26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr FOX presented a petition from certain residents of the Commonwealth showing:
That the red kangaroo, largest marsupial in existence and the international trade mark of Australian goods and airlines, has mainly through shooting for commerce been reduced to a numerical level where its survival is in jeopardy; that the incentive of commerce has encouraged shooters to wipe out kangaroos even in areas defined as sanctuaries; that the Slates of Australia have insufficient administrators to enforce existing legislation within their boundaries and the vastness of the Australian countryside makes it impossible to detect and apprehend persons breaking the law in regard to the shooting of protected species of native fauna either inside or outside national parks; that as a result of research by the C.S.I.R.O., it has been scientifically proved that the kangaroo is not a threat to grazing lands and in fact does not permanently damage pastures as do sheep and cattle: most of the time prefers to eat different herbs and grasses to sheep; if climatic conditions are fair, can only produce two young in 3 years: seldom comes into direct competition for forage with sheep.
The petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representativeswill ban the shooting of kangaroos for commercial purposes; ban the export of products made from kangaroos; and establish a Commonwealth Government body to co-ordinate, establish and administer laws to protect Australia’s native fauna on a national basis.
Petition received and read.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Australian Government use its prestige and influence with the United States Government to halt entirely the bombing of North Vietnam.
In view of the fact that Australia stands practically isolated among the world powers in its policy of support for American intervention in Vietnam, and having regard to the misery and destruction caused in Vietnam by the war, and believing that Australia’s best long term interests in Asia are not served by further military involvement, the petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam and acknowledge that the National Liberation Front must be brought into peace negotiations.
Petition received and read.
MrWHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I give notice that at the next sittingI shall move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of its failure and inability to make decisions on matters concerning the defence, development and welfare of Australia and its refusal and unwillingness to debate such matters in the Parliament.
– The Government is prepared to accept the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition has given notice as a want of confidence motion and is willing to proceed with the matter forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting and such motion taking precedence ofall other business until disposed of.
Want of Confidence Motion
– Mr Speaker,I move:
The Gorton Government has held office now for 10 months. Because of the circumstances in which it came to power it enjoyed very great goodwill. The people were prepared to give it a go. That goodwill has been dissipated, the people’s confidence has been eroded. No Australian Government has been in such disarray since the fall of the Fadden Government in 1941. The Government is in disarray because of its deception on vital matters involving defence and development, its delay in carrying out clear undertakings and its drift over the whole range of policy.
First, I will deal with the long promised defence review. It is claimed that a review is particularly difficult at this time because of Britain’s withdrawal from South East Asia by the end of 1971 and because of America’s change of policy in Vietnam. Both these matters were well known before the defence committee was asked to make a report to the Cabinet. The Government’s understanding of the British position was outlined in the Governor-General’s speech opening the Parliament on 12th March. The American position was known at the end of March. Nothing that has happened during the Presidential election campaign or its outcome has made any difference to the general outlines then given. When the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) came back from his visit to the United States of America and South East Asia he pointed out that the defence committee had been asked to make an urgent review before his departure and the review would be in hand before the end of August. For 12 weeks the Government has had the committee’s defence review in its possession. There are no circumstances since then which would have prompted the Government to ask for a reassessment of what the defence committee proposed in August. In fact, if there had been, one would have expected that the matter would have been sent back to the defence committee. For 12 weeks the defence committee’s report has been before the Cabinet. It has not been debated by the Cabinet unless it was discussed this morning.
For most of that time at least one of the members of the defence and foreign affairs committees of the Cabinet has been away. On some occasions three have been away. When my deputy asked the Prime Minister about this length of absence and number of absences, the Prime Minister said that my deputy forgot that ‘cables, telephone conversations and matters of that kind are conducted even between people in different parts of the world and the processes can be well advanced in spite of what is an admitted but unavoidable difficulty of the particular Ministers being away at this time’. Does anybody seriously believe that these absent Ministers were contacted by cable or by telephone? The simple fact is that for 12 weeks the Cabinet has done nothing about this assessment. The assessment is itself long overdue.
The last defence review, that for 1965-68, was given by Prime Minister Menzies in November 1964. The significance of the defence review, which is a year overdue, is that it is the basis on which the defence forces know what equipment and hardware they are to have for, to use the words of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), ‘a possible new 3-year programme’. No significant orders have been placed since 1965 for any of the defence forces, except for the second batch of patrol boats in June 1966. All orders which have been placed will have been delivered by the middle of next year or at whatever later date the Fill aircraft arrives. Unless a defence review is made promptly we will fall behind in our orders. We will be tempted to make some grandiose gesture, such as the order for the Fill itself. We will drift into commitments. We will drift into purchases. We may drift into commitments, on the mainland of Asia, unprepared for the consequences in communal strife or in internal police activities in which our land forces may be involved.
We cannot blame changed circumstances as a result of British or American decisions for failure to clarify policy in other matters. For instance, the change of policy by Britain or by the United States does not affect our relations with Indonesia or with India and does not substantially affect our relations with Japan. I name the three largest nations in our part of the world. The Prime Minister himself has contributed to the confusion over defence and foreign policy. He has referred, for instance, to an Israeli type army, he has constantly downgraded the economic role that Australia can perform in this region and he has rubbished the Paris talks as ‘mere exercises in polemics’ and ‘these things wrongly called peace talks’. Amid all this confusion our forces do not know what equipment they will be getting, they do not know what they are expected to perform, they cannot make their recommendations until the Government makes up its mind, and for 12 weeks the Government has failed even to consider the assessment that the defence committee gave it before the end of August.
One item of defence equipment is constantly coming up for public debate, and this at least is one matter that is debated in the Parliament. I refer to the Fill aircraft. Only last week we found some more deficiencies about this aircraft. We are now told that the runway at the aerodrome at which it is to be quartered has to be extended from 8,000 to 10,000 feet. No previous reference at all has been made to this. All references were that the aircraft could operate from any field of 8,000 feet or more. We were not told about qualifications on all up weight or tropical conditions or safety. The fact is that the only aerodrome that is long enough - that at Darwin - does not have the equipment, and the other tropical aerodromes are not long enough. The only aerodrome which has the equipment, at Amberley, is being extended because it is impossible to operate at full range or with a full load unless the aerodrome is extended. The great advantage that was claimed for the FI 1 1 over the Phantom was the range of the Fill. But what range has the Fill if we subtract the distance from Amberley to the northern coast of Australia? The Phantom could have been here in squadron service in May 1966. West Germany and Japan are getting the Phantom, and Israel wants it. How much better would we have been defended if in fact we had spent the money we are to spend on the Fill, or half that amount, on putting into service many more Phantoms than the number of Fill machines we are purchasing?
The Fill affair is something for which the Government is ridiculed in all business circles and in every household in Australia. The Government has deceived us about the reconnaissance role of the Fill, the lack of suitable airstrips from which it can operate and the savings to be made by a decision to defer or cancel the purchase of the full range of equipment. And still no role has been defined for the aircraft. When the Fill was ordered it was expected that the United States Navy would have it and that the United States Air Force would be operating it from Asia. How many thousands of miles from Australia’s shores will any American FI 1 ls now be stationed?
This is merely an illustration of the general question of placing more defence orders in Australia. Last year the value of equipment and stores which the Services procured in Australia dropped to 5 170m from Si 96m the previous year. The value of those which were imported into Australia rose to S242m from Si 87m the year before. The value of imported ammunition alone for the Army went up by one-third, for the Air Force it more than doubled, and for the Navy it almost trebled, going from $f>$m to $18m. Over the last 5 years the percentage of Army equipment supplied from Australian sources totally dependent on the sale of defence equipment for their operations fell from 35% to 20%. On the other hand, the total value of overseas defence orders supplied by Australia is barely $5m.
We have only to look back to the Second World War to realise that the whole of the electronic industry in Australia dates from it. From then the development of South Australia as an industrial community dates. Another aspect is that 5% of everything we pay for imported defence equipment goes into research by the suppliers. We lose the value of the research here. We lose the value of the investment.
I mentioned that the last equipment to be ordered was, and among the last items to be delivered will be, the patrol boats. This leads me to another aspect of the short-sightedness of the Government, These patrol boats are meant to be used, amongst other things, for protecting our marine resources in northern waters. The Prime Minister, in a telegram to the late Premier of Queensland, mentioned that they would be used for that purpose. It is disturbing that there is still disagreement within the forces as to the number of patrol boats Australia requires. In August the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Feet stated that we would need at least twice as many patrol boats as we had on order if we were properly to safeguard our northern fisheries. The Naval Board disagreed with him, and perhaps it has disciplined him for expressing that view. If we are to double the number of patrol boats it will take us another 3 years to get the additional twenty boats. This is another very clear instance in which we have delayed in something that is entirely within our own jurisdiction. In this matter relating to our own waters we are relying not on British or American policies but on something to be determined in Australia. lt is not only the protection of Aus tralian resources that is important; the development of Australian resources is just as important. In July the Prime Minister told the Premier of Queensland that the Government would shortly introduce legislation to control all sedentary species of fish. Even last March the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) said that we could introduce legislation about this matter. The Attorney-General told the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) that we had greater powers than we had exercised. The legislation still has not been introduced - another 4 months later. This is typical of the Prime Minister’s attitude and the Government’s attitude towards resources. The Prime Minister has not learned by the passage of time. In 1964, when he was Minister in charge of Commonwealth activities in relation to education Senator Murphy asked him about biological research in northern waters. The Prime Minister disparaged the idea, saying:
The proposal could not be given high priority in relation to other studies of Australian fauna and flora. There are no changed circumstances to warrant a review of this decision at the present time.
In May 1965 Senator Murphy asked the right honourable gentleman, then a Minister and a member of the Senate, a question about oceanographic research in northern waters. The Prime Minister said that Senator Murphy had been a member of the Senate for long enough to know that one did not ask questions like that - that such questions were not asked at Budget time. Now, only a fortnight ago, in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) about marine research in the north, the Prime Minister said:
I have read reports of suggestions of this kind coming from, as indicated by the honourable member, an eminent scientist. Indeed these kinds of suggestions are apt to arise with quite a degree of frequency, so that you can have eminent scientists saying that we should go in much more for space research, that we should go in much more for marine research, that we should go in much more for all kinds of research, depending upon the discipline in which the eminent scientist himself is most directly interested. All these proposals have merit but all of them cannot be carried out at once. They all receive consideration in due course.
He still takes the attitude of 4 years ago. The lesson we have to derive is this: As in the defence review, for which there has been a clear delay of 3 months, so in the matter of resources where the Prime Minister after 4 years is still saying the same about resources, there has been unreasonable delay. This delay is in a matter that lies within our power. If we do not use our resources we lose them. Any patriot should know that Russia, Taiwan and Japan have spent more money developing and researching these Australian resources than has the Australian Government.
If we are to develop resources we need capital. Here is a third example of how the Prime Minister acts. I refer to the most melodramatic of the Prime Minister’s gestures - the one concerning the MLC Ltd. This was a gesture announced from Western Australia over a weekend. The effect of his arrangement was to be retrospective to that time. The sole result so far has been to wipe off millions of dollars on the stock exchange in a single day. The promised ordinance still has not been gazetted. No statement was made in the Parliament although the Parliament was sitting in the week before and the week after the Prime Minister’s statement. Therefore there can be no debate in the Parliament. Unless there is an ordinance and a motion to disallow it there cannot even be a debate in that restricted framework. This was the most dramatic gesture to come out of the West since young Lochinvar, but the Prime Minister is still in the saddle waiting for his legal advisers to look up the precedents.
This is not just a question of Liberal philosophy - of saying that to those who give shall be given. True it is that the MLC company may have particular links with the Liberal Party or that its directors may have had particular links in the past with members of the Ministry, but this surely is a matter in relation to which the Government has a duty to play in developing our Australian resources. The fact that merely one company, which happens to be registered in the Australian Capital Territory, has been looked after does not excuse the Government for having done nothing for years about insurance funds, the greatest pool of investment in Australia, over which the Commonwealth Parliament has the same powers, in the same words, as it has over banking. In this most dramatic gesture there has been no reference to the general role of insurance. One would have thought that in gratitude the MLC organisation would at least try to find the money required for Gove, but there is no suggestion that it will and this legislation which we were promised Ti weeks ago is still not before us.
I come to another illustration. There is no more valuable new resource than oil. The Prime Minister made a statement on oil pricing on 10th October. He made it in the House. The debate has never been resumed. Last week it was found at a conference between the Comptroller-General of Customs and the other oil companies that there were some unpublicised features of the agreement made between the Prime Minister and Esso-BHP. I quote Mr John O’Neill, a man of very considerable experience and prestige in legal circles. On Friday he stated:
The implementation of the policy-
Which the Prime Minister announced - now appears had been the subject of an agreement not disclosed at the time of the Prime Minister’s statement nor indeed at last Wednesday’s conference. The Government’s policy will, it is believed, inevitably result in hardship to the public through increased prices of oil products.
The Prime Minister’s statement on oil was made in the absence of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), presumably without much advice from Treasury officials, without consultation with the industry in general and probably without consultation with the Government’s own oil adviser, Dr Frankel, who has said that in the 1970s the cost of imported oil will drop. The Prime Minister played this matter very close to his chest. He was anticipating a general election. He was out-manoeuvred and out-smarted by the smartest operators, the biggest operators in one of the toughest businesses in (he world. It is no wonder that the statement of 10th October has not been debated in Parliament. No wonder the Prime Minister did not want to debate it. A debate would have revealed either his ignorance of what he had done or that he had deliberately kept the House in ignorance of what had been done.
– Would you substantiate that?
– You will not have ‘a debate on it. Let us have a debate on it.
– You will not substantiate it.
– On 9th October- the day before - the Prime Minister made a statement on the Tariff Board’s report which was eagerly awaited. There had been no matter coming from an advisory body on which there had been so much speculation. In moving the adjournment of the debate the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) pressed the Prime Minister to assure the House that there would be an early opportunity to debate the subject. The Prime Minister said:
The only answer 1 can give is to say that I shall not deliberately hold up the debate.
These are two matters which have been on the notice paper where the Prime Minister made a statement in the House and where, very reasonably, not only the Opposition but also Government members would seek to have time to examine them. But there has been no resumption of the debate. If it had not been for our motion which is now being debated there would be no opportunity for members to speak on these subjects in the Parliament this year. Yet, can there be a more vital matter than the use of our most precious new resources - oil - or the question of tariffs, a matter which is not exceeded in importance by any other subject in the eyes of manufacturers, employees, farmers, consumers and the whole economy.
I have mentioned these cases of the MLC Co. and the Tariff Board report because they have created very great confusion indeed in business circles. Then there is a matter concerning the biggest business in Australia for which the Government itself is directly responsible and one in which there has been more confusion than in any business that we could care to think of - namely, the Post Office, Australia’s biggest employer. If a private corporation of such importance had the industrial record of the Post Office under the Gorton Government, we would be looking at management; we would not be fobbing off responsibility and putting the blame on the employees. This was the first problem facing the Prime
Minister after he took office. On 17th January of this year, the Prime Minister admitted:
There is an underlying malaise in the Post Office.
But there has been no legislation to deal with this problem. No debate has taken place in the Parliament concerning this matter.
In fact, the Prime Minister does not seem to have clarified his mind since his background briefing on 2nd February when he was asked:
Have you given any thought to taking the postal unions out of the Public Service proper?
Some thought has been given to it. But that is not to be construed into any suggestion that something will be done, or might be done or is likely to be done, lt is just that the matter has not escaped attention.
The only thing which has been done is to permit the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to follow a wilfully provocative policy against the Post Office unions. These unions have been supported by the whole Australian trade union movement. The problems of the Post Office cannot be solved by engendering public hostility against postal employees. Quite clearly we ought to do what the former DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs has advised and what is done in most comparable countries. We should make the Post Office a statutory corporation.
Development and welfare problems are said to have been the reasons for the Government not wanting to come to any premature decisions in defence matters. Let us look at the record in development and in welfare. The Prime Minister has given the impression that he is interested particularly in matters of development and welfare. What then is the record? First of all, 2 years ago, there was a commitment for a national water resources development programme over 5 years to cost $50m. New South Wales still has not seen the the colour of the Commonwealth’s money - none of the $50m - yet.
Then there is the matter of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Prime Minister told the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) on the second day that Parliament sat after he became Prime Minister: . . it should not be thought that (he Authority is idle. My information is, for example, that the Authority has been retained by the New South Wales Government to provide engineering assistance and advice in connection with the building of the Eastern Suburbs Railway.
I must confess that 1 have found no other reference that the Prime Minister has made to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. This is of no comfort to the people in Melbourne and Sydney who, last year, were suffering from a drought and to the people in the national capital and the Victorian capital who experienced water rationing. It is of no consolation to people only 20 or 30 miles away and on the far south coast of New South Wales who are suffering from a drought at the moment, lt is monstrous that in this country we should be winding up an authority with its investigation, design and construction teams at a time when bur demands for water for industrial and settlement purposes has never been so great. We are conspicuously failing in this field.
I pass to the other matter of preoccupation which the Prime Minister has given as an excuse for not running into overseas commitments too early, lt is the general question of welfare. What has happened? The age pension, the basic pension, buys no more than it did 2 years ago when a Budget last gave an increase in pensions. Whenever the Opposition asked questions about pensions it used to be told that the matter was always considered by the Cabinet on the eve of the Budget. Now we are told that a Committee of Ministers is considering the matter. None of those Ministers is in the Cabinet. The matter in relation to which the greatest number of questions have recently been asked in health. Here the Government has the standby alibi that the Nimmo Committee is looking into medical and hospital benefit funds. In fact the Committee’s terms of reference have been deliberately limited to the voluntary health insurance scheme.
This Government should have done at least what the Canadian Federal Government did. That Government appointed a committee which was free to be objective in its inquiries, and it was able to report that the decision which the Canadian people could have to make is whether they wished to pay $ 1,020m in Canadian currency for physician services in 1971 for a programme administered by the insurance industry or $837m for a programme administered by government agencies. If the Prime Minister had had his way the Australian people would be given no choice. They will have a choice only because the Labor Party was able to secure the appointment of a Senate select committee with terms of reference far more comprehensive than those of the Government’s inquiry behind which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) constantly hides. It is all very well to say that these things are being attended to, but another year has gone by with nothing being done for the sick, the poor or the aged. 1 pass now to other omissions of the Government. I have already dealt with matters in relation to which the Ministry, usually the Prime Minister, has announced some policy or has given some undertaking. I have mentioned undertakings that there would be a defence review, that there would be legislation on the MLC shares, that there would be a debate on oil policy, and that there would be a debate on tariff policy. In the meantime the Prime Minister no less has been preoccupied with matters of development and welfare. There are many other matters my colleagues will develop in greater length. A great number of official recommendations await the Government’s attention. Let me refer to some in the field of transport. In June 1966 the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner made a report on the construction of a standard gauge railway line between Port Augusta and Whyalla. He has since completed a survey of the route. In June 1967 the Commissioner made a report on an alternative route from Port Augusta to Alice Springs via Tarcoola or Kingoonya. The present line was out of action because of floods for 33 days last year, and for 43 days in the first half of this year.In February of this year the Commissioner made the latest of several reports on a standard gauge railway line between Port Pirie and Adelaide.
I suppose we must be patient in these matters. It is 19 years since the Commonwealth agreed to standardise all the broad gauge railway lines and rolling stock in South Australia. After 19 years there is still delay in linking Adelaide to the New South Wales and Western Australian system, which are now joined by a standard gauge line through South Australia, and we find that Adelaide will still be detached from its markets to the east and to the west long after the standard gauge line across Australia has been completed.
– What about Melbourne?
– It is possible to travel from Adelaide to Melbourne without break of gauge, but it is not possible to go by the direct and most economical route, without break of gauge, between Adelaide and its customers in Sydney and Brisbane and Perth, and it will not be possible to do so until at last the Commonwealth carries out its undertaking of 19 years ago to link Adelaide with Port Pirie by a standard gauge line.
The reports of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner have been available for months and years. Now the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has decided that it is more economical to send steel to New South Wales from Whyalla by rail than by sea, but still the Commonwealth hesitates to provide a railway between Whyalla and Port Augusta. Such a railway would be a very profitable undertaking. In the years since a standard gauge line was provided to link Sydney and Melbourne without break of gauge the traffic between those two centres has doubled. Here we have a very clear example of a project in which the initiative must be with the Commonwealth. The State cannot do the job; private companies cannot do it. The official advice has been tendered but the Government has done nothing about it. We are now in a situation, for the first time in decades, in which we are importing railway rolling stock. Hundreds of wagons are coming in for the mineral railways in Western Australia, although we could manufacture in Australia wagons of similar capacity and quality.
I come to shipping. It emerged some months ago that the Government was negotiating with the Port Line Ltd or some other shipping companies to engage in overseas trade. My deputy on 28th August asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) whether during his visit overseas he would pursue these negotiations. The
Prime Minister himself answered the question and said that this would be one of the matters which the Minister for Trade and Industry would discuss. But when the Minister returned this month neither he nor the Prime Minister would answer any question about this matter. Again there is the question of shipping on the Queensland coast. For years the Queensland and Federal conservative Governments have refused to agree to permit the Australian National Line to operate between Queensland ports. Foreign ships are to carry bauxite from one Queensland port to another because the only Commonwealth ships which could do so will not be able to remain in the trade. They cannot sail under their own flag between one State port and another.
The concluding example in the transport field is that of shipbuilding. Never has so long a time elapsed without the Tariff Board being asked to make a report on the shipbuilding industry. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has sought Commonwealth assistance to extend its shipyards at Whyalla so that it can build the larger ships required for the coastal and overseas trade, but the Commonwealth has not yet given the company a reply.
I pass now to another pending matter. This is not just an official recommendation; it is a ministerial project. I refer to the proposal of the Minister for Trade and Industry for an Australian industry development corporation. He has been proposing the establishment of this body since July 1966. When I asked him in March how far he had got with it he said: ‘The matter has not come before the new Cabinet but I have had a discussion with the Prime Minister about it’. When I next ventured to ask, in August, he said that the time was not yet propitious to bring it up in Cabinet. When will the time be propitious to bring up this project which will help Australians to develop their own resources with their own capital?
I pass then to another matter of overall development - decentralisation. This matter was raised at the Premiers Conference in July 1964. It was given to a committee. The committee met twice. It gave it to two subcommittees. They gave it to two universities. For over 4 years nothing has been done about regional development on a national or State or local government co-operative basis. 1 come to another rural matter, this time in the Governor-General’s Speech. Tt is not one Minister’s project; it is the whole Government’s commitment. The Governor-General stated:
In the field of rural industry my Government will introduce legislation to provide, over the next 4 years, up to $25m to be used towards the reconstruction of the dairying industry.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) made a statement on it outside the House in the middle of March. Nothing has happened in the Parliament about it since.
Now 1 pass to other matters in the Governor-General’s Speech, lt was stated that the Government would quickly make and publish decisions on Sir Leslie Melville’s report on the portability of superannuation benefits within the public sector. They have not been published. I do not think the decisions have been made. His Excellency also forecast legislation for the creation of a Commonwealth superior court and measures relating to cheques and the Tokyo Convention on Crimes on Aircraft. The court was authorised by Cabinet in December 1962. On 24th October 1968 the Attorney-General said that we would be lucky if the court were established by the end of next year. In fact, the court will not at first be authorised to hear appeals from administrative tribunals. A special committee was finally commissioned on 29th October to consider this particular aspect. The Tokyo Convention on Crimes on Aircraft was drawn up in September 1963. The late Mr Holt, when Treasurer, appointed a committee in April 1962 to recommend a new Cheques Act. He received its report in May 1964.
Another legal matter antedates the Governor-General’s Speech. Three years ago the Minister for Defence told me. that a new military code of discipline would be introduced at the earliest practicable date. Two and a half years ago he stated that the Government was making most extrordinary efforts to bring the code right up to date. A month ago he told me that his objective was to introduce legislation in the next session. The Death Penalty Abolition Bill was passed by the Senate on 4th June 1968. After I and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) had moved and seconded its second reading in this House the Attorney-General asked that the debate be adjourned, and he and other Government supporters voted against the motion to permit the debate to proceed. The man who was under sentence of death at that time in the Northern Territory has now had his life spared and his mind destroyed. For 6 months parliamentary and judicial processes were stultified while a battle raged in Cabinet between the hangers and the anti-hangers.
I conclude by referring to the Government’s relations with the States. These are very largely matters concerning cities. In July the State Housing Ministers conveyed, through the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), the view that urban redevelopment was a matter of urgent national significance calling for maximum participation by all the appropriate authorities concerned at the Federal, State and local government levels. The meeting of Premiers last month resolved:
Whilst they arc not prepared to agree to local government representation at future meetings between the Commonwealth and the Status, the Premiers indicate that they will be willing to attend a special meeting, at which representatives of local government will be present, to consider local government finance in relation to FederalState financial relations, if such a meeting is called by the Commonwealth.
