report in the Minister on, mailers relating io roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the Slates in connection with road* or road transport: and
lo investigate, and report lo the Minister on. any matter referred lo the Bureau under the ne.vi succeeding .section.
Section 1 5 provides: (!.) The Minister may. for or in connection wilh any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any mailer relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report. (2.) Where the Minister refers a muller lo the Bureau under the last proceeding sub-section, the Bureau shall, at soon as is practicable, investigate the mailer and furnish lo the Minister a report in respect of the investigation. (3.) In this section, “purpose of the Commonwealth’ means any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, and includes-
These statutory functions are quite extensive and make it clear that the Bureau is concerned wilh road transport and nol wilh roads only, lt seems to be a fairly widespread misapprehension that the Bureau is concerned with roads only. The rea, on underlying the statutory provision is that the Government believed that roads could not be considered in isolation without regard to the traffic using them. The Bureau’s responsibilities are Australia wide and include the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. However, the Bureau has no jurisdiction in the external territories unless the Government specifically requests it to make a report.
In his second reading speech on the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill, the Minister of the day said:
We have felt ii essential for us to have a body capable of investigating roads and road transport with a view to assisting the Government in reaching its decision as to the nature of the financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
In another passage of his speech the Minister said that references would for the most part relate to special requests by the States for Commonwealth assistance for particular road projects. I repeat here that it seems to be an anomaly that the Bureau is prohibited from making a report to the Parliament on matters relating to a specific request for a special project. I believe that this can be done with the approval of the Minister.
Many roads require special consideration. I can speak of two in particular in my electorate, apart from the Eyre Highway, and I am sure that there are many others in the same category in other parts of Australia. One of these is the important road from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. At present it is almost non-existent. Part of it can be described only as graded scrub. The road carries a surprisingly large number of tourist vehicles, including dozens of tourist buses each week. The road provides access to Commonwealth territory and as such should be of prime concern to the Government. 1 know that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is as concerned about this road as I am. Another road in this category is the Woomera road. This again should be of special interest to the Federal Government, as it is a major link serving an essentially Commonwealth town where almost 3,000 Commonwealth employees are working. These people depend on the road when they go south to spend week ends near Spencer Gulf and to spend their annual holidays and long weekends in Adelaide. The road has already claimed many lives because of its poor condition. I realise that the Commonwealth Government does make available a few thousand dollars a year lo the South Australian Government for the maintenance of this road, but it would be more economical in the long term to provide a special grant so that the road can be properly formed and sealed. Commonwealth vehicles using the road must require heavy maintenance after they have suffered from the road’s poor condition. Many private owners also face this expense. They are always complaining to me of the damage done to their vehicles.
Main arterial country roads should be classified as national roads and be given special attention by the Commonwealth Government, lt is a pity that the strategic roads agreement has gone by the board. A few days ago, a case for more money for country roads was presented by the Shires Association of South Australia. The association drew attention to the fact that the Commonwealth in 1966-67 collected $239. 2m from petrol and diesel taxes and of this Si 63.7m has been spent on roads. This is about 70% of the total revenue derived from this source. The balance of some $75m could well be directed towards the provision of rural roads. The more I think about the increasing importance of road transport to our programme of national development the more important the Bureau of Roads becomes in my mind. This is why 1 was alarmed to see that the appropriation for this statutory authority has been reduced by $100,000 to $550,000 for this year. There could be an explanation for this retrograde step, but, when one considers the many challenges facing the Government in respect to roads, it is hard to understand why much more money is not made available, why much more use has nol been made of this authority in the past and why much more use of it should not be envisaged for the future. The Bureau has a staff of more than fifty, made up of professional engineers, economists, transport planners and analysts, statistical researchers and supporting administrative staff. lt is organised into four divisions - engineering, finance, transport planning and administration - and is admirably geared to do more valuable work for the Government.
I was interested in the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. This Committee gave a lot of thought to roads to serve terminals for container services. I want to quote one or two passages from the report, lt states:
The Committee’s terms of reference refers specifically to roads in relation to pons and between purls and consolidation areas. As the evidence has shown, there is a variation from port to port in the proposed siting of consolidation area.-, (or depots) and plans are still nol definite on what depot development., may take place. In these circumstances, and because the possible carriage of containers by road over much of Australia has created great interest in both road haulage and Government services circles, the Committee heard much evidence from both users and planners of the Australian road systems, represented by bodies such as the Australian Road Transport Federation, the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, and the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
I believe that the latter body contributed very largely lo the inquiries of the Committee. Roads associated with containerised ports will become a great problem and I. believe the attention of the Bureau should be directed to this aspect of roads development. The desirability of uniformity was referred to by the chairman of the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, who described the Association’s purposes and objectives. I will refer to only a small section of what he said. The purposes and objectives are set out in the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes as follows: . . The Association’s main purpose is to co-ordinate, throughout Australia, the investigation of road problems; lo prepare and publish standards, policies and general procedures applicable to road and bridge design and construction. . .
Again, I think the Commonwealth could employ the Bureau of Roads in pursuing these objectives. Probably the Minister has this in mind already. When projects of a national nature are mooted it is fair to say that the States should not have to provide for them. 1 maintain that this is the Commonwealth’s responsibility. I hope thi Minister will consider these thoughts and will give some consideration to utilising this agency of his Department to the greater advantage of road transport in Australia.
Finally, I want to refer to a request 1 made to the Minister about rail concessions for pensioners travelling on the Commonwealth Railways system. Each year we receive a report from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner referring to the profits made by the Commonwealth Railways. The Minister should give favourable consideration to some concession for pensioners. 1 know that the South Australian Government makes substantial reductions in rail fares for pensioners and I believe other State governments do likewise. There could bc reasons for the Commonwealth Government finding it difficult lo grant this request but 1. am at a loss to understand why. Perhaps it is clue to the Government’s involvement in the field of social services. The Department of Social Services could, perhaps, reimburse the Commonwealth Railways for such concessions to pensioners in the way that it recoups the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for concessions to pensioners in relation lo television and radio licences and telephone rentals. 1 would appreciate it - and I know that the pensioners concerned would be eternally grateful - if the Minister could give his blessing to this particular request.
[3.551- 1 want lo say a few words about shipping. On 10th December next this Government will have been in office for 19 years. It publishes, through all available organs of publicity and the daily Press in particular, claims that it is a government composed of able and efficient businessmen. However, when we look at their poor record we wonder whether they have any business acumen whatsoever. Our great country. Australia, is an island continent, lt has 12,000 miles of beautiful coastline, marked by the mouths of great rivers, wonderful bays, beautiful deep harbours - Sydney Harbour in particular - and lovely inlets. One would think (hat the first instinct of any body of businessmen would be to exploit these natural advantages to the full by inaugurating a Commonwealth overseas shipping line of cargo vessels to carry outexports to all parts of the world, and also a line of passenger ships to exploit the tourist trade which brings thousands of overseas tourists to enjoy these wonderful natural advantages. However, I am sorry to state that members of the Government sit idly by and allow all exploitations to be carried out by various interests in the name of overseas shipping conferences. One often wonders why the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) and members of the Country Party, who are supposed io represent the rural interests in the community, sit idly by and allow gross exploitation of the wheat farmers and the wool growers by this shipping combine which increases freights, both export and import, at will, thereby holding a gun at the heads of people engaged in these rural industries as well as those engaged in manufacturing industries.
Foreign ships from all parts of the world converge upon Australia to carry on this exploitation, lt was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 4th September that six major wool shippers up to date had not signed contracts with the Australia to Europe shipping conference despite punitive freight rates announced that day. Six shippers between them handle more than 20% of Australia’s wool shipments to Britain and the Continent. This month that greedy foreign body, the shipping conference, imposed 20% higher wool freights on shippers who had not signed agreements with it. This was done in order to forestall Soviet bloc competition in the Australia to Europe shipping trade. This means that the rate for non-signatories is now US6.2c per pound compared with the contract rate of US4.73c per pound. This shows that the punitive rales arc now designed to discourage shippers from holding off from signing contracts wilh the conference until they find out what the Soviet bloc can offer. However we look at this, it is blackmail of the worst type. Honourable members should remember that these very patriotic wool barons have decided to sign contracts wilh the Russians following the pious resolutions passed recently by this Parliament against the action of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Czechoslovakia. We must ask whether the Parliament’s action was so much hypocrisy. Of course, the patriotic wool growers are not so keen on patriotism when it conflicts with their financial interests.
It has been reported that nine Russian ships owned by the Russian Government’s Baltic Steamship Company and a number of Polish ships will visit Australia before the end of the year in a bid to capture trade from the twenty-three British and European lines which have combined together in what they call the conference. What a monopoly those twenty-three British and European lines have enjoyed for so many years.
Shippers say that the Russians are offering a 15% reduction on conference rates for wool, lt appears that the shipping contracts expired on 31st August and, pending negotiations between European shipping monopolies, interim contracts were offered lasting only until 31st August, and that these included a 41% freight cut from 1st September. The twenty-three conference lines have had almost exclusive control of the freight trade to Britain and Europe. What a laugh! This, of course, enabled them to introduce a rationalisation programme and, in turn, to reduce freight rates by 4-5% on wool and general cargo and by 2% on refrigerated cargo other than fresh fruit. Now the red shadow has appeared on the shipping scene and all sorts of excuses, through published statements, arc being made by representatives of the overseas shipping association. Where do we go from here? lt may be interesting to the Australian people to note that the value of Australian exports during 1967-68 amounted to $3, 045. 95m and that our imports amounted to a greater sum still - S3. 268. 8m. So we find that in and out of Australia the value of our exports and imports total over S6,000m. That is the amount with which we have to conjure. So we can imagine how urgent the need is for a Commonwealth overseas shipping line to handle this natural wealth in the best interests of the Australian people and not in the interests of the overseas foreign monopolies which are called the ‘Conference’.
An article in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 9th September 1968 stated that Russia’s sudden entry into the rich Australian freight trade could force the Government to scrap plans to buy into a British shipping company. It went on to say that the Government is seeking a S30m to S40m partnership in the Port Line or in another British company in a bid to cut freight costs on exports. The Government said that partnership with the Port Line would gain Australia a voice in the shipping Conference which virtually controls freight charges on all of Australia’s exports to Great Britain and Europe. What rubbish for the Government to say that it would buy into a shipping line, with old dilapidated cargo carriers, which would ease the burden of the so-called shipping Conference which controls the Port Line steamers. The time has come to scrap these old out-dated cargo carriers and construct a line of container ships which will carry cargo in the future. That is a hint to the so-called businessmen who have not woken up to the fact that containerised cargo is the thing of the future. 1 have spoken in this House repeatedly of how essential it is for Australia to have its own Commonwealth shipping line and for its ships, which will carry Australian cargo to all points of the globe, to be built in Australian shipyards by the world’s best ship builders and manned by Australian seamen. Common sense calls for that. So where is the businesslike capacity of out Cabinet Ministers? 1 believe that this Government is too timid to approach the question of shipping. It is humorous to note an article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 7th June 1968 in which it was stated that Australia became a link in the world’s biggest new development in transportation with the launching of the giant container ship Endeavour Bay’ in Hamburg. The article went on to say that Lady Downer, wife of Australia’s High Commissioner in London, Sir Alexander Downer, launched the 28,000 ton cargo vessel in driving rain. Would it not have been belter if Lady Downer had participated in launching a 28.000 ton cargo vessel in an Australian shipyard for our Government line of steamers, thus affording a sound base for maximum efficiency and making a switch strongly to our own shipping instead of relying on foreigners?
We also find that to the north of us Japanese shipyards are working at lop pressure and are becoming leaders in the shipbuilding field. We all know that the Australian figures concerning shipbuilding are grossly inadequate. The present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) has remarked that some Australian yards must be able to justify their existence in competition with other Australian and overseas shipyards. He also remarked on the same old story, that the trouble in the shipping industry is the labour problem. That is the old cry of the Liberal-Country Party Government, and we have heard it for years. lt is said that the industry’s fragmentation is due to union control over labour forces. I can advise the Minister that if he were bold enough to ask for the co-operation of the unions concerned in the inauguration of a long term programme of Australian built ships he would have no trouble with any unions. They would be only too happy to co-operate. I say that on behalf of my own union, the Boilermakers’ and Blacksmiths’ Society of Australia. If the Minister is so concerned about the industry’s future, let him act upon the positive proposals put forward for a properly planned shipbuilding programme for Australian built ships for the Australian trade and for the immediate establishment of a national overseas shipping line. Commonsense calls for it.
I believe that this Government is not sincere in its desire to set up a Commonwealth overseas shipping line as financial pressure on the Government is too strong to allow it to do so. One wonders whether there is a man in the Government with backbone to stand up to the few knockers of Government participation in the export and import trade to and from Australia and to devote his energy to starting a programme of shipbuilding which in turn would be an important factor for the defence of Australia, which the Government seems to forget despite its protestations on the needs for the defence of our country. Of course, we cannot forget the sheer audacity of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. For years his Government has shown contempt and has neglected the shipbuilding industry. A recent example of this was his allowing an order for the construction of a container ship for the. Australian trade to be placed in Japan, despite a shortage of orders for ships in Australia.
At the last Tariff Board inquiry it was revealed that the Australian shipbuilding industry was operating under adverse conditions. About half of its capacity was being utilised, due to the impossibility of long range planning because of lack of orders and the future uncertainty. The Government’s refusal to establish a national overseas shipping line has had an adverse effect on shipbuilding. For the first time the State dockyard in Newcastle has shown a loss in trading for the year ended March 1968. The exact amount is still not known, but it follows the installation of new machinery and equipment that has undoubtedly increased the productivity of the shipyard. The rank and file members on the job are asking how such a thing can happen - higher productivity followed by a loss in trading. It has reduced their wages because two-thirds of the profits were paid in wages as a profit sharing scheme, providing a weekly extra rate of approximately S3 to a tradesman. The answer is clear. The Commonwealth Liberal-Country Party Government - and the Country Party in particular - has thrown the industry to the wolves. It has refused to give planned assistance which is so urgently needed.
Some years ago oil companies gave an undertaking to the Commonwealth Government that they would place with Australian yards an order for eleven tankers for work along the coast and so end the importation of secondhand ships. As yet. only three tankers have been built and the Government has done nothing about forcing the building of the others. If the Minister for Shipping and Transport is concerned about the industry’s future, let him act upon the positive proposals put forward by the Boilermakers’ Society for a properly planned programme for Australian built ships to be used in the Australian trade and for the immediate establishment cif an Australian overseas shipping line.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mullett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) [4.9 1 - I want to lake the opportunity during the discussion of the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport to say something about the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. 1 do this for several reasons, firstly: because I referred lo it in my speech during the Budget debate, secondly, because it conies up for renewal next year, and, thirdly and in particular, because it was referred to during question time this afternoon by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). Before I refer lo this matter let me make it quite clear that it will not be easy for any future government to mainlain the road programme that a rapidly developing country like Australia requires, because road construction and road maintenance cannot be considered apart from other demands on the nation’s economy. lt is not easy to forecast the scale of expenditure required to maintain and develop Australia’s road system in an expanding economy like ours when demands for other public expenditure arc taken into consideration. That does not mean that we cannot make better use of our present grants to the States by paying closer attention to work priorities. In fact, it is all the more important that we should do so for the reasons f have mentioned. An opportunity to do this will arise next year when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act comes up for renewal. Let me make it clear that we arc not alone in the world with road problems. I gather that all Western countries with expanding populations, rising standards of living, developing industrialisation and, most of all, the increasing vehicle numbers which go with all these things, have a great financial problem in keeping up with the steady demands for bigger and better road programmes.
Mr Chairman, you will know that tha cost of providing roads has long been shared in this country by the Australian Government, State governments and local authorities. The Commonwealth, or Australian, Government unfortunately has no authority or constitutional power to undertake road construction outside Federal territory. This is regrettable, as was suggested by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop), who referred to the question of national roads a few minutes ago. However, the Commonwealth makes grants to the State governments under the Act I have referred lo and, through them, lo the local authorities - metropolitan and country councils - to help finance road making and road maintenance. These Federal funds are appropriated from Consolidated Revenue and the amounts are not related to collections from taxes on road users, that is, customs and excise duties on motor fuels and sales tax on vehicle parts. On the other hand Stale governments do appropriate for roads the entire proceeds of their own taxes on road users and fees which the Stales are entitled to levy.
Local government bodies allocate to roads a proportion of their revenue from rates, the proceeds of limited private loans and 40% of the money received from Commonwealth aid roads grants which must be spent wholly on secondary roads in local government areas during a financial year. I understand thai at present the Commonwealth allocates to roads about 80% of the funds it collects in taxes on road vehicle fuels. There is nothing fixed about this percentage, but I think I should say that no Federal government, Labor or Liberal, has ever accepted the proposition, which was suggested by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) a few minutes ago, that petrol tax collections should be devoted wholly to roads. For the last 25 years the rate of economic growth in this country, the general economic climate and the pressing demands for public expenditure on increased social services, education and defence have strengthened the argument that all public revenues, whether they come from fuel tax or sales tax on motor car spare parts, should go into a common account.
The Commonwealth Government’s allocation to the road systems of the States is, in the main, distributed through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. This brings me to the point I want to make: Next year, as 1 said previously, this Act will come up for review, and if precedent is followed proposals for the next 5 years will then be adopted. One provision in the existing Act - and it has been included in the past three Acts which, in effect, means that it has existed for 1 5 years - stales, in layman’s language, that the States are required to spend not less than 40% of their Commonwealth grant each year on roads other than highways, trunk roads and main roads in rural areas. This provision was designed to encourage and assist improvement of secondary roads in rural areas. 1 have no doubt that there were very good reasons for this provision in the Act when the grant was first formulated in 1954. fr Turnbull - There arc good reasons now.
– In some States the standards of rural roads vary considerably. Some roads are of a particularly high standard but others are poor. In fact 1 believe that it might be necessary in some States to spend more than 40% of the grant on rural roads. 1 am not quite as parochial as the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) on this question.
– I know that the honourable member is a metropolitan member.
– 1 want to be perfectly fair on this matter. There are some States where more than 40% of the grant should be spent on secondary roads, but my point is that it is not good enough to spend 40% of the money granted to the States on secondary roads if such expenditure is not needed. I am sure that the honourable member for Mallee would agree with me on that point.
– lt is all worked out on a formula.
– My point is thai, if such expenditure is not needed, the money should not be spent just because a percentage for expenditure on secondary roads is laid down in the legislation. On the other hand it is not good enough to limit the expenditure to 40% in some States if greater expenditure is needed. Mr Chairman, you will recollect that 1 said in the earlier part of my remarks that it would not be easy for any future government to maintain the road programmes that a rapidly developing country like Australia requires. However, I believe that by paying greater attention to priorities for road works we can do a lot belter than we are doing. At present there are some council areas in the Stales where money is spent on particularly good back country roads that are rarely used. This is done in order to use up the allocation of money that is made available under the specific direction of the Act that 40% of the funds allocated must be spent on secondary country roads in each financial year. This seems wasteful, very wasteful, particularly when some city and metropolitan areas and large country towns are being choked lo death by traffic congestion because there are no funds to provide a bypass or a bridge over a river.
The great urban complexes of the capital cities have now reached such dimensions that they require special priorities and special consideration for Commonwealth aid roads grants. I raise this question parlicularly as this may be the last time that members of this chamber will have an opportunity to make a plea for such consideration before the Act is renewed next year. 1 sincerely hope that when the Government examines the Act prior to its renewal it will consider giving each State government the power to make its own decision to spend money allocated under this Act in the areas where it thinks it is most needed. Thai, to my way of thinking, would be prudent financing of our road system.
– As no other honourable member is rising to speak I will take my second period. 1 would like to make a few more remarks about the necessity for a Commonwealthowned overseas shipping line, lt is high time that this Government got down to tin tacks and woke up to the fact that this country has been exploited right and left by the shipping conferences. The farmers of this country are being fleeced - that is the only word for it - because of the freight charges imposed by these overseas shipping companies for produce which goes to the other side of the world. It has been known, and indeed proved correct, that freight rackets have been carried on in the shipping trade, especially by the shipping conferences, right down the years. 1 cannot understand the Government, and particularly the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), who is a Country Party member, not getting right down to the fundamental point of establishing a Commonwealth overseas shipping line. I refer again to this Government’s proposal to open negotiations for a Commonwealth partnership with Port Line Ltd. It must be viewed with very grave concern, for this reason: Although it is understood the Cabinet proposed that Australian ships should be entitled to carry 50% of all goods traded between the two countries involved, the Cabinet also accepts that it will be a long time before Australia achieves this objective, if ever. This is our Government of business men, business men of great foresight, business men of great intelligence who are laying down on a most important job affecting the welfare of Australia and of the people of Australia, especially farmers. It was a very strange report which appeared in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, which claims to have the ear of highly placed Cabinet Ministers. The report in that newspaper also stated that Australia will seek a bigger share of the sea traffic in both the United Kingdom trade and the Japanese trade. There is already in existence an arrangement whereby the Australian National Line operates a ship in the Japanese trade in partnership with the K. Line of Japan. What an operation! It makes one wonder what is really going on. Shipping conferences which consist of the shipping companies engaged in the trade control the trade between Europe and Australia and between Europe and Japan. In the past Australia has been unable to get from shipping companies details of their costs. When the Australian Government has asked for the figures on costs the shipping companies have threatened to withdraw their services. This Government of business men asked for the figures showing the shipping companies’ costs and the reply was: ‘We will take our ships away and leave your products on the shore’. What a situation. These shipping companies are just a lot of blackmailers. The weak kneed members of our Government believe that as a partner with a British shipping firm the Commonwealth would have access to conference figures. How naive can our Ministers be - especially the Minister for Shipping and Transport? They believe, in their innocence, that becoming a partner in this way would give us the opportunity to keep freight rates down. Is it any wonder that the average Australian business man or citizen is being bled almost white by the monopolistic freight charge practices of the socalled shipping conferences? When 1 think of what happened in earlier years wilh our Commonwealth-owned overseas shipping line I shudder to think what may happen in the future. Looking back over the years, that earlier Commonwealth line was established by the Hughes Government after World War 1 for the purpose of trading between Australia and Great Britain. Later the Bruce Government answered the demands of its masters in the shipping conferences. I wonder whether this Government is now answering the demands of the same master. Arrangements were made by the Bruce Government for the sale of the Commonwealth-owned overseas shipping line. This will bring back memories to some of the older members of this Parliament. The ‘Moreton Bay’ - a wonderful ship - the Jervis Bay’, the ‘Hobson’s Bay’, the ‘Largs Bay’, the ‘Esperance Bay’ and two freighters which were the talk of the shipping world, the ‘Ferndale’ and the ‘Fordale’ were sold to the While Star Line for $1,900,000. It is reminiscent of the racket this Government is engaged in with the Fill aircraft. What a racket! What a bargain for the White Star Line! It is interesting to note that Mr Bruce was elected to the House of Lords some time after the sale of those ships. No-one could think otherwise than that this was the pay-off for this weak kneed Prime Minister of Australia who wanted to mingle with the Lords, those decrepit gentlemen who inhabit the House of Lords in London. That was Mr Bruce’s pay-off for the sale of those vessels.
