26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mc SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have to inform the House that following the reorganisation of the House of Representatives Department, Mr A. R. Browning, formerly SerjeantatArms, has been promoted and will, from time to time, perform table duties. Mr L. M. Barlin has been promoted and will occupy the office of Serjeant-at-Arms and Mr I. C. Cochran has been promoted and will perform the duties of Deputy SerjeantatArms.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the widely publicised Bjelke-Petersen oil deals were excluded from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news bulletins? Will he inform the House at an early date who is responsible for political censorship of reports of the impropriety of a Crown Minister making many thousands from enterprises licensed by his Ministry?
– I have informed the House on many occasions that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has complete autonomy in relation to programming. No instruction has ever been given by me, and to my knowledge in my 5 years as PostmasterGeneral, no instruction has been given by anybody else to the ABC as to what should be or should not be the content of a programme. The decision rests solely with the Commission.
– Was the Minister for Education and Science present at a meeting of the Australian Education Council last Friday in Adelaide? Did he see the report put out by the conference that each State was to conduct a survey of its future needs and requirements? Will the Commonwealth co-operate as the Council requests in putting any possible plan into effect?
– Yes. As part of the normal co-operatitve arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States I was present at the meeting of the Australian Education Council. A number of programmes, or initiatives have, in fact, developed within this Council. Perhaps I can give two examples. As a result of the views expressed by the States the Commonwealth adopted a programme which, with unmatched capital grants, will make 5,000 additional teacher trainee places available throughout Australia. The statement I made concerning the teaching of Asian languages was also something which had been discussed closely with all State Ministers for Education. The Commonwealth will cooperate with the States and with the Council in the results of any particular survey. Regarding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, the States, in formulating their own future requirements, will be interested and concerned in the projected growth and demands of primary and secondary education in those two areas. New South Wales has the responsibility of supplying teachers for schools in the Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia for schools in the Northern Territory. The Council well understands that, if some financial matters arise as the result of this survey at some time in the future, it is a matter for individual Ministers to take up with their own governments. Going beyond that, if their own governments agree, the matter could perhaps be discussed by the Premiers and the Prime Minister, but that is looking a good way ahead. I make the point that the Commonwealth seeks to co-operate in these matters and I think that past examples show that this needs no particular emphasis.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House when the long awaited Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill will be introduced for discussion?
– I think I can state accurately that it is at least 9 months since the first instructions were given to the Parliamentary Draftsman to prepare the necessary legislation. It is true that since that time we have had some minor amendments that have had to be completed. However, there are other amendments of a desirable character and it would have been undesirable to have introduced the legislation without them. I know that the Attorney-General and the Parliamentary Draftsman are proceeding with the maximum of haste to get this legislation before the Parliament and I hope, although 1 cannot promise to do se that it will be brought down in this sessional period.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. He will know that there is growing and increasing support for financial assistance to the independent schools, that the present financial situation of a number of independent schools is very difficult and that despite aid presently given some find it difficult to continue. Can the Minister state clearly the objective that he hopes might be reached by State aid?
– I said in answer to a question last week that we can see no justice and no equity in the old view that it is all right for free education to be provided for three-quarters of the population but that no support should be given for the one-quarter that makes considerable efforts to supply its own educational needs. We also see considerable value in the diversity of education that comes from a dual system. As a result of discussions that take place between the two systems, the quality of education in general is improved. The objective of State aid in one form or another, from either the States or the Commonwealth, is not only to allow the independent system to improve the quality of its education, step by step, as the State systems improve the quality of their education, but also to enable the independent system to expand and to continue to educate that part of the population which would prefer education at an independent school. I was pleased at announcements made some time ago by the Leader of the Opposition - I am sorry he is not in the House at the moment - indicating his personal support for State aid. However, I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he would agree with a form of words - I certainly support them and I believe the Government also would support them - which recognises the eco nomic situation in which a number of independent schools find themselves, which supports the principle of aid to independent schools and which wishes to see the situation established in which the independent schools, step by step with the Government schools, will be able to improve the quality of education. I would also ask the Leader of the Opposition-
– Who is asking questions?
– This is my reply.
– Make a ministerial statement and we can debate it.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– I take a point of order. This is the lime for questions without notice. It is quite obvious that this is a question on notice. The Minister is reading from a prepared statement.
-Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– In finishing my reply to the honourable member for Barton, I express the view that honourable members on both sides of the House and the people at large would be interested to know also whether the Leader of the Opposition supports the view that the situation should be established in which the independent schools by their own efforts-
– 1 rise to order. In answering a question asked by a fellow Government supporter is the Minister in order in asking questions of the Leader of the Opposition about policy matters which are the concern of the Labor Party alone?
-The Minister for Education and Science has in passing asked the Leader of the Opposition some questions. Strictly speaking questions put to the Leader of the Opposition about any matter of which he does not have charge in the House are out of order but the Minister is basing his questions to the Leader of the Opposition on the question asked by the honourable member for Barton. The Minister may answer in any way he thinks fit provided his answer is relevant to the question asked.
– I am trying to conclude my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Barton. I was indicating that we on this side would like to know whether the Opposition supports the creation of a situation in which independent schools will be able, by their own efforts coupled with Government support, to improve the quality of education they offer and to provide places for those children whose parents prefer to send them to an independent school. If we examine the statement made a couple of weeks ago by the Leader of the Opposition-
– I rise to order. In ruling on an earlier point of order, Mr Speaker, you said that the Minister would be in order if he answered in a relevant way the question asked of him by the honourable member for Barton. I listened to the question asked by the honourable member for Barton and I heard nothing to suggest that the honourable member was asking the Minister to seek from the Leader of the Opposition his attitude in this matter. I submit that the honourable member for Barton made no reference to the Leader of the Opposition. The way the Minister is answering
-Order! The honourable member may not debate the matter. I rule that the Minister is not in order in addressing a question to the Leader of the Opposition. Otherwise question time will become a farce.
– This is a matter of importance and concern to many people. I would have thought that the Opposition would welcome an opportunity to have the matter clearly understood. I ask: Having regard to the viewpoint expressed by the Leader of the Opposition a fortnight ago could we not assume that the Opposition supported such a statement?
-Order! The Minister will not be in order in asking a question of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I will not transgress your ruling, Mr Speaker. I merely state that in the view of twenty-six members of another place there is no support for the Leader of the Opposition in his support of State aid.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science a question supplementary to that which he has answered in the form of rhetorical questions. How soon will the honourable gentleman make a ministerial statement on the subject on which he was speaking so that honourable members of both sides of the House may express their views on it and in particular so that I may answer him by reasserting the statement to which he has referred and which this morning my Party unanimously endorsed as coming within the Party’s policy speech at the last elections?
– I will take up with the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House the matter of a debate on these issues. There was an opportunity to debate these matters in another place. That opportunity was not taken. The resolution supporting aid to independent schools was opposed by every member of the Opposition in the Senate.
– I rise to order. The honourable gentleman is referring to a debate in another place and is in fact misrepresenting what took place, so I suggest that the last part of the answer be struck out.