What are the chances of such a meeting being called? The late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, was to have had a meeting with the Premiers early this year. The new Prime Minister stalled it. The Federal conference of the Liberal Party put pressure on, and now there will be a meeting of the Liberal State and Federal leaders early next year to discuss matters of Liberal philosophy in Federal-State financial relations. These will not be discussions in the family, as the Prime Minister stated they would be in the House last February. They will bc in the context where the Premier of Victoria can call the Federal Treasurer paranoic and say he is talking absolute rubbish; where a Liberal Minister in New South Wales can say that the Federal Government has never put up a better performance to go out of office and that he will not lift a finger to help them. The Premier of Victoria has said that the Treasurer cannot be believed.
The simple fact is that no amount of tinkering with Commonwealth-Stale financial relations will overcome the explosive problems, particularly in the two exploding fields in Australia - schools, both government and non-government, and cities, both capital and provincial. It is these two areas which are chiefly responsible for the distortion of State Budgets and the stresses on local government finance. Only specific Commonwealth grants to schools and cities and Commonwealth machinery to coordinate them can do anything effective to solve these problems.
I have mentioned in my speech some dozen or fifteen Ministers and matters for which they are responsible. But basically the fault is at the top. The Public Service has never been so demoralised. Whom was the Minister for External Affairs talking about last night? Why was he taken to tusk in Cabinet this morning about it? Business has never been so anxious and confused. Government backbenchers have never been so confused or in such disarray. All their slogans and propaganda and polemics have collapsed. If they were free to vote in accordance with their consciences or rather their fears, they too would vote with us to express no confidence in the Gorton Government.
– ls the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.
– This must surely he the lowest level motion of want of confidence that this or any other Parliament has heard. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in the closing words of his address to the House, said that he had mentioned fifteen Ministers. What a pity there are more. If he had had time to do so, he would have gone round all the traps. But as it was, in the best tradition of Donnybrook, he has hit wherever he sees a head. To pursue the honourable gentlemen into every corner of the kind of dissertation that he has given, as he thought, for the edification but actually the boredom of this Parliament and the people, would leave one busier than a terrier in a mouse plague. It is the easiest thing in the world to go through a developing country of this kind and mention all the things that remain to be done. As long as the honourable gentleman remains in this Parliament, and any time is much too long, and as long his successors sit on the opposite benches, as they will for a long time to come, it will always be possible for somebody to give a list of the things which remain to be done. But if we were to have a look at the very real achievements - the extraordinary achievements - in this country then, of course, we would find that the scales would be more than counterbalanced.
Wherever one looks today there is, on every hand, the signs of growth and stability and a great future. Population has grown and industry has expanded; we have developed national resources; we have provided defence for the country; our foreign relations have never been in better shape. Yet these are the kinds of things which the honourable gentleman prefers to run round, while singling out those things that remain, as there will always be things remaining, to be done. The Leader of the Opposition was very careful about his timing. Although I am not one usually to quote gossip columns in a newspaper, and certainly a Sunday newspaper, I was intrigued with a paragraph in a paper last Sunday which said that the Labor Party has carefully avoided moving any sooner - that is this motion of want of confidence - for fear of providing the Government with an excuse for an early election. The honourable gentleman and his Party do particularly well because a debate of this kind, if it had taken place before the people of this country at the time of an election, would certainly have returned this Government with an even bigger majority than it has today. The honourable gentleman is particularly wise not to produce a poor debate of this kind on the eve of an election.
The reaction to such a debate was shown in a newspaper yesterday. As I say, I am not given to quoting items of this nature from a newspaper. However, one Sydney newspaper conducted a quick survey of nine people. That is hardly a statistical sampling. Six out of the nine made comments such as these:
Everything seems to be running smoothly. Why should the Opposition upset things with this silly motion?
Another comment was:
It’s ridiculous. The country is being run very well. John Gorton and his Government are doing a fine job.
Six out of nine people expressed opinions of this kind. Of the others, one said that even if the motion were good it would not achieve anything, and another was a newcomer who did not have any opinion. That is broadly the type of reception that a debate of this kind will get.
The honourable gentleman chose to commence his speech by referring to defence. That is a fairly predictable approach. Ever since a government of the honourable gentleman’s persuasion closed down Australia’s defences at the end of the last war with indecent haste and afterwards drove the United States out of a military base that could have been of tremendous importance to the maintenance of peace in the western Pacific, ‘ we have always been entitled to question how deep, how sincere and how genuine the Opposition’s concern about defence matters is. Let us consider the Opposition’s performance on this aspect. The Notice Paper and question time give a fair reflection of the matters that concern honourable members and, through them, the community. The Leader of the Opposition has some 103 questions on notice. One sees him pencilling furiously at almost every opportunity. Of the questions he has placed on notice only eight relate to defence and five of them deal with relatively minor administrative matters, all important in themselves, and certainly not with the kind of policy about which he complains in the House. No questions have been put to me on defence in the House in the last fortnight and in this time no questions have been put to my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), whose Service is the busiest of the three. I presume that this comment will produce a spate of questions tomorrow.
During the debate on the Budget, when the Leader of the Opposition moved a motion not completely dissimilar from that which we are now debating, he did not say one word about defence during the 45 minutes or so that he spoke. I seem to recall that he had unlimited time available to him. If he wants to plead that he left defence to be dealt with by some other members of his Party T reply that their contribution was pretty lightweight as well. Yet the appropriation for defence was the biggest single item in the Budget except for payments to and for the States. Then we come to adjournment debates. Defence has hardly been mentioned during any adjournment debate in the House over the last month.
Yet. as I say, the matters raised during adjournment debates and question time are the real pointers to the activities of the Opposition in the Parliament. These two occasions are designed to provide an avenue that can be used by an active Opposition to question the Government in depth and to raise matters of immediate public interest. The Opposition has failed to take advantage of those opportunities. When one examines the debate on the Estimates it is only to find again that hardly any mention was made of defence policy.
The honourable gentleman, in the course of censuring the Government today, complained that there is inadequate opportunity to discuss matters of importance in the Parliament. When the papers on the Fill contract were tabled in the House the Opposition had no difficulty in expending itself; yet it had all the time it wanted. The Opposition has had no difficulty in raising matters of definite public importance - the so-called urgency motions. When the Opposition claimed that the Government ought to close certain waters to the north of Australia it had no difficulty in bringing on an urgency debate, only to be told that its approach to the whole question was completely irresponsible as the demands it was making would not be countenanced by the International Court of Justice and would only throw this country into the most tremendous difficulties.
When the Government was charged last week with failure to protect our fishing rights in northern Australian waters, the Opposition had no difficulty once again in bringing on discussion of that subject as a matter of urgent public importance. As with so many things in this Parliament, on that issue we are dealing with new legislation. We are likely to be dealing with people with whom we have the most friendly relations. It is not the task, function or wish of this Government to police new legislation of this kind immediately and before the governments of friendly nations have been warned of the possible consequences of intrusion. We are charged with doing nothing about this or that, but it is rather interesting to note that at the very time when we were debating this matter last week the Navy was standing by and the following morning arrested an intruder within Australia’s 12-mile fishing limit. The intruder was from a friendly nation.
The Government goes about its business in a responsible fashion and not in response to the kind of nonsense that has been put to us across the table. The Opposition had no difficulty today in moving a motion of want of confidence. In all these matters, if the Opposition is not satisfied with the level of debate on some matter of urgent public importance, the initiative rests with the Opposition. The fact is that in the past it has failed to exercise it. Either it has been lazy or it has had no case worthy of submission to this Parliament. Merely to go round the traps and to demand more of this and more of that, as the Leader of the Opposition has done this afternoon, is not to have a policy. We have heard nothing from the Opposition about an alternative policy. To demand that we do this and that we do that when we are busy using the entire resources of the country for something else with a higher priority is not to have a policy worthy even of an opposition. Yet this is the sum total of the potential Labor Party policy to which we have been exposed this afternoon.
If one goes around the gallup polls to get a measure of the popularity of the Opposition, one finds that since the beginning of 1968 the Labor Party at best has been 5% below where it stood at the end of 1967. The Government is 2% below its peak but is well ahead of the figure in June 1967. What the Leader of the Opposition complains of is that this Government has lost its popularity under its new Prime Minister. This claim is demonstrably wrong. Half a dozen of the polls that measure public opinion throughout this country have made it clear that the House and the people have not lost confidence in the Government. Rather, the people have lost confidence in the Opposition. To move a want of confidence motion in this House is to suggest that there ought to be a change of government. Yet here we have had an opposition in this Parliament for nearly 20 years, demoralised, split into factions, with two leaders in each House of the Parliament all going their separate ways. Who knows what kind of policy the people would get if they selected a Labor government? No doubt they would get that kind of policy to which the late William Morris Hughes referred when he described something as a matter for prayer and lamentation.
The Government does not take any want of confidence motion lightly; nor should the Opposition use lightly the machinery of moving a want of confidence motion. Indeed it can be charged with irresponsibility in seeking to disclose to the world that there is a division in the Australian people in their support for the Government at a time when it is engaged in the most far reaching and most important kind of negotiations in that part of the world which is turbulent and in which our future lies. The Opposition ought to be a little more careful about moving a want of confidence motion if it has nothing more to support it than the kind of nonsense that we have had from the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. If the motion disclosed genuine interest by the Labor Party in matters of national defence, there would be extreme gratification on our part and, no doubt, on the part of the people of this country.
Surely a condition precedent to this motion is that the Opposition should have a sensible alternative because, as 1 pointed out, it is inviting the Parliament to change the government. We have not seen the emergence of a defence or foreign policy on the part of the Opposition. It pays lip service to the American alliance and then proceeds to attack it whenever possible. The Opposition is no doubt encouraged by comments in the Press dealing with defence, the defence programme, the strategic assessment and so on. For my Department, and indeed for the Government, I say that we are glad to have a public expression of views. We have no monopoly of ideas. But I suggest that we have available to us a tremendous amount of information from diplomatic and intelligence sources. One would therefore expect that our information is better than that generally available. Opinion is passed upon that information by experts who have spent their lives in the assessment of strategic situations and the ways by which we should meet the demands of such situations. In response to the public need for reasoned information, this Government will surely present a defence programme for the future as soon as possible.
We have been far from inactive. Of course, the Opposition knows very well, as we all know very well, that the public knows we were aware of the likelihood of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from South East Asia. We have been working on that not only in association with the United Kingdom but also in association with countries of South East Asia. Today we are in the closest harmony ever with Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. A few days ago, negotiations and discussions on the implementation of our programmes were being carried on with the nations of Malaysia and Singapore. The House and the people know that we were represented at a five-power conference in Kuala Lumpur. We indicated there our willingness 10 make certain conditional contributions to the defence of the South East Asian area. The conditions have been in process of being hammered out ever since. The Government will surely give its thought to those matters when they can be fully presented.
It is one thing to say that we are aware that there will be an end to the Vietnam situation. Who can tell when the Vietnam war will finish, what kind of peace will emerge and what kind of policies will be followed thereafter by the interested nations? However, these would be matters about which we would have little doubt if the Opposition had its way. because there would be victory for the Communists in Vietnam. Then we would know what kind of policies we would have to deal with. Our Government is a little more responsible than that. We have gone along with the United States in the moves that have begun in the last few weeks. We support its initiative in going to Paris. We have encouraged the South Vietnamese to participate in these peace talks when conditions arc satisfactory to them. Urgently do we hope and pray that we will see a satisfactory peace come out of that situation.
We are being called upon at the present moment to reassess the strategic possibilities for this country far into the future. If they are to diverge from our judgment of the facts in the very early stages, the end divergence will be such that our plans for the future might be useless and hopeless. The Government is not so irresponsible. At this stage there is no threat immediately facing this country. We therefore have a reasonable amount of time, not to be irresponsibly frittered away but to be responsibly used to make a proper assessment of the likely developments in our sphere of interest in the period ahead. When this can be done responsibly and in association with our allies and the other nations of the world that have a vital and vast interest in this corner of the world, we will be able to adopt a defence programme that is meaningful for the future safety and security of our own country.
It would be foolish to believe that we had the power, even if we wanted to do so, to do anything like going it alone in South East Asia. In our future associations with South East Asia quite definitely we must work with other nations of the region, because we have a joint interest in the security and development of that part of the world. Who can doubt that we depend heavily on what the programme and policy of the United States are likely to be? Who would want to move ahead of the clarification by the United States of its attitudes towards the end of the war in Vietnam, the likely peace which will follow and the conditions which will prevail throughout South East Asia and the western Pacific after the end of the war in Vietnam? These are matters which are vital to any consideration of what we might be able to do and what we should do in the South Pacific area. Until these matters are further clarified we will not in decency be able to sum up the strategic situation, to develop from that strategic situation a defence policy of real value and to follow on with the defence programme that will contribute to that policy.
The honourable gentleman made some song and dance this afternoon about Fill. I will not argue much about this matter. Honourable members opposite may laugh, but every time we have had an argument about Fill somehow the Opposition has been silenced in the end. We have been through it so often, on no occasion the Labor Party coming up with anything new. In 1963 the Leader of the Opposition demanded that the Government have a strike capacity in its Air Force. Forthwith the Government bought Fill. The honourable gentleman said that he would have bought Phantoms. Let me tell him that Phantom is deficient in range. The honourable gentleman said that West Germany is buying Phantoms and Japan is talking about buying them, so why does Australia not buy them? Does he understand so little about air strategy that he really believes that nations like West Germany and Japan want the kind of long range heavy bombers that we want for our particular requirements? He knows better, but he finds this a cheap kind of argument with which to try to beguile the public. May I remind him that the West Germans have bought Phantom at $5. 83m a copy. Fill, which is a vastly superior aircraft in every respect - range, payload, reconnaissance capability, penetration - will cost us $5.95m each. The honourable gentleman should have a second look at the mathematics of this kind of situation.
The Leader of the Opposition tries to tell us that there is a hiatus in the defence programme. This Government does not regard as sacred a 3-year defence programme. A 3-year programme for defence preparations is not something which cuts off at a particular date and leaves you with nothing to go on with. Does anybody suppose that the Government says: ‘Let us think no more about defence. We have a programme up to a particular date and when the period expires we will think about the matter’. It is arrant nonsense to suggest anything of the kind. The honourable gentle man lies when he says that no defence orders have been placed since 1965. Th very patrol boats to which he referred wei ordered post-1965. It is very interesting h. hear him talk about patrol boats and to say that the extra twenty which we want have not yet been ordered; that it will be 3 years before we get them. At this stage the Government does not believe that we need another twenty patrol boats of this particular type. I will not say that we will not look at patrol boats of a different type for a different purpose.
The honourable gentleman does us the honour of trying to make up our minds as to what we need, notwithstanding his deficiencies in that field, and then complains that we do not take his bad advice. May I remind him that the 3-year defence programme which expired, as far as planning is concerned, in June last year was really to encompass the most far-going reorganisation and re-equipment of :he defence services of this country that Australia has ever known. This is not something which goes on from year to year al that rate. It was a once programme to re-equip the armed Services. Not ail of the equipment bought in that programme has yet been delivered. The Navy is to get two more destroyers. We are awaiting delivery in January and August next year of two new submarines. Seven patrol boats are yet to come into service. The ‘Melbourne’ is under refit. ‘Vampire’ and ‘Vendetta* are under refit. Ikara is being fitted io two more destroyers. The Army has helicopters coming, as well as more fixed wing aircraft and armoured personnel carriers. Three Mirage aircraft remain to be delivered. We wait on Fill. Macchi is to deliver fiftyseven aircraft. Navigational trainers are coming. And so on. There is a long list of items still to come into service. When these items come into service they have to be manned. Their crews have to be trained; ships have to be commissioned. Does this look like a programme which came to a dead halt 6 months ago? Nothing of the sort.
The honourable gentleman had something to say about the air base at Amberley. He said that nothing was ever mentioned about extensions of the runway al Amberley. I remind him that in my statement last May about defence - he complained that we do not debate these things in the House - I said:
Consideration is being given to further runway extensions at Amberley to upgrade the safety factor for the Fills and their crews during certain phases of training. Provisions of this kind have to be made for any new operational aircraft joining the RAAF.
The honourable gentleman got himself into a fine tangle in suggesting which air bases can be used for Fill. He knows very well that with aircraft of this kind there has to be a home base for maintenances and basic training. Amberley has been selected. Airily and nonsensically the honourable gentleman suggested that it would be better to have our training area on the other side of the continent. So he is prepared now to nominate the use to which we will put the aircraft. Part of the expenditure on this programme about which he complained is expenditure incurred in providing equipment to allow us to deploy this aircraft forward of its home base at Amberley to encompass the kind of situation which the honourable gentleman now demands. In other words, here is a case where the honourable gentleman should not be concerned. Indeed he should be tremendously satisfied that we have provided for those very things which he demands. Given a little time, patience and good sense, of which the honourable gentleman is certainly capable, all of the things about which he complains will be taken care of.
– This is a serious debate, as was acknowledged by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who, in replying to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), said that the Government accepted the motion as one of no confidence in the Government. But where is the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in this debate? This would be the first occasion on which the Opposition has moved want of confidence in the Government when the Prime Minister of the day has not immediately replied to the Leader of the Opposition. What is the reason this? If the Prime Minister were interested to hear what members of the Opposition say in the debate surely he would have the courtesy to remain in the House. But he has left the chamber. I am pretty certain that the former Prime Minister, the late Harold Holt, in these circumstances would have replied immediately to the Leader of the Opposition. I am equally certain that Sir Robert Menzies would not have missed the opportunity of immediately dealing with the case submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister has relegated himself to fourth or fifth position on the list of Government speakers in the debate. He will speak this evening. We are expected to believe that he wants to reply to the Leader of the Opposition after 8 p.m. at a good time for radio listeners. The Prime Minister does not believe this; nor do the members who sit behind him and neither does the Opposition. The plain fact is that the Prime Minister has not been prepared to accept the challenge issued by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister will remember only too well the last occasion on which he followed the Leader of the Opposition. He indicated clearly not only to the members of the Opposition but also to the members of the Government that he was not equal to the task and to the moment. So, the Prime Minister will be speaking this evening. This is the first occasion - I think that everyone ought to appreciate this clearly - on which a Prime Minister has not been prepared to accept a challenge issued by a Leader of the Opposition in a want of confidence motion.
The Prime Minister has walked out of the chamber and he will be back here some time this evening. He has passed to the Minister for Defence the immediate responsibility of replying to the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for Defence is a senior member of the Cabinet, but the plain fact is that the charges made against the Government in this want of confidence motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, who covered many subjects, should have been answered immediately by the Prime Minister. However, the Prime Minister refused to accept the challenge and the people of Australia will be entitled to place on the action of the Prime Minister the interpretation that one would expect them to place on it.
The Minister for Defence spoke for some minutes on defence matters and during the course of his address he said that the Opposition should take the opportunity of stating what it would do on these matters. I want to accept the challenge. Since I am confining my remarks to matters of defence I will take the opportunity of pointing out to the Minister for Defence and to the Government what the Opposition would do in the same circumstances. The last defence review was presented to this House by Sir Robert Menzies on 10th November 1964. There had been a similar review 18 months earlier, in May 1963. On the triennial basis of defence planning adopted by the Government there should have been a normal 3-year defence review in November last year. This should have been on the lines, adopted by Sir Robert Menzies, of outlining the strategic position as the Government saw it and listing Government action designed to fulfil its objectives.
The Opposition had many objections to the 3-year defence review presented by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964. We did not agree with his account of the strategic position in South East Asia, in particular with his conventional statement of the domino theory and the threat of China. We found the system of selective conscription, introduced in the review, abhorrent and unwarranted. We criticised military purchases listed by Sir Robert Menzies as dictated by politics rather than by practical requirements. We said that purchases of these particular items of military hardware had not been justified by cost effectiveness techniques. Nevertheless, the former Prime Minister did present to the House a comprehensive defence programme designed to implement Government defence policies. The assumptions of this review may have been based on foundations of straw but it was a viable attempt to strengthen Australia’s defence in the light of the Government’s interpretation of the strategic picture in South East Asia. Whatever reservations and criticisms of this defence programme can be held in retrospect, it was immesurably superior to the sorry record of this Government in forming defence policy.
This year has seen the greatest debacle ever in Australian defence planning. In May the Minister for Defence was scheduled to make a full defence statement which could reasonably have been expected to be the defence review due last November. Instead the Minister’s statement was reduced to absurdity and incoherence by a Prime Minister who then, as now, was completely unwilling to accept responsibility for the future of Australia’s defences. During his memorable visit to America the Prime Minister denied that there would be a defence review. He said in Washington on 28th May that the Government would be looking at defence in the context of the Budget and that there would not be a 3-year plan or anything of that kind. When he returned to Australia the right honourable gentleman had a sharp change of mind. He told the National Press Club in Canberra on 20th June that a new strategic assessment would be prepared for the Defence Committee and that this would be the basis of assessment for Australia’s future role. It appears that this strategic re-assessment was made and was available to the Defence Committee in August. In the months since, despite persistent questions from the Opposition, the Prime Minister has been evasive on whether this re-assessment would produce a new defence review. This evasiveness, abetted by his completely contradictory statements on Australia’s defence policies, has alarmed Australia’s allies and, in particular, has retarded defence planning in Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand. It has produced extreme uneasiness among the
Prime Minister’s supporters, in influential sections of the Press, in the Services and in the community at large.
The complete lack of urgency in the planning of Australia’s defences has been emphasised by the steady stream overseas of senior Ministers and members of the Defence Committee in the past 2 months. This has made impossible the serious study of the strategic re-assessment by the Defence Committee, although the Prime Minister said in Ibis House that Ministers while overseas had copies of the re-assessment with them, and would be in a position to communicate, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out. either by telex or telephone. This evokes the absurd picture of Australia’s future defence policies being hammered out by a group of wandering Ministers in long distance telephone hook-ups and teleprinter messages. Now. in the dying weeks of this sessional period, the Prime Minister and his Government have been goaded by extreme public concern and alarm into the hurried appreciation of the strategic reassessment, lt is impossible to excuse this dilatory and slapdash approach to planning and projecting Australia’s defence into the 1970s. lt has been suggested that uncertainty over the United States presidential elections has dictated this extreme lethargy. This is not a viable excuse because the most important strategic development confronting Australia - the British withdrawal from east of Suez - has nothing whatever to do with the United States elections. On lbc other crucial issue in South East Asia - Vietnam - the Prime Minister cannot claim that the United States election was a cause of uncertainty because his Government and its predecessors have always been tied totally to American policies and American response. Whatever an American President, be it President Johnson or President Nixon, does in Vietnam, this Government will follow. In these circumstances, the excuse of the American presidential election falls Hat. The election will have no impact on the expedited rate of withdrawal of the British. lt has been certain for at least a year that any future American Government will not attempt to take over the role of the British in South East Asia.
The fact that Britain would withdraw from South East Asia by the early 1970s has been apparent for several years. In this time the Government has failed to draw up contingency plans to harmonise Australia’s defence policies with this withdrawal. Now with the withdrawal of the bulk of British forces from bases in Malaysia imminent, the Australian Government has no clear idea on whether it will retain its forces in Malaysia and Singapore. Although it has had at least 2 years to prepare for British withdrawal of its land forces, the Government remains divided and confused on what Australia’s response should be. The validity of the forward defence policy on which Australia’s defence has been based by successive Liberal-Country Party governments hinges on this crucial decision. The Labor Party has never been in doubt about its position. It is our declared policy that the bulk of Australian forces should be concentrated on the mainland of Australia. Accordingly we believe that the infantry battalion in Malaysia should be withdrawn to this country. This does not mean that we favour the sort of fortress Australia policy which has been hinted at by the Prime Minister.
We do not oppose (he retention of some military units in Malaysia and Singapore. With the British withdrawal we believe that these major allies should be given full assistance by the provision of specialist staff and equipment. The Australian Labor Party supports the provision of increased Australian resources for the training of troops and the supply of equipment. In particular, we do not oppose the stationing of elements of our Navy and Air Force in Malaysia and Singapore. But it is the contention of the Opposition that Australia’s strategic frontiers are its natural boundaries and that it is totally wrong to disperse Australian military strength thinly through South East Asia. For this reason, the bulk of Australia’s forces should be concentrated on the Australian mainland. Furthermore, these forces should be given the capability for flexible deployment in South East Asia, and in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions which are vital to Australia. This would mean a substantial reorganisation of the Australian Services to give them the required mobility and flexibility.
This afternoon, when the Minister for Defence had an opportunity to indicate to the House what the Government proposed in respect of these matters, he had nothing to say. We are still waiting for the 3-year defence review. While the Minister for Defence may take the opportunity to chide members of the Opposition about the opportunities that have been presented in this House to bring forward matters relating to the defence programme, I take the opportunity to remind him that on two occasions in this House I have had to move want of confidence motions in respect of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). Wc have dealt extensively with the question of the FI 1 ) aircraft. We have replied to the supposed 3-year defence review statement made earlier this year by the Minister for Defence. That was not the kind of statement thai the Minister for Defence wanted to make at that time. He intended to present a 3 -year defence review. Not only honourable members on this side of the House have been critical. Certainly the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), who sits at the table, last night was more critical of some of his fellow Ministers than members of the Opposition have been. But the fact remains that the Minister for Defence could not agree with the Prime Minister on what should constitute the policy of the Government on defence. Not only has this Parliament been kept waiting for a defence review but also, of equal importance, the people of this country who regard the matter of defence as one of the primary responsibilities of this Government, as indeed it is, have been waiting patiently for the Government lo announce its policies and to say what the Government intends to do in relation lo the 3-year defence programme so far as our defence forces are concerned. I believe, and the Opposition believes, that what I have said already will mean a substantial reorganisation of the Australian Services to give them the required mobility and flexibility. It will require a substantial re-equipment programme and a much more rapid process of integration of the services on a functional and mission-oriented basis. It will not be possible to achieve this reorganisation with three battalions committed to Vietnam and one garrisoned in Malaysia.