– That is a bit poor.
– Say what you like about it. that is what I mean, and I will say what I mean. Bruce sold out the Australian overseas shipping line for a price, and the price was - and I want this to go down as a record of my thoughts - a miserable seat in the House of Lords in London.
– You cannot say anything worse than that.
– 1 know I could not. J wish I could. Strange as it may seem, the White Star Line was a subsidiary of the Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd which also controls the Port Line, the company with which this Government is so eager to enter into partnership. Is this a coincidence? I think that something is beginning to smell in the shipping world here. The Port Line wants to get into partnership with the Australian Government for the sole purpose of buying out our coastal shipping fleet. This is something that will occur in the future as sure as apples grow on trees. I hope I am wrong but I do not think I am. I believe history will repeat itself in the very near future.
– The Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement is due for renewal next year. As the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) pointed out a few minutes ago, there is some opposition, particularly from city interests in Sydney and Melbourne, towards the requirement of the Agreement that 40% of funds allocated to the States must be spent on rural roads. In my opinion this opposition is misdirected. The opposition should be directed not towards the 40% proviso but towards the formula under which allocations are made. The formula provides that 5% of the Commonwealth grants should be allocated to Tasmania and that the balance should be divided between the remaining five States on the basis of one-third according to population, one-third according to motor vehicle registrations and one-third according to area.
I believe that the formula is faulty and creates a distorted pattern of government spending on road construction in the Slates. I say this because about three-quarters of Australia is arid or semi-arid. This land will never support large settlement, unless that settlement is situated around a mining venture. This land will not be put under the plough in the foreseeable future, unless science makes another leap forward. The area will always remain sparsely populated. It will always present peculiar problems, lt should be treated as a distinct area, lt should receive special treatment befitting a special case. If this area were disregarded in making allocations under the formula we would find that entirely different amounts were allocated to all States with the exception of Victoria and Tasmania, which do not have within their boundaries any of this arid zone.
A very useful map has been prepared recently by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, delineating the area to which I have referred. The map shows that 74% of Australia - almost three-quarters of the continent - is arid or semi-arid. The map shows that 46% of New South Wales is arid or semi-arid: 63% of Queensland is arid or semi-arid; 87% of South Australia is arid or semi-arid; 86% of Western Australia is arid or semi-arid; and 86% of the Northern Territory is arid or semi-arid. If this arid or semi-arid area were dealt with separately and were disregarded in applying the formula under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, we would see a greater measure of equity and fairness in the allocations to the States and we would have a more efficient expenditure of road funds. In allocating finance for roads some regard should be paid to this map. It could also be used with advantage by other Commonwealth instrumentalities, such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, because this arid or semi-arid area of Australia is unique and possesses qualities which do not exist elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should make special grants outside the Agreement for road construction and maintenance in this arid and semi-arid area.
There is a practical reason why expenditure on country roads should not be reduced below the present requirement of 40%. Any reduction of the amount spent on country roads would lead immediately to unemployment in country districts, and to an increase in rates, which primary producers are not in a position to meet at the present time. 1 am firmly in favour of retaining in the new agreement the proviso that 40% of the allocation to each State must be spent on rural roads. I believe that this is a wise provision. Acting individually the States would never have agreed to spend 40% of their allocations on rural roads. The proviso has worked in the best interests of Australia but I stress that we should reexamine the formula under which allocations are made lo the States for road construction. 1 urge the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to examine the suggestion which 1 have put forward with regard lo the arid and semi-arid area. I venture to suggest that if my proposal were adopted it would be a step forward and would lead to better administration of our roads system and a belter allocation of Commonwealth grants to the States for road construction purposes.
– In speaking on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport one is able to cover a wide field. 1 would like to refer briefly to some of the matters raised by honourable members who have already spoken in the debate. I refer particularly to the request of the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) to be allowed to see some of the reports submitted by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Many of us would like to see these reports. Last Thursday I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) what recommendations had been made by the Bureau to the Government. Once again the Minister pointed out, as his predecessor did when the legislation establishing the Bureau was before (he Parliament, that it was a body established to advise the Government, nol the Parliament. For the benefit of those honourable members who are not aware of this situation, I point out that in September 1964, when the legislation establishing the Bureau was before the Parliament, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) who led for the Opposition in the debate, moved two amendments seeking to have the Bureau report to the Parliament and not to the Minister. The honourable member pointed out that the Bureau’s responsibility was to Parliament. He moved:
In paragraph (b), after ‘Minister’ insert ‘or either House of the Parliament as the case may be’.
We want the reports of all investigations made by this Bureau to be made available to the Parliament instead of only to the Minister himself.
– In fact the Parliament rejected that amendment, did it not?
– It did, but members of the Opposition voted for the amendment on two occasions. The honourable member for Grey will be pleased to know that his predecessor in this place voted for the amendments. It is a pity that the honourable member for Grey was not in the Parliament, representing a different electorate, when this matter was under discussion. I am pleased to know that some Government supporters are at last seeing the folly of their ways.
There is light in other quarters. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) has often stated that Australia should have an overseas shipping line. The Minister for Shipping and Transport announced in January this year that the Australian National Line had joined in a consortium with the K Line of Japan and that two ships were to be built in Japan. How long does it take for these proposals to get through to the Government? I can remember that on many occasions in the time that I have been a member of this Parliament members of the Opposition have been ridiculed by some members of the Country Party for proposing this policy. They have quoted fantastic sums as to what it would cost Australia if it established its own overseas shipping line.
– Containerisation has made all the difference.
– Containerisation is not the answer. It has not made all that difference at all. The honourable member for Mallee will find that out when containers are introduced. With due respect to the honourable member, containerisation is not the answer to everything. I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is at the table, will be pleased to explain that to the honourable member for Mallee.
The delay in making a decision to engage in overseas trade and the urgency to acquire ships to participate in this trade at very short notice have prevented any Australian shipbuilding firm from tendering for the supply of these vessels. So, they will be built in Japan. Much play has been made of the fact - the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith mentioned this - that a container ship for the Australian trade was launched at Hamburg recently by the wife of the Australian High Commissioner in London, Sir Alexander Downer, who is a former member of this Parliament. Next Friday a second ship will be launched by the wife of the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). We have heard the story time and again of how many ships are required. But listening to some Government members when they speak about Australia purchasing these ships for a national shipping line one gains the impression that enough ships would have to be purchased to carry all goods to and from Australia. This was never the intention of the Australian Labor Party when it put forward the proposal for the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line.
The Opposition does believe that Australia is paying through the nose for shipping freights. There was a conference which established what freight charges were to be imposed, but what has happened in some of our primary industries, particularly the meat industry? Once markets have been established, freight rates have been increased immediately. Some of the profits that were being accumulated from exports, particularly in the meat industry, were snapped up by overseas shipping lines. After vigorously opposing increased freight charges, Australian exporters have been forced to accept them.
It has been proposed that the Commonwealth will enter into a shipping conference. This is commendable if it means that Australia will be able to maintain some check on freight rates. But will it mean that Australia will become just another partner? Will Australia have a say in how these freight rates are arrived at? Will it retain its independence? I hope - and I am sure that every Australian hopes with me - that when we do become a partner in this conference line we will retain our independence. The original Australian overseas shipping line was able to contain freight charges at a time when freight rates were rising excessively throughout the world. It did reject the proposals made by the Conference Lines at that time for increased freight charges. This was to the benefit of the Australian people and particularly to the primary producers. I hope that Australia’s proposed entry into this conference will mean that it will be able to exercise this kind of influence. I have some doubts that this will happen. I certainly hope it will.
Speaking about the Australian National Line, I wish to join with my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), in deploring the fact that honourable members enter this debate without certain annual reports to guide them. I refer specifically to the annual reports of the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the Australian Shipbuilding Board. These reports are not available to honourable members when they are asked to debate these matters. I do not believe that this is intentional. But these reports should be made available to honourable members so that they may participate in the debate with the advantage of more accurate information and statistics.
I want to register my protest at the number of ships that are operating around the Australian coast on permits. An increasing number of ships of all nationalities in recent times have been trading on the Australian coast and, in particular, have been carrying oil, bauxite and iron stone mainly to Port Kembla and Newcastle. 1 believe that these ships were named in a speech last week by the honourable member for Newcastle. I think that some of them should be mentioned again. T refer to the ‘Craigwcerd’, Pac Merchant’, ‘Northern Naaid’ Thalassoporaf’, ‘Andrea Brovig’. ‘Ortova’, ‘Phaedra’, North Breeze’, ‘Channai Jayam’ and ‘Scafin Topic’. These vessels have been operating on permits. In the intrastate trade they have been carrying bauxite between Weipa and Gladstone. We have seen an increasing number of foreign ships operating on this run, but the Australian National Line has not been allowed to operate on it, although I know that one of its ships is operating under charter to the Hastings Shipping Co., which is a subsidiary of Ludwigs.
– It is scandalous.
– That these vessels should be allowed to operate without any provision for replacement, at a time when there is a shortage of orders and work in the Australian shipbuilding industry, is scandalous, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith interjects.
The other matter with which 1 wish to deal is the repair of ships overseas. The Minister for Shipping and Transport a short time ago supplied me with the names of ships that had been repaired overseas in recent, times. The trend has been towards the building of larger and beamier ships. We find at this rime that a ship operating on the Australian coast requiring repairs has available to it probably only one dry dock in which repairs can be carried out. This is the graving dock at Cairnscross. That graving dock was constructed by the Allied Works Council during the last World War. Provision was made at that time to make that dock much larger than it is now. The graving dock at present is 830 feet long with a breadth of 127 feet 6 inches at its entrance. Because of other urgent matters, that work was not proceeded with. I believe that here is an opportunity to increase the size of this graving dock so that Australia will have at least one ship repair facility able to carry out work on these vessels in an emergency. If this work were carried out, these vessels would not need to go to Singapore or to Hong Kong to be repaired. 1 wish to refer again lo the use of Australian ships in overseas trade. Let me quote the remarks of Professor Gates who in a paper called the ‘Future of Shipping’ presented in July was not entirely in agreement wilh the proposal put forward by the Opposition, but who did say that:
This report of his remarks continues:
Nevertheless, a policy of using Australian-built ships might eventually save us as much as threequarters of the foreign exchange needed to purchase foreign-built ships, and thus restore our total balance of payments gain from the shipping operation ro something like $60m a year.
That is a most important point in this day and age. Professor Gates continued:
At all events, it appears I hat by entering the oversea shipping field on a really massive scale we might save or earn some S60m per annum in foreign exchange if we built our own ships, and S30m if we bought them abroad.
These balance of payments gains would amount to 12 and 6% of the $500m now paid as shipping freight on our imports and exports; t.6 and .8% of our total current earnings from abroad: and .3 and .15% of the gross national product.
So we have seen this change, this bloodless revolution. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) recognised the need for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads lo make reports to the Parliament, not secretive reports to the Minister thai are unavailable to honourable members. He was interested in a certain highway and wanted to know what reports had been made about it. I do not know what reports are made available to members of the Government, but certain reports are denied to honourable members generally. What is so secret about the activities of the Bureau? We recall how long it took to have an important committee set up to investigate transport costs in the northern part of Australia and how long it took to have that committee’s report presented to the Parliament. We recall how long the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pleaded for that report to be made available. 1 am pleased to see that at least one Government supporter recognises that the Australian Labor Party was correct when it asked that thai report be made available to the Parliament. I do not know whether a change came about when a member of the Country Party was appointed Minister for Shipping and Transport in place of a member of the Liberal Party. The Government has al last recognised that Australia should participate in overseas trade with Australian ships manned by Australians and built by Australians. We should have a shipping line of which all Australians could be proud. I am sure it would be of benefit to all, even if we paid higher wages, because we would be enjoying better living conditions.
Mr CLEAVER (Swan) [4.521- In this debate on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport there have been, I gather, two references to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I want to direct my remarks to the provision in the estimates for this statutory authority. I wish to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to give some information to the Parliament. Therefore T will be following the line, of at least one other speaker. I refer to Division 482 in the Estimates and I find there a one-line appropriation for expenditure under the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act. The amount for the current financial year is listed at $550,000. When I compare that estimate with the appropriation for 1967-68 and the expenditure for that financial year, I find that the figure in both instances was $650,000. This is due to the fact that the funds appropriated under this statute are paid to the Bureau’s own bank account.
The Treasurer of the Commonwealth can, by arrangement, pay out according to requirements. But, in effect, if $650,000 is approved, the appropriation of that amount becomes a spot-on expenditure when the funds are drawn and paid to the Bureau’s account. It is immediately apparent to me and, 1 am sure, to any others who have an interest in these estimates, that in these circumstances the Parliament needs an informative report on the Bureau of Roads or it will never know what funds remain unspent. Perhaps the Auditor-General, as I will point out in a moment, will help us by putting into his annual report any interesting information that he may find as he audits the accounts of the Bureau. If no report is presented the Parliament just does nol know how the money is being spent and whether the balance in the Bureau’s bank account is increasing. I wonder whether, if the balance of the bank account has increased, that is the reason for relying on the dubious wisdom of reducing the estimate by no less than $100,000 compared to the previous year.
What is this Bureau? If I turn to section 5 of the Act under which this Bureau is constituted, 1 find that it is a body corporate: it has perpetual succession; it has its own common seal; it may acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property; and it may sue and be sued under its corporate name. In my book it is a statutory authority or commission established by this Parliament and proposed originally in an election platform by the Government that is in power today. I do not think I need remind the Committee that great things have been expected of this Bureau. The Government would not have had it established unless there had been a great expectation of results. For those who are interested in roads and road usage, there has been a mounting inquiry: What is happening in this Bureau of Roads? What advise is being tendered by it to the Government? What recommendations has the Government been prepared to accept, based on that advice, to guide it in providing funds for roads? From my own experience in recent years, I know why a parliament sets up a statutory authority or commission. Distinct advantages are gained. 1 hardly think it necessary for me to reiterate to the Committee, with its experienced members, what those advantages are. We know that this procedure removes from day to day administrative control by a Minister or department the people who are appointed to such an authority. As I have indicated, it gives freedom in financial operations, in that there can be forward planning and an approved carrying forward of funds. The limitations of cash receipts and cash payments which have to be followed under a government system of funding, and which are experienced so acutely at times by departments, do not necessarily apply.
When this Parliament was debating the setting up of the Bureau, not everyone wanted it to be established. I wonder whether there is a nigger in the wood pile somewhere. I wonder what the Minister has to say lo the Parliament, frankly and genuinely, about this reduction in the estimate, for I find it difficult to follow. I wonder whether the Department really wanted to see the Bureau - a statutory authority - excised from the Department’s operations and established in the first place. I wonder whether there was any understandable difficulty in this area. One has lo ask whether the Department is holding up the work of the Bureau in any way. Is the Minister backing with enthusiasm the programme of the Bureau? Is the vision that the Parliament had shared by all who are in authority today? I do not know the answers to these questions. I am only a private member, a backbencher. I do not have access to information, particularly if that information is meagre and restricted.
Who really reduced the estimate? Did the hard hearted Treasurer of the Commonwealth say to the Minister: ‘Your estimate for the Bureau appears too high’? Did he say: ‘You have asked for an increase, but I will not approve it’? Did the Treasury, which has to make an analysis of and do some research on the requests by various departments and authorities, reduce the estimate? Was the reduction due to the influence of the Minister? Was it due to a commonsense decision by the Minister? The Parliament does not know until the Minister tells it. 1 want to know. As a member, it is my duty to ask why the estimate was brought back to §550,000.
On this matter of reporting to the Parliament, I turn to the Department of Defence. 1 want to say with appreciation that this Department, which deals with security matters, produces a most informative report. Lt is not bound by statute to report to the Parliament; yet this informative report is made available to the members. One would think, even though the Bureau of Roads is an advisory body in relation to the Minister and the Government, that it would be possible for some report to be made to the Parliament. Then [ turn to another statutory authority, the Australian Universities Commission, and wonder what is the position regarding it. The Commission presents annual reports to this Parliament under statutory requirement, I notice. It is in effect an advisory body for the Government. The Government does not have to accept its recommendations regarding the disbursement of funds. In this set of circumstances, why can the Government not do something more specific than it has done? 1 have acknowledged that the Bureau of Roads is an advisory body. Therefore, if Cabinet received a report recommending the disbursement of some millions of dollars of Commonwealth funds to various States, which is the fundamental intention of the Act, it is not duty bound to accept the recommendations. They could be altered. Well do we remember the delay that took place in finding a suitable man to appoint as chairman of the Bureau. We know that we have a top man and those who are interested in road and road transport would be the first to admit this. We believe that there must be something in the recommendations put forward to Cabinet that would be of public interest. If this sort of information was released to the taxpayer the existence of the Bureau would be more readily justified. I believe that the taxpayer and the Parliament are entitled to have the shutters thrown wide open on the progress of this statutory authority to date.
I wonder what would be the position - I pose this as a question to the Minister in all sincerity - if the Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts wished to have a look at the Bureau as a statutory authority as we have found it necessary and desirable to do in a number of other cases. For example, we took this action in regard to the National Capital Development Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. In the interests of the Parliament we have found that it was helpful to investigate thoroughly the organisation and the operations of these bodies and then to report to Parliament. What would be the position if we wished to have a look at the Bureau? Would all its financial operations, research activities and information about the staff employed be regarded as confidential and not available to the Committee? Would this be the position, particularly in view of the fact that the Committee would publicly question members of the Bureau who would be under oath? lt would be a strange set of circumstances if an organisation of this kind could not be investigated and reported upon. 1 believe that the Committee has every entitlement to see what research has been carried out. what staff is employed and what road expenditure has been considered justified in the expanding economy of Australia. We should be entitled to know what recommendations have been put forward by these expert people who have been put into a position of responsibility in the Bureau.
I turn to section 17 of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964 and I agree that in this provision there is a restriction on the officers of the Bureau. If a body is to give advice to a government, one cannot free its officers to speak freely to the community or to put out Press releases because this would defy the very intention. But, in section 17, we find the emphasis in the words “Except with the approval of the Minister’. In my opinion this is the let out. If the Minister approves that some advice can be released, then, of course, this information can be made known. 1 think the Minister will agree, when he rises to answer some of these questions, if no; all of them, that he has not authorised the release of any information since he has been the Minister. There is no report specified in the Act. Perhaps this practice needs to be rectified. Informative reports are made available from other departments which are the subject of security and natural restriction.
The funds made available to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to date are as follows. In the financial year 1965-66 - the first year of its operation - $50,000 was allocated. In the following financial year $375:000 was allocated. In 1967-68, as I have said, an amount of $650,000 was allocated. The estimate for this year has been pruned back to $550,000. Because these funds are a single line appropriation and are drawn in full from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and credited to the Bureau’s bank account, the Treasury trial balances, to which the Committee of Public Accounts in the interests of the Parliament would normally look, show a spot-on result - an expenditure equal to the estimate. Therefore, unless the Public Accounts Committee probed further, we would say the Estimates appeared to be all right - there was no under-spending or over-spending. But, of course, I believe that this would not be the situation.
We have to turn to the Auditor-General’s report for 1966-67 for the only information that I have been able to glean. At page 216, the report states:
The increase of $275,000 is related mainly to the employment for a full year of staff engaged during 1966-67 and the engagement of additional staff during 1967-68.
I gave that some thought. It leads me to the conclusion that if §650,000 was required in the last financial year mainly to meet the full year’s cost of staff, the estimate of $550,000 currently sought should prove to be very inadequate. J for one would be concerned at this. Looking at the Estimates, I draw the conclusion that 1 want to see - and 1 believe that the taxpayer wants lo see - the Bureau given all the research funds and facilities that it requires so that its recommendations to Cabinet may bc more positive and helpful. I do not want the Bureau to be unnecessarily restricted in staff. There will be time enough to make such criticisms as empire building when the Bureau has published its first report. These are only some thoughts that are in my mind. i have spoken frankly and in the interests of Parliament in seeking information. If I am wrong at any point I am sure that the
Minister, who is so well regarded, will put me right. But I make a plea for more information and preferably the presentation to this Parliament of an annual report in an approved form.
– It was pleasing indeed to listen to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) make his criticism of the Government’s policy in relation to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I throw my mind back to the time when the relevant Bill was before the House and the Australian Labor Party moved a series of amendments which would have required the Minister for Shipping and Transport to table in the Parliament every year a report of the activities of the Bureau. I noticed that the honourable member sat on the opposite side of the chamber to members of the Labor Party when the vote was taken. All the things that the honourable member has referred to and all the shortcomings were forecast by members of the Labor Party at that time. We said that the Bureau was going to be one of those hole in the corner organisations about which honourable members would not know what was happening.
– We called it the ‘Silent Service’.
– That would probably be correct. The position is that the Bureau is part of a Commonwealth department and carries out a function and the information that it gathers should be made available to all honourable members in this place and not just to the Government or the Minister. The information is not made available even to supporters of the Government. That is why the honourable member for Swan is complaining so bitterly at the moment.