-The matter of misrepresentation is not within the knowledge of the Chair. I am not aware of the debate that has taken place in the other place, or of any resolution or decision relating to it.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a report of yesterday’s strike by students from Belmore Boys High School in Sydney and the hope expressed by one of the leaders that the whole school of 750 pupils would stay out of class? Has his attention been drawn to similar subversive activities in South Australia, and in particular to the material recently circulated in some South Australian high schools under the name Student Underground?’ In view of the Minister’s statement in May last year that dealt with seminars held by the Australian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament on subjects such as Topic XI, which amongst other things instructs secondary school students in procedures and tactics for arranging school strikes, will he confer with his colleagues in each of the States and suggest to them some uniform legislation to control such insidious subversive acts before Australia’s whole secondary school system is brought to the same degree of disrepute which unfairly applies now to some sections of our tertiary system?
– Honourable members will recall that in May of last year I did table the report of the Vietnam anti-war activists conference held in January in 1967. It is true that one of the seminars at that conference recommended that action be taken to get to secondary school students with a view to influencing their minds on various political topics. I think it is apparent that What was recommended at that conference has to a large extent been carried out in an organised way. I have seen a report of this happening at the Belmore Boys High School but I am not in a position to say that it comes within this particular category. From the brief report which I read the students seemed to be complaining in a peaceful way about paint peeling off the walls and broken windows. I cannot say that I have any particular knowledge of what has happened at that school.
The student underground papers are in a different category. There is no doubt at all that these activities are organised on a national level, and that people go from one State to another to organise student activity. Indeed it is planned to have sit-ins and occupation of administration buildings in schools during the course of this year. I have been asked to confer with my colleagues in the States. It seems to me to be a matter that rather would fall within the administration of schools and that perhaps State Ministers for Education rather than Attorneys-General should be looking at it. If breaches of law are involved, State Attorneys-General will certainly be concerned.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to the one asked by the Leader of the Opposition of the Minister for Education and Science. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will confer with the Minister for Education and Science to ensure that, as soon as we resume after the Easter recess, the fullest facilities will be made available for a debate on the matters raised by the Minister for Education and Science and replied to in a restricted sense by the Leader of the Opposition.
– This matter, which has been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Opposition, refers to matters on which ministerial statements have already been made. When I was Minister for Education and Science there were ministerial statements made on what was then not the generally accepted view that there should be assistance given to independent schools. There have been statements of that kind already made. As for the initiation of a full scale debate on this matter, Mr Speaker, I do not propose to commit myself to having one. But I do point out to the House that the Leader of the Opposition has had opportunity after opportunity to raise this matter as an urgency matter, had he wished to do so, which would have led to a debate, but on no occasion did he take advantage of such opportunity. That opportunity still remains with him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the container freight rates that will apply to goods shipped from Australia to Britain as from this year. Is it a fact that freight rate schedules have been agreed upon between shipowners and exporters? If so, can the Minister say whether there is any variation from the present rates for conventional ships? Can the Minister also say at what point or area of shore handling these rates will commence at each of the three ports of Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, and what variation, if any, there will be between these ports? To what ports in Australia do the Australian London Tonnage Committee’s freight rates extend, beyond the three container ports mentioned?
– The container consortia and the Conference have agreed on container rates with exporters. This agreement is subject to two points of detail in respect of meat and dairy produce, which are still to be finally agreed upon by the exporters.
– I again take a point of order. We are dealing with questions without notice. The Minister is reading from a prepared statement. Ministerial statements are listed on the notice paper and may be made after question time. I ask that any ministerial statement be made at that time.
-Order! I might point out that the right honourable gentleman is not making a ministerial statement He is replying to a question asked by the honourable member for Canning.
– I am just refreshing my memory on some points. For comparable services the container rate is identical with the conventional rate. The container rate, however, has consolidated port and handling charges into one through rate. Traditionally these charges are paid by the exporter as separate items. The level of the through container rates for full containers shows savings on all commodities. The basic container rates are from the terminal/ depot here to the terminal/ depot at the other end.
– I take a point of order. This matter has been raised on at least two occasions this afternoon. The Minister for Trade and Industry is quite obviously making a statement. As you have ruled before, Mr Speaker, questions without notice ought not to be replied to in this way by Ministers. Adequate facilities are provided, and the Opposition has always co-operated with the Government, to enable Ministers to make statements.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition shall not proceed to debate the question.
– My point of order is that the right honourable gentleman is deliberately making a statement. This is an abuse of question time.
– There is no substance in the point of order. It has been the custom and practice of this House over many years to allow Ministers to refer to notes prepared in anticipation of questions that may be asked. This custom has always been adhered to and I think it should be adhered to in this case. But I would say that both questions and answers in this House are becoming far too long. I have said this on several occasions. I ask members and Ministers to restrict the length of questions and answers to a minimum.
– There are no variations between the rates for Fremantle, Sydney and Melbourne. Exporters are offered, at their choice, services commencing at different points, each of which is covered by the appropriate rate. The choice of service involves a commencement point at the exporter’s door or the container depot. The shipper who ships a full container load also has a choice of commencing at the container terminal. The freight rates of the Australian Tonnage Committee extend to all ports in Australia. In other words, the sea freight rate is the same from all ports in Australia. The container service will initially serve Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane, all at the same rates. Extension of the service to other ports is in the course of being developed.
– Does the Minister for Immigration see any prospect of improvement in the number of settlers arriving in South Australia?
– I do see prospects for increasing the number of settlers to South Australia. This will be as a result of the increased tempo of the economy and in fact the increased confidence of South Australian people in sponsoring friends and relatives from overseas. The latest figures available to me relate to the 6 months period ended December 1968. If those figures are compared with the corresponding figures for the 6 months period ended December 1967 they will disclose an increase in the number of settler arrivals in Australia of about 2,000. I will have to ascertain the actual number and let the honourable member know.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by referring to this morning’s Australian Broadcasting Commission news in which it was announced that Prime Minister Thieu of South Vietnam was prepared to meet in private the leaders of the National Liberation Front and to discuss with them the question of participation in a coalition government in South Vietnam. Has the Australian Government been notified of this development? Will the Government make an early statement regarding Australia’s attitude to this proposal?
– As far as I am aware, I have not received any official confirmation of the report over the ABC, and would wish to wait for official confirmation before making any statement.
– Does the Treasurer realise that it is becoming almost impossible for families to rent or buy homes in the inner suburbs of the main cities in Australia at a cost within their means? Is he aware that this fact is forcing them into outer suburbs, sometimes far removed from their place of employment, and that transport costs are getting beyond them? Will he give serious consideration to remitting sales tax for non-government operated omnibus services, which are usually feeder services, to help in this very important problem?
– I am well aware of the difficulties associated with the growth of the capital cities in Australia and of the necessity to keep increases in fares between railway stations and the homes of those living in outer metropolitan areas down to a rninimum. The honourable gentleman may know that there is an. exemption from sales tax for the small buses which are used to take people from railway stations to their homes. I think the exemption is limited to vehicles which can carry twelve passengers or more. I know that the honourable gentleman is very interested in the building industry, particularly the housing industry. If he had read the speech which I made yesterday in Adelaide he would have realised that the Government is providing homes in a way never before achieved in the history of the Commonwealth. If the present rate of building is continued throughout the rest of the year, more than 130,000 homes will have been commenced this year. In order to help meet this enormous problem of travel in the metropolitan areas the Government recently announced that it would provide $600m over the next 5-year period for arterial and sub-arterial roads in urban areas. This must be a great help to those who wish to live in the outer suburbs of Sydney and the other capital cities of the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, I will bear in mind the matters raised by the honourable member when preparing the Budget. If something can be done, I assure him that it will be done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I ask: Is it a fact that unqualified persons are allowed to be in charge of vessels operating to and from the off-shore oil installations in Bass Strait? Is it also a fact that the normal navigational rules do not apply to these vessels? If so, will the Minister have this matter corrected so that basic safety, which is the reason for having these rules, will apply to all vessels operating near and in Australian shipping lines?