The Opposition agrees with the principle of balanced pre-positioning of specialist units, equipment and supplies in overseas bases. However, it is opposed to the prepositioning of substantial land forces in South East Asia in advance of need. Such pre-positioning of troops must cut Australia’s diplomatic flexibility by commitment in advance before considered diplomatic responses can be made. We believe that the concept of deploying ground forces overseas in advance of need is outmoded and even dangerous in the extremely fluid situation in South East Asia today. The Labor Party’s policies call for the provision of highly mobile forces which can be deployed rapidly and effectively where required. The provision of such forces will entail a complete re-thinking of procurement techniques within Australia and potential commitments overseas. The rigid division of Australian forces into individual services will be absurd and antiquated in future years when emphasis must be on airmobile forces which can be deployed swiftly from Australia and effectively supported by surface transportation.
The Opposition believes the Government should be thinking in terms of a central reserve of mobile, general purpose forces sustained by an Australian military industrial complex. This will mean the development of an Australian research and development programme geared towards the supply of helicopters, transport aircraft, and fast deployment logistics ships. These items will be necessary if Australia is to build an effective and independent defence capability. These are the sorts of policies the Government should be evolving and formulating in a compact and comprehensive defence review intended to carry our defences well into the 1970s. The Government’s most significant failure has been a complete lack of urgency in re-evaluating Australia’s defence role and planning, programming and budgeting for its implementation at least over a 5-year period. This should have been the objective of the defence review which is now shamefully overdue.
I want to examine briefly three important areas which should be covered in any defence statement made by the Prime Minister. The first is the development of research and development facilities in Australia to stimulate defence production by domestic industry. Far loo much of Australia’s defence expenditure has gone overeseas while Australian resources have either not been used or used well below potential capacity. It should be possible for an overall research and development programme to be formulated and geared to the terrain and climatic conditions in which Australian mobile forces are likely to operate. The latest ‘Defence Report’ refers to the establishment of the nucleus of a defence science organisation. This defence science branch is also allotted a prominent role in the reorganisation of the Defence Department under way at the moment. It is extremely important that this organisation be expanded and used to generate defence production within Australia. There is no reason why helicopters, transport planes and logistic ships should not be developed and built in Australia. Helicopters and transport aircraft will be essential for any sort of effective and mobile general purpose forces. The Government missed the opportunity to buy the Starlifter air transport and in the years ahead will face extreme difficulties in finding a suitable replacement for the Hercules transport. The fly away cost of the Galaxy transport which has been developed in the United States as a transport aircraft is around $US16m which is beyond Australia’s resources. This presents the opportunity for development of Australian transport aircraft suited to the airlift of mobile forces and equipment. It should also be possible to research and develop helicopters suitable for the deployment and fire support of these forces.
The second area I want to mention briefly is the cost of re-equipment and reorganisation. This is likely to be substantial unless offsetting economies can be achieved elsewhere in the defence structure. It is obvious from an examination of the defence estimates that the bulk of defence budgeting is being absorbed in basic housekeeping costs. About 70% of the budget for the three Services is absorbed in salaries, administration, repairs, maintenance, stores, accommodation and technical facilities. The amount of money available for re-equipment is dwindling while the basic administrative costs are rising rapidly. This puts a squeeze on reequipment programmes at a time when such programmes are essential if balanced and highly mobile defence forces are to be built. This Government has even found it impossible to devise a satisfactory basis for the integration of a cadet officer training school for the Services. It has consistently refused to accede to the very competent Morshead report which recommended an integration of the three Services. The Go vernment has done nothing about it. Like many other reports produced to this Government, that report has been effectively shelved. I say again that there has been no agreement within the Government on a matter of such grave importance to the future defence structure of this country as the integration of the forces, and because there has been no agreement the Morshead Report has been shelved.
I have endeavoured to accept the challenge made by the Minister for Defence that dealing with a very serious motion of this kind the Opposition should not only take the opportunity to criticise the Government for what it has not done but should indicate what the Australian Labor Party would do in relation to defence. The Government has consistently refused to face up to this very important matter during the whole of this year. Last week the Prime Minister, in reply to a question put to him, said that he hoped to have the opportunity to give some indication of the Government’s policy on defence matters before the Parliament rose, which will be either this week or next week. I have taken the opportunity this afternoon to state the Opposition’s attitude.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is always a very interesting time in the Parliament when notice is given that a want of confidence motion against the Government of the day is to be proposed. Indeed, the newspapers have naturally decided that this matter is to be the biggest issue of the session. I think it is fair to say that members on this side of the House came to Canberra today wondering what would be the approach of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and what the result would be. All we have seen and heard has been an attack by the Leader of the Opposition which, in my short experience here, has never been exceeded in its lightness of weight, appearance, and lack of thrust. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) commenced his speech by chiding the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for not accepting the challenge that his leader, the mighty knight, had thrown down. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this was the first time a Prime Minister had not directly followed a Leader of the Opposition on such an occasion. I do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has bothered to come into the chamber when the Labor Party has proposed such motions in the past, but I point out to him that both of the previous two Prime Ministers spoke later in the day when the so-called attacks were mounted by the Opposition.
In support of the Prime Minister, 1 ask: When will the censure start? If anybody was listening on the radio to what was said about defence and other matters which the Press said would be hammered home by the Labor Party specialists - the shadow Cabinet of the Labor Party - I would think that most of those people would by now have switched over to the kiddies’ session and would have thought it was more adult than what we have heard here. The Leader of the Opposition started off by giving us a 5-minute burl on defence. He covered the subject with as broad a brush as I have ever seen. Then he dealt with the fish in the Northern Territory. That is the weight the Opposition attaches to this motion. 1 find it to be quite incredible. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said, in proposing a motion of this kind, the Opposition presents itself as the alternative government of this country and tells the people what, in its opinion, the Government has failed to do and what it would do. It will take a considerable time for any newspaper reporters who may be able to get to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to find out what he was implying by this or that or to get from him any semblance of the Labor Party’s policy on defence. Neither I nor other honourable members on this side of the House could give them an answer. Nor, indeed, could honourable members on the other side, if one could get them in separate corners, supply a common answer.
Before this debate commenced today I went to the Library and asked for newspaper cuttings of Labor Party speeches over the last 4 years in respect of defence. 1 thought it would be easy to obtain some cuttings which could embarrass my distinguished friend the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns) in regard to his policy as against that of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), and the
Leader of the Opposition against the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). One could obtain half a dozen different foreign policies and defence policies from honourable members opposite. It would be harder to get an outline of Labor’s foreign policy than of its defence policy because the Opposition switches its foreign policy daily in accordance with the strength of its Federal Executive. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says in this House does not mean a pinch of snuff, because he knows that he cannot implement his policy without the approval of the Federal Executive. But he kotows to his leader, who preens himself before the public, and says that the Prime Minister is not prepared to accept his leader’s challenge.
Let us consider whether the Leader of the Opposition will have his policy propounded or accepted should an election be held. We all know that there have been changes in the redistribution of electorates and in endorsements. We are now starting to take a count to see who is winning on the other side, ls it the right or is it the left? Let the Opposition talk of speaking with one voice. The Vietnam policy and the statements of the Leader of the Opposition made interesting reading. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition returned from Vietnam he found that he had been misquoted in about 27 out of 30 newspapers throughout Australia. Let us compare what he said with what the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), said about Vietnam. When we hear the Leader of the Opposition talking of the importance of the alliance with America and of our defence arrangements with that country let us not be lulled into a sense of security. Honourable members, the Press and everybody else should go back to speeches about the Cuban situation made by the Opposition. Its shadow Cabinet made some startling remarks about the American alliance. Let us recall the North West Cape incident and Labor’s gallant support of our allies at that time. Let us recall the signing of an agreement in relation to the use of troops in Malaysia and Labor’s support at that time. We would then be in a position to decide whether the leopard has changed its spots; whether there is now any more capability, honesty or steadfastness of purpose in the Opposition.
Criticism has been offered primarily of the absence of a statement by the Government in respect of defence. I am one who has criticised the Government in respect of defence, and I could offer a considerable number of criticisms at this time. I have sat here waiting to hear how much the Opposition has learned and how much it understands. Fair dinkum, I believe that the members of the Opposition understand no more than what they read in their newspapers in the morning and on the basis of the morning’s reading they decide to make the Labor Party’s policy in respect of defence in the afternoon.
There is no doubt that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from Malaysia and Singapore will affect us and will necessitate decisions. We may have known for some time of the decision to withdraw, but let it be remembered that we were given certain assurances by a Labour government in the United Kingdom as to what its moves meant and what the Australian people and the Australian Government and the people of the other countries in this area could expect. Every 12 or 18 months since those assurances were originally given, the decision of the United Kingdom Government has been altered, with or without criticism, until ultimately came the bare statement that United Kingdom forces would be totally withdrawn. Let it be remembered that the Australian Government was negotiating with the Labour Government of the United Kingdom asking that the effects of such withdrawal should be cushioned, and discussing ways of solving the problems that would result from the resultant vacuum and would have to be faced not only by us but also by the people of Malaysia and Singapore and the other peoples of the area.
As to Vietnam, I hope and pray that my fears are groundless and that peace will come about and a settlement will be arrived at, but I must say that I doubt that this will happen. I wonder how much the support given to protests against our participation in the war in Vietnam by our noble Opposition members, who have been in the forefront of these protests and the waving of the flag of the National Liberation Front and who have been making statements about withdrawing troops, has added to the confidence in this Government held by the American Government and the American forces, and indeed our own forces. Although I could not criticise the United States 1 do wonder what the situation would be if it did leave Vietnam and we were in trouble. I know which way Opposition members, with their heroic outlook, would move.
All this brings me to the fact that there has to be a strategic assessment, an endeavour to foresee the possibilities - and nine times out of ten there are only possibilities to be foreseen. There must be some guesses as to future moves and strategies in the area in which we live. What would be the effects of a move by such and such a country in a certain direction? What can we do, either diplomatically or in some other way, to offset those effects? As I have said, I have on occasions been critical of the Government in respect of defence, but I would not like to see it come into this House and make a statement which was not fully thought out and did not take into account all the factors which must concern us. 1 hope the Government takes this strategic assessment and analyses it and then makes proper decisions. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) himself said on an earlier occasion, talking about the strategic assessment: . . against this background, and until we can get that appreciation and assess it and set it up against the facts gathered in the conferences and the journeys that have taken place, until we have examined a number of various possible alternatives for long range planning it would be irresponsible to settle long range military planning.
I agree with that wholeheartedly. Let it not be thought that in matters of this kind there are not private negotiations behind the scenes. Is it necessary for the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to come back here after a visit to overseas countries and give chapter and verse of every private conversation he had with the leaders of those countries? I can imagine that this kind of disclosure might be made by some Labor Party members, but I know for a fact that it is not made by others. I doubt that they would dare reveal those details to the Australian public. We will never, of course, have successful diplomatic relations if Ministers who conduct our affairs with other countries come back here and stand in the Parliament and reveal all.
There are problems in this world today, and in our area of it, which have to be solved. There are matters in regard to which agreements cannot be made without the associated problems being solved. Diplomatic action towards these ends is being taken at the present time. The Leader of the Opposition expressed criticism of the fact that the Prime Minister had not made a statement after the Cabinet meeting, or whatever it was, that he had this morning. But if the Prime Minister had made such a statement the Leader of the Opposition would, of course, have adopted a completely different attitude. He would have said: ‘A proper assessment has not been made. Sufficient time has not been taken.’
There are many things we must remember in this connection. We are maintaining forces in Malaysia. The British will be there until 1971. although perhaps not as strong as we would like them to be, and it is at this time and with these things in mind that we are reassessing our strategic requirements. I agree with some of the things that the Opposition has said. 1 agree that we must have in Australia a main base and that wc must not depend primarily on overseas bases, lt seemed to me that this was the only sensible thing that members of the Opposition did say. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, talking about his Party’s policy, or so called policy, referred to strike aircraft. The Labor Party’s policy itself talks about strike aircraft. The honourable member for Yarra, who was in Nunawading last night or the night before, talks about a strong base concept and the ability to strike out. But what would he strike with? The Opposition knocks all the Government’s orders of defence equipment whenever it can gain any political advantage by doing so. Opposition members talk about the Phantom aircraft. The Minister for Defence gave the House chapter and verse about this aircraft, yet the Opposition does not even mention the fact that if we purchased these aircraft we would have to purchase air refuelling units also.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to my amazement, suggested that we should build transport aircraft and helicopters and so on. Opposition speakers have said that we should have bought the Starfighter aircraft, and I agree that we should have done so. But then they speak about building the Galaxy aircraft which in the United States is costing $l6m. How could we build them in Australia? How many would we want? What would be the cost of building twenty Galaxies in Australia when we would have no market to sell any that we might manufacture here above our own requirements? What would it cost us to build a transport aircraft similar to the Hercules? 1 can only suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been hit by a codlin moth from one of the apples grown in the island from which he comes. His arguments are farcical and ridiculous.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about a mobile general reserve force situated in Australia. What is a mobile general reserve force? He then talked about integration of the cadet officers and he mentioned the Morshead report. What are the advantages and disadvantages in this? Has he ever thought these things out? I doubt it. He has read this report somewhere but did not understand it. lt has more complications than enough. How are these cadet officers to carry out their training? Will they do a certain number of years of training and then go to their respective Services? In the honourable member’s opinion, an engineer in the Navy who looks after something below decks would be the same as an engineer who has to use logs to build a bridge over a river. They are both engineers, and that is about all the honourable gentleman understands.
In conclusion let me say that I do not think this is a want of confidence motion’s bootlace, it is a disgrace to the Opposition. 1 think back to the want of confidence motions moved at the instigation of the right honourable member for Melbourne. They had some attack in them. They had the Prime Minister of the day sitting in on the debate. Indeed, they had most honourable members on this side of the House very attentive. But after listening to the first 10 minutes of the Leader of the Opposition’s censure attack today I felt that there had been collusion with the Government Whip, Mr Erwin, and as the business on the notice paper was concluded by a quarter to six last Thursday evening it was decided to keep up a show of having ari active debate in this chamber. The Opposition said: ‘Certainly, Mr Erwin, we will oblige you. What will we do? Attack the Prime Minister?’ The Opposition has not even bruised the Prime Minister. It has not impressed the Australian people. I do not think that it is fooling the Australian people for 1 minute; furthermore, I do not think that the Opposition itself believes it is fooling the Australian people.
The Prime Minister was in Maribyrnong recently at a gathering of 400 people. Maribyrnong is an electorate which I understand the Opposition thinks it can win. All I can say, judging from the reaction of the 400 people in Maribyrnong, which is an industrial area, is that the Opposition is not even scratching the surface. The people may not like some of the things we do. They criticise us on account of some of the things that we have not done. But there is no doubt in the world that with the present situation, and with what is happening in South East Asia, the Opposition, the alternative government in this country, has not even got off the ground.
– I do not want to reflect upon the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). I regard him as an estimable member of this House. I think that in a democratic assembly one person has the same right to speak as any other person. But I believe that when a censure motion is moved the first responder on the Government side ought to be the Prime Minister, because his Government is under attack. Equally, when an honourable member does not like what has been said it is easy enough for him to indicate his dislike in a number of fashions. It seems that the fashion which the honourable member for La Trobe has adopted is to attempt to pour ridicule upon the way in which things have been said. I would bring him back to the terms of our motion, which states:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of its failure and inability to make decisions on matters concerning the defence, development and welfare of Australia and its refusal and unwillingness to debate such matters in the Parliament.
I do not want to take up very much of my time in dealing with defence, except to say that it astonishes me that there is talk in this House about the Fill aircraft as though it were already successfully flying in the heavens. Of course, what has happened is that it has drained this country of over $200m of very much needed foreign exchange, it will drain it yet of a further $100m and as yet there is no definition as to its role in Australia’s future strategy. I think that the way in which the contract for the purchase of the aircraft was drawn is a reflection upon the acumen of this Government, and surely this is what we are attacking. Secondly, I refer to the rather peculiar circumstances surrounding the Mirage aircraft which is being built under licence from France. But apparently we are not allowed to arm the aircraft, because France does not like our foreign policy. It appears that this is what happens to a government when it places too much reliance on other powers, no matter how benevolent they may seem at the time of purchase, to supply it with the necessary armaments which are required to conduct its defence and foreign policies.
I was interested to read recently - and 1 think I quoted this to the House a few days ago - the preamble in the defence report for 1968 which states:
There must be the closest inter-relationship between defence policy and political and economic policies.
It seems to me that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who spoke earlier in the debate, does not realise - he certainly did not indicate that he realises - that there is a relationship between defence, development and welfare. This afternoon I want to say something about development and welfare in particular. In this field it is easy enough to say how the economy should be run and to point to Australia as having one of the most advanced economies in the world. I suppose that any government which has been in office as long as this Government has been is entitled to think that what is happening is due to its efforts.
I do not deny - and I have said this previously - that Australia has one of the soundest economies in the world; but I do not think it is as sound as it ought to be. I think that inherent in it at the present time are a number of lines of structural weakness which do not seem greatly to concern the Government at all. This is one of the matters that we want to highlight in this debate today. As I have said on another occasion, one would be foolish to say that the Australian economy is out flat; that it is in depression. I suggest that all one could say is that it is by no means flat out in terms of its capacities. My attention has been drawn today to the recent issue of the booklet titled ‘Business Indicators’, which is published by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd and which 1 received by courtesy of that bank. Surely no-one would suggest that the ANZ Bank is an enemy of the Government. But the bank takes issue with what it describes as the Government’s monetary and banking policy. The booklet states:
It would be. wasteful, and indeed would aggravate the risks of inflation, if real resources on farms and factories - of labour, management, plant and natural resources - continue to be underemployed because of psychological inhibitions, lack of enterprise or business confidence, or shortage of credit.
On page 2 of the booklet there is a chart which shows how official policy, operating via the legitimate banking system, is endeavouring to impose restraints, and how nothing is being done at the other end to harness what might be called the extrabanking part of the credit expansion. This relates to the finance companies in particular. The chart shows the growing line of disparity between the part of the credit facilities that is subject to monetary control and the part that is not subject to monetary control. Of course, this merely accentuates the present situation in Australia. We find that we are building too many motor cars in terms of the number of roads on which the cars can travel and in terms of our capacity to earn the petrol to put in the cars. Because of our standard of living the population is rising, and the number of children who want to attend school is rising faster than the capacity of the country to build schools in which to accommodate the children. This shows that there are some distortions in what might be called the economic development of this country. 1 should like to refer not only to the way in which the economy is being allowed to develop internally but also to how some of the overflow, or back flow, is being restricted so far as our external economic relationships are concerned. I draw the attention of the House to some figures which to my mind are startling. They are published in the latest issue of the document titled Overseas Participation in Australian Mining Industry’. So far there have been only two issues of this document. On page 13 the document deals with the value of production of certain minerals in Australia and divides them as between those apportioned to overseas ownership and those apportioned to Australian ownership. The run of figures is from 1963 to 1966. In 1963 the value of production apportioned to overseas ownership was $71m and that apportioned to Australian ownership was $191m - nearly two and a half times as great. By 1966 the total value of production apportioned to overseas ownership had risen from $71m to S158m - an increase in the period of S87m. In the same period the value of output apportioned to Australian ownership increased by $75m from $191 m to $266m. In other words, in a few years, the increase in output in the part apportioned to overseas ownership has been greater than that in the part apportioned to internal ownership. Of course, in the exploitation of minerals in Australia, this trend has had the effect of turning nearly 40% of the total ownership to overseas sources and only 60% remains with internal sources. The record of this Government could be described by the words: ‘So much to do, so little done’. The Government is merely hoping that something will turn up that will make the picture somewhat better than it is. I believe that this Government is characterised by its lack of coherence - a lack of any direction as to where it wants to go. The Government is hoping that the figures that will be issued at the end of the month will be good enough to enable it to say that on balance its performance has been good. No government governing in 1968 should look at things only in terms of 1969. It has to look 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years ahead. That is not done by this Government. Tt is a government that is groping. There is less coherence in it now than ever before.
It is easy to sneer about disunity on this side of the House. I have always been one to say of a political party that if it does not have differences of opinion within itself, it is dead. Sometimes out of a difference of opinion a healthy policy emerges. But for the Government to suggest that at the moment its members form one bright, happy family seems to me to be a travesty of the circumstances. The Government talks about two Labor Parties while it has differences of opinion between the two teams constituting the coalition, let alone the difference that appears within the ranks of the so-called undivided Liberal Party - this glorious band of brothers who would protect each other, come what may. This is not my idea of the situation at the moment.
The Government is not taking stock of the circumstances of economic development as they affect Australia at the moment. I came across a quotation the other day that seems to me to be relevant to Australia at the moment. It is a report by the Committee for the Economic Development of America. We have a similar body here known as the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia. The American Committee presented on behalf of a special research and policy committee a report entitled: ‘The National Economy and the Vietnam War’. The report states:
That is the United States - is in the midst of a major shift of its national priorities. 1 suggest that although this would be done gropingly by the Australian Government there ought to be a major shift of national priorities of this country also. The article continues:
That shift should continue. The life of the nation must go on and the nation cannot declare a moratorium on the pursuit of ils main objectives.
I suggest that what the Australian Government has done, because of its difficulties internally, has been to declare a moratorium on the present so far as the main objectives of Australia are concerned. The quotation continues:
However, the determination to push forward in dealing with the nation’s city, race, and poverty problems, despite the demands of the Vietnam war, makes it all the more necessary to cut back programmes of lesser priority and to conduct every programme as efficiently as possible.
The fault here is that there is not any programme of lesser or greater priority. The Government hopes that things will turn out for the best. Things are not being done in Australia as efficiently as possible. Surely this cannot be seen more clearly than in the field of defence expenditure.
It is easy enough for the Minister for Defence to say that there has been no break in continuity despite the fact that we are having a review. At the moment defence, with an allocation of $J,217m, is the largest item of expenditure in the national Budget. This amount is virtually being voted blind as far as this House is concerned because the Government does not know what it wants to do with the money it has to spend. The Government is paying for defence, at least on the hardware side, by means of foreign orders. It seems to me that the Government says that it will save the heritage of Australia. But we find that the heritage of Australia is being sold, in some cases, to the foreigners against whom the Government claims it wants to defend us. This is an absurd approach. The Government is unable to see that the capacity of a country to defend itself depends upon the development of the country; and the development of the country is bound up with the welfare of its people. Whether the Government likes it or not, this country is run on a federal system under which most of the main bodies of welfare can be achieved only with the participation and co-operation of the States. At the moment we have a paralysis at the State level in important fields such as education.
In 2 weeks time Parliament will be in recess and honourable members will be enjoying the Christmas holidays. As usual during this period thousands of children who want to start school next year will be in despair, others will have to undergo secondary education in temporary sheds, and thousands of students who have matriculated will be told that they cannot go to a university because a quota system operates. This is all regarded, apparently, as evidence of a harmonious CommonwealthState financial relationship. It is not as if this situation has been going on for only a year or two. It has been going on for a long time now with increasing agony and moral devastation and frustration to the best young people in the community. The same thing applies to public irrigation facilities and water supplies. If we have a drought or even a dry season, most of the big cities are in difficulties. Melbourne came almost to the point of desperation last summer with its water situation. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget some time ago, between one-quarter and one-third of the houses in the city of Sydney or the city of Melbourne are without sewerage systems. The population is growing faster than the apparent capacity of the boards of works in the various States to provide facilities.
This is the situation that the Government can grapple with. I submit that it is one that the Government ought to grapple with. It ls easy to point out that more money is paid each year to the States than in the previous year. More money should be paid year by year to the States because the population is increasing, people are demanding higher standards, more children are staying longer at school, people require better standards in hospitals than they did in previous times and people think that in their old age they -are entitled to some comforts if they have wrought for them in the years of their vigour.
These are the problems that the Government has not grappled with and they are problems that relate to the essential welfare of the people. They can be solved only by a government, and in this country it is basically the Federal Government that must solve them. The Federal Government has control of many devices and I hope it will continue to have control of them. The major source of taxation, the income tax on individuals and companies, does not lend itself to division of collection very easily, but there can be many arguments as to how the amount that is collected should be distributed amongst the various levels of government. The regulation of the total volume of money in the community must be centrally controlled, and that allows the Federal Government at Budget time to distribute what is called investment between the private and the public sector.