The matter I would like to deal with concerns shipping. Honourable members will still remember very vividly the loss of the oil tanker ‘Torrey Canyon’ off the United Kingdom coast last year. No-one has yet been able to put an exact figure on the amount of damage caused to beaches and so on by the escaping oil but the estimate is about $20m. The coasts of France and the Netherlands were also damaged. I understand that international conferences have been held to consider the general position.
Maybe the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), in his reply, will advise honourable members what progress has been made by those conferences. What action can we expect in the event of one of these accidents occurring off the Australian coast? lt would not be unique if an accident of this nature did occur off the Australian coast and as a result Australian beaches were polluted to some extent. This sort of accident frequently occurs elsewhere.
One can pick up a newspaper, not every day but regularly, and read that in South America, the United States or somewhere else, a tanker has been involved in an accident and part of its cargo has been discharged into the sea. Such accidents are presenting serious problems. Damage is also caused by cargo tankers cleaning their bilges and pumping the residue into the sea. lt is high time that the Government took some positive action. 1 know that certain regulations apply to shipping in coastal waters, but it is time that the Government took action to prevent owners from cleaning the bilges and cargo tanks of their ships in the open sea. They pump the residue over the sides and this not only causes damage to beaches but also results in the loss of marine life and bird life. I would appreciate the Minister replying on this point so that we will know what is happening.
I commend the Government on the steps it is taking to enter the overseas shipping business. I have in my hand a nice little publication that was prepared by a former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Hubert Opperman, lt was circulated by the Department of Shipping and Transport. Melbourne, in November 1962. lt is entitled Some Current and Historical Data Relative to the Operation of Australian Flag Vessels in Overseas Trading’. This was a lovely little publication put out to counter the demands of the Australian Labor Party that Australia have an overseas shipping line charged with the responsibility of carrying a reasonable portion of Australia’s imports and exports. Now. apparently, our arguments are having an impact on the Government. People outside the Parliament accept that the arguments we have advanced are sound and logical and that Australia, one of the major trading nations of the world, should not be dependent on overseas owned and controlled shipping lines that can dictate to the Australian producer and tell him how much he will pay in freight. The freight rate, of course, determines the price at which a commodity can be sold on the world’s markets. Numerous statements on this subject have been made in this place, but 1 do not have time to go into them in detail. We know that the cost of chemicals is affected by the higher freights that are charged. The freight on goods from Japan to New Zealand is lower than on goods from Australia to Japan. With chemicals, there is a serious freight differential against Australian industry. The carriage of motor vehicles is also subject to heavy freight rates.
This all adds up to the fact that the Australian producer is functioning at a distinct disadvantage when his goods are transported in ships owned by overseas lines. We all know that a short time ago the American Conference lines advised the Australian meat industry that from a given date freght rates on meat would be increased by 10% and that 2 months later the rates would be increased by 17%. However, the freight rates were not increased when ships of an Israeli line were introduced to carry meat. This proves that the overseas shipping lines will charge freights at the highest level they can and the only way to counter them is for Australia to establish its own overseas shipping line, owned and operated by Australians, with Australians, for Australians. I am pleased to say that the Government is now moving into this field. In recent months we have read that the Australian National Line is in partnership with another line in the trade between Australia and Japan. This is a very good move. Only last week the Australian National Line, I understand, was represented at a conference in Hong Kong and demanded about 25% of Australia’s northbound trade. This again is an excellent move and I commend the Minister for what he is doing. However, the European Conference lines have not yet been challenged.
If legislation comes before this place to ensure that we will have a say in the operation of an overseas shipping line, without knowing the detail of the legislation I will say that Labor will support it. The Australian Labor Party strongly supports the idea of Australia having an overseas shipping line. We believe that the Austraiian
National Line should charter, buy or build ships so that Australia can move into this business immediately, lt is not possible to build ships overnight and we cannot move into this field gradually. We cannot start with one ship and then have another 12 months later and so on. We must be prepared lo buy or charter sufficient ships so that, when the decision is made, we can move into this field and provide the competition to the Conference lines that is necessary.
The coastal trade is an area in which the Government can act immediately. A number of overseas ships are operating on the coast. They fall into two categories. There are the overseas owned ships manned by Australian crews. At (his stage 1 am quite happy about them. Then there are the overseas owned and manned ships. The Government should compel the owners of these ships to man them with Australian seamen. Whether they are engaged in transporting bauxite from Weipa to southern ports, iron ore. coal, bauxite or other products, the ships should be manned by Australian seamen. Australian seamen on the coast need employment and this is one way in which it can bc provided for them. Again I do not have the time to deal in detail with the ships that are operating on our coast, but the Minister is aware of the number of ships on the coast that are allegedly operating on single voyage permits. Why can the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd not charter ships, as it did wilh the Iron Cavalier’ and the ‘Iron Clipper? lt should use these bare bottom charter ships for the carriage of iron ore from the west coast or from South Australia to the east coast. This is a practical proposition. In the months between April and August of this year. 251,202 tons of iron ore were brought to the east coast. Approximately 200.000 tons went to the port of Newcastle and on a couple of occasions pari of the cargo was off loaded at Port Kembla. So there is enough work for ships on the coast and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. the Australian National Line or some other shipping line should bare bottom charter overseas ships, bring them on to the coast and do this work until the Australian shipbuilding industry can provide the ships that arc needed.
I come now to shipbuilding and 1 want to bring to the attention of the Minister - I am certain he is just as much aware of this as 1 am - that the three major shipbuilding yards responsible for building merchant ships have almost completed their orders. I exclude the Cockatoo and Williamstown dockyards, which have been confined almost exclusively to naval ships. The State Dockyard will finish its work in 1970, Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd in October 1969 and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyard at Whyalla in April 1970. This is not good enough.
I asked the Minister a question on this subject on 6th June of this year. I do not have the lime lo read the whole of the question. 1 drew his attention to the fact that BP Tanker Co. Ltd had built two tankers for the Australian coast, that the Shell Oil Co. had built one of 22.000 tons and thai overseas owned tankers were operating on the Australian coaSt on a bare bottom charier arrangement wilh Australian crews. When these ships came to the Australian coast, the understanding was that the owners would build ships in Australian shipyards and when they had been completed would export the ships that had been brought here from overseas. In his reply the Minister said, amongst other things:
I am advised that two oil companies, to which the honourable member did not refer, intend placing orders some lime before the end of this year.
All I can say is that they had belter hurry up. because tenders have nol yet been called for in respect of these ships. I have made inquiries around the Australian shipbuilding industry and 1 have found that not one of the three shipyards I have mentioned has yet been invited to submit a tender for thi two tankers that the Minister said would be ordered before the end of the year. We must bear in mind that the ‘Australian Progress’. ‘Caltex Port Kembla’. ‘Caltex Port Sydney”. “Esso Macquarie*, Hemiglypta”, U. –:.1/ ‘Millers McArthur’ and ‘R. W. Miller’ arc all tankers that were built overseas and are today operating on the Australian coast.
If the Australian shipbuilding industry is ever lo become an economic industry that is able lo compete with overseas yards, it mus.i be given orders for ships. Australian labour costs are the same or almost the same as labour costs in Sweden. Norway and Denmark, to mention only three Scandinavian countries. They are all building ships in competition with Japan, the United Kingdom and other countries. If the Australian shipbuilding industry is put on a reasonable basis there is no reason why it could not tender, under reasonable conditions, in competition with them and build ships comparable in quality and in price.
I call on the Minister for Shipping and Transport to prepare at this stage a programme of shipbuilding and ro require all these oil companies to place immediate orders, preferably under an arrangement similar to that in Sweden. The Swedish Government called together representatives of all the oil companies. It asked them what type of ships they wanted, what size they wanted, what, tonnage they wanted and what work they required those ships to perform. A Swedish shipyard then drew up specifications for a ship that would meet the requirements of all the various companies. The result was that a shipyard in Gothenburg was successful in obtaining an order for a number of ships of about 72,000 tons dead weight. It was able to build them economically and was able to meet the requirements of the oil industry in Sweden. The Minister should take similar action here and should make the shipping companies understand that they will have to build ships in Australia for the Australian trade and under conditions suitable to Australian workmen.
– Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– Speaking on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport I want to preface my remarks by saying that surface communications are of vital importance to the continued development of the Northern Territory, north western Queensland and north western Western Australia. I am referring to basic communications features such as roads, railways and port facilities. The north holds the future for Australia and that future is now being unfolded. The Government must stay ahead of this progress, for these are basic requirements for any country.
I want to refer firstly to beef roads. 1 commend the Government on the results of its beef roads policy. Approvals have been granted for the construction of 1,600 miles of beef roads. 950 miles of which are to be sealed, or have been sealed. This work includes a major bridge over the Victoria River. I notice that the Public Works Committee, has recommended that the beef road from Katherine through Willeroo to Timber Creek be sealed from Timber Creek to the Western Australian border. I hope the Government will find the money to continue this work in order to forge an essential link in the communications of that part of the world. I note that there has been an allocation of $30m of which $15.5m remains to be spent. The beef roads programme has played a very important part in the development of the north. It has assisted the pastoral industry by providing means of shifting cattle and has also been of help to the mining industry and the tourist industry. One vital point about beef roads that I would like to stress is the fact that in the main the beef roads I have seen in the Northern Territory are sealed only to a width of 12 feet. I mentioned earlier the road from Timber Creek to the Western Australian border. That road is sealed to a width of 12 fe:t but the continuation, in Western Australia, is sealed to a width of 20 feet. There is a lot of criticism - and very sound criticism - about the Commonwealth’s beef roads being so narrow. If two large cattle transports endeavour to pass, they must both move part way off the bitumen. In wet conditions, they sometimes turn over because the ground next to the sealed area is soft. Another point is that these heavy transports badly damage the edges of the bitumen, whether conditions are wet or dry.
– One of the drivers should pull up while the other passes.
– A driver cannot be slopping his cattle truck every 5 minutes of the day.
– I know what these roads are like. I was a member of the Public Works Committee.
– I hope the honourable member for Shortland is supporting me in my contention that these roads should be sealed to a width of 20 feet.
– I think the sealed surface should be wider.
– Order! The honourable member for Shortland will cease interjecting.
– I think the honourable member is interjecting for the sheer sake of doing so and not to offer constructive criticism. The Stuart Highway and the Barkly Highway at the moment are in poor condition. The Stuart Highway, from Alice Springs to Darwin, is the main artery for northern supply. It is the egress road for the Peko mine’s expanding exports of concentrates and is the access road by which fuel is taken to Tennant Creek. In addition, supplies of soft goods and perishables for all places north of Alice Springs are carried along this road every week. Many of them are carried in refrigerated boxes. However, many stretches of the road are in bacl condition at the moment. The Stuart Highway is a vital link for stations on the Barkly Tableland, f refer to places such as Elliott, Newcastle Waters, Daly Waters, Mataranka, Katherine. Pine Creek and Batchelor. All of them rely on this vital road which at the moment is in need of reconstruction as, indeed, are parts of the Barkly Highway. These are vital links in communications with the south and the east.
I turn now to pastoral roads. For many years the Centralian Pastoralists Association, through its Secretary, Mr Tony Greatorex, and its Chairman, Mr Tony Chisholm, and the North Australian Cattlemen’s Association, through its Chairman, Mr Les Macfarlane, have been pounding the Government for a great improvement in pastoral roads. So have I. I have been driving over these roads for the past 30 years. The point is that they have been flat graded. Flat grading in that country results in the roads becoming creeks. In the past, when a road has become a creek the authorities have graded another flat road. 1 have seen as many as three of these creeks beside each other. Had roads been graded to a crown in the first place, they would now be fairly satisfactory. Bull dust and bogs abound. Only last week a station owner from north east of Alice Springs, who used to live just north of my property, said he was unable to get to his station in a conventional vehicle. At times he had to use 6-wheel and 8-wheel vehicles with prime movers to get his cattle out. There are properties in this area which turn off thousands of cattle. I refer to stations such as Anitowa. Elkedra, Amaroo, Ooratippra, Argadargada - which was once part owned and managed by myself - Georgina Downs and Lake Nash.
– That station of yours was a very good one.
– It is a very fine station. Of course, it helps if one can spell the name. These stations are capable of trucking out thousands of cattle but at the moment are virtually inaccessible because of the bad road conditions. This is an example of what is happening in that area, in the Gulf area there is Nathan River station, which is in a similar position. North east of Alice Springs there is Arapunya station. I am reading these names off because people have approached me and asked me to mention the situation. Another station affected is Numery, east south east of Alice Springs. It is impossible to get cattle over the bull dust tracks. The south road, that is the road from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, very often is in a condition similar to that of the roads which I have just: mentioned. It is either a bog or a bull dust heap. It is the main access road to the north from South Australia. All manner of goods are transported over it and the tourist industry is built on it. The Alice Springs-Port Augusta Road Development Organisation has been striving for years to get this road sealed. Only recently I noticed that the Minister of Transport in the South Australian Government, Mr Murray Hill, supported the move. I only hope that with his support this organisation will achieve some success in having this vital road sealed.
I turn to the question of railways. The north Australian line, that is the Darwin to Larrimah line, has been rehabilitated for 145 miles from Darwin to Pine Creek. The Government is to be complimented on this work. It has spent $2m on rehabilitating the line and it has spent $1.75ni on new rolling stock and equipment. This line can now carry 1 6,500 tons of iron ore a week, apart from anything else, as well as all the cattle which have to be transported to the Darwin meatworks.
The Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway line is a different matter. i have been on my feet in this House on many occasions - 1 do not know how many - asking the Government to consider providing an allweather rail link between Port Augusta and Alice Springs.
– Does not the Ghan get through”/
– The Ghan gets through on occasions. But if there is any degree of Hooding, at the present time it can be stopped at the Finke where a bridge was washed away early last year.
– Sometimes it takes a long time lo get through.
– On occasions in the last 12 months the Ghan has taken as long as 5 weeks to get through. 1 ask the Minister to take heed of the submission put before him earlier this year by myself and the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop), and supported by twenty or thirty other members on the Government side, in which we asked him to approve in principle of the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs standard gauge line and to press urgently that such funds be made available as would be necessary for a fully detailed survey lo be made of this route so that approval may be given to order the necessary materials. Of the three proposals which were advanced, the one relating to the Tarcoola- Alice Springs line is obviously the best bet, as it were. 1 believe that it would be the cheapest line to construct and that i< would be running at a profit within the next 7 or 8 years. It would give the greatest return for the amount of money invested
Before I conclude I must deal briefly wilh the port situation at Darwin which, for many years, has been the subject of great confusion. The port is overcrowded. A great deal has been said about the attitude of the men working on the wharf, which has had the effect of delaying the turn round of ships, but a lot can be said in their favour because there is a shortage of wharf facilities in the Darwin harbour. On numerous occasions the Darwin Port Authority has submitted plans concerning the harbour and on many occasions I also have referred to it. I believe that a report concerning the Darwin harbour facilities is to be made shortly, so I will not criticise the Government any further on this occasion. I hope that it will lake a forward look at the matter and do something which will be of lasting benefit to the rapidly expanding port of Darwin.
– T intend to relate my remarks to one aspect of the responsibilities of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), and that is to the Commonwealth aid road grants. But before I do so 1 should like to support what the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has said about the importance of surface transport and also to support him and the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) in their untiring effort concerning the rail link from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. Whilst on that aspect I commend the Minister for his prompt action in recent months in going to the Northern Territory, having a look at the difficulties associated with the Darwin to Larrimah railway line and ensuring the supply of two or three new locomotives, which has made a tremendous difference to the movement of iron ore and stock.
I believe it is true to say that the development which has taken place in Australia in the last decade has been very largely contributed to by the upgrading of roads. The main factor in this work in rural areas has been the contributions made under the Commonwealth aid roads scheme. In fact, I heard it said recently by an old resident of the Riverina that the scheme had done more to develop areas than anything since the construction of railways in inland areas. Nothing has focused attention on this fact more than what has happened in the recent drought in the last 2 or 3 years when millions of head of sheep and cattle and lens of thousands of tons of fodder were carried by road - and to a very large extent on council roads - to areas that were not adequately served by rail because in Queensland and New South Wales rail link*, to a great extent, run east and west to the sea board. The construction of rural roads enabled the movement of stock from I he north to the south, with the result that the numbers of stock lost in the last drought were fractional when compared with tho-.e lost in previous droughts. The greatest contributing factor to the saving of this stock was the movement of stock by road transport which, of course, has very largely supplanted the movement of stock by dro,ing This has necessarily been brought about by a combination of the construction of local roads, main roads and. to some extent, highways. Local government also makes a contribution to main roads.
The recent road survey carried out by the National Association of Australian Slate Road Authorities covered several aspects, but that covering the rural roads system envisaged road standards which I believe are unsatisfactory because of the use that would be made of them, [n fact, they are below the standard set by the Public Works Department in New South Wales. The Association listed as roads which should be considered for upgrading ‘hose which carried more than an average of 100 vehicles a day. This is a questionable standard because I myself know a number of roads which probably did not. carry this volume of traffic but which, since being upgraded, carry hundreds of vehicles per day. A very notable instance of this is the Sturt Highway, particularly the link from Wagga Wagga to Hay and from Hay to Balranald, lt fms become a ‘nain highway, but if this standard had been applied before the road was upgraded and bituminised the number of vehicles travelling on it would have been considerably below the number that was mentioned in the survey. In its list of tolerable standards the Association suggested speeds of 35 miles an hour on roads in flat country and 25 miles an hour on roads in undulating country. In my opinion these are not reasonable speeds. In neither instance was bitumen sealing envisaged or considered necessary
In rural areas it is often necessary to seal or bituminise roads ahead of requirements because of the difficulty in obtaining roadmaking materials. Material of a lower quality can be used when a road is being sealed than when a gravel road is being built. Apropos of something that the honourable member for the Northern Territory mentioned, I say with the greatest respect to the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) that although the Commonwealth allocates certain sums to the States and does not set out details of road standards, when a council of which [ was a member for some years and president for a time was constructing roads it was found that a 12-foot wide bitumen topping cost as much in maintenance over 10 years, because of the edges fretting, as did an original 18-foot wide surface. Talk of one vehicle stopping while another passes is utter nonsense. Who is to stop first? May I say, in referring to the survey conducted by NAASRA, that quality and type of traffic, as well .is quantity of traffic, must bc a consideration. In many shires today a large proportion of Commonwealth aid roads grants is devoted to resealing and. therefore, the rate of new road construction has been reduced. It is obviously vital that there should be a continuing rise in Commonwealth aid roads grants for rural roads.
The five main sources of finance for road works in New South Wales - and f refer particularly to New South Wales - are the Commonwealth aid roads grants, which account for 23%; State taxes on road users, from which local government receives no direct benefit: minor grants, from which local government receives very little; council rates and revenues, which account for 35% of the expenditure on all roads, including main roads and highways: and loan funds raised by the councils and the Department of Main Roads, which account for 7% and most of which is raised by councils. The construction of shire roads in New South Wales is financed from rales to the extent of 47%, from Commonwealth aid roads grants to the extent of 44%. and from other sources to the extent of 9%. In New South Wales, local government authorities maintain 107,724 miles of roads, or 82.2% of the total. Of the total funds for road works in that State, local government bodies provide 43%. the State Government 34% and the Commonwealth 23%>. Other than its receipts from Commonwealth aid roads grants, local government depends for its funds on rates and loan funds. Local government finances are derived from the following sources: 63.4% from rates, 25.1% from charges, fees and other revenue, and 11.5% from other government grants.
Shire councils are now called upon to carry out many functions which are of comparatively recent origin. There are the provision of a variety of improved health services, at higher cost; the provision of amenities, such as libraries, swimming pools and rest centres; the provision of housing for doctors, dentists and council employees; and, in many cases, the establishment of local sporting facilities and the construction and maintenance of aerodromes. Small shires, with limited populations, bear a big share of the burden of financing not only rural roads but also main roads other than highways. A reduction of Commonwealth aid roads funds would cause many shires either to increase rates, which would be a heavy impost in inland areas which have suffered from drought conditions, or to raise costs in other ways. The lessening of returns, particularly from the wool industry, means that many people cannot meet higher rates and any increase would cause greater pockets of unemployment, and this would not aid decentralisation. In one particular area that I know, 96% of the rates are paid by less than 5% of the population. This gives some indication of the burden of rates in some areas and, as 1 have explained, a large proportion of these rates is devoted to road making.
Our road system is of tremendous importance. Three-quarters of our commerce is moved by road and two-thirds of our personal travel is on roads which are constructed and maintained largely by local government, authorities. I urge the Minister to use his best efforts to ensure that the 40% allocation of Commonwealth aid roads grants to rural roads is maintained, because this allocation is a vital factor in the continued development of Australia.
– I have listened attentively this afternoon to this debate which is very similar to a debate that was held here almost 5 years ago when the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Act was discussed. This Act will be considered again before it expires on 30th June next year. It seems to me, after listening to this debate and bearing in mind what has been said in the past, that honourable members are arguing about whether city or country areas should have certain moneys for road works. Members of the Australian Country Party have said on numerous occasions that we believe that the 40% allocation for rural roads other than main roads is absolutely justified. Of course, State governments can spend the other 60% as they desire, and if they do not want to spend some of it on rural roads we cannot do much about it. The real question is: Why was the 40% requirement put into the Act? It was included to ensure that country roads were built and maintained.
Let us consider the situation in Victoria. In th? Victorian Legislative Assembly are twice as many members representing the metropolitan area or electorates adjacent to it as there are members from rural areas. So what chance would we have of getting the allocations that we get now for country roads if the matter had to be decided by the votes of members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly? After all, a member of parliament generally fights for the area he represents and it is most noticeable that in State parliaments members of metropolitan electorates want to get as much as they can for the cities. So it has become a fight between the city and the country for allocations of money. However, the Commonwealth Government saw fit to allocate 40% of Commonwealth aid roads grants for secondary roads in rural areas, and the Parliament approved that allocation. We are now approaching the end of the 5-year period for which the present Act is to operate.