– At the moment, vessels operating in coastal waters are predominantly the responsibility of the State governments. Vessels operating to and from the off-shore oil fields in Bass Strait and other parts of Australia are a Commonwealth responsibility if they move outside the 3-mile limit. As a result of the tragic explosion at Port Welshpool last week, a preliminary inquiry has been instituted by officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport. The pattern of operations of vessels in thai field will certainly be subjected to critical examination by my Department, in association wilh State officials, to determine whether any additional safety requirements are necessary, be they in terms of certification of the officers or men on these vessels, or in any other direction, to ensure that every possible effort is made in the future to maintain a high level of safety and to ensure that lives and vessels are not ‘subject to any unnecessary risks.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will recall that in November of last year he received a submission from the Government of Western Australia for assistance to the victims of the disastrous earthquake which occurred at Meckering in October of that year. I ask: Will the Prime Minister table this submission and Cabinet’s decision in relation to it?
– My recollection is that we did receive a request for help and I bad thought thai we bad given the help requested.
– Considerable help was given.
– Yes, ] thought so. I think 1 had better, under the circumstances, give a written reply to the honourable member.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Territories. I preface my question by stating that last Monday the Port Moresby local government council passed a law limiting bride prices to $2,000. Previously brides’ parents had demanded and received up to $4,000 in cash and goods as a dowry. Whilst it is true that the council’s action is actually a step against inflation, I believe that a wife is worth much more than $2,000 lo an intending husband. Does not this restricted amount of $2,000 cut across the private enterprise policy of this Government to obtain the best possible price for the disposal of an asset?
– I have no doubt pressure for this decision has come from eligible bachelors in the Port Moresby area. From a private enterprise aspect, no doubt the council is aiming to prevent an inflationary spiral. As the honourable member realises, this always happens when the demand exceeds the quantity of goods available. But I think the important thing is that the council is anxious to preserve an asset. This is an action designed to prevent the cost-price squeeze. I think that this is an operation to limit the advantage of the well-to-do in obtaining brides and I believe it will give every girl a better opportunity.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. There has been a tendency for crowds to accumulate at certain suburban bank branches in Brisbane on social service pay days waiting for the banks to open at 10 a.m. I believe that most of these people are pensioners waiting to cash their pension cheques. In a sub-tropical climate such as Brisbane’s, elderly people especially try to conduct as much of their business as possible and get home again before the main heat of the day. I therefore ask the Minister: Will he take up with the banks the question of opening their branches earlier on pension days in those areas where there is obviously a demand for this service?
– I thank the honourable member for his constructive suggestion. I have had a look at this matter and it seems to me that in certain cases some banks are opening branches a little early on pension days, i do not know whether or not this should be a general practice. The matter of banking hours is, I think, one for the Treasurer rather than myself and I shall consult with him to see whether anything can be done to implement the constructive suggestion of the honourable member.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Does he agree that in the extensive criticism of the health scheme and in the wide range of its recommendations the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance has said in fact that the scheme has failed beyond repair? Will the Minister say whether he accepts the report of the Committee? Does he intend to implement all of its recommendations; if not, how much of them? Finally, how long does he think it will take to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is no. The answer to the other parts is that I have nothing to add at this stage to what I said in the statement I made when I tabled the report yesterday.
– I address a question to you, Mr Speaker. It concerns the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I ask you: Are there any minimum qualifications recognised by Parliament and by the Press Gallery which a person must hold in order to describe himself as a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery? If not, would you and the other Presiding Officer consider having discussions with officers of the Parliamentary Press Gallery with the object of laying down appropriate credentials so as to protect the position of bona fide members of the Press Gallery and to ensure that the ethics of the journalists’ profession are not violated by those who owe no loyalty to it?
– There are standards which are laid down for members of the Press Gallery. But as the honourable member has raised this matter this afternoon I will look into it and see whether it is necessary to confer with the other Presiding Officer on the matter.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. Has the honourable gentleman noted the statement by the Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria that it would be at least 10 years before the first nuclear generator was installed in Australia? As the honourable gentleman’s current visits to his State counterparts are taking place under the announced belief that nuclear generation is much closer in Australia than was previously thought, I ask: By what date is he advised that the first nuclear generator may be installed in any State or Territory?
– It is the belief of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission that we will see the first nuclear reactor generating power in Australia towards the end of the 1970s. This, of course, is a rather flexible date depending on various alternatives and on various improvements in nuclear power generation. Nevertheless, we believe that we will see the generation of nuclear power before the end of the 1970s. I should point out that probably about 7 years elapse from the time a decision is first made to go into nuclear power until a reactor can be actually producing power. Therefore, we believe it very wise at present to look closely at the proposals and to have discussions. I have had discussions now with every one of the six States and I will be reporting back to my Cabinet very shortly on these discussions.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the right honourable gentleman fully aware of the great damage caused and of the loss suffered by dried vine fruit growers in north western Victoria and neighbouring New South Wales growers? If not, will he arrange for an investigation and a report on this disaster so that he and the Government will have full knowledge of the facts should the Victorian Government, as is probable, seek Commonwealth financial aid to assist those primary producers who have lost so much as a result of the recent torrential rain?
– I have seen reports of the damage to which the honourable member refers. I think investigation of the extent of this damage and the severity of it is really something which should be undertaken by the State governments concerned - and no doubt it is being undertaken by them. Following that I have no doubt that should those governments wish to approach us and to present a case equivalent to the case for bush fire damage, drought damage or something which we were prepared to accept, we would be ready to discuss whatever it was that they wished to discuss with us on that matter.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. By way of explanation I refer to the Treasurer’s statement approving the merger between the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd and the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd, when he said:
With the merger there will, of course, be one less bank to choose from.
He went on to say:
The Government has attached fundamental importance to the consideration whether an effective choice of banks will still be available to the general public.
The Treasurer then said:
There is of course, a limit to how far the number of banks can be reduced-
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is far too long.
– But it was important, Mr Speaker. I ask the Minister: Does this statement indicate that he and the Government believe that fewer banks mean more competition? If so, will he outline the basis for this contention? Will the Treasurer also state what he meant by his statement that there is, of course, a limit to how far the number of banks can be reduced? At what stage of the proposed mergers already announced would he refuse approval? Will he also state whether or not the Government proposes to rationalise banking in Australia?
– As to that part of the honourable gentleman’s question regarding competition, I think he fails to realise that Australia is undergoing a dramatic change in the demands that are made upon the banks for large scale finance. It is not in the interests of the banking system if a corporation or an individual with a large scale development wants finance and has to go to a group of banks instead of to his own bank. It does create enormous problems. The intention of the Government and the Reserve Bank is to strengthen the banking system to permit the banks to finance the large scale development projects that are taking place in this country. This will permit the banks to become more competitive with consortia, outside corporations and overseas banks as well.