The important fact in Australia is that if welfare is to be improved it should not be measured entirely by the number of motor vehicles that are made each year. The manufacture of motor vehicles comes within the field of private investment. We should have barometers of the quality of life, and 1 suggest that occasionally quality rather than quantity should be considered. The matters that make for the quality of life are still constitutionally within the disposition of the States, but the States’ responsibilities are not matched by an ability to raise revenue. I am not one who would take the revenue raising capacity from the centre. I think it is essentially stuck there, and it ought to stay there for a number of reasons that I have not the time to argue now. But surely it is within our compass to adjudicate fairly in determining what the American report calls lesser and greater priorities.
I have said in this House before that if we had the responsibility for building both hospitals and aerodromes we would not have chosen to spend on international airports in Australia all the money that we have spent on them. We would have chosen to build hospitals. If we also had the responsibility for education, would we have spent so much on capital equipment for the Post Office? Surely we would have said: ‘It is more important to have a fine high school in a country town than to have a magnificent telephone exchange’. But at the moment the Commonwealth Government has the luxury of choice in the first instance, and it leaves whatever is over for the States, which in turn do not worry much about that third level of government that I described recently as the poor relation in the system, the local government level. As my colleague the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, local government authorities are concerned with the places where the majority of the people live.
Our whole framework is antiquated - antiquated in the way the taxes are collected and in the choice of things on which the taxes will be imposed, and certainly antiquated at the levels of Federal, State and local government in the way that the collective pool is distributed amongst the various needs. That is why we have chosen to link together the three heads of development, defence and welfare. After all, it ought to be the prerogative of a government to be concerned about development, about welfare and about defending the country when it has to be defended.
Honourable members on the Government side should not be complacent about the development of the country, in both the private and public fields, and they should certainly take into account the suggestions 1 have made in one field, the field of mineral development. We are told that one of our great potentials for earning income will be our export of metals. The Department of National Development recently published a table of projected mineral output for several years to come. Its projection is that in 1969-70 the value of mineral exports will reach $742m. I read in a survey by one company, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, that its export of minerals in the same year will be $240m - one-third of the total. This company is not, in the main, Australian owned or directed, lt is partly Australian owned, but Australian ownership in it is decreasing.
Are we willing to allow the continued exploitation of the vast natural heritage of this continent by private enterprise? The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) will speak later about the thousands of millions of dollars that are involved in the exploitation of oil and other minerals. He will show that we are being fleeced of the major benefit of these deposits because of the lack of acumen shown by this Government. It is the same lack of acumen as was displayed in the Fill contract and in the ordering of Mirage aircraft. I suggest that the Government is vulnerable on all points - on defence, on development and certainly on the future welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) raises an extremely important issue. It is not just a censure motion against the Government or the Government Parties. It calls for a consideration of the state of the whole Australian economy. Its terms are sufficiently wide to encompass not just one or two narrow fields of endeavour but every field of government responsibility and activity. One would think that the Opposition could point to one basic cause that would demonstrate the necessity for such a motion as this. One would expect to be told that unemployment had increased or that inflation was rife, that the economic circumstances of Australian industries had reached a critical slate, that Australia was in substantial difficulties in its foreign relations, with nations taking issue with us and the Australian Government failing to cope, or that there was some demonstrable area in which the Government could be said to have failed in its responsibilities.
I listened carefully to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who preceded me in the debate, to try to elicit from his analysis of the situation just where the difficulties were to be found. He suggested that (here has been a major shift in national priorities. Of course there has been. This is a product of the changing economic circumstances in which we find ourselves in Australia today. It is a product of growth. It shows the effectiveness of the policies of this Government and its pre decessors in the past 19 years. Increasingly within Australia pressures are being placed on various productive sectors of the economy, and this gives the Government cause for concern. These matters are debated and, in the result, Bills are passed and measures taken to ensure that the economy continues to progress as it should.
The Government has been cognisant of the cause of the major shift in national priorities. Direct assistance has been given in the field of migration, tariff assistance has been given to enable secondary industries to be established and a general climate of opportunity has been established in Australia. It is these growth factors that are causing the pressures of which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has spoken. It is also true that there will always be conflicting demands to be considered when the allocation of funds by governments is being determined. It is necessary to ascertain within the general discussions on the Budget each year whether or not certain funds should be spent for education, development, the Post Office, further health services, air fields or telecommunications. This is part and parcel of the traditional task of. government at Budget time.
Since the Administration of the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) took over, forcible administration has continued to maintain the same healthy atmosphere and the same factors within the economy which have ensured that the whole nation of Australia is progressing as it should be. I listened very carefully to the speech delivered in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition because I felt that, having spoken as he did, in general terms, perhaps there must be one or two particular areas where he felt this allocation of national priorities had been deficient. One of the areas he did mention was defence. Those of us who have been in the House this afternoon heard a magnificent exposition by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who very forcibly put a detailed reply in relation to each of the areas of concern raised by the Leader of the Opposition. He mentioned that instead of there being an unwillingness on the part of the Government to debate matters such as the purchase of the Fill aircraft, as is alleged by the Opposition, there have been frequent occasions in the past session when protracted debate has occurred on the subject of the Fill.
There was some mention of the extensions to the Amberley airfield. Back in May the Minister for Defence explained in this House that there would necessarily be some lengthening of the runway at Amberley. It is essential, if we are to operate new and different types of aircraft, that we appreciate that not only the capital expenditure on the purchase of aircraft is involved and that there will be also investment of a very substantial order on the ground facilities to back them up. I do not expect this situation to change radically in the future.
The same sort of thing might be said about the 3-year defence review. In terms of hardware purchases there is a continuing process going on within the Department of Defence to ensure that the armed forces of Australia are equipped sufficiently to cope with any changing situation. This is one of the areas in which the Opposition has been so deficient. It has in the past suggested a notion of defence which, as I understand it. does not involve Australia in the commitment of armed forces outside the Australian continent or perhaps Papua and New Guinea to our north. If such a narrow and restricted defence policy were adopted the capacity of Australia to participate as may be necessary in a time of changing world pressures would be reduced.
We have pursued a programme of reequipment of the forces. So today there is possible greater flexibility of decision than would otherwise have been the case. It is essential that we have this flexibility of decision. There are around the world today differing pressures in differing continents and amongst the various power groups. It is not possible for a country the size of Australia to originate policies to the extent that this is possible for the bigger nations of the world. But it is necessary for us to be in a position in which we can adopt a policy which is best suited to Australia’s national interest. It is not possible to do this unless we have the capacity that we have been able to generate within our defence forces as a result of the substantial increase in the allocation of funds for defence over the past few years. It is because there has been this substantial investment in hardware and because this continuing re-equipment programme is so far advanced that Australia today has a greater opportunity for flexibility in her defence decisions than would otherwise have been the case.
I think each one of us is hoping that as a result of the Paris peace talks the substantial commitment of Australian manpower and troops and the commitment of her allies in South Vietnam will no longer be necessary. To suggest today that if we had not gone into South Vietnam and had not taken the forward defence posture that we have adopted we would be in a position of greater flexibility is to put a view that does not hold true. It is essential that we in Australia recognise that because we have taken the decisions that we have taken and because we have re-equipped our forces, we are today in a better position to adapt ourselves to changing world needs than would otherwise have been the case. lt is, regrettably, true that the world around us is in a state of ferment. It is not possible to ascertain today what will necessarily take place tomorrow or the day after. Equally, it becomes difficult to assess what is to happen in even the medium or the long term in any of the principal areas of the world. This Government has consistently acted in the belief that Australia must have a capacity to defend the land mass of Australia and also to participate in defending those regional arrangements which have so necessarily been part of the strategy that the Government has pursued over the last two decades. Our involvement in regional security arrangements and our continuance of responsible action have reflected in the credit, status and standing of Australians in South East Asia. This status is present not only in South East Asia but also in every other region of the world.
One of the other fields to which the Leader of the Opposition referred in his discourse earlier this afternoon was transport. He suggested that in the field of transport also the Government had failed to adopt a posture of forward planning and had not taken account of changing economic circumstances and changing national priorities. For a few moments I would like to run through the specific areas to which he referred. He spoke first of all about railways. One of the problems in the utilisation of railways is to determine to just what extent we will be able to ensure that our railway systems will provide an efficient service able to compete effectively with other means of transportation. One of the regrettable disabilities of the railway systems has been the differences between gauges and other features of the various systems throughout Australia. By the end of next year, the east-west standardisation project will be completed. This will bring to Australia for the first time the possibility of utilising a railway system right across the continent without a break of gauge.
Of course, railway systems are no longer as dependent on single-gauge lines as they used to be. The introduction of bogie exchange and the adaptation of containers and roll-on roll-off and road-rail facilities have made it possible to utilise railways of differing gauges more effectively than ever before. The east-west standard gauge line will be completed next year, and we will also have a standard gauge line linking Brisbane and Melbourne. Regrettably, other areas will remain without standard gauge lines. But because of the utilisation of bogie exchange and these other methods that speed the transhipment of goods, the disabilities will no longer be as great as they used to be. lt is true that it will necessarily be a matter of government decision to work out where we are going in the future not only in terms of the project in South Australia mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition but also in terms of other projects around Australia.
There are many areas where it is necessary to assess the relative economics of improving road facilities or standardising railway lines, lt is not just a matter of assessing what cargoes you have to carry; it is a matter of determining the maintenance required on a road if it is to take heavy cargoes. You must determine something about terrain. You must assess the relative economics of the two forms of transport. 1 believe that in quite a number of areas in Australia it can be established that for the future railways will be the more efficient way of transporting goods. For this reason 1 do not think it is a matter only of assessing priorities in South Australia. We must look substantially at other areas in order to determine what type of transport facilities should be provided.
This is one reason why, when we next examine the Commonwealth’s 5-year allocation of road funds, it will be a matter not just of looking at roads but of assessing their advantages over other forms of transport. It is also very necessary then to assess the relative needs of different sectors of the community. We must ensure that if a substantial amount of money is to be allocated all sectors of the community will benefit equally from improved transport systems. I believe that when the Government is assessing the next quinquennial report it will take into account, as it has in the past, the varying needs of different sectors of the community and ensure that both the economic needs and the social needs of the different sectors are adequately assessed.
As regards South Australia and the particular projects which have been under discussion it is true that a number of reports have been submitted by the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways on specific standardisation projects. In terms of economics, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has decided in future to ship its steel products from Whyalla to the eastern States by rail instead of by sea. In the past, goods moved from Whyalla to Adelaide had to be moved from Whyalla to Port Augusta by road, from Port Augusta to Port Pirie by rail of one gauge and from Port Pirie to Adelaide by rail of another gauge. Naturally it did not appear economic to build a standard gauge link from Whyalla to Port Augusta before constructing a standard gauge line to link Adelaide with the eastwest standard gauge line.
In the future, because Whyalla is to have this greater volume of trade and because increased shipments of steel1 products will go from Whyalla, it could well be that the Whyalla-Port Augusta standard gauge link may have a priority higher than it held in the past. But it is false to suggest that this is a decision that can be based only on the report of the Commissioner for Railways. The Commissioner has looked at a number of alternative projects in various parts of the Commonwealth Railways system and, in conjunction with other commissioners for railways, to possible planned needs for the future. This is part of continued government planning. We have allocated substantial sums of money to the east-west standardisation project. These sums are about to bear fruit in the completion of the line. Thereafter we must consider what other projects should receive continued priority in the allocation of funds. It is a matter now of assessing the reports of the Commissioner for Railways in the light of changed transport needs, as the volume of cargoes in different sectors changes.
Another matter that has been mentioned in the debate is shipping. The Leader of the Opposition did not refer to what I see as the basic challenges that lie ahead. If he is serious in moving this motion of no confidence surely it is up to him to place before the House for its consideration some of the consequences flowing from the revolution taking place in the shipping world. This is basic to the Government’s thinking in trying to enter into the Far Eastern conference, as the Australian National Line is doing. In the conference it is essential that we have a measure of participation which will enable the Australian National1 Line to operate its roll-on roll-off service and which will give us opportunities to assess the economics of the trade and to ensure that there is Australian national1 participation in the trade. We have had discussions about other trades and other conferences. This is all part of the Government’s continued recognition of the challenges which the changing transport scene is presenting to us. This is not a matter of which the Government has been neglectful. It is something which the Government is pursuing to ensure that in the future we are able to cope with present and changing patterns in transport and transport needs.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about shipbuilding. Shipbuilding is an industry which has provided substantial employment for Australian men and women. It is an industry vital to quite a number of areas in Australia. But changing techniques in shipbuilding have presented shipbuilders with challenges different from those which existed a few years ago. The industry is to receive a measure of assistance until the end of next year. It is now for the Tariff Board to consider to what extent changing pressures in the industry demand a variation in the level of assistance provided, having regard to the importance of shipbuilding to Australia. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that the BHP company has requested Commonwealth assistance to effect some alteration to its shipbuilding yard at Whyalla. This is not so. The BHP co. has made no request to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for alterations to the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla. There is continuing co-operation and co-ordination amongst the shipbuilding yards, the Commonwealth Shipbuilding Board and the Commonwealth Government, which have recognised the changing needs in vessels required to operate around Australia or overseas.
If Australian shipyards are to maintain a high standard of employment they must have the capacity to build the larger vessels needed for today’s trade. But it is necessary at the same time to ensure that Australian yards are not placed at such an economic disadvantage as to be unable to build at a price which will enable freights to be kept at a reasonable level. All of these areas of conflict and difficulty are under constant discussion between the shipowners and the Commonwealth. In this area, as in each of the other areas of Commonwealth Government responsibility, I submit that the Government has acted responsibly.
It is ludicrous for the Opposition to move a motion the terms of which embrace many fields of endeavour and not to be able effectively to demonstrate that in any of those fields the Government has been deficient. In my view this motion is rather a product of uncertainty and indecision on the part of the Opposition. The motion is the product of the desire amongst members of the Opposition to express their views, because within the Opposition there are so many different areas of dispute and belief. If, as has happened in this debate, each Opposition speaker has a guernsey unto himself there would not appear to be as much conflict within the ranks of the Opposition as there would if all Opposition speakers were to concentrate on such issues as defence or national planning.
The motion is one in which no thinking Australian could see any sense or sensibility, having regard to the level of prosperity, affluence and growth present in Australia today. This country is moving ahead as it has never moved before, with a Government united behind the Prime Minister and with the Government Parties united in the House and outside. Having regard to Australia’s growth and prosperity there can be no substance in the motion. I have no hesitation in saying that in every respect the motion has no validity.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) seems to think that members of the Opposition are taking the opportunity to speak in this debate because there is some difference between them. I should think rather that he could have reasoned that if some significant Opposition figures were missing or were not to take part in the debate it was because there was some significant difference between them. I wonder where the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is. 1 wonder where the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is. I wonder where the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) is. Are they to participate in the debate?
I should have thought that the Minister for Shipping and Transport - the understudy for the Minister for Trade and Industry - would have taken the opportunity, if the Minister for Trade and Industry does not intend to do so, to say something about the serious and fundamental crisis that now exists in the affairs of the Tariff Board and in the making of tariffs. Instead of doing this, the Minister joined with the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and one or two others to tell the House that everything was perfect in the field of defence and foreign policy, that everything was a complete success - as though the Fill was in Australia, was flying everywhere, was capable of making a 2,000 or 3,000 mile flight out of Australia and of returning safely. They said that all was as the Government expected it to be. But where is the Fill aircraft? The project has been substantially abandoned by the United States of America; the whole project is in jeopardy. There is not one Fill in Australia. But the Ministers have spoken as though their decision has been completely vindicated. They have spoken as though they have been right all the time about their involvement in Vietnam.
But in some other parts of the world where responsible Ministers and others regard things a little differently, and where constructive criticisms apparently have more effect than in Australia, a different situation obtains. For instance, in the
London ‘Observer’ of 3rd November there appeared the following report about the state of affairs in Washington:
A policy that failed has been put aside’ - the New York Times’ editorial comment on President Johnson’s announcement of a total bombing halt in Vietnam was the crispest public reaction here, just as it was probably the most cruel.
That policy was the policy also of the Australian Government. The article continues:
Nothing - certainly not all the elaborate briefings held in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon last Thursday night - has quite managed to disguise the fact, glaringly obvious to Saigon, that the Johnson Administration is gradually inch by inch being forced to concede its entire Vietnam case to its critics.
The Australian Government is gradually, inch by inch, being forced to concede its entire Vietnam case to its critics. Apparently the Government and its Ministers think that this is having no effect on public opinion. The recent by-election in Queensland would indicate that public opinion is not quite as satisfactory as they fondly believe. The article continues:
The President is a proud man, and the ravages of what this latest capitulation must have cost him were written on his face even as he broadcast to the nation … but the charge that history seems bound to level at LBJ is a different one: of stubbornly persisting in a policy long after it had been shown to be not only personally brutal but politically ineffective as well.
This is the charge that I make against the Australian Government - of persisting in a policy that was personally brutal and politically ineffective as well. I do not think that all Australian people will ignore the evidence that goes to demonstrate the truth of that charge. The article continues:
There is also a tragic personal element in the story of Johnson’s side too. If only the President had heeded the advice to stop the bombing last January, then being offered to him, as we now know, even by such a sober vociferous figure as Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine (today the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential standard-bearer), he might well this weekend have been on the brink of being re-elected to his second full term in the White House - a term he could have used to vindicate his original aspiration to go down in history as a great domestic reformer. Instead he now faces the prospect of leaving office with a maimed record and a crippled reputation, able in his retirement to find consolation only perhaps in the reflection that eventually he had the courage to face his Vietnam error and do all in his power to rectify its consequences.
The Australian Government was in exactly the same position as the American President; the only difference is that it has not admitted its error and is doing nothing to rectify the consequences of that error.
This afternoon I want to speak mainly about tariffs and tariff policy. Manufacturing industry in Australia is of crucial importance. In 1930-31, 35% of total industrial output was from manufacturing industry. In 1965-66, 67% of total industrial output was from manufacturing industry. Manufacturing industry has been the strength upon which Australian development has taken place. Primary industry provides the majority of export income but manufacturing industry provides the majority of national income and of employment and demand, even for the products of much of primary industry. The development of Australia is closely related to the development of manufacturing industry, and it is vital for our national objectives.
In 1962 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, stated the national objectives in relation to the making of tariffs. His statement of those objectives was reproduced in the Tariff Board’s report of the year before last. Sir Robert Menzies said:
Let me explain what I mean by national economic policy. It includes the encouragement of population growth by substantial immigration. It recognises that such encouragement is an important factor in the future planning of industry and commerce. It calls for a strong development of old and new natural resources, so that a growing population will be fully and usefully employed, and the resources themselves put to full use.
All these things - population, immigration, the maintenance of national income and the maintenance of employment - cannot be achieved unless manufacturing industry in Australia is kept growing continuously. Having stated these objectives, Sir Robert Menzies said:
How these accepted objectives are to be achieved is another and more controversial matter.
I submit to the House and to the public that that statement made by Sir Robert Menzies in 1962 is much truer and much more important now than it was then. As a result of the 6 years that have passed since then, it is a more controversial and difficult matter now than it was then, and I hope to demonstrate to the House in the next 10 minutes or so the validity of that point. These objectives cannot be achieved without protection and assistance for manufacturing industry. This is beyond doubt. The Tariff Board is vital in this respect. What is done about protection and assistance to secondary industry - manufacturing industry - depends upon the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board has been given little guidance by the Government and it has had little information on what has happened.
In the 1966-67 annual report of the Tariff Board the Board chose to tell us specifically, and for a good reason:
The genera] framework for the Board’s work has been the ‘traditional’ guidance contained in the 1932 United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement.
The governments of Australia have done very little to give new guidance to the Board in addition to that given in 1932, so much so that the Board went on to say in this report:
This early guidance reflects the conditions . . applying in 1932. It is in very general terms. … In considering what has happened since the ‘traditional’ guidance was given, it is necessary to remember that the work of the Tariff Board had little effect on the development of Australian industries between the late 1930s and the early 1960s.
The work of the Board, for various reasons, had little influence upon the development of Australian industries right up to the early 1960s. This was not of much credit to the Government and its management of the affairs of the Tariff Board up to that point. There was not much reason for confidence in the predecessors of this Government up to the early 1960s.
This position was well recognised by the Government in 1962. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of that year we were told that a complete review of tariff making policy and machinery in their relation to national economic policy would be made. That was a recognition of the situation in the early 1960s. Has that review taken place? Was it the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, commonly known as the Vernon Committee? If it was, the Vernon Committee report was rubbished by the Prime Minister of the day and the Minister for Trade and Industry who hardly ever has anything to say about the portfolio for which he is responsible, concerned with the making of tariff policy in Australia. Presumably he will have nothing to say in this want of confidence motion. He did not even delegate his understudy, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, to say anything on this question. The Minister for Trade and Industry had nothing to say in defence of the Vernon Committee report which was rubbished by his own Prime Minister. Was this the review that the Governor-General’s Speech in 1962 said was necessary about tariff making in this country?
At any rate, the Prime Minister of the day, on 21st September 1965 - it was still Sir Robert Menzies - told us that there were two principles about tariff making in this country. These were that the Tariff Board was merely an advisory body and that tariff policy was the responsibility of this Parliament. That is not telling us a thing. Everybody knows that. It has never been in dispute. When the present Prime Minister introduced the Tariff Board report the other day he still had nothing more to say about the principles of tarff making than that the Tariff Board was an independent body and tariff policy was an affair for this Parliament. These two principles have not been in dispute.
What is the position today? It so happens that the Chairman of the Tariff Board, Mr Rattigan, made a speech at Monash University last night. How anyone can read this speech and still have confidence in the Government about tariff making policy, I fail to understand. Mr Rattigan said that the things that have been happening in the making of tariffs in this country:
He said they -
And that they - . . tended to limit the board’s scope to exercise its judgment fully.
Those are the words of the Chairman of the Government’s Tariff Board. That is a vote of lack of confidence in the Government on tariff making, as the Government has supervised it over recent years. The position therefore is not any better than it has been i” those previous years reviewed by the Board. Is this the basis for confidence in the Government in tariff making? Is it not the strongest possible reason for the lack of confidence in the Government on this matter?
Has the Government ever given the Board any guidance on any of these points? The Government has said several times through its Prime Minister that the Board is independent and that tariff policy is a matter for the Parliament. All that means is that the Government has failed the Board, it has failed in tariff making and it has failed in its responsibility thereby to this most important economic sector of this country, manufacturing industry. The Tariff Board has been left to proceed on its own way. Why is this so? Obviously it is because the Government is deliberately avoiding the issue because of conflicts. Everyone knows that conflict exists between the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry. Everyone knows that there is conflict between the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and industry. Everyone knows that through the Treasury pressure is being exerted for tariff reduction. There is pressure towards the monopolisation of industry with a few large concerns in foreign hands. Everyone knows that there is pressure from those people and from the financial interests in Sydney and Melbourne with which are joined a great many, but not all, of the city Liberals. Everyone knows also that country Liberals like the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) - who really should be in the Country Party - and the Country Parly itself are against tariffs and want to force their reduction. So, there is a division in the Government ranks.
The Minister for Trade and Industry was once the advocate of tariff protection in this country and also the great defender of manufacturing industry: hence John McEwen House. But the Minister for Trade and Industry cannot speak now because he has lost his basis of power. He takes no part in this debate at all. He is silent. We do not know what his attitude to the Tariff Board or to tariff making is. We will never hear from him. Has he retired already? Is he prematurely in retirement or is he premature in some other respect? This is a matter that goes to the root of confidence in the Government on the question of tariff making. Apparently, we are not going to have any reply from the Government in relation to it. Hence, the Tariff Board is going on its own way.
What way is that? We find in the annual report of the Tariff Board for 1967-68 that in the case of new industries the Tariff Board says at page 5 that it will not be giving protection to any new industries which require 50% or over. On page 6 of the same report we find that the Board states:
In the case of areas of production which are found to have little prospect of operating at an effective rate below 50%, the Board would not recommend protection sufficient to allow the industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industries.
Hence the Board proposes not to protect new industries which need 50% or more and not to protect existing industries which need 50% or more. Does the Government accept this? ls this Government policy? What has the Minister for Trade and Industry to say about this matter? Unless and until the question is answered no-one who depends upon manufacturing industry for his capital or for his employment can have any confidence whatsoever in the Government.
Does the Government propose to allow the Board to go on its search and destroy mission and then overrule it? What is the attitude of the Government? Why is not the Minister for Trade and Industry here? He is noi in Paris today. He is not at a Cabinet meeting. What is the matter?
– He is on his honeymoon.
– ls the honeymoon still going on? Is there some other reason why he is not in the House? The Australian Government must protect and assist manufacturing industry, lt must seek to apply the principle of efficiency. By ‘efficiency’ I mean - and I think the Government should mean - modern equipment, skilled labour and organisation and quality products. Certainly, we must: be concerned for efficiency. No-one. except in very special circumstances, could be an advocate of inefficiency. Industry has to be kept up to the collar. It has to be efficient. The Tariff Board must be required to extend its inquiries into other areas.
The Chairman of the Tariff Board has set out what he thinks the Tariff Board should be able to do from now on. He men- tioned five points in his speech at Monash University last night. The first point was that the Tariff Board required:
A systematic, not haphazard method and sequence of reviewing tariff protection.
There is an implication here that the method has been haphazard and lacking system. I have said this in the House on 5 or 6 occasions during the last 5 years. Mr Rattigan continued that the Tariff Board needed :
Terms of reference which will enable the board lo exercise its judgment and recommend fully on all relevant issues.