As a rule I do not like to refer to what people said some time ago. but I should like to comment on what one or two men said when they came to Canberra at the end of April or in early May 1964, just before the commencement of the present 5-year period, because things have not changed much in the meantime. Country roads have improved as a result of the expenditure but there is any amount of work remaining to be done. I took down what these people said to the then Minister. I should like to refer first to views expressed by Mr Mainerd, who was and may still be Secretary of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. He said:
At the moment the Australian Council and all local government bodies throughout the Commonwealth, speaking through the Australian Council, have expressed their judgment that this 40% which was allocated for rural roads should be continued. … I am sure that 70% of all the roads in Australia are the direct responsibility of local governments and that means, of course, that of the total of 530,000 miles in the Commonwealth, 376,000 or 70% are the direct financial responsibility of local governments, lt Ls the responsibility of local governments to finance that. Of course, the contribution under the C.A.R. Legislation which provided 40% of the grants to the States is chiefly for this purpose.
Under the Act the States allocate 40% of the grants they receive for roads other than main roads. The Act requires them to do so. The Hon. J. Heitman, MLC, the president of the Country Shires Association of Western Australia, said:
As far as Western Australia is concerned, we had a meeting of the executive yesterday and they have given me full support in coming over here to advocate the retention of the provision in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act that 40% of the funds made available to the States should be used for rural road building and maintenance. In Western Australia we have possibly more anomalies than in most other States. We ure battling with the throwing open of one million acres of land a year and require adequate finance for roads in connection with this project.
Projects such as these open up the country. 1 have often referred to the areas outside Melbourne, Sydney and the other metropolitan areas as the greater-Australia. The Country Party is fighting for money to build good roads on which farmers can send their products to markets.
Councillor Vercoe Whyte, president of the Murray Valley Development League at that time, just over 4 years ago, said:
The present move by the cities lo lake .< large percentage nf the C.A.R. grants we must oppose wilh -dl i he strength of our organisation.
Again today the city organisations are trying to have reduced, in the legislation that must be enacted before 1st July 1969, the percentage of the C.A.R. grants that must bc spent on rural roads. It is essential that our cast- be put strongly on the salient points which make it necessary for 40% of the grants to he spent, in rural areas. Councillor Vercoe Whyte went on to say:
Improved communications .ire essential lo dual development and nothing has done more for this than (he Federal Roads Grams. Local Government bodies, in many instances, built id their road building plant >n he basis of their C.A.R. grant, and any reduction of the gram could mean a serious shutting down if plant wilh consequent local unemployment.
A -shutting down of plant with consequent local unemployment would have only minor consequences compared to those flowing from non-production. It is necessary to have good roads in the country to attract people to the country. I have heard members in this Parliament talk of decentralisation until it has become a catch cry of politicians. If decentralisation is to be achieved it is important to have roads in rural areas built up so that people will remain there and other people will be attracted there. All the talk about decentralisation - this magic word - means nothing without action. A requirement to spend 40% of the grant on rural roads is genuine action towards achieving decentralisation.
I turn to a statement made by Councillor J. Smith, at that time president of the Shire Association in New South Wales. He said:
I represent the Shire Association in New South Wales. We have 133 shires. Apart from that we have the Local Government Association, which represents the municipalities and the country cities more or less. We have discussed the fact that this agreement would expire in ‘une and felt very confident that the great value of the allocation in the past for rural roads has been recognised and we did not see any great necessity to come to Canberra until such time as the mayors of the large cities flu tiered in with the great response to support them by the city capital Press who seem to find arguments lo convince the people that more of this money should be spent in the cities.
I am not one to criticise the Press as some members of this Parliament do, but it is a fact that one can speak about the difficulties of rural areas day after day, year after year and yet have very little mention of them in the Press. I hope that the Press will print what the Country Party is saying today regarding the necessity for the 40% provision to be continued. The country Press will print some of what was said, but it is difficult to get anything in the metropolitan Press that might be regarded as opposed to city interests .md which stresses the need to establish the greater-Australia outside the cities. Councillor Smith went on to say:
The vast increase m production thai has taken place in wheat, in wool and in meat over the last 10 or 15 years has not by any means been accidental. In a very, very large measure the wealth md prosperity that has been added to this country was due to several factors, I know, but largely to the improvement in rural roads, lt is the greatest thing that has happened since the advent of railways into country areas.
All this .s quite true, as everybody should know.
Councillor W. Armstrong, the then president of the North-Western Municipalities Association of Victoria had this to say:
In Victoria, outside the metropolitan area 50% of the traffic roads are unsealed, whereas in the metropolitan area only 28% are in this condition. I know we have a considerable amount more length of roads in the country and we have not th: density of population, but at [he same time nearly ill the roads that the shire councils are surfacing .ire carrying some very vital produce that is adding to the stability of the economy of Australia, and that is a definite point why we are in favour of thi- retention of 40% of the extra money that is being granted. Another point is that metropolitan councils have obtained this comparatively better position even though they are spending only 25% of their revenue on roads, whereas rural municipalities are spending 45% of their total revenue for this purpose.
All these matters point to the fact that we must have this 40% provision continued. These are vital expressions of opinion by men from all over Australia. I had the pleasure of inviting them to come here to meet the Minister, and what was said by them was taken down word for word. The conditions have not changed in the past 4 years so the opinions remain the same. We are still fighting for a continuation of this 40% provision.
Councillor Flower, the then president of the South-West Local Government Association of Queensland had this to say:
In Queensland I feel that any reduction in our percentage of Federal aid would be a grievous loss to all local authorities. We do rely on it, it means a better standard, lt is vital that our road system be pushed ahead as fast as possible to keep up with the complete development picture of the State.
I now repeat a statement made by Mr G. V. Lawrence. Organising Secretary of the Murray Valley Development League, who said:
We arc making a determined drive to bring about a better distribution of population and industry in Victoria. One of the basic requirements is that many facilities, and particularly the roads, should be used as an instrument in the rural and provincial areas, and all I can do is to come in behind the other speakers to beg of you- that is the Minister - that there be no change in the 40%.
There have been a lol of interjections from the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) to which I was unable, through limitation of time, to reply, lt has been asked: Why is all the money from petrol tax not spent on road construction and maintenance? Admittedly petrol tax is not associated with the grants the Government makes at the present time, but I remind the right honourable member for Melbourne that when the Labor Government was in office the amount of money collected annually in petrol tax was $3 5m and that the highest amount paid out for road works was $14m. When in opposition I brought the subject matter up in this House as a matter of urgent public importance in an endeavour to have a greater proportion of the petrol tax spent on roads only three members spoke in the debate and then the closure was moved.
Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had referred to remarks passed about 4i years ago, just before the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement came into force, by accredited representatives of council and other organisations throughout Australia. What they said must have convinced many people of the need to continue the provision that 40% of money allocated to the States under the Agreement should be spent on rural roads other than main roads. We do not mind the remaining 60% being spent as the States see fit. The requirement that 40% be spent on rural roads is designed to ensure that the primary producing areas and other areas outside the metropolitan areas are served by good roads. It has been said that many roads in Victoria and other States are in first-class order, but anybody who has paid a visit, in winter or summer, to country areas and experienced the mud or dust of unsealed roads will be convinced that the expenditure of money on rural roads is necessary.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honourable member has risen to speak, I will take my second period. Under the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement the allocations to the various States are as follows: New South Wales, 27.9%: Victoria, 19.7%; Queensland, 18.2%; Western Australia, 17.7%; South Australia, 11.5%; Tasmania, 5.0%. It has been said that a State such as Western Australia may be getting too much money under the formula. Those who have been in this place for some time will remember that under the previous formula regard was paid only to population and area. In those days we thought that Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland were getting loo much money for roads and it was decided that under the formula some regard should be paid to motor vehicle registrations. So now the allocation for a
Slate is determined having regard to population, area, and motor vehicle registrations. Under the new formula Victoria’s percentage rose from 16% to 19.7% of the total allocation. So the new formula has been advantageous to Victoria. 1 believe that the present formula may be continued with great advantage.
I was interjecting a fair bit when the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) was speaking. In 1964 when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill was before the Parliament the honourable member said: . . il always appeared io me to be unwise lor the Commonwealth to endeavour to influence State policy on a matter so important as the building up of a road system in Australia by making it a must that the States will spend 40% of the roads grant on rural roads which are nol main roads.
I do not believe that this is solely a Stale matter, lt is a Federal matter. In requiring that 40% of allocations for roads shall be spent on rural roads the Commonwealth is acting in the national interest.
Every year the amount granted to the Slates under the Agreement is increased. Last year the amount was Si 60m; this financial year it will be §l70m. Whenever these increases are announced they come as a surprise to some people, but in fact the amounts were determined when the legislation was presented in 1964. The allocation in the first year was $l30m; in the second year SI 40m; in the third year SI 50m; and in the fourth year $I60m. This financial year the allocation will be St 70m, making a total allocation tinder the current agreement of S750m. Many shire councils have claimed that each year they have not received an increase over the amount granted in the previous year. They have claimed that on some occasions they have received less than they received in the previous year. One council has claimed that notwithstanding reports that the allocation in a particular year was SI Om more than in the previous year, its allocation had decreased. This situation has been explained by the fact that States make allocations of finance to shire councils as they see fit. A council such as Stawell Shire Council in Victoria may have a larger allocation on occasions because the Council is responsible for the maintenance of many bridges. There would be more structures of this kind in the Stawell Shire Council than in some other areas where the countryside is very flat. Generally speaking I believe that the State Government has been spending this money to the best advantage. The legislation provides that soon after the end of each financial year a State government must supply to the Minister for Shipping and Transport an account of how the money allocated to the State has been spent and must give an assurance that 40% of the allocation has been spent on rural roads.
We in the Country Party have always been in favour of building up decentralised areas. To a very large extent we are the spokesmen in this place for primary industry and decentralised areas. When the appropriate legislation is next before the Parliament we must do all that we can to see that the proportion spent on rural roads is increased beyond the present requirement of 40%. Failing that, we must make sure that the figure of 40% is retained so that we may build this nation. A strong export industry is important in building a nation. More than 70% of our exports come from primary industries. We must give the primary producer good roads to his country town and to his market. In doing this we are not acting, as has been claimed by one honourable member today, in a parochial manner. We believe that we are acting in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– A perusal of the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport shows that in 1967- 68 an amount of $150,000 was appropriated for the provision of financial assistance for the Melbourne to King Island shipping service. Expenditure thai year amounted to $150,000. This year the Government is seeking an appropriation of $130,000 for this purpose. Coming, as I do, from an island State, to which shipping is so important, I would like to pay a tribute to the Australian National Line for the very great service it has given. Being late in rising to speak, through no fault of my own, it might be said that I almost missed the boat this year. I missed it completely last year because when the estimates were then under discussion I was in Uganda representing this Parliament at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference.
– A very good representative.
– I thank my friend. While in London last year investigating containerised shipping I heard of the very untimely death of Mr F. J. Mercovich, General Manager of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Tonight is the first occasion that I have had in this Parliament of publicly paying a tribute to the work of the late Mr Frank Mercovich. He did a magnificent job as General Manager of the Commission. He was always approachable. He was a very fine administrator. I found that his door was always open to any request that we had to make on behalf of our people and shipping generally. Although it is certainly late, I do wish to pay my tribute to his memory and to the work done by the Australian National Line generally.
This King Island shipping subsidy was introduced by the Government on 1st April 1965. lt took effect as from 1st January 1965 for livestock. The amount of the subsidy was officially $5 per ton with proportional rates for livestock. It was revised on 1st July 1967. It is interesting to note that the original subsidy operated from 1st January 1965 to 30th June 1967 with various rates for the carriage of stock from King Island to Melbourne. When the case was prepared, it was based on the high freight cost from King Island to Melbourne as compared with a comparable distance by road and by rail from places in Victoria down to Newmarket which is the traditional stock market for stock from King Island. I wish to say to the Government that the people of King Island deeply appreciate the subsidy. The rate for horses, bulls, cows, steers and heifers was $7.50 per head; for yearlings, $5 per head: vealers and calves, $3.50 per head; sheep and Iambs, $1.10 per head; and pigs, 80c per head. Of course, at that time it was costing approximately 23s per head to get lambs, for example, to Newmarket. Of that amount, about lis per head was for freight. So, the cream was taken off the market, as it were, for stock producers on King Island because of the high freight costs. The subsidy was reduced as from 30th June of last year. The reduction was not a great deal. The freight subsidy also was reduced to $3.35 and altogether the Commonwealth Government on this subsidy spent $520,000 as from 1st January 1965 to 30th June 1968.
As I indicated, the original subsidy was for a 3-year period to run until 30th June 1968. The Government has agreed to continue the subsidy in its reduced form at least for 12 months. While this subsidy is continuing, we are very concerned with the position of shipping at King Island. The fact of the matter briefly is that the existing harbour at Currie is too small to take any larger ships than the one operating today which is the ‘King Islander’. Costs are going up. Freight costs must go up in order to meet these increasing charges. But what is the position of the company which owns the ship? It must increase the ship’s carrying capacity. It must get greater tonnage if it is to attempt to meet rising costs without increasing freight charges.
The entrance to the harbour at Currie is a narrow one. If the company that operates this service is to meet these rising costs it must have a larger ship than the one which has operated in and out of the port very efficiently over the last few years. When the ‘King Islander’ comes into the channel at Currie Harbour it has only 80 feet in width by which to enter. There is a rock bound entrance leading into a shoal harbour with variable depths on the leads from between 9 feet to 10 feet. There is only sufficient depth of water and area at the berth to swing a vessel with a length of 140 feet. Despite the present vessel being of shallow draught, it has frequently been aground in Currie Harbour and in the past 4 years, due to weather when negotiating the entrance channel, has on six occasions struck solid rock severely damaging propellers, shafts and bearings. This has necessitated the vessel proceeding to Melbourne on one engine and entering dry dock. The company now carries numerous spares in the way of propellers, shafts and other items in order to avoid prolonged delays in the service. Frequent delays for periods of up to a week occur mainly during the winter months when the vessel is weather bound in Currie Harbour or waiting to enter the harbour. I point out for example that in I960 one vessel was weather bound in Currie Harbour for a period of not less than 19 days.
– They do a wonderful job.
– I appreciate that they do a wonderful job, as the honourable member for Batman has interjected. They really do. Because of the limitations in area and depth of Currie Harbour, inquiries have been made in Australia to find a suitable vessel to replace the ‘King Islander’, lt is important that this be done. We need a bigger vessel because a great deal of expansion is going on at King Island. A substantial increase has taken place in mining operations. A newly formed company, Naracoopa Rutile Ltd, is working there, as well as other interests. The Commonwealth Government has millions invested in the war service land settlement scheme at King Island.
The position is that the ‘King Islander’ cannot cope with the amount of cargo offering, especially during the livestock season from November to May. This is detrimental to primary producers who frequently are forced to sell their stock when market prices are deflated. We feel that the present move by shipping and community interests in King Island is a very good one. The State Government has been asked for some money - 1 understand that the amount now ranges between $50,000 and $100,000- for a survey to be made of an alternative port on the east coast of King Island. We would expect this survey to be carried out very quickly. After this request was made, the Tasmanian Government approached the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Commonwealth Government.. Cabinet decided to assist the State Government on a $1 for $1 basis. 1 thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the fact that he personally went to King Island recently. He flew over it and had a look at the various alternative sites for a port. He spent some hours travelling over the island and looked at these sites with members of the Marine Board and the local council. lt is very important that the work for this survey be speeded up as quickly as possible. The present subsidy must continue. I think this year it is approximately S 1 30,000. I think that the answer to the cost of the project is this: If the Government were to take this subsidy and capitalise it in the establishment of a new port for King Island, it would be relieved of having to pay a continuing subsidy to the Island. Il would give these people an all-weather port from which roll-on roll-off ships could operate. There is no reason why other ships of the roll-on roll-off variety could not come to King Island and use the port besides the vessel it is proposed to build for the Island.
At the other end of the service, this ties in very well with the port of Stanley. Noone likes to see ports go out of existence. In our island State we have seen the port of Ulverstone go out of operation. Unfortunately Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania will cease to operate as a port if the present policy of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd to send its concentrates up to the port of Burnie and overseas to Japan on the contract basis for a period of 7 years is pursued. So, it looks as if the port of Strahan is likely to cease operation. For these reasons we must keep the port of Stanley open. What we need is this roll-on roll-off service. The Government should capitalise the King Island subsidy and establish this new port. The port could be developed in this way with a capital grant as was done with Wyndham and Derby on the west coast of Australia and as has had happened with port improvements in other parts of Australia. If this all-weather port for King Island is built, we can link up wilh roll-on roll-off services from Stanley on the far north west coast of Tasmania and Melbourne coming to King Island. That would be the answer to our problems.
If the Government goes ahead and decides to build this all-weather port and capitalises the subsidy for this purpose, Captain Bob Houfe would be able to go ahead and build the vessel required. This would be the answer to the problem. It would be a roll-on roll-off vessel of 1,200 tons dead weight carrying capacity, a 100,000 cubic feet grain capacity. I have all the particulars of the vessel, but unfortunately time does not permit me to give them. The main thing is that it would have a capacity to carry twenty-three semitrailers, each of 30 feet in length, as well as standard overseas containers that measure 20 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet, railroaders, unitised cargo, packed timber, 400 head of cattle, 1,500 sheep and refrigerated containers. It would also have space for twelve passengers in aircraft type seats and would carry their cars. This would be a wonderful service. It would relieve a lot of
Isolation. People could get on the ship at Melbourne and in 10 hours be at King Island. After a couple of hours for unloading at King Island, only another 5 hours would be needed to get to Stanley. People could then drive down the Tasmanian coast and return to the mainland on the ‘Princess of Tasmania’. There would be a complete round service and people would not have to back track.
We who are associated with the port of Stanley are keen to see Captain Bob Houfe build this vessel. We are keen to see the Government take the amount of the present subsidy and capitalise it for expenditure on a port at King Island. The vessel that presently services Stanley is the ‘South Esk’. We understand that the Australian National Line will take this vessel off the run in 1970 because it will then have outlived its life. At present it calls at Stanley every 3 weeks. There is a tremendous amount of cargo to be lifted from Circular Head through the port of Stanley. The thing to do is to get all these matters cleared up so that the coming into service of the new vessel could synchronise with the going out of service of the “South Esk’. The people who ship timber and produce through the port of Stanley to Melbourne could then continue to do so without any loss of trade. Last year we shipped through Stanley over 5 million super feet of timber. Another 3.500 super feet annually goes through Devonport and Burnie. That amount could go through Stanley if roll on roll off facilities came in. We could get that trade also. Containers for produce could also be introduced to help the fruit and vegetable industry in my electorate.
8.22] - I do not intend to cover all the matters raised during the debate this afternoon and this evening. But I do want to refer to a couple of specific points that various members have referred to in discussing the estimates for my Department. The first of them is the unfortunate delay in the tabling of the report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which operates as the Australian National Line. I apologise to honourable members for this report not having been tabled before this debate. However. I hope that this report can be provided within the next few days and, in the result. members will be able to see that it again records a year of progress. I think that honourable members will be quite gratified at the progress that the Australian National Line continues to make. In this regard honourable members have referred to the introduction of an Australian National Line vessel into overseas trade. The Line has already participated in a number of casual voyages, particularly to various Asian ports. The entry into the roll on roll off service to Japan in association with the K line is seen as a further extension of the Line’s activities. I know that other members have commented that the Government should participate to a greater extent in overseas operations.
The observation by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that Australian seamen require employment is worthy of comment. One of the difficulties to be faced is that of ensuring nol only that jobs, are available for our seamen but also that there are some measure of profitability for the people operating the ships and. in turn, not too high a burden of costs on those who are the users of the vessels. Basically a shipping enterprise exists to provide a service for people who ship goods. The higher cost of operating vessels in overseas services, and the consequent higher freights, make it extremely difficult for any Australian line to enter into this trade, lt is hoped that, as a result of changes in shipping methods and techniques, it will be possible not only to provide employment for our seamen but also, without levying too high an impost on the users of the vessels, to operate economically viable, effective and competitive services. 1 perhaps should mention a few of the other comments made about shipping. The honourable member for Newcastle expressed his concern about what was happening in the field of oil contamination. He referred to the ‘Torrey Canyon’ disaster and expressed his desire that everything possible should be done to ensure that if such a disaster were to occur in Australian waters there would be some facilities available to minimise the resultant damage. There are two areas where activity has been undertaken. First of all, at the international level, we have the International Maritime Consultative Organisation - IMCO - and. secondly, at the Commonwealth-State level within Australia, we have the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Within the former of these two bodies discussions have taken place in an effort to try to determine to what extent legislative developments can be promulgated in an effort to ensure that the risks of such tragic events are minimised and that procedures and practices adopted in removing oil are standardised.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is also undertaking some research into this and, in the result, there are procedures which it is hoped might help at least to minimise the risk of any permanent oil pollution within Australia. In the matter of the development of legislative controls, the Commonwealth basically has responsibility for waters beyond the territorial limits. The States retain responsibility for waters within the territorial limits and also for ports and harbours. There is already some legislation in hand and more is being discussed in efforts to cover the whole area and ensure that the risks are reduced to the minimum.
In replying to the contributions made by so many members on the present activities and work of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, I would say that the Bureau was constituted predominantly as an advisory body on roads and road transport. Though a statutory authority, it is intended mainly to provide for the Commonwealth a range of specialised advice not only in the engineering field but also in the economic field, to enable more informed judgments to be made in determining the areas in which the Commonwealth should provide financial assistance. One thing that honourable members should bear in mind is that the Bureau is operating predominantly in a field which is the responsibility of the respective Slate governments. For that reason its recommendations are normally in a field in which the Commonwealth allocates from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Fund specific sums of money. It is then left to the State governments to determine by administrative decision just in what way and to what extent the funds provided are spent. There is of course a specification that 60% of the funds should be spent on certain designated roads and that the remaining 40% should be expended on rural roads.