As to the second part of the question about whether we will rationalise the banking system, what the honourable member should know is that over the years the Australian banking system has been controlled closely under the banking legislation and there is enormous competition for the private banks from the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. There is close, intimate control and almost weekly or monthly there is consultation between the private trading banks, Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Reserve Bank.
As to the other question about a reduction in the number of banks and whether we do not want this reduction to proceed too far, I agree with the honourable member that we do not want the right of choice of individual members of the community, particularly small depositors or borrowers, to be reduced, but when we realise that we have not only the private trading banks but the Commonwealth Bank, the savings bank systems and State banking systems, we can appreciate that the small man has an effective choice at the moment. We hope to keep it that way. 1 finish on this note - because this obviously has been forgotten by the honourable gentleman - that under the Banking Act I have an obligation. The Act says that I shall not unreasonably refuse to permit a merger of banks. I could not find a good reason to prevent the merger and consequently, pursuant to my duty under the Act and acting with sweet reason - and I thought this might perhaps please the honourable gentleman - I agreed to the merger.
-I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) a letter proposing that a matter of definite public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to inform or consult the Parliament on those aspects of foreign policy, defence contracts, trade and aid which the Prime Minister should discuss with the President of the United States.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The purpose of this debate is to give the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) an opportunity to clarify his mind and to give the Parliament an opportunity to state its mind on the issues that will or at least should be the subject of discussion with the President of the United States of America next week. Any Minister can procure a debate in this House on any subject upon which he chooses to make a statement. The only move by which the Opposition or, in fact, any private member, can achieve a debate on any subject is by way of discussion of a matter of public importance, such as I am now proposing. The Prime Minister confirmed during question time that this is the method available to members of the Opposition.
It is interesting to speculate on what matters of public importance would have been debated in the 4 weeks that the Parliament has sat this year if it had not been for the matters raised by the Opposition on each Tuesday and Wednesday. There have certainly been no ministerial statements on the matters I have now listed. Most importantly, our purpose is to give the people as well as the Parliament a chance to learn exactly what views and policies the Prime Minister proposes to put before the President on the great issues facing the world and affecting Australia’s relations with the United States and the rest of the world. These issues cover a wide range, but they are quite specific. They are foreign policy, defence contracts, investment guidelines, trade and aid. There has been a total failure on the part of the Prime Minister to clarify his attitude on any of these matters in the House or outside it. The Parliament has therefore been denied the chance to debate most of them. My colleagues will be dealing with many of the aspects 1 have mentioned. I shall’ deal specifically with the first and last of them - foreign policy and aid.
On the question of ending the war, it is crucially important that the Prime Minister’s Washington visit be more relevant than his last, and less destructive than the last visit of his late predecessor. There is one striking point of resemblance between this impending visit and Mr Holt’s visit of May 1 967. At that time, the United States Administration had under way a complete reappraisal of its strategy in Vietnam, as it has now. Extremely powerful opinion within the Administration supported a cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam. On his arrival, before he had seen the President, Mr Holt denounced cessation of the bombing. Australian influence was thus used to continue the bombing and to postpone peace negotiations. The war would be infinitely closer to an end today if Australian influence had then been used successfully to end the bombing. There is now every reason to believe that Australian influence would then have tipped the scales. Our weight was used the other way.
Last year the Prime Minister reached Washington after President Johnson had ordered the 90% cessation. The Australian Government was then just as much opposed to stopping the 10% as it had been to any lessening at all. It remained so opposed until at least a week before President Johnson made his announcement on 1st
November. It has since been revealed that President Johnson was willing to entertain the idea of total cessation at least as early as May 1968. What effect such a decision made at such a time may have had on the fortunes of the war and the fortunes of the President now only remains a subject of tragic speculation. But again Australia was silent or used her influence the other way.
There should be no equivocation or hesitation this time. The Prime Minister should make it clear beyond doubt that Australia opposes the resumption of the bombing. I know that during question time over the last few weeks there have been interjections by his supporters which indicate that they want the bombing to be resumed. The Prime Minister should resist such clamour. He should make it clear that Australia wants the war to be scaled down and ended. He should urge that the reduction of forces be now put in train. He should urge a broadening of the Saigon Government to include leading figures now excluded such as Big Minh. In short, he should lend his support and Australia’s voice to those in the Administration who are urging a political rather than a military solution.
There are again pressures on President Nixon to resume the bombing. The Prime Minister should encourage him to resist these pressures. Resumption of the bombing would be neither a relevant nor an appropriate response to the so-called counteroffensive. It would mean an indefinite continuation of the war and a return to the hopeless stalemate of the past 4 years. It would bring no comparable military compensation. Most importantly, it would close the door to an acceptable peace for both sides in Vietnam. It would close the only door to a peace which can be part of an acceptable and lasting settlement for the whole area. The key to that door is in Moscow.
There will be no peace in Vietnam and there will be no settlement covering the Vietnams, Laos and Cambodia unless the United States and the Soviet agree that this area will cease to be the sphere of their military and political confrontation. There will be a settlement - neutralisation - only when those powers so agree. Russia will not co-operate towards this end if the bombing resumes. She will not agree to deprive North
Vietnam of supplies and equipment if the bombing resumes. President Nixon said at his Press conference on his return from his recent journey to Europe: ‘Without the Soviet Union’s co-operation it may be difficult to move as fast as we would like in settling the war in Vietnam’. I agree with that and it is clear that if the bombing resumes there will be no possibility of obtaining that co-operation.
The Prime Minister should reject the view that the talks in Paris are futile. Me has appeared to have some sympathy with this view. He should support the view of those in the American Administration who believe that progress can be made if the peace negotiations are split up - that is, if apart from the formal open comprehensive sessions there should be one set of secret discussions between Washington and Hanoi on military questions and another set of secret talks between Saigon and the National Liberation Front on political questions. The Australian Government should have views on all these matters. It should be urging its views on these matters. Australians have a right to hold these views and to put these views and to expect that they will be heeded. It would be intolerable if Australia merely underwrites whatever decisions the American Administration reaches without first having tried to influence those decisions.
I have said thai co-operation between America and Russia is not merely essential but is the key to peace in Vietnam. The greatest example of co-operation between the two great powers since World War II has been the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Here again the Prime Minister must speak clearly for Australia. He should make it clear beyond all doubt that Australia will promptly and firmly adhere to the Treaty. Members opposite proclaim their allegiance to the United States. The most important request that the United States has ever made to this country is that we should join with it in this Treaty about the most important question ever to have faced mankind, that is, the survival of mankind. Australia drags the chain. This Treaty is the work of three Presidents. Its objects were defined by President Kennedy as long ago as 1962. It was signed by President Johnson on 1st July last year. It was ratified by the United States Senate by an overwhelming majority under the present Administration. Nine months after it was signed, this Parliament still has not debated it. On 13th March last year the Prime Minister told the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) that by 15th March - more than a year ago - the Government would have not only the text of the Treaty but also a study of all the implications of it. This Government still1 has not declared its intentions about the Treaty.