All relevant issues’. These include the structure of the industry, how many firms and so forth. This also is something that 1 have said here 5 or 6 times in the last 5 or 6 years. He stated as the next requirement:
A comprehensive statistical framework . . .
That is what the Chairman of the Tariff Board states is necessary. At this stage in history the Board needs a comprehensive statistical framework. We have been advocating this for 5 or 6 years from this side of the House. How can anybody have confidence in a Government whose policies are such that the Tariff Board says today that it still needs a comprehensive statistical framework?
The Chairman of the Board goes on to say that the Board needs:
Operating criteria which ensure consistency between the board’s separate recommendations
Whenever is the Minister for Trade and Industry or some other spokesman for the Government going to give the Board some objective criteria? Or is the Government going to leave the situation as it was in 1932 and has remained substantially unchanged since then? Finally, the Chairman of the Board wants to know something about:
Methods dealing with abnormal pricing in international trade . . . cases . . .
Is the Government simply going to claim that because a motor car conies from overseas at a price which is less than it can be produced in Australia that car is being dumped here? Or is the Government going to set up some decent kind of system in which these claims can be tested objectively? This is the Chairman of the Tariff Board who is demanding from the Government some kind of guidance on these matters.
The years have gone by and no guidance has been given. How then can anybody have confidence in the Government in relation to tariff making and the way in which it has dealt with the Tariff Board? In the absence of guidance since 1932 and in the absence of any kind of principle - all the governments since then have been responsible - what will the Tariff Board do? As I have already said, it will deny protection to any industry if that industry requires protection of more than 50%. I said that it was necessary to protect efficient industry and not inefficient industry. No-one will say that every industry that requires protection of 50% or more is inefficient. There is a good deal of efficiency in that area, and there is a very significant section of the Australian economy in that area. I direct attention to appendix 4 of the Tariff Board’s report. This is a very important table, and I guarantee that not more than three or four members of the Government have ever looked at it. The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) indicates that he has looked at it. Can any other honourable members on the Government side say the same?
– Yes, one, two, three, here they come. Five honourable members now indicate that they have read it. Well, that is worth noting. In that appendix we find listed, among others, industries that require protection of 50% or more. They include 29% of the chemical industries; 35% of the metals manufacturing industries; 52% of machinery manufacturing industries; 26% of electrical machinery industries; J8% of transport equipment industries; 71% of cotton and textile manufactures; 20% of other natural textile manufactures; 58% of man made fibre manufacturers; 77% of apparel manufacturers; 34% of butler and butter products; 94% of inks and polishes; 55% of toys, games and sports requisite manufacturers. The total value of such production last year was $l,250m. Twenty-seven per cent of all manufacturing industry was in this sector. Does the Government propose to allow the Tariff Board to reject protection for this 27%?
The Opposition wants an answer to this question, lt wants an ‘ answer from those persons who are responsible and not from some back-bencher who has no responsibility at all. The Opposition wants an answer from either the Prime Minister - he will have a chance to give it tonight after he has had his speech written out for him by his two speech writers - or somebody else who is responsible. Will the Government allow the Tariff Board to proceed on a search and destroy mission against 27% of manufacturing industry in this country and the 30% of the work force who are employed in this part of the manufacturing industry? Members of the public and workers in industry should know that their jobs are being endangered in this way. Some of those people may be able to move to other areas and obtain a house for twice the rent that they are now paying, and some may be able to get jobs somewhere else in this magnificant movement of resources that some people on the Tariff Board, in the Treasury and in the economics departments of the universities regard so magically. Can the Government say how long this movement will take? Will it take 1 year, or 2 years? Can the Government say what effect this will have on total employment and income?
If the Government is prepared to cut out 27% of manufacturing industry, this will have very many indirect influences. What is the sense in allowing the Tariff Board to proceed with this 50% and over rule in affording protection if the Government intends to overrule the Board when it has made a finding? Can industry have confidence in a Government that has denied guidance to the Board for years and has allowed the current situation to develop, and which is willing to reject protection in this important field without giving any indication of what else it proposes to do? What has the Prime Minister to say about this? What has the Minister for Trade and Industry to say about this? This is in a very important sector of economic policy. In my opinion such an attitude destroys the confidence that anyone dependent upon manufacturing industry or the economic welfare of this country can possibly have in this Government. This is the strongest single argument that I can see for supporting the Opposition’s motion of want of confidence in the Gorton Government.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I do not want to hurt the feelings of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns) but I am bound to say that I thought his enthusiasm in speaking on the want of confidence motion was somewhat restrained. It was only in the last two seconds of his speech that he adverted to the motion. I thought that if he had had his heart in it he would at least have made some glowing reference to his leader. The dominant impression that 1 have gained from this entire debate is that there has been a singular degree of enthusiasm from the Opposition for this motion. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was speaking 1 thought that his speech was in heavy Wagnerian tones. One could have drawn the conclusion that it was slumbertime because the Labor Party slept on and did not give me the impression of being very stirred by what the honourable gentleman bad to say.
The honourable member for Yarra commenced his speech by seeking to vindicate some deeply held convictions about the war in Vietnam - sentiments which 1 am bound to tell1 the Mouse I and the people of this country heard years ago. The honourable member sought to vindicate his views by reference to the Isis by-election in Queensland. The only other thing the honourable gentleman had to say during his period of 25 minutes - laboriously consumed I must say - was about tariffs.
I readily admit the importance of any debate on tariff policy. Many of the honourable member’s remarks about the development of the country, sustaining growth and population changes are highly relevant in a tariff debate. But I put it to the honourable member that in relation to a motion of want of confidence in the Government those remarks hold but a distant relevance. 1 hope that the House noted carefully what the honourable member said - this is the gravamen of his complaint about tariff - when he stated that the Tariff Board is lacking in guidance from the Government. I put it to the House that the word ‘guidance’ is one of those delightful euphemisms that are used for Government control and direction over the Tariff Board. Whatever deficiencies may or may not exist in the tariff structure of this country, I imagine that it would *b** the view of the majority of Australians that the independence of the Tariff Board should be maintained.
From 1958 up to last year 369 Tariff Board reports were tabled in this House. Of those reports 202 recommended an increase in duties, 93 recommended no increase, and 74 argued for actual reductions. Of these the Government adopted 337 reports without change. Those statistics show that in one sense the Government accepts the principle, contained in the Tariff Board Act, of the independence - the advisory nature - of the Tariff Board - and is prepared in the ultimate sense to be responsible for its policy. If the Whips permit it, perhaps an opportunity will be given to debate tariff policy before the Parliament rises for the Christmas recess.
When I heard the Leader of the Opposition unburden himself of his speech 1 found myself agreeing with a rumour that has much support - that the Leader of the Opposition is to go to London as the next High Commissioner for Australia. I do not think that the honourable gentleman had his heart in his speech at all. He was very wordy and very suave, as he can be at times. But I tell the House that I was brought up in country where, whenever anybody such as the Leader of the Opposition appeared who was suave and wordy and talked about many things, everybody in the district instinctively knew what to do - get out the ropes, light up the fires and start branding the calves. But here he was this afternoon throwing everything into the fan, if 1 may use that expression. 1 would have thought that a person who moved a motion of want of confidence in the Australian Government would at least have spoken from strength in the knowledge that his own position was secure. May I remind the House that it is no more than 7 or 8 months since the Leader of the Opposition felt so insecure with respect to his own leadership that he put that leadership on the line, and it was the honourable member for Yarra who challenged him. The present Leader of the Opposition narrowly escaped with the leadership on that occasion. Now here he is with a few more votes-
– He might not do it again.
– No. Let it be acknowledged that the honourable member for Yarra is a seasoned campaigner in these affairs. He has been going around the traps knocking off a head here and there, and when the numbers are counted again the state of ecstasy in which the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) will find himself when his beloved leader triumphs and the thoughts of Chairman Jim are revealed for all to accept will be wonderful to behold.
As I say, the Leader of the Opposition did not seem to have his heart in his task, but he did bring what seemed to me a pretty self-righteous tone to what he had to say. He looked around, trying to stir up a little life, but there was no life there to be stirred up. Here was the man of destiny trying to be self-righteous. I suppose he takes the view that he is destined to put things right where Adam put them wrong. But he welded to this self-righteousness a strange historical sense by saying that not since 1941 has any Australian Government been in such disarray.I presume that it was sheer love that swept the Labor Party out of office in 1949, and I suppose it has been the love of the electorate ever since that has kept it out of office.
I have time to deal with only one or two of the propositions, if I may so dignify them, that came from the Leader of the Opposition. The first, of course, is the inherent one that he and his Party stand for something better and offer something better than do the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the present Government. Here is the one who is completely susceptible to the direction of the faceless thirtysix. Here is the one who described the Federal Executive of his own Party, within short recall, as the twelve witless men. Here is the honourable member who went along and uttered the most humble apology, saying that he would work within the framework of the Labor Party and accept the decisions of its properly constituted authority. This is the man who moves a motion of want of confidence in the national Government. This is the leader of the Party that seeks to take over the government of Australia. Is it any wonder that the Australian people have for 20 years kept Labor in opposition? On today’s performance Labor would not have Buckley’s chance -I must restrain myself - of attaining government.
I have seen nothing sillier than the performance that the honourable gentleman handed out this afternoon. He said: ‘If you do not like my brilliant leadership at least you can have our policy’. But there was not a word about the alternative policy that he would offer. There was not a word about the Democratic Socialism that stirs the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), as we know, so vigorously and rouses him so that he gets into a highly stimulated state at the mere mention of the term. Look at the honourable member; he is already becoming roused. There was not a word from the Leader of the Opposition about this. Yet this is the same person who said a few years ago:
I am considerably to the left of Mr Calwell.
Can you not imagine the outraged feelings of the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) when that was said. The honourable gentleman went on: 1 am much more in accord ideologically with
Dr Cairns than Mr Calwell.
The honourable member for Yarra at least is candid and I always admire candid people, frank people. One knows where they stand. The honourable member is no humbug in this sense. This is what the honourable member for Yarra had to say:
That is, the Labor Party - are situated in the political spectrum next to the Communists, and they will stand for many things for which we also stand. We cannot, therefore, oppose those things. Because of our position in the political spectrum we will find ourselves in the same places as Communists on some occasions, doing the same things for the same ends.
We had the Leader of the Opposition saying that he stands far closer to the honourable member for Yarra than to the right honourable member for Melboune.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting.
– Mr Speaker, may I be at liberty to make this observation in reply to the honourable member: I was like Saul on the road to Damascus, and I had my own particular duty of conversion to carry out on (hat occasion. We heard not a word from the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon about the policy of nationalisation.
True, he adverted to insurance companies when he said something about MLC Ltd in order to poke some fun at the Prime Minister. He chided the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) on the subject of oil. But frank Labor policy on these matters is one of nationalisation. Labor has a policy of nationalisation of insurance in this country and of nationalisation of oil companies in Australia. If that policy were implemented the scores of thousands of people who work for these two great industries, and the scores of thousands of shareholders in the various companies, would have their interests completely controlled by a Socialist government, which obviously would be completely unacceptable to them. But this was the alternative Prime Minister whom we heard this afternoon and behind him, believe it or not, is the alternative government.
The Leader of the Opposition, of course, could not restrain himself from saying something about the FU I, the Lord Nelson aircraft. The honourable gentleman has been a very poor prophet. Let me remind the House of what he had to say in 1963 about the TSR2. He said:
It is a prototype, ll will bc flying at the end of this year and it will fly across the world to Woomera next year. The TSR2 will fly and can be delivered a year or 2 years before the TFX.
The TFX, of course, is now the FM I. That was the prophecy of the honourable gentleman, and it has not come within a bull’s roar of being borne out. I invite honourable members to look at the policy of the Labor Party on defence. This is the last thing I will have the opportunity of saying before the suspension of the sitting. Prior to the outbreak of World War II the Labor Party’s policy on defence was distinguished by its sense of utter unrealism. The former honourable member for Lalor, Mr Pollard, said:
Personally I would nol spend three pence on armament work or any defence works of any kind in Australia.
The late Mr Ward said: lt is amusing to hear people say we will not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated Territories, they should defend themselves.
Over the last 10 or 15 years statements have been made by members of the Labor Party which have been as complete in their disregard for realism as were those statements made before the outbreak of World War II. As for a want of confidence motion coming from the Labor Party and founded on the principles that have been put to the House this afternoon, what was a great national political party has made a complete and utter laughing stock of itself. There is no substance in its want of confidence motion. There has been no fire in what has been said and there has been precious little support given to the Leader of the Opposition by the members of the Australian Labor Party. But there will be worse to come for them; there will be precious little support given to the Labor Party by the Australian electors.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– After the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had made his speech 1 would have thought that some time this afternoon we would have heard from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), or at least from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). I understand that the Prime Minister is to speak later tonight, but there is no certainty that the Deputy Prime Minister will take part in the debate; at least, there is no knowledge of it on our side of the chamber. One would have thought that such matters as tariffs, trade and primary industry would have been so important - they are very important in Australia’s economy at the present time - that the Deputy Prime Minister would have taken part in the debate. One must question whether his judgment is waning a little, because at the present time there can be no doubt that the Australian Country Party, in particular, is taking for granted many of the great and grave problems confronting primary industry in Australia, and these problems, especially those relating to our balance of payments position, will be of paramount importance in the future. 1 think one could say truly that the Government’s stocks in rural areas throughout Australia are falling. Mounting despair, complacency, consistent neglect of fundamental issues such as rising costs, lip service to decentralisation and the uncertainty of markets in the future are all factors which have to be squarely faced but which are not being squarely faced by this Government. The apparent concentration of the Leader of the Australian Country Party on policies to broaden the base of the Country Party and to try and win votes in city areas is causing widespread discontent in rural areas.
Primary producers believe that there is increasing neglect, or seemingly increasing neglect, of their problems. Rising costs, exorbitant freight rates, uncertain markets, seasonal unemployment and lack of positive forward planning in the fields of water conservation and decentralisation are presenting problems which cannot be neglected any longer. The coalition Federal Government continues to work on the assumption that even if it neglects major and mounting problems in primary industries the Country Party will continue to command the support of primary producers in rural areas. I think that this assumption is not only dangerous but will backfire. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) is trying to interject. He is a Queenslander. He should take note of what happened at the weekend in the Queensland electorate of Isis, one of the bluest of blue ribbon State seats for the Country Party. One of the greatest successes in the history of the State Labor Party took place in that area. It was achieved at the expense of the Country Party. The main reasons which contributed to Labor’s success were the Government’s complacency, arrogance and neglect towards the problems of farmers in the area.
Rural areas are fast becoming disillusioned by broken political promises and the failure to implement policies which are vital to the economic welfare of primary producers. As I have said, the concentration of the Leader of the Country Party on secondary industry - on matters affecting cities - is causing resentment and disillusionment in primary producing areas. He is taking primary industry for granted. I believe that the Government will have to pull up its socks in rural areas or it will continue to lose more and more support.
Let us look at some of the most important issues which the Government will have to face in the future but which it has not faced up to the present time. We all remember the famous promise of the Government Parties: ‘We will put value back into the £1’. Rising costs are one of the greatest problems confronting primary producers at the present time. There is an insidious, cancerous increase in costs. The comparative economic advantage which primary producers enjoyed over a long period of years has now been eroded away. One only has to look at the wool industry, Australia’s greatest primary industry, to see the neglect and the erosion of incomes of primary producers which has taken place. Between 1950 and the present time the average price for wool received by wool growers has increased by only 40%. One could say that that is a significant increase, but when one compares it with the prices which primary producers have had to pay for materials, wages, services, interest on loans, amortisation, etc., one can see that the costs associated with wool growing have increased in the same period by 170%.
I repeat, prices for wool have increased by 40% but the prices which primary producers have had to pay by way of costs have increased by 170% in the same period. That shows the clear and dangerous erosion which has taken place in wool growers’ incomes. The gap has to be filled by increased production by wool growers - by increased productivity, the greater use of technology, increased wool cut per head, increased carrying capacity per acre or a reduction in mortality of sheep - or the wool growers and their families have to work harder or they have to lower production costs either through sacrifice or economies, lt would seem that if this trend continues and if the terms of trade continue to drift against wool growers as they do today, growers on smaller farms will fight a losing battle. Is it fair that the wool grower should have to pay the high domestic level of prices for materials and high wages when he has to sell all of his product on the export market? The only financial assistance that he is receiving, apart from income tax concessions, is direct Government assistance through such schemes as the phosphate bounty or Commonwealth assistance, to a degree, in promotion and research.
I turn to the problems which confront the producers of wheat. Shortly after the last World War the assessed cost of production of wheat was approximately 6s per bushel. The world price for wheat was approximately 15s per bushel. Today the world price for wheat is still approximately 15s or $1.50 per bushel, but the costs associated with wheat growing are now assessed to be between $1.70 and &2 per bushel. This is another example of the gradual, incessant erosion of primary producers’ incomes as a result of increases in costs. The only bright spark on the horizon for primary industry is beef. This is the only industry in which the price received by beef producers is greater than the increase in costs associated with the raising of beef. But even in beef production there are serious problems around the comer because the most important beef producing areas in Australia - those that produce the great proportion of export beef - are in Queensland in particular, the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia. These are the most vulnerable areas in Australia as regards setbacks in export prices because in those areas there is no alternative to producing beef if there is a decrease in price. There is in fact an inelastic supply in respect of price. Here is the problem that must be faced.
When the Federal Government was expanding the beef industry just after the Second World War before the United Kingdom went off rationing, the United Kingdom-Australia 15-year meat agreement was formulated which guaranteed Australian beef producers, particularly in exporting areas, deficiency payments if there were sudden emergencies as a result of a fall in beef prices overseas. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) would know the great value of deficiency payments to the beef cattle industry in 1958. It was only because of those deficiency payments that the producers were able to tide themselves over this emergency. But at present all emphasis is on increasing beef production in export areas. What happens, for example, if America suddenly decides to clamp down through quotas, pseudo-health regulations or whatever it might be, on imports of beef from Australia? The northern portions of Australia would be most vulnerable in this respect. All primary producers and all primary products - crops and livestock - are also vulnerable to rising costs.
Members of the Liberal Party, of course, have no interest at all in primary industry. They are the people in this Parliament who criticise the bounty payable to the dairy farmers. We had, in fact, many-
-Order! There are too many interjections. The honourable member for La Trobe has already spoken in the debate and he will cease interjecting.
- Mr Speaker, we know and I repeat that the interest of the honourable member for La Trobe in particular in primary industry is one of knocking. He is one of the greatest knockers in this Parliament. Let us have a look at assistance to primary industry and secondary industry.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid is interjecting. I have warned him previously in the debate and I suggest that he restrain himself or I will have to deal with him. I say to all honourable members on my right that all interjections are out of order. There have been far too many interjections in the last 5 or 6 minutes.
– One of the most important problems of primary industry is the progressive deterioration in terms of the trade of Australian products and the progressive increase in costs associated with the production of primary industry commodities, particularly for export.
The position is somewhat different in secondary industry. Because of the structure of the major manufacturing industries, either monopolistic or oligopolistic, when there is an expansion through an increase in output of this small number of firms, decided economies of scale can take place. This is a good thing. But when there is an increase in demand for primary products we find invariably an increase in the number of farms, particularly marginal farms. The recent expansion in sugar production saw a large increase in the number of small farms. These small farms have paid the penalty in terms of increasing costs and deteriorating export prices. As regards the rising costs in secondary industry, I point out that secondary industry has benefited by way of tariffs and other devices. But it seems that an increasingly severe clamp is being placed on primary industry, particularly with respect to assistance being given directly by bounty or subsidy.
The dairy industry has a ceiling which has not been altered for a considerable number of years in terms of subsidy. The Government has, of course, given assistance in respect of the domestic price. We also have a ceiling on cotton. In regard to wheat there is now, in effect, an upper ceiling because of the fact that cost of production has now been taken away from the wheat growers in their indices. We again have a domestic price arrangement in the case of sugar. But we also have an uncertain world market, lt is an industry that is highly vulnerable now despite the very good points of the International Sugar Agreement. I point out to the House that at present 75% of the total exports of sugar has to be sold on the cut-throat free market.
One can ask whether further assistance is needed with respect to primary industries. The answer to this question is yes. It could be justified because if one looks at the protection given to secondary industries one will see that there is a very strong case for increased protection or the equivalent being given to primary industries.
The Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry in its report assessed that the value of the tariff in equivalent financial terms was approximately five or six times as great per year as the total of all financial assistance given to primary industry in terms of bounties, subsidies and protective devices - restrictions on imports and protection given to manufacturers of goods from primary industry origin. In other words, there is a very strong case for financial assistance, or more financial1 assistance, to be given to primary industries, particularly those that are caught up in the cost price squeeze.
Last week I asked a question in the Parliament in relation to the motor vehicle and the construction goods industries. In the question I said that the total value in financial terms equivalent to the tariffs provided ro the motor vehicle and the construction goods industries was greater than the entire financial assistance given directly or indirectly to primary industry. 1 asked whether it was a fact that more assistance was fully justified for primary industry. The Minister for Trade and Industry referred to it as a silly question. Little did he know at the time - he probably knows now - that some of the leaders in primary industries in this country were aware of the question that was going to be asked. I can assure the Minister that they are not particularly happy or amused that he considers such a question as silly. There has been a lot of talk not only in this Parliament but outside it in regard to what the Government is going to do about the dairy industry.
In the Governor-General’s Speech, we were told that we were to have a grandiose $25m reconstruction scheme to solve the problems in the marginal areas of dairy production. But not one statement has been made in this House to provide an opportunity for this proposal to be debated. The only official detailed statement other than that in the Governor-General’s Speech was made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) when he announced the scheme at Ipswich in Queensland. Here again, this scheme has been blasted by industry officials and many State governments. Where is the $25m scheme that the Governor-General, and the Minister for Primary Industry indicated the Government, would introduce this year? When we look at the Budget papers we find the paltry sum of Sim has been provided in this year for the important purpose of solving the problems of the dairy industry. Meanwhile the costs in the dairy industry are increasing and the financial problems are growing.
In the cotton industry we have seen the most, discriminatory action that has been taken against any primary industry for many years. The Government’s action is a sell-out. It intends to remove the bounty completely after 3 years, although Australia imports $70m or $80m worth of cotton textiles each year. Apparently it is good policy to protect some secondary industries with high tariffs but it is not good policy to protect and foster the expansion of the cotton industry, which is a primary industry, so that it will help in the development of a viable secondary industry that will gradually displace the imports of cotton textiles. Cotton is now being grown at the Ord and the Nogoa. Prior to the last Senate election the Government announced its decision, but now these projects, for which cotton is fundamental in their infancy, are being told that the cotton bounty will be removed after 3 years.
Statements regarding sugar have been made in the House by the Opposition, but at no time has the Government ever initiated a debate on the problems of the sugar industry. The Government makes a statement on the sugar industry in the House only when a Bill is being introduced. The.
Minister for Trade and Industry, who has been overseas for a total of some months during this year, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Social1 Services (Mr Wentworth) have all been overseas in connection with sugar matters, and one would have thought that a statement on this subject would have been made to the Parliament by at least one of the three Ministers. But every statement made by these Ministers was made outside the Parliament and so could not be debated in the Parliament.
What has the Government done about decentralisation? Where is the report on decentralisation that we have been waiting to receive? The Prime Minister who is at the table, has promised the Parliament that a report will be made on decentralisation, but it has not reached us yet. The Government has paid only lip service to decentralisation. We have had plenty of fighting words about helping industries to become established in the outback rural areas but no action.
The Government has made some other remarkable statements. A month ago a Bill was introduced into the House to amend the quarantine laws. The Government said that one important amendment would increase the penalties that could be imposed on people who deliberately introduced exotic diseases into Australia. The maximum penalty for a person who deliberately introduces an exotic disease, such as foot and mouth disease, rabies, blue tongue, a disease to which humans are subject or a plant disease, is SI, 000. The Government saw how absurd this penalty was for such a serious offence and introduced a Bill which would increase the penalty to a fine of $2,000 or imprisonment for 5 years. But the Government has now decided to hold the Bill1 over until some future session, probably next year. This legislation is most important to primary industries. Every effort should be made to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases.
I will say one’ final word on power. Queensland has lost the aluminium industry, a most important industry, because it does not have sufficient power to support the industry. Queensland has the dearest power in Australia. Now the Commonwealth Government still refuses to give the Queensland Government the funds that it needs to build a giant power house, which is one of the most important development assets and the means of earning further revenue. Here again is an example of poor planning.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had thought that, when a motion of no confidence was presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), there might have been some significant and reasoned argument on some major point of attack on the Government, that some matter of national importance might have been developed, debated and pressed home. This did not happen. In fact, nothing even remotely resembling it happened. Instead, the Leader of the Opposition scarcely even mentioned defence, although that was one of the terms of his motion. He put no views to the House on what our defence strategy should be now that Britain is withdrawing from east of Suez or what the composition of our forces should be. He did not even mention the war in Vietnam or indeed any matters of major national importance in this field.
– When will you give us a statement on it?