It is of concern to me - and it has been mentioned by several honourable members tonight - that there should be a survey that would enable adequate road standards to be taken into account in determining the assessment by the Government of the respective road needs for the ensuing quinquennial period. There is some difference, as 1 understand, between the standards laid down and traditionally accepted by the New South Wales Department of Public Works and those that have been laid down by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. To the extent that the New South Wales Shires Association has made a survey, I can assure those organisations and the honourable members who have spoken on this aspect today that their representations will be taken into account fully by the Government in the assessment of road needs.
The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) expressed his concern that within the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport there was only a oneline allocation of funds for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, and that this oneline allocation this financial year showed a reduction of some $100,000 compared with the amount allocated in the previous year. Over the past few years the Bureau has been concentrating particularly on the preparation of material for the formulation of its recommendations on the amounts and direction of allocations for the ensuing Commonwealth Aid Roads grants period. In the result, the Bureau has necessarily employed quite a number of consultants who have looked at specific aspects of road needs. Over the last 2 or 3 years they have presented reports which relate to particular aspects of this total survey.
Not unnaturally, the fact that road needs will be reassessed in this calendar year will mean that there will be some lessening of the necessary number of staff that the Bureau needs for consultative advice. There has also been a carry forward of a certain amount of revenue from the preceding year. The amount that has been budgeted for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, is, in fact, approximately equal to the amount that it spent in the last 12-month period, taking into account the carry forward of the amount that it held in credit and also the lessening of its needs for consultative opinion over the ensuing period, lt is for this reason that there is a reduction in the estimates, lt is not a reduction that in fact does other than reflect a change in the responsibilities of the Bureau and its particular responsibility in the next financial year.
The honourable member for Swan suggested that he was curious to know whether it would be possible for the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament to examine the Bureau. This, of course, is one of the responsibilities of the Public Accounts Committee and it is not within any individual Minister’s responsibility to tell the Committee what it may or may not do. But to the extent that the Bureau is a statutory authority, its accounts and proceedings, of course, are open to examination by that Committee if it decides to examine the financial operations of the Bureau. Honourable members have referred to a number of other matters. ] would personally like to deprecate the remarks made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) of the late Lord Bruce. 1 thought the honourable member reflected in a most derogatory way on the credibility of one of Australia’s former Prime Ministers. I regard it as quite unfortunate that the honourable member made these remarks. At the time of the sale of vessels to which the honourable member referred there were circumstances operating which were quite different from anything that exists today. I do not think, at this stage, that this is a matter that should be discussed in this chamber.
Various honourable members have made comments on particular matters and sought additional financial allocations in the future for railways, roads, port development and other matters which come within the transport field. Each honourable member expressed a particular desire for an additional consideration in a particular field. I assure them that every consideration will be given to their representations and in the course of the next few years perhaps Australia might be able to progress gradually to the point where our transport system will increasingly be more able to cope with the demands that are placed upon it.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $56,289,000.
– It is not my intention to delay the House for the full time allocated to me in this debate. But as a member of the Public Works Committee. I wish to bring to the notice of the House the irregular flow of work that is referred to the Committee for scrutiny and recommendation. In the first half of this year three projects were referred to the Committee. In the second part of the year twelve projects have already been referred to the Committee. The uneven flow of work is making it rather difficult for the Committee to carry out effectively its duties and responsibilities to the Parliament and the people of Australia.
Last week the Committee had to seek from the House special permission to perform its duties while the Parliament is sitting. Tomorrow the Committee has to travel to Cairns lo investigate and report upon a proposal to erect a television station there. This is a project about which the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) will be very proud, lt is something for which he has been agitating over a period of years. Also, it is something that the people of Cairns will be very happy to receive; television is a privilege that city dwellers have enjoyed for some years. Without being critical of the Department of Works - I have had the pleasure of meeting a considerable number of its officers since I have been a member of the Committee - I think it would be of benefit to the Committee in particular if the Department could regulate the flow of references. While I am on this point, I might also add that this year is no exception to previous years. The uneven flow of work, which begins with a trickle and then becomes a stream, makes it very difficult for the Committee to carry out its duties effectively.
Another matter which I would like to mention concerns a claim by the Botany Municipal Council that drains have become blocked on the ocean side of the northeastern corner of Botany Bay due to an accumulation of sand caused by the extension of a runway at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport into the bay. Allegedly, the extension of the runway has caused a different wave pattern in the bay. The Department of Works, which has played a major part in connection with the extension of the runway, has stated thai it will take remedial action to protect the drains from the accumulation of sand if it is thought necessary and if it is found that the accumulation of sand is due to the change in wave pattern. Honourable members will know that the runway is to be extended further so that. Boeing 747 jumbo jet aircraft can use the airport. The Boeing 747 aircraft will carry about 400 passengers when they come into service on the international airlines and they will be flying into Sydney by 1971.
The Public Works Committee from time to time hears very good evidence and very expert evidence. I was very interested in a recommendation that came to the Committee from the Hydraulics Research Station at Wallingford in England. It gave expert information to the Government and to the Committee about the destruction of Lady Robinson’s Beach in Botany Bay. I know the honourable members for St George (Mr Bosman) and Barton (Mr Arthur) were particularly interested in this information, but I hesitate to say that they were impartial when they came to the conclusion that the damage done to the beach in Botany Bay, which borders their electorates, was caused by work done in Botany Bay. There was some evidence that the dredging of some millions of tons of sand from Botany Bay to form the extension of the runway caused a change in the wave pattern and that this brought about or could have contributed to the damage lo the beach. The experts left a slip rail down, if I may use the vernacular, so that they could slide out if it was proved later (hat the dredging of the sand from Botany Bay had nol caused the damage to the beach. They said only that it could have caused the damage. The report of the hydraulic experts at Wallingford was very carefully worded. They carried out tests, but I do not think they prepared a model for this purpose. The alleged change in the wave pattern is supposed to have caused the destruction of Lady Robinson’s Beach, which borders two electorates held by Liberal members by slender majorities. Those members will not hold the electorates after the next election.
– That is a long range forecast.
– 1 do not need to be a long range forecaster to reach that conclusion. They are already singing: ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’. The Commonwealth, if 1 may again use the vernacular, shelled out $270,000 to repair LadyRobinson’s Beach. That is a fair bit of sugar. Some of my constituents think that Lady Robinson should have made a contribution herself, but the graceful lady after whom the beach is named probably lived some generations ago. 1 understand that the Commonwealth may have to pay another $500,000 to repair the beach as a result of the opinion expressed by the experts from Wallingford and the agitation of the honourable member for Barton and my very worthy colleague on the Public Works Committee, the honourable member for St George, who does a very good job. However, at the time that Lady Robinson’s Beach was severely damaged, beaches at Collaroy and Newcastle were also damaged. This was the result of an unprecedentedly savage storm. Of course, the people at Collaroy and Newcastle could not claim that the damage to their beaches was the result of a change in the wave pattern and that, this change had been caused by the dredging of millions of tons of sand by the Commonwealth. We would not suggest that we could support what many people believe is a mythical excuse thai is being used only to place in the lap of the Commonwealth the responsibility for repairing Lady Robinson’s Beach. If the Commonwealth accepts this responsibility, the local council at Brighton is relieved of the responsibility of repairing the damage to the beach.
– There is no council at Brighton.
– If the two adjacent electorates had not been represented byLiberal members. I doubt whether the Commonwealth would have accepted the report of the experts at Wallingford as a reason for repairing the beach.
– The people in those electorates are well represented.
– I do not mind the honourable member for Barton interjecting. The opportunity for him to interject in the Parliament is running out rapidly. If the Prime
Minister (Mr Gorton) had announced that an election would be held soon, I would have been even more tolerant of his interjections. He is jubilant tonight because he knows that his life in the Parliament has been extended for another 12 months before the next election will be held. We must have a sense of humor when we listen to the short timers here, because we know the sense of satisfaction they get from being here.
– Give us some facts instead of fantasy.
– I am giving the honourable member common sense. If he had more common sense and less expert knowledge, he would be a worthier member of the Parliament. Some members of the Liberal Party become air borne; they lose their common sense and eventually lose the confidence of the people. I believe that the report from Wallingford provides a mythical excuse for the Government to repair the beach. The honourable member for Barton has no doubt made a deep study of the report. He would need to do >>o to be able to convince some of his constituents that a change in the wave pattern probably caused the damage to the beach. As I said before, the beaches at Collaroy and Newcastle were also wrecked by the storm that damaged Lady Robinson’s Beach.
– 1 wonder what Captain Cook would say.
– If Captain Cook could sec the beach today, I think he would agree that the damage was caused by exceptional storms experienced over many many years The change in the wave pattern could never have been blamed for the damage in Botany Bay if all this sand had not been taken out of the bay for the building of the air strip. I am still rather hesitant about accepting that the change in the wave pattern could have caused the damage. However, the Commonwealth has made a substantial contribution to meet the cost of repairing Lady Robinson’s Beach. That is my submission on this issue. No doubt more will he heard about this subject later.
Dr MACKAY (Evans) 1 8.481 - I would like to make one comment on the vexed question of wave patterns. As I read the report issued today, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) will be relieved to know that, with the further dredging of more sand out of Botany Bay, the wave pattern will be moved back to normal, the drains will be unclogged and everything will be restored to the original pristine state in which Captain Cook found it.
– I want to take only one minute of the Committee’s time. I agree with the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) on the spread of work. I spoke about this subject last week during another debate. I think some assistance will be forthcoming, because the Government has had amendments to the Public Works Committee Act under consideration for a considerable time. The Committee has recommended that the value of works referred to it be increased. I hope that very shortly we will hear something about this.
The second thing is that if the honourable member cares to look at Hansard for last Thursday he will see that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), in a debate in another place, gave a very good explanation of this problem that exists in Botany Bay. He stated what responsibility the Commonwealth has accepted and what responsibility it will not accept.
Mr CROSS (Brisbane) 1.8.50J- I wish to raise two matters in this debate on the estimates for the Department of Works. The first relates to the Commonwealth offices in Brisbane. I regret to say that this project is not on ‘his year’s works >iogramme. We know that the Public Works Committee has looked at the question of the construction of new Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, but unfortunately the protect has not reached the stage of being included in the current year’s works programme. I would like, to make some representations to the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who represents the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), in order to ensure that an effective start is made on this building as soon as possible, f know that plans are under way but a very substantial sum will have to he placed on the estimates for next year as soon as possible ;n order that this work may proceed.
The building in Brisbane ‘n which the Commonwealth Parliament Offices are situated - as well as offices of a number of Commonwealth departments - was built about 40 years ago. While it is quite a pleasant building and is well situated on a site very close to the centre of the city, a large amount of money is spent each year for the rental of other premises in the metropolitan area. The Department of Social Services occupies very fine premises in the Prudential Building. The Hammerson Building, now known as Australia House, in Eagle Street, has been tenanted by various Commonwealth departments in order that they might have sufficient accommodation to meet their needs while the construction of the Commonwealth offices is undertaken.
The Anzac Square scheme in Brisbane was originated very many years ago - 1 think at the end of the First World War. A committee representative of the Queensland Government, the Brisbane City Council and the Commonwealth Government agreed to build Anzac Square as a State war memorial. The State Government offices were to be provided on the Edward Street side of the square while Commonwealth Government offices were to be built on the Creek Street side. The State Government built its offices over a span of years. The State office block has been completed for about 10 years but the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to this square has lagged well behind. This project is something the Commonwealth should be looking into, not only in order to honour an undertaking accepted in, 1 think. 1921 - 47 years ago - but also because it is a sound, practical and economic proposition.
I trust that when the Commonwealth building is constructed on the site bounded by Ann Street and Creek Street and adjoining Anzac Square, everything will be done to preserve the symmetry of the square. I hope that the new building will blend into the buildings on the other side of the square. I hope that the Commonwealth will honour its undertaking, entered into 47 years ago, to provide in the centre of Brisbane a square which would be a fitting memorial to those people who served their country and paid the supreme sacrifice in the First World WaT and in subsequent wars. A new Commonwealth office block in Brisbane is long overdue.
I am not suggesting that there has not been a measure of Commonwealth building in Brisbane. I know that just before T entered this Parliament the new Taxation
Building was completed. When one looks at the works programme and sees what has been spent in other capital cities one realises that although Brisbane may not be next in line it might be fair to say that public works in that city are well overdue. I trust that the Minister for Works will ensure that a start is made on the new Commonwealth building in the coming year.
I want to refer next to the civil works programme under the control of the Department of Works as it relates to the Brisbane Airport, at Eagle Farm. I realise that Brisbane is not the first city in Australia, but it certainly is the first city in Queensland. However, I realise that it has to wait its turn. I have never made any complaint - and 1 do not think any other honourable member from Queensland has, either - about money being spent on Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, at Mascot, because that airport is, in a sense, Australia’s only international airport of world standard. But while we want to see the Mascot airport developed so that it can provide the sort of service and the type and standard of facilities one would expect from the greatest city in the Commonwealth of Australia, we also have the responsibility for ensuring that Brisbane, the principal city of Queensland, is not left entirely behind.
I want to give some figures relating not only to the works programme for this year but also to works covered in the previous year’s programme. This year the Department of Civil Aviation will spend throughout the Commonwealth the sum of S27m. There is provision for the following works in Brisbane: An oil fired incinerator, to cost $81,460; modifications to the international terminal, to cost $40,000; and extension of the terminal apron, to cost $150,000. The new aspect of the programme for this year is the rehabilitation of the old operations area and work on the meteorological and co-ordination centre, to cost $50,000. The works T have mentioned total $321,460.
Tn the previous financial year the Department of Civil Aviation expended throughout the Commonwealth, under the heading of public works, a total of $28m. Expenditure in Brisbane in that year related to the erection of an emergency power house building at a cost of $57,718 and the development of the western hangar area at a cost of $47.000- a total of $104,718. In 1966-67 the estimated works expenditure for the Department of Civil Aviation throughout the Commonwealth was $25,364,000. The works in Brisbane comprised the following: Construction of roads and parking space at a cost of S80.000; supply and installation of a 200-kilovolt power generating set at a cost of $46,140; erection of an airways operation building at a cost of $415,450: and the strengthening of runway and taxiway areas for large jet aircraft at a cost of $256,000- a total of $797,590. Commonwealth wide works expenditure by the Department of Civil Aviation in the years prior to that was $18,100,000 in 1965-66. $10,872,000 in 1964-65. and $7,910,000 in 1963-64.
I would like to make a comparison, without going into details, with the expenditure at Sydney and other capital cities in that time. In the current year’s programme - I am not suggesting that all these matters are covered in the current Budget - the works being undertaken at Mascot come to a total cost “of $51,380,136. I am not suggesting thai even lc of that expenditure is not necessary. I completely support the expenditure of this money on the airport al Mascot.
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to hear that my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, supports me. At Tullamarine, work is to be undertaken in the current year’s programme on the development of the airport at a cost of $16,942,274 and on the erection of a terminal complex at a cost of $20,785,881- a total of $37,738,155. In the current year’s programme for Adelaide there are extensions to the terminal building - a very fine terminal - at a cost of $951,388, and extensions of the runway and taxiway at a cost of $428,975- a total of $1,380,363.
The point is that in November 1962 the Government approved a 5-year programme for airport construction which would cost $60m. In about September 1963, honourable members from the metropolitan area of Queensland and senators from Queensland undertook an all party deputation to the then Minister for Civil Aviation, the late Senator Sir Shane Paltridge. As all honourable members know, he was a very fine Minister and a very fine member of this
Parliament. He indicated that the Government had embarked on a 5-year programme and that there was no spare money available in the 5-year period. The 5-year programme commenced. I am informed, in November 1962 and it would have expired in November 1967. So we are now into the next 5-year programme. The then Minister for Civil Aviation indicated to the Quernsland members of the deputation that Eagle Farm would go on top in the next programme. That was its order of priority
I have pointed out that I do not begrudge any money being spent on Mascot which is our principal international airport. But having said that, I believe that the other capital cities have been well served as regards airports. Time does not permit me to go through the details of the money thai has been spent at Melbourne, Adelaide. Penh and at the principal cities in Tasmania, hut the fact is that if one examines the figures very carefully one will see that considerable amounts of money have been spent in all of these cities while, if I might say so. a patch-up job has been done at Eagle Farm. I was one of the people who 5 years ago supported the patch-up job at Eagle Farm. I. said to the Minister for Civil Aviation at that time that we would much rather have a patch-up job done than have a substantial amount of money spent at Eagle Farm which would postpone the erection of a proper terminal building when it came to the turn of Brisbane which is the capital city of Queensland. So an amount of money was spent on improving the international terminal at Eagle Farm.
This is not a matter of party politics. The case that I want to put as strongly as [ can - and I am sure that every honourable member from the metropolitan area of Brisbane will support me - is that Queenslanders believe it is Eagle Farm’s turn to go to the top of the programme as soon as possible. We hope to see a substantial amount appropriated for Eagle Farm next year. I would like to make my position quite clear. I thank the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) for his courtesy last week when I had an opportunity to interview him in his office. He explained to me in some detail the programme for Eagle Farm. I believe that what the Department of Civil Aviation proposes to do at Eagle Farm is very fine and I trust that the
Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council will co-operate as well as they may in their side of the contract.
I am in no way reflecting on the present proposals for Eagle Farm but I know, from my own experience, that these proposals have been set aside for a considerable number of years because other airports have been given higher priority than Eagle Farm. 1 believe we now have a watertight case. 1 have the figures here. As I said, time does not permit me to give the figures in great detail. But Brisbane has not received its fair share of appropriation so far as the Department’s expenditure on work under the heading of civil aviation is concerned. Although the appropriation for the construction of a new terminal complex at Eagle Farm is not placed on the civil works programme for this year f trust that it will be placed on the programme for next year. I assure the Minister that I believe every honourable member from the metropolitan area of Brisbane would support this proposal.
– 1 did not intend to take part in this debate until I heard the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) speak about many things of which he admitted he did not have any expert knowledge and criticise me because the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) and 1 had made representations to the Commonwealth Government on behalf of our constituents and as a result of our very strong representations we managed to get quite a deal of work done for our electorates. make no apology to the honourable member for Hunter or to any other honourable members for representations that I make on behalf of my constituents. I believe thai 1 have two responsibilities in this Parliament. The first is to add some thinking and perhaps some experience to the work of the Commonwealth Parliament, and the second is lo represent my electors in the strongest way that I can. 1 believe 1 have done th.it.
The honourable member for Hunter referred to the Wallingford laboratories - I presume he was referring to these laboratories - and he spoke in an inexpert way. He admitted that he knows nothing about this sort of thing. Neither the honourable member for St George nor 1 have said thai the Commonwealth Government or the works that it has carried out were responsible for the destruction which has occurred in Botany Bay, in my electorate. What we have said, and what the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who is sitting at the table, has admitted, is that because of the work done in Botany Bay the damage which has occurred in my electorate has been exacerbated. We believe that this is so. One of the causes of this damage was the work of the people who carried out the excavations in Botany Bay. The Wallingford laboratories recommended that if excavations were carried out in two separate stages there would be no damage done to Botany Bay. Unfortunately, the people who carried out the excavations did the opposite to what the Wallingford laboratories recommended, and some damage occurred.
One only has to fly over Botany Bay, as the honourable member for St George and I do on Tuesday mornings, to see the wave pattern coming in. When the waves reach the area where the excavations were carried out they split up into two parts. Two things have resulted from this. There has been a tremendous build-up of sand in the Kyeemagh area, lo such an extent that we had partly to pay for a new swimming pool because the other one was almost filled wilh sand. The Commonwealth Government came to the party in this regard. In the other area there has been very serious erosion.
Mr Bridges-Maxwell - I raise a point of order. Is the voice coming from the seal of the honourable member for Lang that of the honourable member for Lang? If it is not. the honourable member who is interjecting should not be sitting there.
– The interjections coming from the honourable member for Hunter arc so unintelligent thai they do not make any difference to my argument. What happened eventually was that a tremendous storm occurred in Botany Bay. There was the unfortunate circumstance of an extremely high tide and a southerly wind of 40 knots. A great deal of additional damage was done at the beginning of this year, to such an extent that it looked as though the roadway in Grand Parade was going to be cut and that many of the houses of my constituents were in danger. 1 asked the Commonwealth Government for immediate aid lo be given to save the road which is the main outlet to Mascot aerodrome and also to save the homes of my constituents. I would consider that any honourable member in this chamber who knew that homes of his constituents were in danger and that the main arterial road to an airport was in danger and who did not ask the Government for help would not be doing his job as a member of Parliament. 1 make no apology to the honourable member for Hunter because I made strong representations to the Government. I am pleased to say that although the Government did not acknowledge that it was responsible for this damage, in an act of great compassion it came to the rescue and immediately put into train work to ensure that the homes of my constituents were put out of danger. I am very grateful to the Government for what it did. I believe that very often it is better to be human than right. The Commonwealth Government, without acknowledging that it was responsible for this damage, said: ‘We believe that a government concerns people and that if the homes of your constituents are in danger we should come and help in this situation’. This is exactly what the Government did. We believe that because of the Government’s action my constituents can sleep fairly safely in their homes at night because they are not now in immediate danger.
– Where is this?
– This is at BrightonleSands, Kyeemagh and towards Ramsgate. Another thing happened. I am very happy to say that the Commonwealth Government is interested in encouraging youth to engage in healthy activities. One of the matters in which the Government is interested is in encouraging the life saving movement. Two life saving clubs in my area were in danger because the benches were being washed away.
– You could not save the late Prime Minister. Mr Holt.
– I can see the lips of the honourable member for Hunter moving but I cannot hear what he is saying and 1 do not think that he adds to the argument. There are two lifesaving clubs in this area.
In the Brighton-le-Sands life saving club the membership dropped from 120 to 12 young people who were engaged in this healthy activity at weekends.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Stewart) - Order! Will the honourable member for Barton come back to the motion under discussion?