The Prime Minister has made references to the need for safeguards. If there were any need for additional safeguards, the time to frame them and to press for them was before the United States Senate proceeded to ratification. But for the most obvious and unworthy internal political considerations, the Government has dithered and delayed about declaring that it will do what sooner or later it will be obliged to do - adhere to the Treaty. The Government has allowed bureaucratic partisanship, vicious obscurantism and plain ignorance to have a field day in confusing the public on this momentous matter. It has encouraged officers of the Department of National Development to suggest that the Treaty would impede our development and our use of nuclear science for peaceful purposes. Yet the fact is that we will not - nor will any country allied with the United States or Britain - receive the assistance that we need for a realistic programme of peaceful nuclear development unless we ratify the Treaty. The Treaty is no bar to the development of nuclear science for peaceful purposes. On the contrary, it is an attempt to ensure that such development will be shared by all nations without risk to any nation. As to security, the simple fact is that no nation has a deeper vested interest in the adhesion of all countries to this Treaty and, just as importantly, to the new understandings towards which it is the first necessary step. This most urbanised nation on earth is potentially the most vulnerable to nuclear blackmail. The greatest power on earth, together with 2 of the 5 nuclear powers, offers us and all nations the most solid and solemn guarantees that could be obtained. But this Government, for paltry political purposes, drags the chain. The Prime Minister should end this sorry equivocation next week.
The Prime Minister will visit Canada. He has been preceded in Washington this week by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Trudeau. He should add his weight to Mr Trudeau’s arguments for a new American approach towards China. He will find the new Administration highly receptive to new ideas and new attitudes. The President himself made it clear in his campaign speeches that he was prepared to open new windows on China. Mr Kissinger, has been more specific. Only this week the majority Whip in the Senate, Senator Edward Kennedy, has called for recognition of China. The President knows that he depends upon the co-operation of the Democratic majority in Congress to get his programme through. Australia’s voice heard now can be decisive. Will the Prime Minister let slip this opportunity too?
The final matter concerns the role these three rich countries - the United States, Canada and Australia - can play in our region. The Prime Minister should leave the President under no impression that we believe that our principal contribution in this region is military or that America’s best contribution is a military one. He will have succeeded only if he leaves the firm impression that we see our role as helping to build the economies and societies as well as the defences of all the countries in this region in co-operation with our rich associates in the Pacific Basin.
The Prime Minister would have been in a stronger position if his Government had not been so tardy and indeed niggardly in aiding Indonesia and in assisting the United Nations Development Programme. I quote now from two answers which I obtained about 3 weeks ago. The importance that the United States places on aid to Indonesia is illustrated by the fact that when her foreign aid was being cut last year in every other country, it was increased in Indonesia. The Netherlands gives more than twice as much economic assistance to Indonesia as Australia does. America, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany months ago announced the amount of economic assistance that they are prepared to give Indonesia this year. In some respects the United States announced commitments as far back as October last. All the Minister for External Affairs could tell me on 4th March was this: ‘An announcement will be made in due course when decisions have been made’.
As far as the United Nations Development Programme is concerned, Australia is 17th on the list of contributors despite the fact that the United Nations spends more in New Guinea and Australia than Australia spends on all United Nations Programmes. Several of the countries which have contributed more are smaller than Australia. All but four of the sixteen countries whose contributions exceed ours have increased their aid this year. Ours remains pegged at an unimpressive sum of $1.5m - barely a tenth of the Canadian contribution, and l/50th of America’s contribution.
I would express one further hope - that on this visit the Prime Minister should make a real attempt to establish contact with Congress. America, even political America, is not solely her President. Australia has paid dearly for tying her policies so absolutely to that of particular administrations. The great change in American public opinion over Vietnam was anticipated by at least 2 years in the American Congress itself. I warned the late Prime Minister. He did not believe me, yet it was true, and our failure to recognise the signs meant that we failed to use our influence, the influence that we did have, the influence that we could and should have used, to bring the war to an end. We wish the Prime Minister well. If he puts Australia’s case along the lines my colleagues and I suggest he can make his visit useful for Australia as well as pleasant for himself.
(3.34] - This matter of urgent public importance is worded in the following way:
The Government’s failure to inform or consult the Parliament on those aspects of foreign policy, defence contracts, trade and aid which the Prime Minister should discuss with the President of the United States.
It is clear however - and I do not complain about this - that the wording is merely in order to enable these general matters to be raised because I heard no word of complaint, at least from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), on the ground of my not telling in advance to the Parliament the list of matters which one was going to discuss with the President and what one was going to say about each one of those matters. It would have been a most extraordinary proposition if it had been suggested that before going to visit the head of state of another country one should stand up in the Parliament here and say precisely what the list of subjects to be discussed would contain and what precisely one was going to say on each of them. Indeed, it would have been an unheard of procedure.
The method that is always followed and as far as I know that always has been followed, and the obviously reasonable method, is that when one returns from such a visit one reports to the Parliament on significant matters which have been discussed, or if not on matters which have been discussed on matters where some kind of decision has been reached. It would be of course ludicrous to expect anything else. But the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to say that he really raised this in order to enable me to clarify my mind, by which I think he meant to enable me to listen to his views on a variety of subjects which he believed should be put to the President of the United States. That is quite all right. The Leader of the Opposition has a perfect right to get up and say what he believes the policy should be, but there were overtones in what he was saying which seemed to suggest to me that I the Prime Minister, not the Leader of the Opposition, should get up in this place and say: 1 am going to go over and tell the President what he ought to do in this matter or that matter or the other matter.’ Clearly that would be a completely childish and completely improper thing to do, and it is an utterly ridiculous suggestion that it should be done.
What in fact this has turned into is not a debate on the matter on which it is supposed to be a debate, but on the Opposition’s views concerning the Vietnam war. All I have to say on that is that what we in the Government wish to happen in Vietnam is for a peace to be concluded there, provided that peace gives to the people of South Vietnam a right of determination and a right to live without threats of terrorism or subversion or overrunning by other military means. This has always been our objective; this still is our objective. It was certainly not suggested overtly but if it is suggested covertly by the Leader of the Opposition that we should support a peace that will deliver the people of South Vietnam into a regime of Communist control or Fascist control, then we would not support that policy. The whole object of our being in that country is to try to see that aggression does not succeed, is to try to see that those who resort to arms to overthrow the freedom of a small nation shall not successfully so resort to arms and shall not so overthrow that freedom. As has been said in this House before by myself, many of us have lived through occasions when resort to arms, resort to terrorism and resort to invasion in Europe led, because it was not prevented at its inception, to a war which otherwise might never have happened but which, because of an appeasement, because of throwing small nations to the wolves, grew into that world war we all remember.
We believe that aggression should be stood up to by Australia and those who can help. We believe that it should not have been allowed to succeed in Malaya, where there was a Vietnam type situation. The British, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Malayans had to fight against that aggression and they won that fight. But whether it happened to be there or whether it were in Korea - about which conflict the Opposition was at one with the Government - or whether it were a matter of confrontation, or whether it were an idealogical issue or merty an old fashioned attempt at territorial conquest, it should not be allowed to succeed, because it endangers all of us if it does succeed. So we will be seeking in Vietnam a peace which does not allow aggression to succeed but which will retain for the people of South Vietnam a right to choose their government, a right to live in freedom and a right to live without having to suffer the 1,000-odd murders of civilians which have taken place since January this year or the 2,000-odd kidnappings of civilians that have taken place since January of this year so that pressure can be brought on the families of those kidnapped. We want to help prevent that. That is why we are there. We want a peace that will ensure that these things do not continue to occur, and the Leader of the Opposition can be clear that this is our policy on that matter. This is our objective.