– All the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is now interjecting, did was to make a completely untrue statement that never before had a motion of this kind been moved without the Prime Minister of the day immediately replying. The Leader of the Opposition, instead of developing some matter of major national importance, spent his lime fluttering d isjointedly from twig to twig, pausing to mouth a few words on such matters of national importance as the completion of a few miles of railway here, the need for legislation on sedentary fish - I wonder whether he proposes to fight the next election on the issue of sedentary fish - and something to do with the Snowy Mountains Authority planning the Eastern Suburbs Railway. He dealt, if dealt is the proper word - at least he mentioned them in passing - on my count with fifteen subjects in 45 minutes and dealt with none of them in a significant way at all. In his peregrination from twig to twig he managed to make a number of inaccurate and misleading statements, as is not altogether unusual. He claimed, for example, that no orders for defence equipment had been placed since 1965. My colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) demonstrated that that statement is not true. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that he and the House had been given no previous knowledge that the runway at Amberley for the Fill aircraft would need to be lengthened for training pilots.
– When are we getting the FI 1 1?
– Order! The honourable member for Bass has already spoken in this debate and will refrain from interjecting.
– Let me go back, Mr Speaker, so that the interruption does not destroy the argument. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that he and the House had been given no previous knowledge that the runway at Amberley would need to be lengthened for training pilots in handling the Fill with all up weights. Hansard of 2nd May. which was quoted by the Minister for Defence, shows that that statement is untrue. The Leader of the Opposition had the naivety or the ignorance to suggest that the Fill aircraft would have their range of operations reduced because the distance between Amberley and the north coast of Australia would have to be deducted from the striking range of the aircraft. He completely ignored the fact, if he knew it to be a fact - and he should have known it because he was at one stage connected with an air force - that Amberley is the training centre and that Darwin is the centre from which operations take place. Tt is therefore not only ludicrous but misleading to suggest that this range must be deducted in this instance. Mr Speaker, I am sorry if a catalogue of the misleading statements of the Leader of the Opposition goads the Opposition into interjections of the kind that are being made, but it cannot deny the accuracy of what I am saying, nor can this brouhaha prevent what I am saying from being put on record.
– But it is appropriate.
-Order! The honourable member for Yarra is out of his seat and will cease interjecting.
– To continue the catalogue, the Leader of the Opposition had the hardihood to claim, quite falsely, that in the year gone by nothing has been done for the sick, the poor and the old. What has been done in this year, or at least a part of what has been done in this year is this: Pensions have been raised to a greater level than was required by the rise in the cost of living.
– What utter nonsense!
– I have already requested the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to interject. I suggest that he refrain from doing so.
– What utter nonsense!
– I must also inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking he had the respect of the House.
– I trust that after this catalogue he will lose the respect of the House. Indeed, I think he is beginning to lose it already. I was dealing with the misleading statement made by the honourable member who has the respect of the House that nothing has been done in the last year for the sick, the poor and the old. This is the beginning of the catalogue of what has been done this year: Pensions have been raised, I repeat, to a greater level than was required by the rise in the cost of living; assistance has been provided to families without breadwinners; an insured hospital patient will be covered for the full amount insured however long his stay in hospital; supplementary benefits have been provided to patients in approved nursing homes however long the patients may stay in the hospitals; there has been the initiation of a scheme to develop home care and related services; and we have increased the subsidy payable for approved home nursing services. Will the Leader of the Opposition rise in his place now and say that in this year nothing has been done, as he said previously, for the sick, the poor and the old? The honourable member must know - indeed, he has no excuse for not knowing - that these things were done. They were part of the Budget, discussions; they were part of the Estimates; they were part of the discussions in this House. Yet he has the temerity to get up in this place and say that they did not happen. And this from the man who used to talk about credibility!
The Leader of the Opposition even had the effrontery, as part of his case of no confidence, to say that the Government had refused to bring on debates on Tariff Board reports and the Government’s oil price policy. This is what he told us as part of the attack on the Government, when he knows, or ought to know, that the arrangements made between the two sides of this House were that we should finish with the Bills before the House before the debates on these statements were brought on. If he does not know that, he should have known it. If he does know it, he should not have presented it to this House in the way he did. It is not part of my purpose-
– These arrangements were not made, and the Prime Minister knows it.
-Order! I warn the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– He is slightly upset, I think. It is not really part of my purpose to follow the Leader of the Opposition down every manhole into which he may choose to disappear. Those who heard him could judge the effectiveness of his case for a motion of no confidence, and I believe that all who heard him will acknowledge, either privately or publicly, that this is the most ineffective case that has been made in the history of this Parliament, or probably of any other, on a motion of no confidence in the Government.
But, Sir, I do want to discuss two matters that he mentioned in passing. He attached not as much significance to them as 1 do, but I want to dilate on them a little. One of these matters concerns the defence preparations and the other concerns the Government’s oil price policy as announced in the House.
On defence the Leader of the Opposition said that ‘the paper on the long term strategy, the basis of the Australian defence policy, has been in our hands for 12 weeks’. So it has. That is the first accurate statement that I have been able to find him make in the whole of his speech. The paper is concerned with various assessments of our strategic approach right into the 1980s, and an examination of the various circumstances in that period and what the future might turn out to hold in that period. Is it seriously argued, even by him, that 12 weeks is going to make a significant difference in an examination in that long term, in that long distance, in a matter of such complexity, when there are so many unknowns, so many imponderables - in some cases imponderables which are not yet clear but which may, and which probably will, become clearer over the coming year? But in the short term, the period up until the end of 1971, by which time the British will have withdrawn from Malaysia and Singapore, we decided in September in principle that we would retain in the Malaysia-Singapore area two squadrons of Mirage aircraft, two naval ships and an Anzac battalion, and that we would participate in arrangements for the conduct of the jungle warfare school in Malaysia.
These countries know, and have known, of this decision in principle. 1 say ‘in principle’ because before that decision is made with finality we need to know, as any government would need to know, what assistance and support will be forthcoming from the countries in that area themselves. What arrangements will be made to man the radar to control the squadrons we will have there? What infra-structure will bc provided in support of our ground troops, and where and in what barrack complex can they be most economically housed? These matters have been the subject of discussion between this Government and the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore. These are indeed matters which should have been discussed, and have been discussed, in regard to that period to the end of 1.971. There has been no lack of thought, no lack of discussion and no lack of willingness to decide for this period.
But if the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting, as I think he is, from what he said, that precise longer term decisions reaching far into the future should be taken with finality now, taken in circumstances which in some cases aTe different from those which have ever prevailed before and, in other cases, may be different from those which have ever prevailed before, taken before those imponderables to which I have referred and which now exist are resolved with greater clarity, as I believe they will be shortly, 1 think he is advocating a completely irresponsible course for the Government of this country to take. I believe, indeed, that he is seeking to play politics with national survival, if this is what he is suggesting, and we will have none of it. The plain facts are that our defence forces are expanding. Much new equipment is still to be delivered. Manpower is being expanded to man that increasing quantity of equipment. We have lost in this field no ground at all. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition has not even attempted to present a reasoned argument’ to suggest that we have.
The second matter I want to deal with is the allegations made by theLeader of the Opposition on the Government’s oil pricing policy. He suggested in the House this afternoon that there is some secret agreement in existence, and others have suggested that there has been generous treatment of Australian oil producers. There have never been, and there are, no secret agreements, and there has been in my belief no over-generous treatment of Australian oil producers. The arrangements made for the oil price policy have been publicly announced in this House and I have no reluctance at all in making available the agreement of which I spoke to this House. I ask leave of the House to lay on the table papers relating to the Government’s oil policy.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I lay on the table the following papers:
Government Oil Policy -
Letter dated 14 November 1968, written by Comptroller-General of Customs.
I do that with some satisfaction, because it was suggested - more than suggested - by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech that something was being held back; that either there was ignorance on my part or I was deliberately holding something back. I asked him to substantiate it then. He would not substantiate it then. Those papers substantiate the reverse now.
– May we have a look at them?
– Of course you can. Now. It has always been the Government’s declared policy that Australian crude oil, when discovered–
– Order! The honourable member for East Sydney is interjecting. There are too many interjections. I have already asked honourable members to cooperate in this matter. This is a censure motion and is regarded by both sides as being an extremely serious matter. As I have pointed out, the Leader of the Opposition was heard in almost complete silence this afternoon. I think the same courtesy should be extended to the Prime Minister.
– It has always been the Government’s declared policy that Australian crude oil, when discovered, should be used in Australia and not left in the ground while overseas oil is imported to be used in overseas owned refineries in Australia. 1 should have thought that the reasons for this were obvious. We want oil to be discovered in Australia and there is little incentive for this unless those who search for oil know that if they do discover it the Australian market will be available to them. We need to conserve our overseas exchange and the way to do that is not to have Australian oil in the ground while overseas exchange is used to import oil. That is the starting point of our policy. If it is to be challenged by members of the Opposition - if they do not agree with that starting point - let us hear from them that they do challenge it. Let us hear from the next speaker, who. I understand, is to speak on oil, that he disagrees with that basic policy. This is the starting point of our policy. We do want Australian oil to be used to the fullest possible extent to meet the requirements of the Australian market.
It was announced in September 1965 that all Australian oil producers - all Australian oil producers - would be given 67c Australian a barrel as an added incentive to search for oil and that this payment would apply up to September 1970. This has been done. In the case of small producers such as Moonie and Barrow Island all the additional cost per gallon of product together with freights from those oil fields concerned has been absorbed into the present Australian price structure without any undue increase of price to consumers or effect on the economy. But the discovery of very large quantities of oil in the Bass Strait fields on which 67c Australian per barrel was due to be paid would have added quite considerably to the price per gallon of product to the consumer and would have had an effect on the economy. Yet the commitment from the Government, publicly given, was that this oil, in common with all other Australian oil, should receive the 67c per barrel payment, and it would have been quite wrong for the Government to have broken its word and retreated from this commitment by unilateral decision merely because one producer had discovered very large quantities of oil. lt was therefore necessary to see whether by agreement the projected rise in the price of petroleum products could be minimised and the 67c per barrel which the Government was committed to pay could be reduced or abolished.
In the result, this was done by free negotiation and agreement. The producers in the Bass Strait oil fields agreed to forgo altogether not only the 67c per barrel incentive payment but a further 5c per barrel as well. This of course meant a reduction of slightly over 2c per gallon in the price refineries would have otherwise had to pay for the oil, and a consequent significant saving to consumers of petroleum products. Do the members of the Opposition object to that? If so, let us hear about it when they speak. For its part the Government restated its policy that Australian oil must be used to the greatest extent possible on the Australian market - and that means to the greatest extent possible. We also stated that for a period of 5 years after September 1970 the price paid by refineries for Australian oil would be the posted price of overseas oil as at 10th October, less the discounts allowed as at 10th October, plus overseas freight and wharfage, and that the producers would bear the average cost of freighting crude oil from the customs port nearest the point of delivery by the most efficient and economical means possible.
Here it is important to note two things. Firstly, the Government did not agree to any finite price. The questions of fact of what was the posted price at that time, of what were the discounts allowed at that time, of what were the overseas freight rates, of what was to be the average cost of freighting oil around the Australian coast, were left for decision by a conference of the industry and all interested Government departments and, in the event of disagree ment as to fact, by an independent arbitrator. This means that after September 1970 for a period of 5 years the price of oil to the refineries should be no higher than the price they are now paying except for any increase in the case of some refineries due to freight costs around the Australian coast. In other words, the cost of petroleum products as a result of the crude oil component should be stabilised for 5 years after that date.
It may be that prices of overseas oil or freights on overseas oil will fall during this period, lt may also be that in certain circumstances, particularly considering conditions in the Middle East, such prices may rise. But the price of Australian oil will be constant and at what it is now. Indeed, if it were not so it would be open to overseas oil companies to reduce their well head price to one Which would seriously disadvantage the Australian producers - not one producer but all Australian producers. This policy will ensure that Australian oil is used. It will ensure the mere minimum of increase in cost to the consumer. It will provide producers and those who are searching for oil with a built-in incentive. If the Opposition objects to any of those things, if the Leader of the Opposition wishes to pursue his argument - and this is something concerned with a matter of no confidence - let them say so. Let them say so - they have not done it so far - on a number of matters which the Leader of the Opposition raised. On the question of defence, do they object to the statement made by me tonight, on behalf of the Government, of our proposals up to the end of 1971? Perhaps they do, because the Leader of the Opposition is on record as seeing no threat in that area - as seeing no danger whatever from subversion fostered by Communist China. He regards this as a false and fallible theory rand something which cannot be tenable for a moment.
– We reject your domino theory.
-Order! I have already warned the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I shall not warn him again.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is very quick to spring to the defence of his Leader. I anticipated that there might be some lack of memory on the part of the Leader of the Opposition himself, but since it is a lack of understanding on the part of his Deputy I will quote what the Leader of the Opposition had to say on this matter. He referred to a disastrously superficial theory-
– When is the Minister for External Affairs going to enter into this debate?
-Order! If the honourable member for Reid interjects again, I will deal with him.
– In dealing with the question of subversion or of the threat of Communist China, the Leader of the Opposition said that it was a disastrously superficial theory and that it was a fragile and fallacious theory. Indeed, if this is what he still believes, it would be as well for the House and for the country if he said so. because this must be one matter to be taken into consideration if he formulates an alternative defence policy, which he has not yet done. Let us hear what he thinks, and what members of the Opposition think, about another matter he raised - that is, the protection of a great Australian company, the MLC, from being taken over by unknown and undisclosed overseas sources. Does he object to this? He mentioned it in a speech directed to the motion of no confidence in the Government. He did not say whether he agreed or disagreed. Indeed, it would be interesting to know.
Let us consider the question of tariffs. Another member of the Opposition - who, I notice, during the whole of his speech did not mention the Leader of the Opposition by name - spoke on the question of tariffs at some length and attacked the Government on its approach. Mr Speaker, this is the Government’s position on tariff policy as stated in this House, and on the position of the Tariff Board:
The Government has considered this report in the context of our established and well tried tariff policies. There has been no change in these policies. The Government is committed to ensuring the growth of a strong manufacturing industry which is in fact at the very foundation of the Government’s population building policies. The development of manufacturing industry is encouraged in many ways, and most notably by means of the Tariff. The Government has always been prepared adequately to protect, and will continue adequately to protect, economic and efficient industries. The Government will also afford adequate protection to industries of high importance from the standpoint of our strategic or very vital national interests.
Tariff policy has been and remains the responsibility of the Government, both in general and in relation to every single decision, lt will, of course-
I would hope that this would be true under any government - continue to be the Board’s role to advise-
Without instruction on how it is to advise - and it will continue to be the Government’s role, in determining levels of protection, to decide whether or not it will follow the advice given. These have been our policies and they have served us well. We have no intention of changing ‘hem.
In case it should be thought that that statement of policy, as it has been suggested, might have led to a lack of confidence in this Government by the business community, I point out that I have received today two telegrams from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. These are the people who were supposed - according to the honourable member for Yarra’ (Dr J. F. Cairns) - to have been so upset. Let us see whether, in fact, what the honourable member for Yarra said was happening is happening. The telegram reads:
This telegram confirms firmest and most sincere expression of loyalty and support from the Federal President and Members of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. Australian industry recognises your Government has diligently pursued important aims of economic growth and national and social development.
Would honourable members have expected that telegram, having listened to the speech of the honourable member for Yarra? Anybody who listened to him would not have done so. Would honourable members have expected that to support what the Leader of the Opposition put forward - that the business community was distressed at the way in which this Government was acting?
– Gee, you are a good bloke.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.
– The terms of the motion are that the Government has failed to make decisions on matters concerning defence. That has been demonstrated to be untrue. A further term is that the Government has failed to make decisions on development. That received so little credence, even from members of the Opposition, that it has scarcely even been mentioned by any speaker on the Opposition side. A further term is that the Government has failed to make decisions on social welfare in the last year. That has been demonstrated to be completely untrue. A further term is that the Government has refused to debate such matters in the Parliament. Anyone who reads Hansard will be able to see with their own eyes that that is untrue.
Some reference was made during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to young Lochinvar. If I remember correctly the ballad goes on: ‘Through all the wide Border his steed was the best.’ If we are to apply this to those who sit on this side of the House then I will glady accept it as a reasonable description of those who support me in this place. But what a weak and puling attack-
– Dear John.
– Order! I can recognise the voice of the honourable member for Hunter almost anywhere, and I do not appreciate his musical efforts in the House. If he offends again, I will deal with him.
– I do not appreciate his writing me a ‘Dear John’ letter; it is not at all appropriate. What a weak and puling attack this has turned out to be in the way it has been presented and, indeed, in the way in which it has been spoken to by members of the Opposition. It is a broken winded, broken mouthed, broken down old crock of a motion put by a rider worthy of that kind of steed. If it has served its purpose, if it has served any purpose, I am convinced that it has not served the purpose of leading anyone to lose any confidence in what the Government has done and is doing, but rather it may well have served the purpose of showing up in stark relief what little confidence can be placed in an Opposition and a Leader of an Opposition who can present such a motion and support it in such a way.
- Mr Speaker, it is notable that in this debate three senior Ministers have withdrawn their names from the list of speakers.
– There is nothing to speak to.
-Order! The honourable member for Evans will cease interjecting.
– These Ministers are the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) Is this an indication that they are leaving a sinking ship?
-Order! There is far too much conversation in the left hand corner of the House. I appealed for silence for the Prime Minister. I will see that the honourable member for Cunningham gets the same consideration.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) asked for a reasoned argument to be presented. In answer to his polemics I present a reasoned argument on the question of the pricing of Australian oil. He has sought to extract much merit and political virtue from the tabling of two documents. One of these documents is an aide-memoire which, as its name implies, contains in memorandum form a list of arrangements made ostensibly as the result of a series of consultations between himself and the Esso-BHP group. Accompanying it is a letter from the Comptroller-General of Customs and Excise who, honourable members will recall, presided over a meeting last week - a rather inflammatory meeting - of the various oil refining and producing interests. These people in fact had demanded that they should get full details of the policy and proposals of the Government. These happenings in themselves are evidence of the end result. They do not and never will give the full story. But I will give it and in detail.
No country has a greater need of cheap motor transport than Australia. No country pays more for it in fuel, vehicles and motor taxation. Our distances are immense. Our population is sparse. Transport expenditure absorbs an average of 30% of our gross national product. We pay double and treble the expenditure on transport of any comparable country. The fond hopes of Australian motorists and transport operators that our native oil fields would cheapen fuel, turned to fury with the probability of petrol increases of from 5c to 10c per gallon under the original 75c per barrel subsidy for Australian crude which this Government chose to offer, a subsidy treble that recommended by the Tariff Board.
Australian self-sufficiency in oil means higher fuel prices following the Fictitious - 1 repeat, fictitious - oil pricing policy announced by the Prime Minister on 10th October last and the outrageously generous terms extended in recent years to Esso-BHP for the production and marketing of offshore oil from vast areas at the paltriest of royalties. What should be our mightiest resource in fact will become a national economic disaster. Since Gippsland oil has loomed on the scene there have been four successive increases in the price of petrol. Clearly, more must come. Following public outcry and Opposition attacks the Government last January set up an interdepartmental committee comprising officers from the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of National Development to make recommendations on future policies. The whole issue of oil prices and the fantastic generosity of the Government were becoming particularly hot political issues at that stage.
One of the first recommendations made to the Government by the committee - these recommendations of course are not being tabled and until1 they are tabled it will not be possible for us to assess correctly the whole of the implications of this document - was that no need whatever existed for any incentive subsidy to be given and that in point of fact the oil was being produced very close lo a point of refining and consumption. lt certainly needed no protection from imports overseas. A further shock finding in these recommendations to the Government - and the Prime Minister did not refer to this - was that under the production subsidy as production increased Australia could lose the whole of its foreign exchange savings from the cessation of oil imports, the reason for this being that the profits to bc remitted by the Esso Co. to its principals in the United States of America actually could exceed the savings on imported oil. More serious still was the advice that EssoBHP had grossly understated its oil- reserves by applying ultra-conservative estimating techniques.
I pause at this stage to remind honourable members (bat lbc Prime Minister has not given us two things that are the key to the whole of this problem. The first of these is the true production costs of Esso-BHP for this oil. The second is the actual and true quantity of oil - quite a fantastic amount of oil - which lies in the company’s tease in Bass Strait. Esso-BHP has admitted to a mere 1,200 million barrels of oil, assessed on only three of its fields. But four of its other oil shows have yet to go into production. Reliable estimates of total ultimate oil1 production from the Esso-BHP holdings vary between 3.000 million barrels and 5,000 million barrels. A major portion of these 14,000 square miles of production leases has yet to be tested. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) - I understand he is to take part in this debate tater; he can deny what I am about to say then if he wishes to - told this House in 1966 during the debate on the off-shore petroleum products legislation that each square mile of oil in the Bass Strait oil bearing sands was worth $300m. All this has gone to one group to which this Government is determined to continue to play Santa Claus.
Esso’ is the brand name for the products of the Jersey Standard Oil Co., the world’s largest oil company, which produces in 14 countries, refines in 37 countries and sells in more than 100 countries. The Government of course has no exact information on the extent of oil reserves or the exact production costs of Esso-BHP because this close-mouthed company is definitely determined to keep these figures to itself. I refer to the figures both as to the volume of its resources and as to price. But the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act provides better machinery for suppression than for investigation. In addition to its oil reserves, the Gippsland shelf has a proven 6 million cubic feet of very pure petroleum gas. The production cost of this after allowing the companies concerned to recoup all their risk capital of some S320m to production stage in April 1969, with a 12)% return after tax deduction, will be less than 35c per barrel of oil and less than 7.5c per thousand cubic feet of gas at the point of on-shore delivery. The Victorian Government has agreed already to purchase a share of this gas and to pay for it an average of 30c per 1.000 cubic feet.
At the BHP asking price of $2.19 per barrel after September 1970. as evidenced by this aide-memoire, and at the Victorian Government’s agreed purchase price, the total gross profit to Esso-BHP, based on 3,000 barrels of oil and 6 million million cubic feet of natural gas would be about $6, 800m. Of course, the best accountancy brains that can be bought will be used to smother true production figures for taxation purposes and company tax will be minimised to the utmost. All this wealth can come from only 14.000 square miles of the continental shelf.
The Australian continental shelf is the largest and possibly the richest in the world, as the Barrow Island and the recent Legendre drilling results justify. Of this continental shelf, which has already been parcelled out almost wholly to various exporting interests, less than 16% in 1965 was held by wholly Australian interests. With the advice of the world’s best oil geologist, Lewis Weekes of the United States - Mr Two-and-a-half-per-cent I understand he is called - Esso-BHP’s off-shore drillings in the geologically young sands of the continental shelf have been fantastically successful. In its eleven Bass Strait fields, 6 wells have produced oil, 8 have produced gas and only 6 have been dry holes - a record without equal in the world. If the Minister for National Development. - I. hope that the Minister comes in on this - asserts that these drillings are on the frontier of technology. 1 reply by saying that in the Gulf of Mexico natural gas drilling platforms are operating at depths three times those in Bass Strait and in the heart of a major hurricane belt. Esso-BHP had obtained its areas and had drilled successfully before the Tariff Board subsidy recommendations in September 1965. Nevertheless, it not only claimed the subsidy until September 1970, with the continuing support of the Minister for National Development and the Minister for Trade and Industry, but it had the incredible impertinence to claim a continuance, of the subsidy into the 1970s, without having revealed any of its production cost figures or the true extent of its oil resources. To compound the offence, two months ago in this city at a luncheon address its general manager stated that it needed to discover ten times as much crude oil to be certain of continuity of supplies.
True to form, our worthy Prime Minister with his one-man-band techniques came thundering in to make confusion worse confounded by his policy statement of 10th
October last on crude oil prices. It would be uncharitable to suggest that he had his eye on a planned Federal election for 30th November, or that there would be a very nasty reaction of the motoring public to inevitable price increases for petroleum products. With a great flourish, he announced that the Government had carefully studied the various problems raised by the production incentive payment and that he had for some time been engaged in a series of negotiations with Australian oil producers and refiners. He further announced:
In the case of oil fields discovered by Ess,oBHP we have agreed by negotiation that there will be a reduction in the prices Australian refineries are required to pay-
For Australian crude - up to September 1970.
I repeat what the Prime Minister told the House tonight - that Esso-BHP will altogether forgo the 67c Australian, which is 75c in United States currency, incentive per barrel subsidy and will allow refineries a further discount of 5c Australian per barrel, or a total reduction of 72c per barrel. When one looks the gift horse in the mouth the result is not quite so good. The Prime Minister did announce that there was to be a reduction in the price of Australian crude oil from Esso-BHP from $3.14 per barrel to $2.42 per barrel at the customs port and at the refinery centre closest to the producing field. The Prime Minister conveniently omitted to mention that of the total 72c reduction per barrel 33c would have been paid in Australian company tax. The quid pro quo for this arrangement would be obvious to anybody with an elementary knowledge of the oil industry.