– With due respect, Sir, I will show you how this has to do with the motion. The membership in this club dropped because the beach in front of the club was washed away. The Federal Government decided that the Department of Works should dump thousands of cubic tons of sand into the sea at BrightonleSands. lt did so because the experts had traced the way that the sand would be carried by the currents and would build up the beach in front of the life saving club. There was much criticism of this work by uninformed people and others who wanted to make political capital out of the issue. They said: ‘You are stupid dumping sand into the sea. As soon as you dump it in, it will be washed away’. This was true; it was being washed away, but it was being washed away according to scientific measurements and as a result the beach is now building up in front of the Brighton-le-Sands life saving club which is now increasing its membership. The beach is being bum up in front of the Ramsgate life saving club which also is increasing its membership. This is the sort of activity in which the Department of Works should be engaging. The Minister for the Navy, when he was Minister for Works, was responsible for (he initial work in the area and the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has been responsible for the continuation of the work. As a result, we now have what has been called the Riviera of Sydney.
– Where is it?
– It is the area between Brighton-le-Sands and Ramsgate. I invite honourable members to go there on a Sunday and to see thousands of families on the beach and hundreds of sailing boats off-shore.
– Who called it the Riviera of Sydney?
– The Riviera of Sydney certainly is not in the honourable member’s electorate, because he complains of noise there and of rats nibbling at people’s toes. That sort of thing does not happen at our Riviera. We have sailing clubs beside Botany Bay, which is becoming a great tourist attraction. 1 thank the Government and the Department of Works for what, they have done.
– So the honourable member should.
– If I may repeat myself. 1 make no apology to the honourable member for Hunter, and I make no apology to anyone, for the fact that when my constituents were, in danger I applied to the Government for help. 1 am grateful that the Government responded immediately and that, as a result, my constituents in Barton now have good beaches al which to swim and sunbake. They may now sleep in peace at night because they know that the Department has ensured that if there is another storm their homes will not bc washed away.
Mr HANSEN (Wide Bay) 9.12 - I am pleased that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) recognises that the Department of Works is responsible for the increased membership of the life saving club at Brighton-le-Sands and for the fact that beaches in Botany Bay are once more what they used to be. I have listened to the honourable member for a long time and I have thought that the Department of Works may have been wrong in letting people dredge out Botany Bay. However, apparently this is all right, because what was dredged out at one end of the bay is being put back at the other end. I am wondering whether the Department of Works was, as it were, taking sand out of one pocket and putting it back in another. If so. it was a useless exercise. However, I still see the runway at Botany Bay and, whether or not it is to be lengthened, I am pleased to know that the honourable member believes that the people of Barton have been well served by the Department of Works.
I rose to support the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) in his advocacy that the Department of Works should consider expending money, through the Department of Civil Aviation, on the Brisbane
Airport. I suppose that I would spend as much time as, and possibly more time than, is spent at the Brisbane Airport by other honourable members who represent electorates around Brisbane, because frequently I have to wait 1 hour to i hours for a connecting flight. I often sit and look al the framework of the quonset huts that were erected during the war years, almost 30 years ago, by the Allied Works Council. They have been tizzied up, as was promised by the then Minister for Civil Aviation, the late Senator Paltridge, when a deputation waited upon him asking that work bc done at Brisbane Airport. The deputation was led by the then member for Lilley. Mr Don Cameron, not the Donald Cameron who presently represents the electorate of Griffith in this Parliament. Alterations were made to the quonset huts, mainly by the provision of bars at both of the airline terminals and also at the international section of the airport. Many people arrive by plane in Brisbane, quite apart from those persons whose international flights that are scheduled to terminate in Sydney have been diverted to Brisbane because of fog or other weather conditions in Sydney. People landing at Brisbane must think that they are landing back in New Guinea in war time when they see the quonset huts, because no matter what is done to them, or what is placed in front of them, they still look like wartime quonset huts. What an impression people get when they land in Brisbane.
– Queensland is the main tourist State of Australia.
– That is so. Overseas as well as interstate tourists arrive in their thousands and pass through the Brisbane Airport. Their first impressions must be related to their vision of these quonset huts. Inside, false ceilings have been fitted and various alterations have been made to make the huts more presentable, and I give full credit to the airline companies and the Department of Civil Aviation for making the huts more comfortable for those people who have to wait for connecting flights. But when we read that almost $5 1.5m is to be spent at Mascot and some $37. 7m at Tullamarine, and when we see what has been done in the provision of airport facilities at Launceston, Sydney and Melbourne, and what is being provided in Canberra, as Queenslanders we think it is time consideration was given to the provision of better facilities in Queensland. I know that this does not come entirely within the province of the Minister for Works, but it does come within the province of the Department of Works and the Public Works Committee. J should like to see something done at Brisbane. The expenditure will be considerable and I join with the honourable member for Brisbane in urging that something be done in the immediate future. I realise that it is too late for money to be provided this year but 1 hope to see an allocation in next year’s Budget for new airport facilities in Brisbane.
[9.18] - There are two small matters on which I want to reply. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) have constantly referred to the situation at the Brisbane Airport. Of course, their representations should be made to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who determines the priority according to which such provision is made for works. The Department of Works has the responsibility for putting into effect such works. The decision is made, and must be made, by the Minister for Civil Aviation. I will draw to his attention the matters that they have raised.
The honourable member for Brisbane referred to the urgent need to expedite the provision of Commonwealth parliamentary offices in Brisbane. I remind him that the Public Works Committee reported on this project on 4th April of this year. The honourable member would realise that with a work of this size it takes at least 15 months for the preparation of tender documents and it would be quite impossible for any money to appear on the civil works programme for the ensuing year.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $33,944,000.
Mr luchetti (Macquarie) [9.20]- The estimates for the Department of National Development are an uninspiring projection of the Department to which Australia looks for the orderly economic distribution of our resources, population and growth. With few exceptions the figures reveal a monotonous pattern of inertia, of delay and of changes in policies with the seasons. It may be said that this is the Government of all seasons. We have seen the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) bring to the Parliament considered statements on subjects such as oil exploration, matters relating to royalties, charges to be made, only to find the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) coming along immediately afterwards with an entirely different picture and an entirely different concept of Australia’s attitude.
It is noted that a slight increase in salary payments is provided for in the estimates, but this appears to be related mainly to the trend in wage and salary movements and not to actual development in this all important Department.
Looking through the estimates one finds that the expenditure for 1967-68 was $175,900 more than estimated expenditure in the current year. We are told that this is the land of growth. It is the land of great expansion and development. Yet the Department of National Development, the central department, the department to which we look for the expansion and vigorous development of this nation, expects to spend $175,900 less in .1968-69 than it did in the previous year. The estimates reveal a monotonous repetition of figures practically unaltered in many cases, but where they have been altered, unfortunately, they have been reduced.
There is a slight increase, to which I have already referred, in the provision for salaries and wages. There has been a reasonable increase in the provision for the Northern Division. In the Division of National Mapping there has been only a very slight increase in the figures, but it is to be noted that the Bureau of. Mineral Resources estimate for this year is $769,222 less than the actual expenditure for 1967-68. One cannot too strongly condemn the Government for its attitude to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Even comparing actual appropriations, this year’s appropriation is $1,078,400 less than that for the previous year. I intend to refer to this in more detail later on, but I want to refer to the whole sad picture of the Department of National Development.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources is an all-important section of the Department. It is the very kernel, the very centre of the Government’s activities in mineral development, oil and natural gas exploration. Yet this all-important Department to which Australia owes so much for the work of its skilled academics, its geologists, geophysicists, chemists and others, finds that its estimate for this year is $1,078,400 less than its expenditure for last year. The stark figures themselves present a serious charge against the Government. On the overall figures the Department of National Development will spend $175,900 this year less than it spent in the year 1967-68. 1 want to show, from figures ot positions vacant in the Bureau of Mineral Resources, how the Government has grossly neglected this important section of the Department of National Development. The Bureau has an establishment of 626 positions in higher professional and semi-professional grades, such as those of chemists, geologists, geo.physists and technologists. At the end of March only 522 of those positions were filled. This shows quite a strange attitude on the part of a Government that says it is concerned with finding oil in this country and with the development of our mineral resources in general. There were 104 fewer of these skilled persons in the Bureau than were called for by the establishment - and no-one could ever say that the Bureau of Mineral Resources was overstaffed. Of the 104 unfilled positions 46 were in the professional class. They called for men with degrees, men with outstanding qualifications. Then there were 5 1 vacancies in the sub-professional and trades sections.
This is an indictment of the Government’s failure to deal with a fundamental problem vitally connected with the development of this country. It is another example of the brain drain that has plagued this and other Commonwealth departments. Those who leave the Bureau of Mineral Resources go to many places, but not a great number of them go to Commonwealth departments. The tables which are to be found in Hansard and which were provided by the Minister in reply to questions revealed this quite clearly. The figures giving the losses in man-years in positions calling for bachelor degrees or higher quali fications indicates the tremendous loss of valuable employees suffered by the Government. Time will not permit me to go through all these figures, but it is significant that in the last full year 296 man-years were lost, as against a gain of 117 man years through new recruitment. This reveals an extraordinary position. It is a position that should be corrected. It is not good enough to carry on with the Government’s airy-fairy attitude towards the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The officers of the Bureau have complained in the past about the situation. They have directed attention to the need to upgrade the Bureau and to place it in such a position that it can go ahead with the work it should be doing on behalf of Australia.
Quite recently the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and I had an opportunity to inspect some sections of the Dutch State mines at Sittard in the Limburg district. We had an opportunity to meet the top specialists there in order lo discuss with ,hem the problems of the chemical and fuel and energy industries of Holland. These industries are not particularly extensive, although natural gas has now been found by the ESSO and Shell organisations and the Government of Holland has dealt rather effectively with these discoveries in the interests of the people. But I want to refer to the efforts of these people in dealing with a problem affecting Holland and its people and the expansion of its industry by providing it with technical know-how. In the research section alone at Sittard there were 200 people who had degrees equivalent to doctorates and there were 150 with degrees equivalent lo the Bachelor of Arts degree or somewhat higher qualifications. In all, 350 held degrees and possessed years of experience. These men were associated with pure research in the State mines organisation of Holland. They were investigating the development of plastics, the better use of chemicals, the distribution of energy and the provision of stockfeed. They all were associated with a great and important industry. But in Australia, where the door lo lnc future is being opened by the discovery of oil and natural gas, the Commonwealth Government has failed to deal effectively wilh the situation. In this respect it has been remiss.
Looking at the employment figures in the Department of National Development we find that there has been an increase from 4 to 5 in the Minister’s staff. The number of persons employed in the Management Services Branch of the Department has declined from .183 in 1967-68 to 180 this year. The staff of the Project Evaluation Branch of the Northern Division has declined from 17 last year to 15 this year. The number of persons employed in the Planning and Technical Services Section of the Division of National Mapping has declined from 23 last year to 22 this year. The number of persons employed in the Operations Branch in the Bureau of Mineral Resources has declined from 96 last year to 88 this year. The number of persons employed in the Forest Research Institute of the Forestry and Timber Bureau has declined from 137 last year to 136 this year. Those statistics are an indictment of the Government for its failure to deal effectively with the planning of national development. The Department of National Development has become the poor relation in the affairs of Government, yet at every election the Prime Minister and his Ministers never fail to tell us of the wide horizons in this country, of our great development potential, and of the expansion that is taking place in the country. But the important central organisation of the Department - the Bureau of Mineral Resources - is being scandalously neglected by the Government in the fashion I have outlined.
– There are more positions than there are people to fill them. I presume that he Government wants to fill the positions. Perhaps the employees are more efficient. All we can hope is that they will remain extremely efficient in order to fill the gaps that have been left in the organisation.
The Government’s failure to adopt national policies is a most serious breach that cannot be too strongly condemned. I believe that the Minister lacks policy and direction in dealing with the distribution of our natural resources. What happens to our iron ore, nickel, silver, lead and other metals is determined in the board rooms of London, New York and Tokyo. What was to happen to the oil and natural gas discovered in Bass Strait was first decided in Melbourne by Esso-BHP and the Bolte Administration. Honourable members will appreciate what has happened since then. The handling of the oil and natural gas resources of Bass Strait was the subject of a private arrangement between Sir Henry Bolte and Esso-BHP. No provision was made for the supply of natural gas throughout New South Wales and other parts of Australia. Surely these resources from the continental shelf should be distributed wisely throughout the entire nation. We need a national plan to cover the use of nuclear power, coal, water, oil and gas. I only hope that these matters will be considered further, perhaps not under this Administration. The Prime Minister seems to have broken away from earlier decisions on the broad question of oil and natural gas. Time will not permit me to complete my remarks on this subject. Perhaps I may have an opportunity to say something further at a later stage in the consideration of the Estimates.
– In sad and solemn tones the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) devoted 13 of his 15 minutes to vacancies within the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Only in the last 2 minutes of his speech did he seem to deal with the broad policies of national development. As the opening speaker for the Opposition on this vital section of the Estimates 1 would have expected him to deal with broad policies more than he did. The Government has created positions in the Bureau but it cannot create the people to fill those positions. This situation applies not only in Australia but in every nation that is developing at the speed at which Australia is developing. Professional men just cannot be obtained. Any reference to the ‘Positions Vacant’ columns of the daily Press will underline that fact. So, like private industry the Government finds difficulty in filling professional positions. In fact, very often it has greater difficulty in filling these positions than has private industry.
I do not want to bear so much on that aspect of the topic tonight but rather to range more broadly because, contrary to the views of the honourable member for Macquarie, I believe that these are days of exciting development in Australia. These are days when, as never before - we should not forget this in the Parliament - the little man in the community, the working man, is a part owner in our mining and exploring industries. Recently I found that a milkman, a postman and a painter doing a job on the house nearby had taken a share in our great exploring and mineral industries. The little man in the community is becoming an owner of Australia’s developing future. This is something which the Government must consider, and T speak tonight not only as a member of Parliament but also as a representative of Australian companies engaged in exploration and so 1 am vitally concerned with this issue.
I would agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Macquarie in his claim that we do not have an adequate policy of national development. Unhappily, in some ways this is not altogether possible in the federal system. The sovereign States have mining well and truly within their province. So, the Commonwealth is always faced with negotiation, political adjustment and compromise in developing the nation’s resources. It must be admitted that by and large Australia has stumbled into the age of prosperity rather than entered it in a carefully planned fashion. Credit is due to the Commonwealth and State governments for the way in which our national development has taken place. The Bureau of Mineral Resource” has been discussed tonight. It may lack some professional staff but it has done a first class job in mapping and geological exploration - in the provision of the raw material that has enabled private industry to undertake exploration. This Government has encouraged private enterprise. The stability of the Government and the kind of laws that it has enacted have enabled private enterprise to go about its business. By the provision of subsidies the Government has encouraged the search for oil. Generous taxation concessions have been granted to exploration companies. Yet, having said that much, I must emphasise that at the present moment in the mineral exploring and mining industry there is an area of uncertainty. There is a degree of decreasing confidence where Australia at this moment has the right to expect everything being done to increase confidence. I realise that there are reasons for this that in no way are able to be laid at the doors of the Government.
There, has been an excess of uninformed enthusiasm and over-enthusiasm that has led to the recent boom on the stock exchanges. No-one seeing the prices and the kind of policies that prevail in these days could but realise there would inevitably be a diminution of demand, that there would be a pricking of the bubble. Nevertheless, even though this has occurred, the fact remains that tremendous advances have been made. Vast new resources have been discovered. The whole future of Australia has changed. The economic base on which this country is building is different because of the tremendous developments that have taken place in the mining industry in particular.
So, today, there is a situation which could be put into a parable of this kind: Picture a family property which at one time was dependent on farming, grazing and the income from its rural activities for its existence.- It had some sectors which were not profitable, which were difficult to work and so on. Then imagine its suddenly discovering within its boundaries a great mineral lode and new resources of a precious metal. The whole outlook of that property would change. Its basic economy would change. Its attitudes to expenditure and management would need to change. The division of labour would have to change.
The complaint that I would have at the present moment would be this: Whereas something like this has happened in Australia on a national scale, 1 do not believe that sufficient thought has been given to the readjustment of our priorities, to the changing of our thinking and to the gearing of our economy to this new and exciting development that has taken place. Far too often the attitude has been to continue the old ways, to persevere with the old dispositions of our economy at all costs, and then only to make provision out of what is left for what could soon be our major earning factors for many, many decades to come and indeed the basis of whole new industrial developments for centuries ahead.
Therefore I maintain at the present moment that the need exists for both State and Federal governments to combine in a national re-appraisal of priorities and to adopt a much more realistic approach to the way in which we should go about the exploitation of our resources. Side by side with that, I would add another plea. That is that before the goose has finished laying golden eggs, while it is still quacking, for goodness sake, let us not cut its head off. This is all too likely to happen. All too often in the past an unrealistic approach had been adopted. This has been seen in the over eagerness to grab, whether by individuals, industries or governments. For example, ] believe that there are several aspects of the recently enacted amendments to the Income Tax Act, brought down in the small hours in this Parliament during the last session, which, in the light of events that have taken place in the last few months, would now appear to have been over hasty, even to have been over greedy.
Demands have been made of the mineral industry which I think are unreasonable. I refer just to one example. If dredging is required to establish a new port near a great mineral development, the money expended in that dredging and for the provision of that port in terms of taxation is not deductible. Similarly, 1 refer to the vast change in one of the important provisions relating to income tax for the individual. Old section 78(l.)(b) made provision that one third of the calls that were paid to mining companies were deductible allowances for taxation purposes. This has been changed to a new provision, section 77 (c). This means that moneys expended in exploring only, and not mining, fall within this provision. One third of those moneys is an allowable taxation deduction. I think that these were over hasty decisions. I think that they have been raced into effect, just as I feel that recent decisions with regard to the agreement on the price of indigenous crude oil have all the hallmarks of haste without sufficient consideration of the implications of these moves on the life and livelihood of the industry itself. The other areas in which this has occurred of course relate to the price tag that is put on off-shore exploration leases. Anyone would think at the time that the legislation was brought down concerning off-shore petroleum that all the off-shore leases were going to be as profitable or were potentially as profitable as those few areas - thank goodness we have them - in Bass Strait.
How unrealistic this approach is is reflected in the declining figures of exploring, of seismic work and of drilling that is going on both on the land and especially off-shore in Australia today. There is the danger, in other words, that governments can race in to try to take too early from an industry which is yet in its infancy. We are getting into the big league when we start to talk in terms of the kinds of volume of oil and gas discoveries in Bass Strait. It is a distinctive feature of this industry that because of the tremendous risks that are taken and the vast sums required to be expended in exploration there must be incentives to match. One of the great sorrows of my time in this Parliament was to hear the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) last Thursday evening make a statement wilh regard to crude oil prices and refer almost casually to the possibility that there might be a continuation of incentives in terms of crude oil pricing for other discoveries in Australia. This is a country which depends upon oil not just for its industry but for its defence and growth. Our FI 11C aircraft will be useless without petroleum, just as our Navy would be tied up alongside our wharves without petroleum. Our healthy industries would grind to a halt without petroleum. At the moment the only reserves that our country has, apart from one small field in Queensland, is in the highly vulnerable position of being on a continental shelf and exposed to sabotage the moment a national emergency arises.
I believe that we should be doing everything to encourage Australian investors and overseas investors to join in the search for oil within the boundaries and on the mainland of Australia. I think that anything that does the slightest thing to set this back, as I feel has been done in the last few days, is a step back in the calendar of Australia’s national development.
So, I conclude by stating again what I believe to be two urgent needs. The first is for a national policy - a 10 year plan, if honourable members like, or a 5 year plan at the least - for the orderly exploration and development of the nation with the establishment of priorities. These are priorities of areas for exploration which can be brought about by incentives or inducements for persons to go into those areas and to seek for the minerals, oil or whatever it is that is their purpose. In the second case, we should establish priorities with regard to the exploration of discovered reserves so that as a nation we are able to set about the mining of Australian mineral resources in an orderly fashion, such as would be undertaken by any reputable large mining company over its own leases. This can easily be done under Commonwealth control, lt has the control of exports at its fingertips, lt can determine through its export powers the way in which these things are done.
Finally 1 make the strong plea that we should act quickly to save the petroleum exploration industry from despondency in the current situation; otherwise I believe that the action taken by the Government last week will be a destruction of nearly two decades of effort to find indigenous Australian oil and to bring about in this country sufficiency in this commodity, which despite atomic development and the other technological advances of our age is still one of the great needs of the Australian economy in terms of natural resources.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of National Development, I want to touch briefly on the related topics of education and primary industry. First of all, I want to say that I agree with the final statement of the learned and honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) that we need a 5 or 10 year plan under Commonwealth control to develop the whole of Australia’s resources. This is something that is borrowed from the Australian Labor Party platform. We have always indicated to private enterprise that this would be a very good idea. Unfortunately, in recent years, Labor has had little support, apart from that given by the honourable member for Evans. The adoption of this sort of plan would seem to be just common business prudence, as he puts it - the sort of thing that would be done by any reputable large mining company. Instead, the policy of the Government has been to wait and see, to drift, to use stop gap and stop and go measures, and to offer incentives and inducements. Unfortunately the Government has also done the very thing which the honourable member for Evans deplores. He said that there is a danger that we might chop off the head of the goose that lays the golden egg. This has been done by the Government not only hopping in too soon for its share of what private enterprise has developed but also by selling out too soon something that public enterprise has developed. I point to the example of aluminium. In another place, the former Minister for Supply, Sir Denham Henty, on 1 9th October 1967 waxed enthusiastic about the great benefits that had accrued to the bauxite and aluminium industry, particularly at Weipa and Gladstone, because the Government had had the foresight to sell out the aluminium industry at Bell Bay to private enterprise. This good, profitable, pioneering industry was set up entirely by a consortium between the Federal and Tasmanian Labor governments, was carried on efficiently and effectively, and was taken over by the present Government and sold out to the world aluminium monopoly interests that now run it.