We heard a good deal from the Leader of the Opposition on the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. On this matter we do - and I have publicly made it clear - support and wish to see an effective Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, but we do wish to see that it is effective. We do not think that a partial Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be effective. We do wish to know - and we may be having to make decisions on this of some significance - just what inspections are to be carried out under the Treaty or into what areas of our defence establishments what people are to be allowed for what purposes. We do wish to know - and these things are still not clear - the procedure for withdrawal from such a Treaty and the time table for withdrawal from such a Treaty. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to get up and to talk, I think unworthily, about political objectives and officers of the Department of National Development. We in Australia need to look generations ahead. If there is a non-effective Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and if China, which is not to be a signatory to the Treaty and is now an atomic power, seeks to provide missiles in the same way as Russia sought to provide missiles to Cuba, then the Treaty would not be a very effective one, and it might be one from which we should consider withdrawing. These are not matters that are as simple as the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to tell this House they are.
Then we have Indonesia. Mr Speaker, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) will deal more fully with Indonesia, but I do recall - and I turn to him for confirmation of this - that our aid to Indonesia was increased by some 50% over what it was last year. It is not to the point that the Netherlands gives more; it is not to the point that some other country gives more. What needs to be looked at is the wide canvas. How much assistance for example, does the Netherlands give to Malaysia, and how much to Singapore? It is no use getting up in this House and saying that the Netherlands gives more assistance to Indonesia than we do unless you look at the area as a whole and compare what is there being done, and unless, of course, you recall the great commercial interests which the Netherlands has in that country.
We regard aid today as of great importance to us. I would like to remind the House that at the Prime Ministers’ Conference in London, when the question of assistance to various Commonwealth coun tries was being raised, I there made it clear on behalf of Australia that assistance to Indonesia had, to us, at least as great a priority as, and in many cases a greater priority than, assistance to some Commonwealth countries. I recall’ two other instances, in which I am proud to have been concerned, regarding Indonesia. I recall, for example, that even at the time of confrontation we - and I believe I had a great deal to do with it then - continued our economic aid to Indonesia, although it was difficult to square giving that economic aid with the fact that we had to resist confrontation in other areas. But it was done, lt was attacked. It was done, and I believe that it has been for the good of Australia that it was done. I recall yet another occasion, when there were serious floods in Indonesia. We - 1 was then Acting Minister for External Affairs - immediately and first amongst the countries of the world provided rice to help that nation.
– Who attacked you for doing it? You said that you were attacked for doing these things.
– It was an attack in the Press. I am not suggesting that this was an Opposition attack, but it was a course of action that was attacked, although it was a wise course of action and a proper course of action. The point I am making is that it does indicate that great interest in Indonesia which, from what the Leader of the Opposition said, it might be inferred we on this side of the House do not have and have not demonstrated. As I said when 1 began, it would be ludicrous to expect me to go to see the President of the United States and say before I went: This is what I am going to tell the President of the United States to do*. But on the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition, this I do say: On Vietnam, our objectives are those which I have put before the House and, on Vietnam, we do not wish to see the people of South Vietnam have their freedom removed. On the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we wish to be sure that it is effective. We wish to be sure that there are real safeguards. We wish to be sure of the procedures of withdrawal. We wish to be sure that we do not, as I think some devoted public servants have feared might be the case, have our own nuclear development interfered with.
On the question of aid - I speak from memory - we stand, per head - certainly in bilateral aid - second amongst all the nations of the world. We have demonstrated our interest, and particularly in Indonesia, not only with the direct assistance which has been given but also by raising our voices on her behalf with the great aid-giving nations of the world which, being so much greater and having so much more wealth than we have, can give - not in proportion but in total - that economic assistance which is vital to that country. On these matters - and these are the matters which were raised by the Leader of the Opposition - these are our approaches and these will continue to be our approaches.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in raising this matter of public importance put two important propositions to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) which we, and indeed most people in this country, believe should be urgent matters for discussion between the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition referred, in the first instance, to the situation in Vietnam. While the Prime Minister acknowledged that this was a matter for discussion, I regret that in his reply he did not refer to the talks which are now taking place in Paris. If we want to end the war in Vietnam, if we want to prevent the kidnappings and the murders to which the Prime Minister has referred, and if we want to prevent the killings that are taking place between the servicemen of the United States of America, Australia, and other allies in Vietnam, and the North Vietnamese, there is an urgent need for the talks in Paris to succeed. The Opposition believes that this is one of the principal matters which the Prime Minister of this country should put to the President of the United States of America.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This matter has been covered adequately by him. The attitude of honourable members on this side of the House is well known to the Government. We believe that the Treaty should be signed. It should be ratified by this Parliament. It has been ratified by the Government of the United States of America. Despite the fact that this Government has had 12 months in which to make up its mind about the Treaty the Prime Minister still expresses some doubts about it. The Treaty has been signed by a great many countries which acknowledge that it is the only hope for mankind if we are to prevent the kind of disasters that one can foresee could arise in the future unless governments are prepared to acknowledge these kinds of disasters and use whatever means are at their disposal to prevent these kinds of weapons being used in the future.
I want to refer briefly this afternoon to two other matters which I am sure will occupy the Prime Minister in the United States. The first is the Fill aircraft. The second is the negotiation of offset agreements for Australian defence purchases. It is some months since the question of the Fill aircraft was last debated in this Parliament. I am sure the House will recall that after the Opposition in the Senate forced the Government to disclose details of the Fill contract and matters related to the contract, the Opposition raised an urgency proposal on the FI 1 1 in this House. This was the last time there was a full scale debate on the aircraft in the Parliament. In subsequent months the Fill saga has moved with alarming rapidity. Testing has revealed another structural defect requiring further modification. In the space of 3 weeks there were two crashes of the Fill on test nights in the United States. To the best of my knowledge, one of these planes has not been recovered. In addition, the new United States Secretary for Defence, Mr Laird, has drastically cut back production of the FBI 11, the bomber version of what was originally intended as a multipurpose plane. Mr Laird said that the FBI 11 did not meet the requirements for the true intercontinental bomber, and its cost per unit had reached a point where an advanced manned strategic bomber must be considered to fill the void. Despite these dramatic developments there has been no statement from the Government on the Fill.
In answer to questions the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) have given very scanty details of the crashes. They have remained singularly silent on the new modifications to the plane and on delivery date to Australia. The earliest delivery date I have seen reported is July this year. The Government has not confirmed or denied this date. It has also been announced that Australian payments so far for the plane have exceeded $150m. This is about 60% of the total cost to Australia, on the last estimates given to the Parliament. Australia has outlaid this sum of money for a plane which is still on the ground, which is still being modified and whose future is extremely doubtful. In the 1967 Budget session I spoke in this House about the prospects of cancelling the Fill aircraft. This statement was regarded as irresponsible heresy by the Government at the time. In the subsequent 18 months the view that the Fill should be scrapped has won increasing credence, not only in this House but in the responsible Press of Australia. A lengthy sequence of United States senators has called for the scrapping of the whole Fill project.