Esso-BHP oil production will commence in April of next year, on a rising scale, from an initial 50,000 barrels per day to a point where, by September 1970, the company hopes to supply Australia with 250,000 barrels per day or 60% of its then total requirements of 400,000 barrels per day. In this period its net loss of income, by waiving the production subsidy, would be $42m on 60 million barrels, or a net sum of $24m after company tax deduction. In return - this is the real quid pro quo - it will receive a virtual monopoly to supply, for a period of 10 years, commencing in September 1970 the whole of Australia’s crude oil requirements for petroleum products, subject only to a minor participation by marginal producers such as the Barrow Island and Moonie field operators. By early 1971 Australian crude will undoubtedly be supplying the whole of Australia’s petroleum requirements. With a progressive annual growth rate of 8%, Australian crude oil consumption will have increased from 150 million barrels per annum in 1971 to 300 million barrels per annum in 1980. The total consumption of Australian crude for that period will be 2,250 million barrels of which Esso-BHP can reasonably expect to supply 2,000 million. Esso-BHP preferred the solid substance of the super-profits for a decade to the shadow of a paltry $23m net income from the sale of 60 million barrels for the incentive subsidy period between April 1969 and September 1970. So much for their generosity, and so much for the effectiveness of the Prime Minister’s negotiations!
Esso-BHP shrewdly bent before the storm of vehement public protest. It is playing a long term game to consolidate its virtual monopoly. To achieve this, it conned the Prime Minister into a phony import parity pricing policy to protect it from the vagaries of vicious price competition resulting from over production, which is already rampant, in the international oil market. So to have grasped at a relatively insignificant subsidy for a brief initial period prior to achieving full production would have been crass stupidity, because the violence of public criticism would have made it impossible for its friends in the Government to continue to pamper it after September 1970. The phoney import parity price is defined as the posted price of overseas oil as at 10th October 1968, the date of the Prime Minister’s announcement, less the discounts allowed off those prices, plus overseas freight at the most efficient and economic rate prevailing, plus equitable wharfage charges. To this is added a premium for the quality differential of Australian crude oil. From it is deducted the average freight cost of delivering Australian oil to the port of delivery by the most economical means possible.
It is noteworthy that Esso-BHP, in its selling price for oil already in Australia, claims current overseas inflated freight rates and also will minimise its deductions for local delivery of Australian crude as local freights decrease with the economies of large scale tankers. A confrontation is inevitable in a situation where Esso-BHP, with a monopoly of crude oil supplies, virtually no oil refining capacity, and minimal retail outlets, must clash with the remainder of the international oil giants who have established oil refineries in Australia to process the crude imported from their overseas fields, and sold through their massive retail outlets. A handful of local independent Australian refineries are on the outskirts of the scrummage which will be resumed on the 9th October, according to Mr Carmody’s letter. The Australian independent refineries of course will be the first casualties of the clash. They are expendable.
The overseas interests deserve no more sympathy than Esso-BHP, because for many years they have deliberately evaded the minimised company tax payable in Australian operations and trading. The parent overseas company has, by the fiction of high posted oil prices at production points in the Persian Gulf and other areas, sold crude oil to their Australian subsidiary companies at prices which would permit bare coverage of the cost of Australian refining and retailing. For many years, all overseas oil companies, including Esso, have been mortally afraid of an Australian government which would re-open the whole of their trading transactions since their arrival in this country and make an arbitrary assessment of their true tax liabilities. The import parity formula in the Prime Minister’s statement gives a built-in guarantee to Esso against such tax re-assessment, and is a further powerful incentive to its altered attitudes.
The confrontation occurred last week and, as I said before, it was presided over by the Comptroller-General of Customs. Demands were made by the overseas companies for the full details, which the Prime Minister produced here tonight. The only persons whose interests are not being protected in this sorry mess are the Australian motorists and the Australian people, whose birthright is being plundered. The Prime Minister will be requested to table not merely these paltry, pathetic documents, but also every other document, every letter, memorandum or report in any way associated with the whole of the worst sell-out of natural resources in Australia’s history. This transaction is the largest single transaction, in financial terms, that has ever been entered into in Australia by any Prime Minister. Whilst we are prepared to give reasonable consideration to the Esso-BHP group so that it may recoup itself on reasonable terms for its investment, we maintain that the whole of Australia’s natural resources on the continental shelf must be retained for the benefit of the Australian people.
To enforce its policy, this Government in 1965 imposed an excise duty of 28c a barrel on crude oil imported in substitution for Australian crude. The long term price of $2.19 a barrel claimed by Esso-BHP last week is so far in excess of the price at which the various refining companies can import crude, even after paying the excise penalties, that many major refineries are considering doing this. That is the main reason why these documents were produced tonight. The importing companies are being literally hoist on their own petard by Esso-BHP using against them the fictitious posted prices under which they have mulcted the Australian motorist and the Australian Treasury. It is a case of the Hall gang meeting the Kelly gang. Crude oil bought on the open competitive international market can undoubtedly be landed in Australia for $1.25 a barrel before payment of the excise penalty; hence the screams of protest by the various local refineries at the phoney import parity price which permits Esso-BHP to claim $2.19 a barrel.
Less than 40% of Australia’s total refining capacity is in Victoria. Some of the local refineries are unable to process efficiently an admixture of Australian and imported crudes which contains more than 30% Australian crude, because they were originally designed to handle imported crude. Many operators will jib at the heavy cost, of reconstructing their refineries, and the Government’s next problem will centre on the question of whether adequate alterations to the refineries will be made in time to treat Australian crude production. The Prime Minister has been caught by the hard headed negotiators of Esso-BHP in the same manner as his predecessor and the Victorian Premier were caught. The Prime Minister attempted to cover his tracks with the sting in the tail of his announcement of 10th October, when he said:
The arrangements I have announced will provide a firm basis on which the petroleum industry can plan ahead for the use of Australian crude and will reduce any future rise in the price of petroleum products.
Future rises there will certainly be, wilh both Esso and BHP grossing in the coming decade $l,850m from the sale of crude oil alone. To this can be added at least another 30% from their natural gas rakeoff. A Labor administration will undoubtedly establish a major Commonwealth oil refinery to deal with the Gippsland crudes and end for all time the rackets of these buccaneers. The crowning tragedy of this Government’s internal administration has been the complete absence of a national fuel policy. This starry eyed, incompetent Government has perpetrated a series of blunders without equal in Australia’s history. There is an undoubted case for a very substantial reduction in Australian petroleum prices. A fair selling price for Gippsland crude oil to a Westernport refinery would be $1 a barrel until EssoBHP had recouped its capital outlay and secured a fair return. After it does so, ownership of Australian oil fields and the refining and reselling should be under the control of national statutory bodies. Interstate distribution should be under an interstate commerce commission, which should also be responsible for price fixation. In the interim, a price of $1 for Gippsland crude would permit a reduction of 7c to 8c per gallon in the retail price of petro].
That, Mr Deputy Speaker, is the reasoned and complete answer of the Opposition to the polemics of the Prime Minister.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– After listening to the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) read a rather dreary brief, honourable members of this House and the listening public might wonder whether this is really a high level debate on Government policy and Government leadership. It is hard to realise that a motion such as the one we are debating is probably the most serious and important motion that could come before the House. I really am not encouraged to speak with any vigour after the honourable gentleman has just about cleared this chamber of members of his own Party and of the Government Parties. However, he has followed the general tenor of the debate today. The Australian Labor Party was billed to come forward this afternoon and really annihilate the Government because of its activities over the past 12 months. But instead of this, what have we seen? We have seen a disheartened Opposition conducting a most dismal, puerile and futile attack on the Government. 1 have been in this Parliament for 1 1 years. In that time, I have always been led to believe that whenever a motion of want of confidence in the Government or a censure motion comes up, it is terribly important - that it takes precedence over all other business, that question time is suspended and that the debates on the series of Bills on the notice paper are postponed until we have dealt with this very important motion. There have not been very many of these motions during the 1 1 years I have been in the Parliament, but whenever there has been one it has centred on one single item, one single matter of substance and of urgency. But in the debate today honourable members opposite have been broadly covering the whole ambit of Government. They can show no justification for treating this as a matter of urgency. They can show no need for bringing this before the Parliament today. To do so is to waste the Parliament’s time. Why do they behave in this way when they constantly complain that not enough Bills are coming forward or that they have not sufficient opportunity to speak. [Quorum formed.]
It was good of the honourable member for Cunningham to fill the chamber again for me after he had cleared it, but I doubt that members of his own Party will stay here very long to listen to the facts. The facts are that Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament has failed to make one penetrating point against the Government. Goodness me, with the whole ambit of Government business under examination surely the Opposition could have grabbed one issue and hit the Government with one issue. But what have we had? We have had one honourable member opposite raise the question of our defence policy and another honourable member opposite trot out the old horse, the Fill aircraft, but it could not get a run. In fact, apart from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), speakers on the Opposition side did not mention the? Fill. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) raised the question of tariffs, the honourable member for Cunningham referred to the Government’s oil policy and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred to primary industry and national development. And so it went on. Each honourable member opposite has raised his pet subject. The debate has reminded me of an AddressinReply debate or a Budget debate. This has been the tenor of the discussion today. The alternative government has moved this want of confidence motion, saying in effect that it should govern this country because we have failed. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition said that confidence in the Government has been eroded and that we have no right to look after the affairs of this country. I ask honourable members opposite to show me one area in which confidence in the Government has been eroded. Over the last 12 months has not Australia experienced the greatest capital inflow into this country in its history? Is not this an indication that other people have confidence in this country? Are not our employment figures as high as they have ever been? We have record figures for building and for car sales. We have record figures in almost every facet of Government business. Yet the Opposition moves a want of confidence motion and says that the Government is not competent to look after this country. Goodness me, this can be futile.
The Opposition really gave this motion a preparatory build up in the newspapers on Saturday, Sunday and yesterday. But today what did we have? A real fizzer. There is not even enough enthusiasm in the Opposition to keep the debate alive. Most of the spirit in the debate is coming from this side of the House, certainly not from the Opposition. Has the Opposition proved us guilty? I do not think it has proved us guilty on one issue, lt has tried to belittle the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It has said that he does not have the confidence of his ministerial colleagues, Government supporters or the public. I was very interested to read the results of a poll which were published recently in the ‘Age’. In this poll Australians were asked whether they would like to have the American system of government, whether they would like to have a president and. if they did. who would be their choice, lt was interesting to read that our present Prime Minister was chosen well in front of all the other candidates. The Leader of the Opposition was well down the scale. Of course, it is not only in the minds of the people that there is doubt about the Leader of the Opposition. One has only to recall some of the activities and meanderings of the Leader of the Opposition over the last 12 months. I recall that in about April of this year he got into a huff with the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party because it would not accept some of his points of view. He wanted to test his great strength and his following in his Party, so he resigned from the position of Leader of the Opposition and asked his parliamentary colleagues to vote him back in. He was voted in, but only just, and 1 doubt whether he will ever do that again. I am sure that his rating in his Party has decreased after his performance today, and I hope that it was not his idea to move this want of confidence motion, because the Opposition has certainly lost by it. It will not do his status any good whatsoever.
During his 10 months in office the Prime Minister has shown that he possesses all the qualities and capabilities of great leadership, and that he has the support of the average Australian. But, above all, he has the great quality of understanding the Australian sentiment. I believe that he is giving Australia a new image in the world. He is raising this country to a new level of nationhood where we are standing on our own feet and speaking for ourselves. The rumours which the Labor Party has tried to engender about divisions within the Government’s ranks are stupid and futile. Never have I known the Government to have more solid and loyal support than it has today.
This afternoon when listening to the Leader of the Opposition I waited with bated breath to hear him refer to primary industries. Having ministerial responsibility for them, naturally I wanted to hear what he had to say about them. Unfortunately, his remarks about primary industries were confined to one sentence. He referred to the reconstruction of the dairying industry. The honourable member for Dawson, in his own academic style, made some reference to primary industries, but his comments were hardly critical. They merely pointed out some of the problems confronting primary industries, of which honourable members on this side of the chamber and the Government are well aware.
The Labor Party has not really shown a great deal of interest in primary industries. I think that is a pity, because this year the primary industries have gone through one of the toughest years that I can recall. They have gone through the severest drought that this country has experienced. About a year ago they were hit by the devaluation of sterling. They were also hit by falling world prices for their commodities and by increasing costs in this country. Yet we do not see the Opposition showing much interest in primary industries. Recently the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was debated in this chamber, lt was probably the most important Bill relating to primary industries that has been dealt with this year. In the States members of the Labor Party had been making great play about the wheat stabilisation proposal. But when the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was before this chamber there was only one speaker from the Opposition side, and that was the honourable member for Dawson, who showed interest in this subject. It is to his credit that at least he spoke on that Bill.
When, about 12 months ago, Britain devalued sterling this had a tremendous impact on primary industries which were dependent on exporting goods to the United Kingdom or to other sterling countries. Yet over the last .12 months we have scarcely heard a word from the Labor Party as to the effect devaluation has had on primary industries or what should be done to help them. At the time devaluation took place there was not a single murmur from the Opposition. One would have thought that the Opposition would have been concerned about the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people in Australia engaged in these most important industries which help to keep our foreign exchange position healthy. But no, the Opposition scarcely made a murmur. Today the Opposition moved a censure motion in this chamber, bait except for one sentence in a 45-minute speech the Leader of the Opposition made no reference to primary industries.
Last Thursday six Bills dealing with primary industry were dealt with in this House. In fact nineteen Bills were passed by this chamber last Thursday. But honourable members opposite are complaining of not having enough opportunity to debate matters in the Parliament. Surely it must have been a record to pass nineteen Bills through this chamber in one day. I cannot recall so many Bills being passed through this chamber in one day previously. Scarcely a member of the Labor Party spoke on any of these measures. But today the Opposition has the audacity to move a want of confidence motion the latter part of which refers to the Government’s unwillingness to debate matters in the Parliament.
– The Government will gag this debate.
– It should have been gagged a long time before now because there has not been any worthwhile matter of substance brought forward on which to have a debate today. But rather than speak about primary industries the Leader of the Opposition rode his normal hobby horse as it were, and talked about the problems in the cities. Well, that is all right. I accept that this is probably his role but he just completely ignores the importance of rural industries and the people who are occupied in them. He seems more concerned to see that every urban dweller gets a sewerage system. I read in ‘The Canberra Times’ yesterday a report that he was branching out on a new subject, that of education. I thought this might well be the subject on which he was going to launch his attack today but he did not mention education until the last half minute of his speech. So he cannot really say that education was to the forefront in his mind.
I mentioned that primary industries have gone through a very difficult period during the past 12 months and I would have thought, this being such an important subject and having so many problems, that the prospective Minister for Primary Industry - the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) - might have spoken. But no, the honourable member for Dawson comes forward as the champion for national development, the primary industries and transport. You name it, he gets up and speaks. He seems to be the only authority in the Opposition who is competent to talk or capable of talking on these matters, but it is most obvious that the same member has never opened his mouth on foreign affairs or defence since he has been in this Parliament. The honourable member for Dawson seems to keep right away from those matters, yet they were supposed to be the most important part of this motion of want of confidence today, that is, the forward defence policy of this country and our inability to plan ahead in buying defence materials. But no, not a word of those matters from the honourable member for Dawson.
The honourable member mentioned wool, said that wool prices are very low and tried to imply that the Government should do something about the position. He said that all that the Government is doing for the wool industry is giving it a bit of superphosphate subsidy and also is helping a bit with promotion and research. The honourable member does not mention that the Government is giving $14m for promotion and research, that this amount was increased last year by several million dollars, and that the bounty on superphosphates was increased from $6 to $8 a ton. A Bill introduced this year will increase by another $13m - from $24m to $37m - the cost of the superphosphate bounty.
– What about nitrogen?
– And the same story on nitrogen. The bounty will increase very considerably and this is a help to primary industry. The honourable member made a reference to the dairying industry, as also did the Leader of the Opposition, spoke about our marginal farms reconstruction scheme, said that the Government had not brought anything into this Parliament in relation to it and said that the only statement I had made relating to it was a speech in Ipswich. Mr Deputy Speaker, this charge was completely dishonest.
I have been asked a number of questions in this House and in reply I have told of the progress we are making. There have been statements put out by the Australian Agricultural Council as to the progress of the scheme. Surely the Leader of the Opposition should know the constitutional problems involved in implementing this new dairy farm reconstruction scheme, where the whole authority - a sovereign right - for implementing this scheme is in the hands of the States. Before we can have it working we must have the agreement of all State governments, and during the year there have been continuous negotiations with the various State departments to try to produce a formula that is acceptable to all the States. I believe we have produced a formula that is acceptable - a very generous scheme - and on 30th September the Prime Minister wrote to the State Premiers asking them whether it was acceptable to them. Up to this point of time only two replies have been received from the State governments as to whether they are going to accept the proposal - a new proposal that was initiated by this Government to give $25m over the next 4 years to try to help the small man, who is unable to make a satisfactory living, to leave his farm and be able to get a reasonable price for it so that he does not go with the seat out of his pants. The purpose also is that adjoining farms may amalgamate and be a more viable, more economic unit so that there is an opportunity, once having a bigger holding, to diversify into other forms of production. We have not heard the Labor Party’s point of view on this scheme. I heard the honourable member for Dawson say tonight that there was great opposition to this scheme right across Australia. Well, I met the leaders of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation in Canberra a month ago and I put it to them whether they accepted the proposal or not. It was quite unanimous round the table that they did support the proposal. So do not let anybody say that there is discontent about the scheme among the leaders of the industry. There are plenty of people who want to make political capital out of it, but this is something that is worth while and I believe that, in their hearts, members of the Opposition support it as being worth while.
But there have been many activities in primary industries which have helped greatly to buffer the problems they have to face. I have mentioned devaluation. The Government issued a statement within a week of devaluation in which it said that it would compensate producers for tosses which were demonstrable and unavoidable. There were immediate losses for which compensation was paid. An amount of $30m was paid to the wheat industry, and during the year up to this point of time $60m has been provided to various rural industries to overcome the losses they incurred as a result of Britain’s devaluation. Cynical remarks were made about the dairy industry and we heard that the Government is doing nothing in that area. What about the S27m that was paid in bounty, the $800,000 to help the skimmed milk producers and the 34c per lb commercial butterfat underwriting, which is of great significance today? A sum of $3m was paid for immediate losses of devaluation and a further $9m is to be paid. In other words, the bounty that has been provided to the dairy industry this year has been not $27m but more in the vicinity of $40m to help the producers through one of the most difficult periods they have ever suffered.
We have endeavoured to help primary industries through the hardships of drought. This country has gone through very unfortunate circumstances in having a succession of droughts which started in the north and wandered right across the continent. During the past 2 or 3 years this Government has given, by way of special revenue grants to the States, by relief to the farmers and by financial assistance to them almost $100rn to those affected by drought. Do not let anybody point the finger at this Government and say that it has been ignoring the problems of the primary producer. It recognises that there are great problems. It has faced up to them and has done all it possibly could to help the producers.
The wheat proposals, which were opposed by various sections of the community, were not really opposed by the Labor Party because the Labor Party did not offer the wheat growers any more than the Government was offering. But the Government’s proposal to the wheat industry has guaranteed it $2, 000m for the next five crops, an increase of $400m over what the current scheme offers to that industry. When we look at the difficult marketing circumstances of the wheat industry and consider what it might endure in the future, we must conclude that, nobody could say that these proposals were unreasonable or not fair. The Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Dawson mentioned that the Government had failed to bring down legislation to protect the sedentary species on the Great Barrier Reef and on our continental shelf. I said to this House only last week that legislation would be brought in during this session and I say it again tonight: I hope that the legislation will be before the House during this week.
This debate has been one of the most futile I have heard. For the most important motion that can be brought before the House to be treated in such a flippant, casual way as the Opposition has treated this motion, without showing any need for urgency and without making any penetrating or sharp point on any aspect of the Government’s administration, shows the weakness of the Opposition, lt reflects on the Opposition. It certainly shows that the Opposition is not capable of being or competent to be the alternative Government of this country.
– This debate arises from a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the following terms:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of its failure and inability to make decisions on matters concerning the defence, development and welfare of Australia and its refusal and unwillingness to debate such matters in the Parliament.
I propose to give reasons why the motion should be carried and before I finish I hope to penetrate the outer crust of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who complained that the Opposition has not put enough kick into the debate. He reminds me of some punch drunk pug who does not know when he is beaten. If ever a government was defeated in a debate, this Government has been defeated today. Before I finish speaking I hope that everyone, including the honourable members on the Government side, will admit that the Government has been well and truly defeated. I hope that my contribution will not disappoint anybody on the opposite side of the House.
– I take a point of order. I understand that Opposition members are meeting now to depose their leader.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The Minister for Primary Industry said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has the confidence of his Ministers. He seemed to be very sensitive on this point. He seemed to think that he had to make the point because there was some doubt about it. He went on to say that the Opposition’s allegation that there was disunity in the ranks of the Government Parties was incorrect. This is rather amazing and again seems to be a matter of protesting a little too much. I can see the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) smiling. He has a pretty thick hide and even when it is penetrated, as I hope to penetrate it in a moment, he still smiles. I will draw the attention of honourable members to some salient facts that have come to my notice during the last 12 months or so.
Let us not forget that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is Leader of the Australian Country Party, had his name removed from the list of those who would speak in this debate and refused to take part in it. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was also included in the list but he withdrew because he was not willing to defend the Government’s actions over the last 12 months. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), who is sitting in the House listening to me, I am pleased to say, did not bother to listen to some of his colleagues in the Ministry when they spoke. But he is paying me the courtesy of listening to what I have to say. He also withdrew his name from the list of speakers for this debate because he did not believe that he could support the Government. Is it any wonder that he cannot support the Government? He is one Minister who is honest enough to say what he thinks about his colleagues. Only last night at what must have been a beef and burgundy gathering he said that too many of his colleagues have fallen flat on their faces and have had to discover from the hard lessons of experience that it is not possible to make statements without getting the facts straight. He went on to say that too often Ministers implicate the heads of their departments. And how right he is. We have one honest Minister here. What a pity that he did not succeed in winning the Prime Ministership.
What a pity it is that those who are still hoping for the day when he will have the numbers to become Prime Minister are not able to arouse sufficient courage to rise up and put him into office so that we can have the sort of government that he claims Australia is entitled to have.
H is very surprising to note that the Treasurer, the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the Minister for External Affairs, the three most senior Ministers and the ones against whom this debate is aimed just as much as it is aimed against the Prime Minister, shirked their responsibility to defend their Government. The Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) is in the some position. He can usually be relied upon to back the Prime Minister on anything and he becomes the spokesman on almost everything from foreign affairs down when the Minister is absent. I do not know whether the Minister for External Affairs knew that the Prime Minister appointed none other than his Western Australian colleague to act as his spokesman during his absence but it is a fact, much to our amazement and much to the amazement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). But the Minister for Air too has shirked his responsibility to speak in this debate.
Let us look at this wonderfully united party about which the Minister for Primary Industry is so sensitive. The honourable members for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and Bradfield (Mr Turner) are in revolt because the Government is continually using the gag against them to prevent them from speaking in debates in this Parliament. On one occasion the Government had the cheek to ask an honourable member on the other side to vote to gag himself, lt thought that this was the normal practice. Is it any wonder that one of the more intelligent and cultivated members on the Government side walked past the Government Whip and told him of a new site for the proposed Parliament House, lt is no wonder that he should do so. Let us look at the honourable members for Chisholm, Bowman (Dr Gibbs) and Moreton. Of course, the honourable member for Moreton is in all these little coteries of discontent. He has already stated that he would like to see the Minister for External Affairs resign from the Parliament altogether because the Minister has not sup ported the Negro hating white rulers of Rhodesia. He is part of the Rhodesia lobby. Once again I find myself impelled to say something good about the Minister for External Affairs. At least he has had the decency to stand up against the Rhodesian Government, much to the discontent of the Rhodesia lobby in this Parliament.
This is the great united Party about which the Minister for Primary Industry has said so much. There seems to have been only one point of agreement between the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs since they had their little bit of fisticuffs over who would be Prime Minister and that is on the issue of Rhodesia. At least the Prime Minister sees eye to eye with the Minister for External Affairs on that issue.
Let mc now turn to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who is Minister for Social Services. Not long ago when he was a back bench member he was a raging lion on social service matters, but the raging lion has now become a docile Iamb. He was given a job in the Ministry and the Government can count on his silent support for everything it does. But what is the relationship between the Minister for Social Services and the Minister lor External Territories (Mr Barnes)? I once had the unfortunate experience of passing them in the lobby. The language I heard these two gentlemen exchanging on the issue as to whether the blackfellows at Wave Hill station should have a little property to live on startled even me, and I am an exshearer. Oddly enough, I find myself oscillating between this side and that side in disputes between members of the Government Parties. This time I find myself on the side of the Minister for Social Services, who wanted the owners of Wave Hill lo give up some of their land, some of their ill gotten gains, to the poor unfortunate Aboriginals. This request was refused by the members of the Australian Country Party, the representatives of the big vested interests, who said that the Aboriginals would get none of this land.