The former Minister congratulated himself and said that if this had not happened private enterprise would not have looked about for sources of bauxite and we would not have found it at Weipa. Of course v.e would not have found it while the present Government was in power because it would not look for bauxite. As honourable members will have noticed from the questions on notice, I have asked why it is that private prospectors are to have thc right to exploit mineral reserves in New Guinea that were discovered by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. How can this be? Yet the former Minister for Supply stated last year that it was because of the Government’s great foresight and initiative in selling out a successful, pioneering aluminium industry that we have now discovered bauxite. If we can discover nickel and other resources in New Guinea with the aid of our Bureau of Mineral Resources, and hand it over as a gift to private enterprise, surely, with an enlightened policy and with the same sort of initiative that private enterprise interests have shown in the aluminium industry, we could have discovered the bauxite at Weipa.
Unfortunately, though we have what is called an aluminium industry, it does not produce aluminium in Queensland, lt produces alumina at Gladstone. Again, those honourable members who have consulted the questions on notice will know that 1 have some questions outstanding - some have been on notice for months - which have been addressed to the Treasurer (Mi McMahon), the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and other Ministers regarding this very question. Why is it that we can produce alumina in Queensland but we cannot produce aluminium? The answer is given to us by the people who own the alumina works, lt lakes roughly twice as much electricity to produce aluminium from alumina as it takes to produce alumina from bauxite. The processors cannot afford to produce aluminium at the cost of electricity in central Queensland. Tt is the dearest electricity to the household consumer, not to the alumina works, provided by any regional electricity board or semi-governmental authority producing electricity in Australia. The reason is that the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board is broke. It is desperately scratching for loan money to cope with the unprecedented growth of heavy industry in central Queensland, ft has to supply electricity to the two huge monsters mining coal at Moura and Blackwater, which are bigger than any other machines on land in this country. The drag lines are some of the biggest excavators in the world and they take a big toll of the power output of the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board. The Board has to supply electricity for the hulk loading facilities al Gladstone for coal and alumina. II also has to supply the alumina works itself. Although there have been all these new developments, there is no way that the Board can raise capital to produce adequate power. This is not the last of it. Other industries are coming in. The proposed new fertiliser works and acid works will call for increasing amounts of cheap power.
The scandal about all this is that right on the spot in central Queensland we have vast reserves of coal. The reserves so far discovered are estimated to be sufficient for 500 years at the rate we are using it now, and more are being looked for. The coal reserves in central Queensland are the biggest and most easily accessible reserves in Australia. We have coking coal, anthracite and any other kind of coal that industry wants, near the surface and easily mined by open cut methods. In fact, it is so cheap that the Japanese are frequently doubling the tonnage they are taking out of there with American help. It is the cheapest coal they can get. Yet we cannot find 1he capital, the know-how or the resources to build a decent sized power house in central Queensland where there are abundant supplies of cheap coal.
Questions have been asked for years by my colleague, the honourable member lor Dawson (Dr Patterson), who is absent from the Parliament for health reasons at the moment. Questions have been asked by myself for years, even before 1 came to this House. Questions have been asked by the industry, the employees and Stale and Federal representatives of all political colours in centi al Queensland as to why Queensland, of all the eastern Stales, is not entitled to any Commonwealth help to enable it to provide power. Colossal amounts of aid have been given to Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales to produce cheap power and to produce aluminium. New South Wales is now producing aluminium from Queensland alumina, processed from Weipa bauxite-, because New South Wales can afford to produce cheap power. The Minister lor National Development has answered some of the questions I have had on notice and he has said that the Government has to be convinced that our proposal is feasible and economic. 1 ask: What is this Government doing here? Everyone in central Queensland has known for years that this is economic. The Queensland Government has produced case after case trying to convince these - I do not know what adjective I can use to describe them - people. The Queensland Government is trying very hard to get through to the people who decide the policy on national development. I can only assume that they are not really interested. Why is this so? Is it because there are not enough votes attached to development there? Have they given away any chance of ever regaining the seats of Capricornia. Dawson or Wide Bay?
– A Labor Parly member in Rockhampton South might be a help.
– Yes, it may be that they are so crestfallen with the poor showing of the member for Rockhampton South who is so indignant at being passed over that they will not allow any north Queensland member to hold a seat in Cabinet. Maybe this is something to do with it. Perhaps they are trying to keep him in place. I do not know. Whatever it is the net result is nil. The Federal Government will not come to the party.
Not until recent years when the Government’s hold was threatened has anything been done about development. The seat of a Minister had been even threatened. In recent years the Government has at least paid lip service to the need for developing central Queensland. Members of the Government have appeared and have actually visited Gladstone. Even the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has appeared recently and made a visit to central Queensland. But appearances, talking and good intentions are not going to get a super power house where it is most needed in Australia. It should be sited where the cheapest fuel is. Queensland as a whole needs this super power house to be integrated into a Queensland-wide grid on a super high voltage system. It is now feasible and the place for such a power station is where the supply of cheap power is. It is cheaper to move electricity than it is to move coal. However, there are technical details. The important point is that it is not efficient to move alumina out of central Queensland to process it somewhere else.
The net effect of the present situation is that Australia is gaining very little out of the alumina industry. Very few people are employed on the vastly mechanised systems of open cut mining. Also, very few people are employed on the highly mechanised system of alumina production which involves bulk handling equipment. Very few people are employed in the bulk loading of coal into the huge ships of 50,000 tons and upwards that come into Gladstone. Therefore, there are not a great number of jobs created by these new industries. Also, not much royalty is obtained by governments from these industries. Australia receives in royalties 5c per ton of coal. Our local council in Rockhampton charges 25c a ton for gravel from its quarry. So it can truly be said that we are not mining this coal - we are quarrying it. Likewise, it can truly be said in regard to our land and primary production in rural areas that the big overseas interests in particular are not farming but mining them. Those interests let cattle run wild in the north. They are not developing and conserving the soil which has taken millions of years to buildIn fact, they are creating deserts. As in the rural field so in our primary industries, we are quarrying. We are making holes in central Queensland and in the process are creating precious few jobs. We are charging low royalties for our raw materials. Also, we have to put in railways that big industry said it would build. Eventually the State Government had to build them. We have to provide all sorts of services for the people concerned.
It is quite hopeless for the people of Gladstone to expect to get sewerage, or even 50% of the area sewered, in the near future. Local government in this area has been swamped with the terrific inflow of people. As I said before, there is a small number of jobs compared with the needs of this area. We hear a lot about the foreign earnings that alumina makes possible and what a great thing it is for Australia that alumina is bumping up our exports. But who derives the income from these exports? The profit made on alumina produced in Gladstone is nil. There is no profit, so there is no income tax payable. The reason there is no profit is that the people who produce the alumina sell it to themselves to refine overseas and to some extent, in New South Wales. This is the sorry story of this vast development that we have heard about in central Queensland. This is the vast inflow of overseas capital that we cannot provide ourselves! We do not have the know-how or the resources. Honourable members can see why we do not have the resources to invest in there industries. It is because we keep ourselves poor by selling out to foreign interests things that we have the know-how to develop ourselves. We were pioneering such an industry at Bell Bay. But of course, the free enterprise government knows better. I am very pleased that the honourable member for Evans has scotched this old story that one must have private enterprise in order to develop. He has been realistic enough to see that one must have Commonwealth enterprise.
There are many other points that 1 think are of concern. In the Budget debate on 22nd August, I pointed out how our governments had given away money to the banks. I remind the House that this matter was mentioned in an article in the Australian Financial Review’ written by Mr H. W. Herbert almost 10 years ago. Yet nothing has been done about changing this financial policy. This is mainly a matter for the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), but it shows what this type of neglect in Treasury policy can do to cause a lack of capital resources to develop this country. Some action has now been taken in regard to the continental shelf. There has been such an outcry that the sedentary species in the reef are now being guarded. But we are still not studying, conserving, using or leasing them to foreign people who are exploiting them without regard to the future of this country. If the Russians can do it we can do it. We can build a ship as big as they can. We could know just as much about our own waters as they know. But the Russians know more than we do and this is the result of a failure of policy and planning - the 10-year plan, or the 5-year plan foi” oil mentioned by the honourable member for Evans. I apply such a plan to all of our resources - to our fishing, mineral and rural resources. I also apply this plan to our power and to the development of new industries, lt is all very well to talk about subsidies for oil search because of the need for terrific amounts of risk capital. I know that oil companies take risks. But every new enterprise that is exploring for something takes risks, lt does not know where, when or how much it will find. But an enterprise does not start exploring until it is pretty sure what it is doing, lt does not carry out its most expensive exploration until it has done a preliminary survey and knows fairly well that something is there.
– How many successful wells do the exploration companies strike?
– They strike oil in a very small percentage of drillings, but they can predict that percentage very closely by means of seismic surveys and other surveys which are carried out before the drillings are started. These enterprises have geologists and other people to tell them whether the prospects are good or not.
– One out of 3,000 are successful in the Sahara.
– In the Sahara the French Government had the courage and foresight to put money into the exploration itself, ft did not wait for private enterprise and the venture paid off.
– How much did the Labor Government apply in the 1940s?
– The Labor Government was suffering from a deficiency of capital because it was fighting a war. We delivered to this Government a country in which know-how had been developed during the war. People in this country knew how to build ships and aeroplanes that were equal to any in the world, but the Government sold all that. The Government gave away our oil refineries, our aluminium plants, our overseas shipping and everything that could have been used for training our workers. This Government needs to be trained to do the things that should be done by governments, to risk the capital that governments should be willing to risk. The Government should not sell out the country’s birthright by encouraging people from other countries to invest in the development of the resources that are ours.
The processing of minerals does not depend only on the construction of a Irg power house in central Queensland nor on the resources of coal to operate the power house being there. This is also a matter of human needs. Australia needs decentralisation. The cities are strangling themselves. Decentralisation is bound up with the problems of national development. I w ll quote briefly from a letter written by Mr John B. Fuller, Minister for Decentralisation and Development in Sydney, lt was published in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on 4th May 1967. He commented on a leading article in that newspaper and said:
Obviously you believe that the drift of population from the rural to the ‘urban areas’, by which I presume you mean the metropolis and oilier coastal cities, cannot be checked and that Government should concentrate on ‘preparing urban areas for efficient, satisfying living’.
The stage has been reached in London and Paris where repressive legislation has been necessary to check further growth. New York, where everything from martinis to taxi fares, is taxed to provide for a budget of $2,000 million, finds it impossible. . . .
– I take a point of order. I am not sure whether it is an impression or a fact but the clock seems to have stopped.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Costa) - Yes. we have just noticed it.
– I will finish on the note that decentralisation is one of the reasons for developing this area.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of National Development, I want to stress the necessity for increased objectivity in national development planning. I do not mean that any technique can possibly provide all the answers. In addition to objective methods of examining projects, we need always to have a fundamental faith in ourselves and our country and good political judgment. This is in no way to be interpreted as even suggesting the socialist approach. There is a basic difference between the two approaches. As the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) said by interjection when he was congratulated by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) for advocating 5- year or 10-year plans, there is such a thing as private enterprise planning as well as socialist planning. There is also a fundamental difference between the two approaches when examining a plan or looking for a method to solve problems. Too often people who talk about the advisability of 5-year or 10-year plans are grasping at conclusions rather than facing the more difficult task of solving problems.
We need to look at the problems on a very broad base and to pay particular attention to benefit cost analyses, to which, I agree, many honourable members have drawn attention from time to time. This technique has been used in the public investment field in the United States of America since the mid-1930s and in the United Kingdom since the late 1950s. But in Australia it has been used extensively only since the early 1960s. It has been used chiefly by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Bureau of Roads and the Treasury. It has been used to some extent by the States, especially New South Wales, and has been applied mainly to water and agricultural projects. It has been used, for example, on the brigalow scheme and the Emerald irrigation scheme in Queensland, the Craigburn irrigation scheme in Tasmania, the comprehensive water supply scheme and the Ord River project in Western Australia, the beef roads scheme and the forest softwoods planting programme throughout Australia. It has also been used on other projects.
Fundamental to the extension of the technique beyond national development projects and through other Government departments and agencies is the problem of the availability of trained officers. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) mentioned that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has a few vacancies, not necessarily for men skilled in benefit cost analysis. He said that this was a terrible situation and demonstrated his complete ignorance of the vast development of mineral resources in Australia by equating in some way a few vacancies in the Bureau of Mineral Resources with reduced activity in mineral development throughout Australia. This is a little like the suggestion about 5-year and 10-year plans. Socialists are very good at slogans but not very good at most other things, lt goes without saying that in order to get an effective benefit cost analysis we must have people to do it. We are short of people with this skill in Australia now. It is difficult for us to import them because the price tag on them is a little too high. Some heads of departments may be embarrassed if some of their subordinates were receiving H or 2i times their own salary. But there is another advantage in the home grown type. He is familiar with the political and economic background of the country in which he is working. Relatively simple factors do not have to be explained to him as they would have to be explained to an imported expert.
I hope that all honourable members will support the University of New England which has sought approval from the Australian Universities Commission for the creation of a faculty of natural resources, which it hopes to get going at the beginning of the next triennium in 1970. A summary of the case prepared by the University is available from Professor Butland, Chairman of the Board of Studies in Natural Resources at the University, if any honourable member is interested. I believe that we should support the approach of the University. It has been said correctly enough that a benefit cost analysis is not a study that can be separated completely from other studies. The people who undertake this work should be familiar with agriculture, engineering and other disciplines in order to be effective in this field. But there is a very good argument for the intention of the University to provide this faculty for undergraduate studies in natural resources.
I would stress that trained people are a fundamental need in the development of any nation. Education is a basic factor in the rate of development. I believe we must have some dialogue between the Department of National Development and the Department of Education and Science. Out of this F hope would come persuasive arguments to put to the Government and to the Treasury for a greater and more specific direction of expenditure in education throughout Australia. I want to quote from an article written by Mr Vance Grant, a specialist in educational statistics, which appeared in the July-August 1968 edition of the ‘Journal of American Education’. Writing about education and income, he stated:
Recent trends in annual income also demonstrate trie financial advantages of i good education. While the income of all segments of the population has grown in the past few years, the greatest increases have occurred at the higher educational levels. Between 1961 and 1966, for example, die income of art average male elementary school graduate 25 years of age or over rose from about J4.200 to $4,900; a high school graduate, from $5^900 to $7,500; and i college graduate, from $9,300 to 111,100.
He pointed out that these figures are in current dollars; in other words, they are not adjusted to meet changes in the purchasing power of the dollar. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table which illustrated Mr Grant’s article.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Lifetime income and Educational Attainment of Males in the United States: 1956 to 1966.
Honourable members who are interested may care to note the source of this table, lt indicates a very steady progression in the amount of lifetime income earned by people with higher grades or accomplishments in education. The range is from elementary schooling of less than 8 years, with a lifelime income of SI 89,000, to college education of 5 years or more, with a lifetime income of §587,000. I think it might be profitable if the Department of National Development were to carry out a survey in Australia directed at establishing the Australian equivalent of these figures. This would provide very simple guide lines and a firm indicator thai practically no argument could overcome, as to the value and benefit of investment in education which is, as we know, one of the major fields of investment in Australia as well as in other countries.
In addition, we need a division within the Department of National Development, or, indeed, a separate ministry, to assess what we need in the future in order to help people to make judgments before setting out on a certain course of educational study, particularly if they are making this decision before entering the tertiary stage of education. I suggest thai the Government should consider seriously the establishment of a division within the Department of Education and Science or the Department of National Development, or a separate ministry of human resources, to investigate human resources and, to put matters on a more mundane level, to try to provide a sort of future commodity market and to try to get some prediction of what skills will be needed in 10 or 15 years time and what avenues there will be for people who are graduating and looking to use their skills.
Finally, I wish to say that 1 understand that the Government will soon be considering the exact terms of reference for the continuation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I ask the Government, in the strongest possible terms, to use realistic vision and to come to an imaginative decision. I hope that the work in which some 200 men of the Authority are engaged at present - that is, works other than those associated with the Snowy Mountains
Scheme - also will fail within the terms of reference for the future of the organisation. There has been no interpretation, at least by the Government, of the future of the Authority since the Government announced last year that it did not envisage that the Authority would continue in its construction role after the completion of the Snowy scheme but that elements of the Authority would be retained. The Government did not see the Authority as a gigantic construction company building everything round Australia, as some honourable members opposite did. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), in their more lucid moments, do not see it operating in that role. Neither do J. But I see it as a very important element in our national development. I see it as a useful ‘Commonwealth of Australia National Development Organisation’, a name which can be condensed quite happily to CANDO. Such an organisation could be used by the Commonwealth Government to give it objective advice in civil engineering and in water conservation which, again, are fundamental to our national development. If the Commonwealth produces a realistic decision on the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, we will see the beginning of a new era of objective assessment of national development in Australia and the resolution of the pros and cons of competing recommendations from the State governments. We must have a Commonwealth authority to do this.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– -In this debate on the estimates for the Department of National Development I want to refer to a matter that is very important to a large number of people in Western Australia. On 2nd April this year - more than 6 months ago - I asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) the following question, upon notice:
I would have thought that that was a fairly reasonable question and that it would not have required much research to answer. However, 1 did not receive an answer until 9th October. This was the answer 1 received: 1 and 2. No joint Commonwealth-State investi gation has been carried out to determine the practicability and advisability of damming the Gascoyne River in Western Australia. However, there have been discussions with the State Authorities on this question, and the Northern Division of my Department is considering a study of the feasibility of irrigated agriculture based on a water supply in the Gascoyne River. In addition, the State has foreshadowed its intention to submit a detailed proposal on the Gascoyne River, at some future time, for consideration by the Commonwealth under the national water resources development programme. There has been no discussion as yet as to the form of report or whether it would be published.
As I said at the beginning, 5 months elapsed between the time when 1 asked this question and the time when the answer was given. One is bound to ask: Why has it taken so long to make an answer available because, after alL as I said in the first place, it is a pretty straight forward question which should have required only some reference to the Gascoyne River file in order lo obtain the information that was sought? Surely no one will suggest to me that the Northern Division of the Department of National Development does not carry such a file. Admittedly, for some months past we have not heard much from the Northern Division and it could be that it has either gone out of existence or is very inactive. There seems to be no reason why the information which I sought should not have been available on the file, and the file would still be held by the Department. There seems to be no reason why it should have taken any more than a couple of weeks to answer the question.
However, I would not have been very disturbed about the delay in answering the question if the Government had only been showing some interest in the project. But ii is becoming quite clear that in actual fact the Government is completely disinterested and it could not care less whether a dam is constructed on the Gascoyne River or not. This becomes clear when one looks at the last answer to which f have referred, to the previous answers that I have received and also to the statements concerning this particular matter which have been made both in this place and in the Western Australian Parliament. It becomes obvious that little, if any, progress is being made towards damming the Gascoyne River, a project which is very important and very necessary and which should be receiving urgent attention. Therefore, it is very disturbing to find that it is receiving such scant attention from this Government. When one examines the statements and answers on the project it appears that there is a lot of shuffling and passing the buck between the Commonwealth and the State Governments or that there is a deliberate and unnecessary delay in this matter which is approved by both Governments.
Three years ot more ago I raised this matter with the Minister by way of a question and subsequently in a debate when 1 suggested that things were not quite what they should be. Then in November 1965 the Minister, in reply to a question, said:
There have been some unofficial consultations between the Northern Division of the Department of National Development and officers of the Western Australian Government.
Then he went on to say:
There has been no official approach or request for funds from the Commonwealth by the Western Australian Government, nor has there been any official approach by the Western Australian Government for us to investigate the particular project.
My reason for referring to thai question is, firstly, to show that we have made very little progress over the last 3 years and, secondly, because of what was said by the Minister for the North-West in the Western Australian Parliament on 1st September 1965, which suggested that the Commonwealth was the obstacle. I now refer to the Western Australian Hansard of Wednesday. 1st September 1965 when the Minister for the NorthWest, referring to northern development, said:
These matters have been the subject of discussion with the northern division of the Commonwealth Department of National Development and have been put forward, amongst other things, as suitable subjects for research by that division in conjunction with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland. The Gascoyne River, likewise, has been put forward as such a subject
Further on he said:
The project for the greater development and the greater security of agriculture on the Gascoyne has been placed before the Commonwealth on more than one occasion as a project to be considered and as one meriting inclusion in the programme of northern development
At a further stage he said: lt was only on Friday last that this project, amongst others, was under discussion in Canberra, when the intention and the desire of the State Government were made known, in respect not only of the Gascoyne River, but also some other rivers in the north-west.
Those remarks were made in September 1965 - at least 3 years ago. In fact it would seem it was more than 3 years ago that the Gascoyne proposal was submitted to the Commonwealth as a subject meriting inclusion in the northern development programme and requiring joint Commonwealth and State investigation. Those remarks of the Minister for the North-West in Western Australia led people to believe that things at last were definitely on the move in that direction. But 2 months later in this place the Minister for National Development said that there had been no official approach. This, to my mind, was simply a matter of playing with words or an excuse to delay further the investigation. However, on 16th August 1966 I received an answer to a question I had placed on notice. The Minister replied:
The Department has co-operated with the Western Australian Government in research into irrigation development of the Ord River basin. 1 ask honourable members to take some heed of this next statement and also of the date when it was made. The Minister continued”. lt has also been agreed to carry out joint investigations with that Government in relation to the Gascoyne River.
On the same day I received a reply to another question on notice. It was as follows:
Preliminary discussions have taken place on several occasions between officers of the Northern Division of my Department and representatives of the Western Australian Government on proposals foi enlarging the irrigation area on the Gascoyne River of Western Australia.
I point out that it would be idle to suggest any enlarging of the irrigation area of the Gascoyne River unless a dam is constructed on that river. The reply continued:
The Commonwealth has now agreed lo a request from the Western Australian Government for a joint investigation by Commonwealth and Slate officers of the project.