The past 2 years have seen the abolition of the naval version of the plane and the recent cutback in the bomber version. The reconnaissance version has been deferred and the Air Force version has been withdrawn from service in Vietnam. A major structural fault requiring substantial modification and a lesser fault have been detected. Fourteen planes have crashed on test flights or in combat service. It is significant that the swing wing, which is the most controversial feature of the plane, appears to have worked successfully and has not caused any of these crashes. It has been claimed repeatedly in defence of the Fill that its past record is far superior to equivalent aircraft. This may be so, but surely with the two recent crashes the margin is narrow. The Fill must now be dangerously close to the threshhold beyond which further crashes can be regarded as the routine casualties of testing. I have outlined this background in some detail because I believe that the FI 1 1 is one of the major problem areas facing this Government. The responsibility falls on the Prime Minister during his American visit to find out just where Australia stands with the Fill. It seems that even if the plane is delivered to Australia, the sharp cutback in American orders will increase the burden of repairs and maintenance to Australia. It seems most unlikely that the plane will ever be used in association with the American Fills based in Asia.
With the future of the reconnaissance version doubtful, Australia faces the possibility of using the Fill in the dark, unless it buys another reconnaissance plane to guide it. The Government faces the distinct possibility that Australia’s Fill will be an orphan aircraft without a strategic role to play. These are matters of crucial importance on which this House has been most inadequately informed. The Prime Minister will have to face up to the question whether Australia can continue with the purchase, or whether it should opt out of the arrangements. The Prime Minister has never made any secret of the fact that he is uneasy about the Fill. It is very doubtful that if he had been Prime Minister in 1963 the plane would have been bought. Nevertheless, he has been stuck with the Fill and it is now his decision as to whether he pushes the purchase to a limit which may be tragic to Australia. The right honourable gentleman’s visit to the United States may well be Australia’s last opportunity to get out of the deal.
Another major issue which I am sure the Prime Minister will have on his plate for the United States is the offsetting of Australia’s defence purchases from that country. The Minister for Defence has made great play on this matter in recent months. The Minister even spoke at one stage of neutralising Australia’s foreign exchange costs for defence purchases; it should be recalled that not a cent of the more than $300m arising from the last defence review has been neutralised in this way. An examination of the Government’s record in offsetting defence purchases shows it to be a pitiful one. Australia has not even been able to neutralise a substantial part of the costs of the Vietnam war by American procurement in this country. As I pointed out in this House in an urgency debate 3 weeks ago, America procures heavily from Japan and Taiwan which are not committed to the war. Apart from spending by servicemen on rest and recreation leave and some minor food and equipment purchases, Australia has received nothing to offset its contribution to the war.
Another example of the Government’s failure to obtain offset arrangements is the
Mallard communications project, which has been undertaken by the United States of America, Britain, Canada and Australia. Australia has received only minor contracts from this project. These contracts in no way offset its contribution to the overall project. Australia has been the least successful country in the world in offsetting its American purchases.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on the matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The honourable gentleman complains of the Government’s alleged failure to inform or consult the Parliament on those aspects of foreign policy, defence contracts, trade and aid which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should discuss with the President of the United States of America. The Government’s policy attitudes are very well known. They have been stated repeatedly by the Prime Minister, myself, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). They were certainly the subject of the major policy differences between the Government and the Opposition on the occasion of the last general election. There is no need for the Government to explain its foreign policy to the House. It is well known and has been the subject of continuous debate in this House.
There are developments which can be most usefully discussed between a new President and a Prime Minister of Australia who is taking the first practical opportunity to go and have discussions with him. The developments as seen by the governments of the United States of America and Australia in the war in Vietnam and in the Paris peace talks do not lend themselves to full parliamentary discussion. I do not think that anyone would suggest that. General policy attitudes to both issues are, as I have said, canvassed very frequently and very deeply in this House. Why does one have a discussion? One has a discussion to convey information that one has; to explain a line of thinking that one has; to compare one’s line of thinking with the line of thinking of the person with whom one is having the discussion; and perhaps to try to persuade the other person. But if you are to have the right to try to persuade him he must be conceded the right to try to persuade you. This is the normal course of discussions between reasonable people, between friends, and certainly between allies. The very essence of international discussions is compromise.
I know of no great issues of international discussion - whether they be diplomatic, trade or financial - in which there is not an element of compromise. In great issues such as this, one must project one’s mind forward, consider the possible eventualities and reach understandings on the attitudes to be adopted in certain circumstances. Here is an elementary thought on what a profitable discussion can be. But the Leader of the Opposition says that the Prime Minister should come into this House - the most formal of ali places - and lay down his line of thinking, lay down his decisions, no doubt expose his knowledge and commit himself publicly to an attitude and, having committed himself, then go into discussion. It is the very antithesis of profitable discussion to say: ‘This is my view. These I know are the facts. This is my attitude. This is what I am going to do or would do in certain circumstances’. It is really quite silly to commit oneself and then to go into discussion with a friend. Great matters are not handled that way. One does not want to go into a discussion having deprived oneself of all possible flexibility. One wants to go into a discussion with some flexibility and with the knowledge that frequently in the course of useful discussions people are persuaded to modify their views and compromise their attitudes to some extent. If, on the other hand, the line of thinking is that, rather than have a discussion, matters should be decided beforehand and formally laid on the line in Parliament-
– No-one is suggesting that at all.
– That is what the substance of the matter of public importance suggests. In that event, rather than have a discussion, one could handle the matter more effectively by writing a letter. One could take all the time one wanted to think about a problem and then write a tetter saying: That is where I stand’. The reason why these matters are not handled by letter is that one wants to enter into a discussion with a certain openness of mind and a knowledge of one’s sense of direction, what one believes in, what one stands for and what one wants to get. Of course, what we want above all is an end to the war in Vietnam in the circumstances that the Prime Minister portrayed 10 minutes ago. We want a peace that will assure that the people of South Vietnam whom, with our allies, we have joined to resist aggression, are free of aggression. 1 have said - and it has also been said many times by other Australian spokesmen - ‘that we are not in Vietnam to try to win a war. We are not in Vietnam to try to conquer territory. We are not in Vietnam to try to become possessed of new material things. We are in Vietnam for one reason only and that is to prove on this historic occasion that planned aggression which is supported surreptitiously by great powers, cannot succeed in overrunning a small, free nation. When the North Vietnamese and their Communist allies know that they cannot win they will talk and the war will come to an end in exactly the same circumstances as the Korean war ended.
– Who knows when the war will come to an end? All I know is that we want it to come to an end as soon as possible. The difference between us is not in wanting an end to the war; it is in seeking an end to the war in circumstances that will enable South Vietnam to survive.
– -Nobody disputes that, either.