– The Vestey interests.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the correction. This is the way that this wonderful, united Government is carrying on the affairs of this country. I leave the brawling that goes on between the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for External Territories and turn to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson). He is so utterly disgusted with the Government’s performance in this Parliament that he has decided to retire from the Parliament at the age of 26 years, although he holds a seat that noone could lose for the Liberal Party. He is getting out of the Parliament altogether because he cannot put up with the Government any longer. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is still harbouring a feeling of bitter resentment and is still discontented about the way the Government rubbished him over the ‘Voyager’ affair. His feelings for the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who was then the Minister for the Navy, are too deep seated to be disguised even by an actor as good as the honourable member for La Trobe is.
The honourable member for Perth, who was dropped as Minister for the Navy and who was to take up the office of Speaker, was disappointed. He and those who dropped him from the Ministery were disappointed to see the bolter get home. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Aston) took the prize away from the honourable member for Perth. The honourable member for Perth was expendable in the Government’s view. It was just too bad that he missed out. Even the honourable member for Moreton resigned the position of Deputy Whip, a very high position of great prestige. He resigned because he could not stomach the way this Government was browbeating its backbenchers and also because of its policy on Rhodesia. The honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson) and the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) were dropped from the Ministry by the present Prime Minister. In their places came the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) and, I repeat, the roaring lion from Mackellar.
The Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence are well known to be bitter opponents of the Prime Minister. Is it any wonder when they look at some of the statements he has made? Each of them is very much superior in intellect to the Prime Minister. They think: ‘Here is a man of inferior intellect who is so much poorer in experience than we are’. They wonder why he should be railroaded into the position of Prime Minister by the oncers and by his colleagues from the Senate, who have probably never heard a decent debater in their lives. I refer again to the Prime Minister’s appointment of the Minister for Air to take over the portfolio of the Minister for External Affairs during his absence. If ever I saw a calculated insult to the Minister for Defence and to the other senior Ministers, this was it. We could not get a more insignificant Minister than the Minister for Air. He is not even in the Cabinet - not yet, but he will be there soon. When he is, somebody who is already in the Cabinet and who feels him breathing down his neck will not be happy about the situation.
Now I turn to the Country Party, because it was the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who is Deputy Leader of the Country Party, who chose to make this very point about the great solidarity on the Government side. What did the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) say about the Deputy Leader of the Country Party not so long go? I checked my facts a moment ago to see that I am quoting him correctly. He said that the Deputy Leader was only a messenger boy running in and out of the Cabinet room doing what he was told. That is what he said. He does not deny it. He is a forthright man if nothing else. He is an honest man who admits it if he makes a statement of that kind. It is not only the honourable member for Mallee who is disappointed with the Country Party’s leadership in this Parliament. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) has some terrible tales of woe to tell against the Country Party over the way it has mishandled the wheat agreement on behalf of the cockeys of this country. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), another oncer who represents the Country Party, praises the Government in the Parliament where his colleagues can hear what he is saying, and goes on record in the local Press and condemns the Government. One cannot read in any newspaper in the whole of the Kennedy electorate any statement from the honourable member for Kennedy that does not condemn the Government for what it is doing.
The Minister for Health and the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) have been knocking in vain at the Cabinet door, trying to get in so that South Australia can have a representative in Cabinet. Why is South Australia not represented in the Cabinet? Why is it that Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland get a representative in Cabinet and South Australia has been left out? South Australia has been left out for a long time. Ever since the Honourable Sir Alex Downer left the Parliament, South Australia has been without a representative in Cabinet, ls it any wonder that we cannot get the Chowilla Dam? Is it any wonder that South Australia cannot get the assistance for rail standardisation to which it is entitled? Is it any wonder that our cries for a spur line from Port Augusta to Whyalla are not heeded? Is it any wonder that the Government takes no notice of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner’s report recommending a new line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs? Is it any wonder that it is dawdling over the construction of the new section of line from Cockburn to Broken Hill? Is it any wonder that the agreement between the Playford Government and the Chifley Labor Government on the standardisation of the gauge from Adelaide to Port Pirie, which was signed more than 20 years ago, has not yet been honoured? It seems to me that these two gentlemen are desperate to get into Cabinet. They have good reason to be desperate, because the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) is sitting there waiting to take the place of one of them at any tick of the clock when he can catch the eye of the Prime Minister. If one can believe what the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) says, as reported in the Press, he will be Prime Minister himself by the time he is 34 years of age. The honourable member for Angas might make the Cabinet then. He has no other chance, I think.
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister has upset the whole of the Public Service by the way he is showing preferment to his personal friends and by his activities in establishing a kind of Gorton clan in which only people who are friends of the Prime Minister or of the Prime Minister’s secretary have any chance of advancement. This sort of thing is causing a tremendous upheaval within the Public Service. The Permanent Heads of Department have no idea what lies in front of them. Is it any wonder that they have had the Government? Compare this state of disunity with the healthy rivalry that we see in the
Labor Party, where the leader is selected in a real fair dinkum Australian way. In the Labor Party the best man always wins. We have a good, healthy contest about it, but in the end we always get the best man. Whoever wins in the Labor Party wins because he is the best man. That is the difference. Nobody can win support for the leadership of the Labor Party by promising seats in the Cabinet, because the leader of the Labor Party does not have the right to hand pick Cabinet Ministers. If the leader of the Liberal Party did not have the right to hand pick his Ministers, the present leader would not be there now, because the person selected would have been selected on merit and not according to the promises of Cabinet preferment that he made. While this mad scramble for personal position and power goes on, the country’s internal and external affairs are racing to ruin. Company profits are at an all time high. The living standards of wage and salary earners are getting worse. Families exist only by the breadwinner working overtime and, in most case, by the mothers of the children working as well. They cannot exist otherwise.
I have only a little time to spend on the Prime Minister. He promised that a defence review would be made a long time ago. We have seen no review yet. He presented no review tonight. We are not likely to see any review by the time the Parliament adjourns next week. We have been told, as a kind of coup de grace, that there is to be some defence commitment in Malaysia. This was a special announcement kept for Parliament tonight. I thought that the Prime Minister had evidently taken notice of our twitting about Ministers making statements outside the Parliament instead of inside it. But I was to be disappointed; I picked up a copy of last week’s Inside Canberra’ and this is what I read:
Australia has told the Malaysian and Singapore Governments that it will maintain maximum defence forces there at least until 1971 . . .
The article then goes on and quotes verbatim nearly everything that the Prime Minister has told us tonight. After the nation rocking statement that was to set the whole debate in favour of the Government, no explanation has been given by the Prime Minister of the reasons why the Government has failed to provide proper aerodromes for the Fill aircraft. We have known for a long time that the FI Ils were coming here. Surely it was known when they were bought what kind of runways they would need. Now we discover from the Leader of the Opposition tonight that the runways at Amberley, in Queensland, are 2,000 feet too short. This is supposed to be the aerodrome that will be the base for these aircraft. Then the Prime Minister talked about manning the radar. Experts will be sent over to man the radar system in Singapore. I would like to ask whether we are manning our radar in Australia for more than 40 hours a week now. When I last inquired about this, I was told that we did not man the radar at weekends because the men were off duty. They work for only 40 hours a week. We do not man the radar at night time. We do not man it at weekends. We do not man it on public holidays or Sundays. Evidently the Russians or the Chinese or whoever was to attack us have given a firm undertaking that they will not attack at the weekends or on public holidays. So we do not bother to man the radar at these times. What a stupid situation. We have practically no air force. We have a navy only half strong enough to keep fishing boats out of the Gulf of Carpentaria. For our size and economic strength we have the world’s smallest army. What a shocking condition we have got into. Is it any wonder that we on this side ask Government supporters to carry this motion of no confidence in the government.
We have bright, intelligent children being forced to leave school at an early age because of the economic pressures on their parents and the paucity of Commonwealth scholarships. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, a Labor government will spend $10m a year to provide free education at university level for children with the brains to absorb such education, irrespective of the size of the bank account of their parents, ls this not the way things should be? Is it not a crying shame that young, bright would-be scientists, architects and engineers should be condemned to a menial existence simply because their parents cannot afford to send them to university? Is it not shocking to know that the United States and Russia spend on tertiary education proportionately five or six times as much as is spent in Australia, which is one of the richest countries? Is it not a crime that while all these things have been happening, since 1950 our indebtedness to the rest of the world has increased by $7,000m.
I regret that time will not permit me to develop all of the points that 1 had intended to raise. Under this Government the cost of housing has increased. The cost of living has increased out of all proportion to the exorbitant profits being made in some quarters. All this has happened because we have a lazy, power drunk, arrogant Government which seems to think that it is here by divine right - by the will of God - and that only the end of the world will remove it from office. For 19 long weary years this Government has been in office - the longest time in the history of the Commonwealth. The blame for everything that is wrong with the country today must be sheeted home fairly and squarely to this Government. Who else can be held responsible for what has happened in the last 19 years?
For 19 years the Government has allowed anomalies in the social services scheme to remain uncorrected. For 19 years it has allowed the living standards of wage and salary earners to deteriorate. For 19 years it has allowed wealthy Australian and foreign combines to wax fat on excess profits. For 19 years it has neglected our defence needs. For 19 years it has allowed foreigners to acquire and exploit our natural resources. For 19 years it has ignored the need for national development. It has allowed the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to collapse when it should have been branching out and getting bigger. For 19 years the Government has ignored the housing needs of the people. About 70% of the men who fought in World War II have not yet obtained war service finance for a home over their heads. For 19 years the Government has presided over the country’s falling trade balances. It has provided a feast for the boodlers and hig business interests who contribute to Liberal Party and Country Parly funds.
Look at John McEwen House. Who do you think built it? Not John McEwen; it was the people who financed its construction. Why? Just look at the Tariff Board reports. On top of everything else the Department of External Affairs was prepared to give further support to the Country Party by renting a huge area of floor space in John McEwen House. The Minister for
External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) obviously does not know anything about it, which emphasises the point I made earlier: The great unity between the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs is such that the Minister has only now discovered that his Department is to be shifted to John McEwen House. What a wonderful revelation.
While the rich grow richer in this country the poor get poorer. While the position of age pensioners is getting worse the position of the rich is getting better. While the boodlers, the Ansetts and all the other people who pay into Liberal Party campaign funds are getting more money than is good for them other people are not getting enough. If members of this Parliament are loyal to their trust and not recreant to their duty to the people of the great Australian nation whom they represent, or should represent, they will vote for the motion. If we fail to take the opportunity presented to us tonight to force this lazy, power drunk, arrogant Government to the people - if we vote against the motion - we are guilty of neglecting our duty and are not worthy to be called Australians.
– We have just been treated to an exhibition of clowning the like of which I have never seen in the House in a debate on a motion of this kind. I wondered whether the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) was in the right job. Listening lo him I thought how magnificent it would be if there were on television a ‘Hindmarsh’s Half Hour’.
– A gossip column.
– Yes, a gossip column. No doubt it would raise a lot of laughs. But we are here to discuss a serious motion. We have had tonight not only clowning from the honourable member for Hindmarsh but a bit of conceit because he said that the Government was punch drunk and by the time he had finished the Government would be reeling. I did a bit of boxing when I was young and I have reeled once or twice in my life, but I assure honourable members that I have never been clearer in the head than I was after the honourable member for Hindmarsh had spoken. Fancy talking about the healthy rivalry in the Labor Party. Fancy complaining because the Leader of the Labor Party never has the right to nominate anyone for Cabinet. This Government has ban in office for 19 years. Of course the Leader of the Labor Party has not had the right in that time to nominate anyone for Cabinet; he has never won an election.
Let us get away from this clowning. Is this debate meant to be a serious attack on the Government? If it is, let us treat it as a serious attack. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) indicated that this would be a serious attack on the Government because he moved:
I cannot understand the Opposition’s claim that the Government has refused to debate matters. I was Leader of the House for a time and I know that there are forms of the House whereby an Opposition may with the greatest of ease bring forward for debate any matter that it sees fit. If a matter is not debated, that is the Opposition’s problem. The Opposition alone is to blame for not bringing the matter forward.
It is laughable to talk about the Government’s failure and inability to make decisions concerning development. Of course no Labor Opposition can attack any government on development. You have to go back almost into the mists of time to discover a Labor government. I admit that what Labor did so long ago may not be completely applicable today. Nevertheless, we saw years ago that the Labor government never had any problems about development because it saw to it that there never was any development. Labor applied every kind of retardation through a policy of nationalisation. This policy made sure that the only overseas company interested in looking for oil in Australia gave up and went home.
Labor had policies of restriction, of capital issues control and of petrol rationing. Under Labor, Australia was forced to import coal notwithstanding that the country had more than 1,000 million tons of high quality coal. All this was, I concede, a long time ago: Nevertheless, Labor should not be the judge of this Government’s alleged failure in respect of development. No wonder the present Governor-General wrote a book during Labor’s term of office which he called ‘Double or Quit’. Everybody realised at the time that no development was proceeding in this country. On the other hand, this Government has taken a remarkable number of actions towards developing Australia. Under this Government we have seen enormous development in this country. Yet members opposite talk about our inability to make decisions on matters concerned with development.
Let me refer quickly to some of the things that have happened since the LiberalCountry Party Government came into power in 1949. We have set up the Australian Forestry Council and have arranged for considerable loans for softwood plantings. We have set up the Australian Water Resources Council and, again, have made advances to the State governments. Only last week we set up the Australian Minerals Council which, I believe, will be of tremendous benefit to the country. At this Council, State and Federal Ministers and officers will discuss vast problems associated with the development of major mineral projects in the interests of the nation as a whole. We have established the oil search subsidy. The result has been discoveries of vast quantities of oil. The Opposition, of course, is upset because we have this abundance of oil. I heard one speaker try to prove that we are paying too much for the oil. Some people say we are paying too little and some say we are paying too much, so we must be somewhere about right.
Let us look at this problem. There is no country which does not protect its oil industry, except the countries of the Middle East which have vast resources. The United States of America and Canada provide far higher protection than we have in Australia. But we have guaranteed that after September 1970 the price for the ensuing 5 years will be the import parity price today. It is perfectly true, as the Prime Minister said, that the price of overseas oil may go down. But one does not know. On the other hand it may go up. It is a guess. 1 was talking today to a very experienced person who has been associated with the oil industry all his life. He believes that the price of overseas oil will probably remain as it is today, although there may be inflation which will mean that the cost of producing oil is slightly greater. As a result of the Government’s policy we have vast resources which the Labor Party would never have got because it does not have a policy of development. As a result of the oil search subsidy we have found not only oil but gas and tremendous quantities of phosphate. We have off-shore legislation under which everyone knows that he has security of tenure and title of seas. We are the only federation in the world which has succeeded in doing this. Not only did we have to get the support of all Australian governments but “the support of their Parliaments in order to pass this legislation which is a milestone in any federation in the world.
We have set up the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. We have had a mapping programme under which the mapping of the whole of Australia has been completed. There is now a new 10-year accelerated programme under which hydrological work is being undertaken in our northern approaches and harbours. We have set up a National Materials Handling Bureau. We have established a Northern Division in the Department of National Development. We have set up a Fuel Branch and a National Coal Research Advisory Committee. We have a water resources survey subsidy. We have a national water resources development programme and we have provided water research scholarships. We have a beef roads programme. It is true that the Opposition, when in government, in order to succeed in getting a long term contract with the United Kingdom agreed to make a small payment, for beef roads in the north. It was a very small payment indeed. Today we have a programme under which we have spent or are committed to spend SI 08m. We have the brigalow clearance programme, harbour subsidies in the north, loans for railway upgrading, a petroleum products subsidy scheme and resources surveys. So one could go on. The fact is that the Government has achieved something; yet members of the Opposition claim that we suffer from an inability to make decisions. No government in the history of this country has ever achieved as much as has been achieved by this Government.
I turn now to water resources. This was mentioned today by the Leader of the Opposition who said, in terms similar to those of a question he asked in the House recently, that New South Wales has not seen the colour of the Commonwealth’s money under the national water resources development programme. He said this today when I did not have the right to reply, but when he asked a question on this matter recently I referred to the tremendous contribution that the Commonwealth Government has made to water resources development in the States. Let us realise initially, of course, that under the Constitution the States have the responsibility of developing their own water resources, but we as a Commonwealth Government realise that over and above this the Commonwealth must make considerable contributions because the States do not have the ability or the facilities to develop fully their water resources. How have we set about doing this? First of all we set up the Australian Water Resources Council. Here State and Federal Ministers and their officers discuss mutual problems concerned with research and the work that is being done to see that there is no overlapping. We are making a payment to the Australian Water Resources Council for the accelerated measurement of surface and underground water in Australia. This expenditure will amount to about $4.5m in the next triennium. Over and above this the Commonwealth, realising the inability of the States to finance all the projects, finances special projects which appear to be beyond the resources of the State governments. The major one among these is the Snowy Mountains development on which $667m has been spent already. It should be realised that this development is in New South Wales, yet Victoria gets some of the benefit from the generation of electricity. The Commonwealth Government has relieved New South Wales of the burden of finding the tremendous amount of money it would have had to find if it had to develop resources elsewhere to produce that electricity. In addition the Commonwealth is associated with many other projects like the Ord River scheme, the Tasmanian hydro-electric power project, the Gordon River Road, the Blowering Dam, the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme in Western Australia and flood mitigation in northern New South Wales.
Thirdly, we have a scheme under which the Commonwealth has said that it will have a national water resources development programme and that it will spend not less than $50m over and above what the States are expending, and they are expected to maintain at least their current rate of spending. Already we have made available S20m to Queensland for the Emerald Dam - or perhaps I should give it its now correct name of Fairbairn Dam. Let me refer now to the salinity projects in Victoria. I pointed out to the Leader of the Opposition recently that whilst it is true that the money paid for these salinity projects on the Murray was paid by the Victorian Government, the work will be of advantage to New South Wales as well, because the object is to reduce the salinity of River Murray water and New South Wales draws water from the Murray. These two projects are being paid for by Victoria out of a grant given by the Commonwealth Government, but the work will be of assistance to New South Wales too. We are looking at further projects and I hope to have a report this week on some other projects which have been put on the short list.
I come now to the fourth way in which the Commonwealth Government assists the States in the development of their water resources. I want to dwell on this because both the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who clowned his way through the speech immediately preceding mine, said that we arc disbanding the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. It staggers me how people can make such a statement. We have made it perfectly clear frequently that we are retaining the vital elements of the Authority - the elements of research, investigation, design and hydrological work - so that it can be a consultant body available not only to the Commonwealth for use overseas in some cases or in the Territories but also to the States and private enterprise. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has shown already that it has done a remarkable job in this respect. It has built up demand to such an extent that there have been times when it has been difficult for the Authority to meet those demands. At the present moment the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has on hand about 550 man years of work as a consultant authority. Already, 210 people are engaged on projects for outside organisations. We envisage that this will build up to not less than 250 people. Work is being done not only overseas but throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
Yet, what an extraordinary statement the Leader of the Opposition made. Does he pay any attention to what is going on around him or is he a Rip Van Winkle who wakes up and thinks: ‘This would be a good method of attacking the Government’, without having the least knowledge of statements which are continually made by this Government as to what it is doing. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Snowy Mountains Authority was being abandoned, lt is not. He said: Tt is of no comfort to people who last year were suffering from a drought in Melbourne or Sydney and to the people of the national capital who experienced severe rationing’. In actual fact, the Authority is doing a lot of work for the water authorities of both Melbourne and Sydney. Surely the Leader of the Opposition must have had a vast team of people working in research on the speech that he produced because otherwise it would have been quite impossible to rake up so many different aspects on which to attack the Government. In fact, I had the feeling there must have been about six different people working on this speech. Each one was given one-sixth of the speech to write and each one asked: *How many things can I get in this speech about what the Government ought to do or what it has not done at the present moment?’ Surely he would have been able to-
– What is the Government doing with the Authority?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Fox)Order!
– I think the Minister ought to reply.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been warned about six times tonight for interjecting. I think he was told that if he made one more interjection action would be taken against him. Apparently he is quite free to sit there, having made his own speech, and make as many comments as he wants to.
– Well, what is the Minister doing about it?
– l have already said what is being done with the Authority. We are retaining a body of not less than 250 skilled engineers in investigation, research and design, who will be available for use for outside work either by government or by private enterprise as a consultant body. Here we have this extraordinary aspect of the Leader of the Opposition not even knowing that the Authority is doing work for water authorities of Melbourne and Sydney. Already it has been called in to work on the design of the Cadinia Creek Dam, a new major dam for Melbourne, and it has done a considerable amount of work in assessing the Shoalhaven possibilities for the development of a water supply for Sydney. The work that it is doing there will mean that consultant work worth at least Sim will be available to the Snowy Mountains; Hydro-electric Authority. Yet here we are told that we are winding up this project. We are doing nothing of the sort. As I have mentioned, we already have 550 man years of work on hand and this is building up constantly.
Lastly, on the water side, we have just recently announced that we will give water research scholarships to the extent of $130,000 in this current year in order to enable research and investigation to proceed into various aspects of hydrology in Australia. Here is a programme of assistance to water research and water conservation in Australia. It is having a great effect. I said that we never had to worry about development. The problem that Australia has now is the problem of abundance. The problem that we had in the days of the Australian Labor Party, when it was the government, was the problem of lack of everything, because there was no development. It is interesting to note that when the Australian Labor Party went out of office the total capacity of all major storages in Australia was 7 million acre feet.
– Who started the Snowy scheme?
– When everything that is now committed is completed the total capacity of all major storages in Australia will be over 40 million acre feet. Very shortly, we will be looking again at the site for a new major dam on the River Murray. I was interested to hear someone ask: ‘Who started the Snowy scheme?’ Of course, the
Opposition can always claim that it did so. We pay a certain amount of congratulation to the Labor Party for blowing up the first charge there even if it was 4 miles from where the dam was to be built. The Labor Party had to get something in pretty quickly because there was an election coming on.
– The Minister boycotted the opening.
– I did not boycott it becauseI was not in the Parliament then. Neither were many honourable members on this side of the House today. This was a combination of research activities into one of the great resources of Australia over a long period. The first Government that employed a body of consultants was the Stevens-Bruxner Government of New South Wales. The net effect of this assistance by the Commonwealth to water conservation in Australia is that we are going ahead. Goodness knows, everyone has his own pet subject. Everyone likes to see the development of water resources going ahead perhaps at a greater rate than it has, just as someone else would like to see social services going ahead and another person would like to see more money being spent on roads, on hospitals or on education. We have increased from$1 5m per annum to over $100m per annum the amount being spent to conserve water in Australia for irrigation projects. I believe that from this point of view the Commonwealth Government can be proud of what it has achieved. But, nevertheless, it will not rest on its laurels. It will press ahead as fast as it can.
So I say, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this want of confidence motion moved by the Opposition really is one of the weakest that I have ever seen in this House. I have never seen a greater lack of interest in such a motion. In fact as I pointed out, the honourable member for Hindmarsh was making a complete farce of this debate by a clowning exhibition which might have gone over well on television but which was hardly the thing for this House. That shows how little interest the Opposition has in this motion. As for our so-called inability to make decisions on matters concerning development, this is ludicrous.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put: That the question be now put.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker- Mr E.M.C. Fox)
Majority .. ..32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr E. M. C. Fox)
Majority . . 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What were the internal and overseas securities on issue, annual interest liability and capital repayments on behalf of (a) the Commonwealth, (b) each State, (c) local government bodies in each State, (d) semi-governmental authorities in each State and (e) each mainland Territory, as at 30(h lune 1968?
– The following answer is now supplied:
The details requested in respect of the Commonwealth and each of the Stales are set out in the following table:
Latest figures in respect of local government and semi-government authorities in each Stale relate to the year ended 30th June 1966 and are set out in the table below. The indebtedness and repayments of principal for the mainland Territories relate to the year ended 30lh June 1968 but details of lbc annual interest liability for the Territories are not available.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Convention No.111: The following legislation has removed discrepancies between Australianlaw and practice and Convention No.111 in relation to discrimination on the basis of race, colour or national extraction:
Navigation Act 1912-1965, revocation of order under section 423a.
Legislation Repeal Ordinance No. 39 of 1965, Mining Ordinance No. 29 of 1965.
New South Wales:
Certain regulations made under the Rural
Workers Accommodation Act, 1926 were rescinded on 22 January 1965.
Labour and Industry (Amendment) Act, 1965.
The Aliens Act of 1965.
The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Affairs Act, 1965.
Gold Buyers Act, 1967.
Shearers Accommodation Act Amendment Act, 1967.
Prohibition of Discrimination Act, 1966.
In Western Australia, action is contemplated to remove certain discriminatory provisions in legislation when an appropriate opportunity arises. There is no such discriminatory legislation in Tasmania.
Concerning discrimination on the basis of sex, I direct the honourable member’s attention to the third edition of ‘Equal Pay’ published by the Department of Labour and National Service. The other forms of discrimination referred to in the Convention do not require any legislative, or other, action in Australia.
Convention 111: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have advised that they do not agree to ratification.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What revenue from their own sources was received by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) each Stale, (c) local government bodies in each State, (d) semi-governmental authorities in each State and (e) each mainland Territory (i) including net revenue of their business enterprises and (ii) excluding net revenue of their business enterprises, in 1966-67 and 1967-68?
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following data, which has been compiled on a basis similar to that currently employed in constructing the national accounts:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681119_reps_26_hor61/>.