So we learned 2 years ago that not only had the Western Australian Government requested that a joint investigation be made into this particular project, but also that the Commonwealth had agreed to the request. Yet now, only last week, notwithstanding the urgency of this matter and the fact that it means so much to that particular area, we learned from an answer given to me by the Minister that no joint investigation has been made to determine the practicability and advisability of damming the Gascoyne River. We were again referred to the discussions which have taken place. Of course, over the past 3 years we have been referred to these particular discussions. Therefore, we cannot attach very much weight to that particular matter. In his recent answer the Minister said:
In addition, the State has foreshadowed its intention to submit a detailed proposal on the Gascoyne River . . . for consideration by the Commonwealth . . .
It is rather a surprising situation to find that only now, or at some time in the dim future, the Western Australian Government will be able to submit a detailed proposal of what it requires when, as J pointed out earlier, the State Minister, 3 years ago, said, firstly, that the project had been placed before the Commonwealth on more than one occasion and. secondly, that on the last Friday in August 1965 the intention and desire of the State Government were made known in Canberra. It would seem that at this point of time we are no nearer to a dam on the Gascoyne River than what we were 3 years ago. Until such time as a dam is constructed and water is conserved and controlled, there can be very little if any, extension of the irrigation of the Gascoyne River. In fact, those people who are already participating in that area and who are growing vegetables and fruit could find themselves in a very serious situation if they should strike a year when they do not get what is termed a ‘good river’ - when there is nol a good flow in the river.
I do nol have to explain to the Parliament why he project is so important or why the damming of the river is so urgent. All honourable members - or at least all those who take any interest at all in northern and national development - will be aware of the importance and urgency. Surely they must ail agree hat we are entitled to a full explanation of what has or perhaps has not occurred over the past 3 years in relation to Commonwealth and State negotiations on the matter. We just cannot accept as normal that a request for a joint investigation of the project made over 2 years ago has not been put in process and that there are no suggestions when it will be. I do not know whether the fault lies with the Minister, whether it lies with the Government or whether it lies with the Western Australian Government, but I suggest that the matter should be clarified. As it now stands it would appear either that there is some shuffling or side stepping or that someone is passing the buck. Perhaps someone is trying to make a monkey out of another person or perhaps two parties are trying to make monkeys out of those people who are directly or indirectly concerned with the project. I trust that the Minister or his representative, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is sitting at the table, will be able to give some explanation of this situation.
People in the area were given further cause for concern when a Commonwealth Minister was reported a few weeks ago as saying that as the Commonwealth was providing $48m for the second stage of the Ord River project, it could not be expected to find money for small projects. The Gascoyne job. of course, would be a small project when compared wilh the Ord River project, and naturally the people took the Minister’s remarks to mean that any approach to the Commonwealth for finance for damming the Gascoyne River would almost certainly meet with a refusal. Here, of course, can be seen the reason why nothing is happening with regard to investigations into the possibility of the project. As everyone knows, the State Minister has made it quite clear that without Commonwealth assistance the project cannot get off the ground. It would be a good idea for this Government to show some sense of responsibility and some desire to push ahead with northern development. The Minister or his representative should make it quite clear whether finance will be forthcoming if it is decided to go ahead with this scheme.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In rising to speak to the estimates of the Department of National Development I want to stress the tremendous importance of the work that this Department is doing and also to congratulate the Department on its vigorous policy. Contrary to what has been said by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), if he travelled about this country - north and south, east and west - he would see the tremendous development that is going on in agriculture and industry and in mining ventures. This is important because in a developing country it is of extreme importance that we should continue to step up a vigorous policy of development. We must continue to see that our agricultural enterprises are not neglected. In some quarters there is a tendency to attach too little importance to our agricultural and primary industries, but they are still, and will be for many years to come, the principal earners of export income. The rural industries are still earning close to 70% of our export income which is providing the funds to enable the importation of equipment and materials that are so necessary for the development of industry and of our mining ventures. Without that export income we would be in dire straits. As a matter of fact at the present time if it were not for the inflow of foreign capital, which is tapering off and which can taper off more yet, our balance of payments would be in a disastrous state and we would be calling again, as we always do call, on primary industry to try to earn more export income so that the country can continue to develop.
Perhaps the most important function of the Department of National Development has been the work it has done in the Australian Water Resources Council. Without water there can be no life, particularly in this the driest of all continents. Water is necessary for agriculture, industry, mining or any other venture, no matter what it might be. It is necessary for development and for decentralisation. Australia needs to conserve every drop of water that it possibly can. lt needs to have complete details and data on underground resources as well as of surface water. 1 commend the Department and the Australian Water Resources Council for the tremendous amount of research they have done. A great deal more has to be done, no doubt, but they have done a tremendous amount already.
Local authorities and local organisations need to be able to borrow long term finance to develop their own schemes. I know of many small schemes in my electorate where individuals and groups of individuals have been permitted to go ahead with a very efficient and effective development of water resources and water reticulation. The greatest problem is shortage of finance. Water conservation and water reticulation will benefit many future generations as well as the present one. If we were to make it possible for local authorities and local organisations to borrow on a long term basis, we could spread the cost over a longer period and cut very considerably the cost of the water that we have conserved. We should do a great deal more about the re-usage of water. We should re-use the waste water from our vast industries. Industry uses a tremendous amount of water. The reconstitution of the water not only for industry but for agriculture. would be of tremendous benefit. Probably the most striking example of what can be done is to be found at the Werribee farm of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. It is located between Geelong and Melbourne. Tremendous production has been made possible by the use of sewage water. This wafer can be used not only by industry but by agriculture in many cases..
Another research function that comes under the auspices of the Minister and the Department is that of atomic energy. Those of us who had the privilege of visiting the Lucas Heights research station recently were given a great insight into the potential development and use of atomic energy. Perhaps its greatest promise is in the building of dams, waterways, and underground storage and, perhaps greatest of .all, the desalination of water. We have been told that desalination of sea water or mineral water for use in agriculture or for stock is a long way off. Every day we are getting much closer to success. I believe that this is one function in relation to which atomic energy could contribute tremendously to the development of the country. Atomic energy will contribute tremendously to industry in the remote areas which have no other source of fuel. We should be proceeding perhaps a little more quickly towards the development of a nuclear power station in the northern areas of Australia.
Forestry is another very important function - it might be termed a rural function - which comes under the administration of the Department. The Department is doing a tremendous job for Australia. Perhaps its most important functions are the development of water resources and the conservation of water, and the adaptation of atomic power not only to provide water but for industry. I commend the Department for what it has done. I commend it for its vigorous policy, which I believe must be stepped up in the future if this country is to grow and prosper and if we are to hold it for our children and our children’s children.
Mr St john (Warringah) [10.49]- Of the many topics requiring attention in this debate I have chosen to speak on one which I believe to be of great present and future importance. I refer to the development of nuclear power capacity. On Wednesday, 9th October, in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Defence the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) said that we must cut corners in our programmes for nuclear power stations and the civilian use of nuclear power. He continued:
At least let us get as far ahead as India has got. Let us try to learn the techniques of handling nuclear power. Let us develop power stations in remote areas and in places where national development will profit by it. Let us train our technologists and if necessary let us stock-pile plutonium and get into a position where if the worst happens - and please Grid thai it never will happen - we will be within a year or two of being able to provide ourselves with our own deterrent if the circumstances demand it.
With those sentiments I express my agreement, and I would add some further observations on this matter. What the honourable member for Evans had to say on this matter of nuclear power was relevant not only to defence but it was also of course highly relevant - as he saw - to our national development and scientific progress in various ways which 1 shall mention, and it is on those aspects 1 shall now speak. I shall return however before I close for a brief discussion on the ways in which it will impinge also upon our defence capabilities and our foreign policies. Quite recently I and other members from this side of the House had the experience of visiting the establishment of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights. Noone visiting there, talking as we did to the chairman and members of the Commission and members of its staff and seeing something of their work, could fail to be impressed by the whole establishment and the air of scientific precision and efficiency which surrounds it. Having had that experience and having read a little on the subject it becomes immediately obvious that the logical next step for Australia should be the erection and operation of a nuclear power station. Already we are a long way behind the rest of the world, not’ only behind the great powers but lagging behind middle powers such as Canada. India. Japan, West Germany and such, and outdistanced even by countries much smaller or generally considered much less advanced than we are. such as Switzerland, Belgium. Taiwan and Argentina.
What are the advantages to Australia in developing our own nuclear power plants? Already it is clear that the, time is not far distant when nuclear power will provide a cheaper source of power supply than the traditional plants operating on coal or oil fuel such as we have known in the past. Nuclear power is on the threshhold of becoming competitive in New South Wales and Victoria where’ there is a concentration of industry and population. Its introduction now is therefore essential from the point of view of national development if we are not to fall yet further behind in the provision of power at the cheapest possible rate, so essential if our industry is to maintain a competitive position in world markets.
This is the first and obvious reason why we should now begin to plan and build our first nuclear power plant, as a model for the building and operation of further plants, probably at an increasing rate in the future as is now happening in other developing countries. By way of bonus, I might add, we shall have in nuclear power stations a clean source of power, in contrast with the air-polluting effect of thermal stations which is increasingly recognised as a major problem in our modern industrial civilisation and towards which more and more stringent legislation will certainly be directed in the future.
But we can now add other reasons to reinforce the first and most obvious considerations which I have mentioned, the economies which will be gained from nuclear power and the bonus in the form of freedom from air pollution. It may be very important to our national development for another reason, namely, that with the development of nuclear power stations we shall be in a position in future to develop the use of nuclear explosives in Australia for peaceful purposes without having to rely upon the United States or any other country to provide us with the necessary supply of nuclear explosives.
The following information has been supplied to me:
Nuclear explosives offer two important advantages over conventional chemical explosives for major works -
The cost of emplacement in terms of energy released is very much less because nuclear explosives are very compact.
The cost of the nuclear explosive varies only to a minor extent with the yield . . .
The comparison in some instances is not between nuclear explosives and chemical explosives, but between nuclear explosives and other engineering methods, for example, blasting and ripping, bulldozing, etc.
In addition, certain engineering works would not be possible by conventional methods except at prohibitive cost. Thus it is said that nuclear explosives are a cheap, compact and relatively easily handled form of energy which offer significant cost advantages in many large engineering works and which could make possible very large projects which would otherwise not be contemplated.
Major problems to be overcome are the release of radio activity associated with nuclear explosions and ground movement resulting from seismic shock. Both these effects must be considered in every proposed application of nuclear explosives. Almost certainly, these explosives cannot be used in areas of high population density because of seismic shock damage and also in some cases, of radiological health and safety grounds. However, we are told that recent United States projects have led to important advances in predictive capability, and also to a significant reduction in the radioactivity released by the nuclear explosive.
In the interim statement of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30th June 1968, which was recently presented to Parliament, the following observations are made under the heading Plowshare’:
The Commission has closely followed the United States programme known as ‘Plowshare’ - development of civil uses of nuclear explosives - which might make a considerable contribution to Australian development. Exploitation of major mineral discoveries in areas where the coastline lacks good natural harbours could well be helped by Plowshare techniques. Water conservation for agriculture could be achieved by creating dams, deep craters, or underground storage in rubble chimneys. In some mining operations, nuclear explosives might be used to remove overburden, to fracture large tonnages of ore, or to prepare for in situ leaching. Development of known natural gas fields in several parts of Australia could well employ Plowshare techniques, particularly where gas is trapped in tight reservoir formations.
After referring to the recent visit to Australia of senior experts of the United Slates Atomic Energy Commission, the interim statement proceeds:
The visit aroused considerable interest, although it does not imply that Australia is about to undertake a Plowshare-type operation. Many technical, political and international problems would have to be resolved first. Nevertheless, the Commission is convinced that these difficulties can be overcome.
It needs but little imagination to visualise the very great importance of these observations to the future development of Australia. It is said, and I quote again, that:
Australia is a large relatively dry country wilh extensive areas of sparse population settlement. In recent years a number of major mineral discoveries have been made, particularly in the more remote areas. Development of such discoveries, which are often in areas where the coastline has no natural harbours, could well involve the application of Plowshare techniques. Water conservation for agricultural development is also an obvious application. Because of the sparse population in many of the areas of interest, the use of nuclear explosions in major works would be quite safe, both from the point of view of seismic shock and possible radiological hazards.
Water conservation could be achieved by creating dams, deep craters, or underground storage reservoirs in rubble chimneys. Where the local geography is suitable, nuclear explosives could be used lo provide new harbours in remote locations, especially as the increasing tonnage of ores to be exported requires deep water harbours. In some of the mining ventures also, the removal of overburden, fracturing of large tonnages of ore or preparation for in situ leaching would lend themselves to nuclear explosive technology. Further, the success of Project Ketch-
An. American Plowshare project - could have important implications in Australia for storage of water, natural gas and oil, both underground and undersea. The latter application of undersea storage could reduce considerably costs of storage and handling for the petroleum industry - imports could be stored near the refineries and this would save costly harbour and stevedoring dues. It would enable automated unloading and reduce transport costs by enabling deeper-draft bulk tankers to be used.
Despite the great possibilities which thus open up for us, particularly in a continent such as ours, it is only realistic to add that these developments are still probably very much in the future.
With these developments in view, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has been conducting research in Australia and has also attached some, of its scientists and engineers to projects in the United Kingdom and Canada so that they may work with the authorities in those countries on the design, economic assessment and construction of natural uranium fuelled heavy water moderated power stations. It is something of a mouthful, but that is how they are described.
Honourable members will be aware that nuclear power stations in the United States and some other countries have operated on what is known as enriched uranium. However, it is thought that a plant using natural rather than enriched uranium could offer great advantages to Australia for several reasons. Firstly, we have natural uranium fuel resources. Secondly, about 80% of such a station could be built in Australia. Thirdly, it is competitive economically with other systems. Last but not least, it is a better converter system than others; that is, it produces more plutonium. The last point - the production of more plutonium - is important for two reasons. It is important firstly for the possibility it provides for the manufacture of nuclear explosives for use in Plowshare type operations, such as I have already mentioned. It is important secondly for the possibility it provides that if we ever have to do so - in this regard I echo the words of the honourable member for Evans last week: Please God it never will happen’ - we shall have the option of providing ourselves with a nuclear deterrent within- a year or two, instead of the period of, say, 7 years which we would otherwise have to wait if we had not established in this way nuclear power plants and a stockpile of plutonium before we sought to exercise the option.
This is not the time or the place to debate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the attitude Australia should adopt in relation to it, which must depend to some extent on factors yet to be resolved. For the moment. I content myself with saying that the option provided by the Treaty , for a nation such as Australia to cease to be a party to it would be quite meaningless’ and illusory if we had then to wait, say, a period of 7 years before we could develop a deterrent capacity. I hope that I shall not be misinterpreted in this, but I shall run that risk. 1 am no hawk. Like all sensible men I hate war and love peace. But that same good book which bids us be gentle as doves tells us also to be as subtle as serpents. We must face facts. We must not run away from them. We must use our intelligence to take the steps necessary to preserve ourselves and our children for the better world for which we all hope so ardently, in which these possibilities of nuclear war will, we hope, seem to them like the horrors of a nightmare.
Once again in nuclear power, as so often before but this time in awesome scale, we see the ambivalence of the gifts of nature - their great possibilities for good and their fearsome potentiality for evil. Let us choose to develop in Australia all the possibilities for good which are inherent in the mighty atom - the provision of cheap electric power, the use of nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes, the manifold applications in science, medicine and industry of radio-active isotopes and so on. Let us do all we can as a comparatively small nation to avoid, as the greatest possible tragedy that could befall the world, any repetition of the use of nuclear explosives for warlike purposes, either by ourselves or by any other nation. But because we live in a real world in which others may not be so scrupulous to avoid the use of nuclear explosives for warlike purposes, let us also secure ourselves a real and not a merely illusory option to develop a deterrent capacity in a reasonably short time if this should ever be forced upon us.
For all these reasons let us now, with all convenient speed, develop our own nuclear power plants. In order to do this many ancillary steps will need to be taken, including, for example, as the interim report mentions, the enactment of the necessary legislation to cover third party liability for third party damage, and no doubt much more. Once again we shall be confronted with the necessity for an imaginative exercise in Commonwealth and State relations. It is not for me to say what form these should take but some form of co-operation is obviously called for. When men of good will sit down together with a common purpose and the welfare of the nation at heart, an appropriate solution will surely emerge. I join tonight, therefore, with other honourable members who over the years have appealed to the Government to take now the first steps on the road to a first nuclear power station in New South Wales or Victoria. No doubt such a station would be the forerunner of others, from which we may expect great benefit to the nation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Commonwealth Administrative Appeals:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What legal or other representation is: (a) permitted and (b) provided in the case of appeals from decisions of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities to the Boards, Tribunals, Committees or Courts listed in Sir Robert Menzies’ answer to me on 17th August 1965 (Hansard, page 135)?
– The answers to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In some cases the methods of appeal from the decisions of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities have been varied since 1965. The following information provided by the Ministers administering the Statutes takes account of such changes and of amendments to the citations.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The principal reasons for rejections were:
Security Council (Question No. 634)
asked the Minister for External
Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
United Nations: Australian Contribution (Question No. 724)
asked the Minister for External
Affairs, upon notice:
How much has Australia contributed to the United Nations, or agencies under its control, since it was established?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The direct financial contributions made by the Australian Government up to 30th June 1968 to the United Nations, to the specialised agencies, and to programmes under the aegis of the United Nations or the aforesaid agencies, since their establishment, total $229,970,693. Details are as follows:
Rhodesia (Question No. 727)
asked the Minister for External
Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Nations Secretariat in response to an inquiry made on 19th September 1968 that a letter concerning Rhodesia addressed to the SecretaryGeneral from a Mr Patterson, attaching a copy of a letter purporting to be from Chief Sigola, was received in the Secretariat on 9th May 1967 and was acknowledged by the Officer in Charge of the Department of Trusteeship and Non-Self Governing Territories on 20th June 1967.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
No compilations on a country by country basis have been made of aid given by the United Nations or agencies under its control for years previous to 1960. The United Nations Centre for Development Planning is currently compiling such statistics for the period since. 1960; the rapid evolution to independence of so many territories in this period presents complex statistical problems. It is therefore possible to provide only the following information at this time:.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
United Nations Commission on Status of Women (Question No. 819)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
At which sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has Australia been represented and by whom?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia was a member of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from 1947 to 1951, from 1955 to 1957, and from 1961 to 1963. Australia is currently serving a term of 3 years which will expire on 31st December 1969.
The following is a list of Australian representatives on the Status of Women Commission:
UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
1st Session: 10th-24th February 1947- Lady Street. 2nd Session: 5th-19th February 1949- Lady Street. 3rd Session: 21st March-4th April 1949- Mrs Elsie Frances Byth, O.B.E. 4th Session: 8th-19th May 1950- Miss Isabel McCorkindale, M.B.E. 5th Session: 30th April- 14th May 1951- Mrs Jean Daly. O.B.E. 9th Session: 14th March-lst April 1955- Mrs Jean Daly. O.B.E. 10th Session: l2th-29th March 1956- Miss Ruth Gibson, O.B.E. 11th Session: 18th March-5th April 1957- Miss Ruth Gibson, O.B.E. 15th Session: 13th-30th March 1961- Mrs Ada Norris, O.B.E. 16th Session: 19th March-6th April 1962 - Mrs Ada Norris, O.B.E. 17th Session: 11th-29th March 1963- Mrs Ada Norris. O.B.E. 20th Session: 13th February-6th March 1967- Dame Mabel Miller, D.B.E. 2 1st Session: 29th January- 1 9th February 1968 - Dame Mabel Miller, D.B.E.
Shipping - Rationalisation of Services by Conference Lines (Question No. 787)
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: .
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
In view of the circulation to Federal Parliamentarians in Australia of weekly United States casualty lists which stress United States casualties, will he consider making available to members and senators frequent and regular cumulative statements of the numbers of:
Australians in action in each of the Services;
Australians killed, missing, captured, incapacitated, recovered, detained, released from capture or detention, inducted to or discharged from each Service; and
Viet Cong, suspected Viet “Cong, civilians and allies, killed, incapacitated, captured, handed over and released by Australian forces?
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
I am not aware that weekly United Slates casualty lists are now being circulated and, after due consideration, I see no value in reviving the practice in respect of Australian servicemen. As matters stand:
Any changes in our force deployments to Vietnam are announced at the time they occur.
Particulars of Australian casualties are published in the Press after the next-of-kin have been informed.
A statement of the numbers entering and leaving each of the Services is published regularly by my Department.
The Minister for the Army issues a monthly summary of activities in Vietnam which contain the number of enemy killed and prisoners of war taken during the month.
Imports of Ammunition (Question No. 458)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
What was the value of ammunition imported into Australia for (a) the Navy, (b) the Army and (c) the Air Force in each of the years 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginals (Question No. 556)
asked the Minister-in-charge of
Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
How many Aboriginals were there in (a.) Australia, (b) each State and (c) each Federal electoral division at the latest date for which this information is available?
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
It is not suggested that these figures compose the whole of the Aboriginal population. For our immediate purposes, and in view of the lack of reliable statistics relating to persons of less than full and more particularly less than half, Aboriginal descent, we are working on the basis of an Aboriginal population of the order of 140,000. However, the total number of persons of full or partial Aboriginal descent could be significantly greater than this estimate.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The estimated reductions in tax in the 1965-66 income year, resulting from the allowance of all items of concessional deductions tabulated for that year, were set out in an answer given to the honourable member on 22nd August 1968 (Hansard, page 534).
The last year for which the numbers of student children were tabulated was the 1963-64 income year. The estimated reductions in tax in that year on account of student children were set out in an answer given lo the honourable member on 30th August 1967 (Hansard, page 643).
Workers’ Compensation (Question No! 622)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Did he have more success in having a uniform workers’ compensation act discussed at the Premiers’ Conference, pursuant to his answer to the honourable member for Stirling on 13th June 1968 (Hansard, page 2197), than his predecessor had pursuant to his answer to me on 3 1st May 1960 (Hansard, page 2045)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: - As has been explained on previous occasions, the question of co-ordination of workers’ compensation legislation is primarily a matter for the States. The subject was not :raised by any of the Slates at this year’s Premiers’ conference and it was considered not appropriate for the Commonwealth to raise it.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681015_reps_26_hor61/>.