– The Opposition keeps on saying: ‘You should cease the bombing. You should withdraw troops. You should plan to end the war.’ But the Opposition never adds any contingencies. The Opposition just wants to end the war. After the great material contribution of, and the losses suffered by the United States of America and Australia over the years, what futility it would be to say: ‘We are fed up. We are going home.’ 1 think that this would really be the most indefensible attitude that one could possible conceive. I believe that the Prime Minister should have some openness of mind when he visits the President. There must be openness of mind between friends. No issue is more vital to the people of
Australia than that the Americans trust us and understand where our vital interests lie. This is what the Prime Minister has to convey. Prime Ministers and other heads of government do not discuss defence contracts, trade or tariff matters. The Ministers and specialists in those fields do that. Prime Ministers and other heads of government discuss the great policy issues that affect the well being of their nations, the prospects of peace and the pursuit of happiness in the world. This is what our Prime Minister will do very effectively for the people of Australia.
– One can appreciate that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should go abroad with some openness of mind. I was rather astonished at the homiletic sort of approach of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to what the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States of America would do when they got together. It seemed at one stage that they would almost gaze at each other in admiration. To be realistic, we know that certain things are going to be talked about, and the purport of the motion moved by the Opposition is that we feel it is going to be difficult for the Australian Prime Minister to talk with clarity abroad about matters on which there is great confusion at home. The Prime Minister mentioned the fact that on a previous occasion he had gone to another great meeting of minds, the Prime Ministers Conference in the United Kingdom. I would submit that since that event there has been confusion rather than illumination on some of the fundamental issues. I think that more confusion has been created - and it certainly has not been dispelled since - by what the right honourable gentleman said there at a financial meeting on foreign investment. He used the analogy that Australia was no longer a puppy to be tickled. I, for one, said that I thought he had mistaken the animal, that instead of a puppy being tickled Australia was a cow being systematically milked. I hope that when the right honourable gentleman goes to the United States he will say: ‘Please, Mr President, be a little bit more kind to the cow’.
There are one or two matters about which T think the Minister for Trade and Industry could have indicated whether there is satisfaction at his level. It is all right saying that other Ministers go and other Ministers do this. Surely we ought to be alarmed about the deteriorating balance of trade between Australian and the United States. The latest figures that are available show that for the year 1967 we had an adverse balance of trade with the United States, or North America which includes Canada, of course but preponderantly with the United States, of $478m. At the end of June 1968 it had increased to $51 4m, and already in the first 6 months of this financial year we are $48m worse off than we were in the previous 12 months. There are some measures that I hope will be taken up, particularly the effect on Australia of the so called protectionist policy of the Nixon Government. I hope that the Prime Minister will not feel that it is rude to mention these things in the circumstances. Our own company, Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, apparently is being indicted in the United States for dumping Australian steel in that country, which surely is a matter of some concern to us. Surely the Australian Country Party is not satisfied with the arrangements recently come to about the sale of meat. The Australian beef industry has become, to some extent, dependent upon sales to the United States. What about the quotas that are proposed on some of our minerals, even assuming that the United States owns a lot of what is being sold? But there are still quotas on zinc and some of the other metals. What about the tariff on wool? What will be the effect on our sales of wool if there are restrictionist policies carried out in the United States?
On the question of the future of foreign investment, if this country is to continue, as seems to be the case, to be dependent for some years yet on a flow of capital from overseas of somewhere of the magnitude of $l,000m a year, more than half of which comes from the United States of America, surely no-one in Australia would say that we are certain yet what the Government’s attitude to foreign investment is. The Government says that it has guidelines. It seems to me that the guidelines no longer guide but only confuse. Again, surely the Prime Minister of Australia would want to have a word or two to say about some of the restrictions on the flow of capital between the two countries. Even United
States businessmen in this country are confused as to what the Australian policy is. I would like to quote from an article in the Age’ of 24th February 1969. Certainly the article was written before the recent debate in this House on foreign investment, but there was no clarity imparted to the situation by what took place then. The American businessmen said:
No-one would question the right of the Australian Government to establish whatever policy or form of control over investment it sees fit.
So far the Government has not even indicated to Australia what its policy is. Is the Prime Minister to go over and address some assembly or a luncheon in New York and make the same sort of statement about foreign investment in the future as he made some months ago in London? If he does, is the situation going to be better or worse in consequence? I submit that these are the sorts of things that we are entitled to ask about. Surely this is not to be just a cosy little chat between two fairly newly elevated people to the positions of greatest political eminence in their respective lands? It is to be a serious meeting about quite significant problems, and that is why we listed the ones that we did quite carefully, such as the question of aid, the question of Vietnam and the cessation of the war and the question of whether or not the Fill is ever going to reach Australia and whether we ought to be asked to pay for something that is so unsatisfactory in its performance.
I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who will follow me in this debate will give us some really concrete stuff as to what has been done so far as set off orders are concerned. All that seems to be said are pious utterances that are churned out every time the Government is under attack, whether it is now, 3 months before or 3 months in the future. The same stereotyped sort of speech is made and it seems that there is no real improvement in the situation. Certainly the experience of the last 4 months, as far as the balance of trade with the United States of America is concerned, does not point to any favourable results from this set off order. If he has something definite let him put it on the table in terms of money instead of some vague idea that we might build the wing of a plane in some factory that otherwise seems to be facing extinction. These sorts of questions should not have to be probed a few days before the Prime Minister leaves, but so far there has been little indication, despite the generalities that are uttered, that this Government is thinking of Australia in terms of 1980 rather than just in terms of a few weeks ahead. I hope that the problems which will be discussed between the two gentlemen will be ones that are of a long term nature and that they will not just have a cosy little chat about day to day events.
– In 20 years many of us in this House will have seen Prime Minister after Prime Minister depart for an overseas tour to discuss matters of urgent public interest, both here and in other countries, with the leaders of those countries. I do not remember an occasion - indeed there has been no occasion - on which a Prime Minister of this country, before embarking on such a voyage, discussed or debated in this House the matters which would come up for consideration at meetings overseas. It is not done, Mr Speaker, and for the reasons amply set out by my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) a few moments ago. International business of this kind is not done with the world looking over one’s shoulder. This is well recognised in the diplomatic field. It is foolish also, as the Minister for Trade pointed out, to go abroad with a fixed mind on these matters, which would be known by people overseas, or to go overseas not willing to make compromises or to have points of view analysed. The Prime Minister will go completely briefed as he is at all times on these great matters, and I have no doubt that the result of the Prime Minister’s tour will rebound to the benefit of this country in the future.
It becomes quite clear that the proposal of this matter for discussion is a device by the Australian Labor Party by which it hopes once again to put forward these things which have come up from time to time. The Opposition does not have very many shots in its locker. The arguments put forward by the Opposition have been answered satisfactorily and completely. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) talked about the Fill debate. Of course we have had a number of debates on this matter. I recall the last one which started with a flurry and finished with a fizzle. I remember that the Opposition in another place was breathing fire and murder about what it was going to do about the disclosure of the terms of the contract for the Fill aircraft. The Government tabled the contract documents and we have not heard a peep out of the Opposition in another place ever since. In other words, these are merely devices by which the Labor Party is attempting to persuade its supporters in the field in an election year that it is really awake and that members of the Party can really divert their minds from their internal troubles to the great matters which are of concern to this nation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) talked about his policy on Vietnam. He said that the Opposition’s policy on Vietnam is to scale down and finish the war. We agree completely with the Opposition. Our great need is to scale down and finish the war. But we have another condition. We want to finish the war satisfactorily. As my colleague who preceded me in this debate said, we are not in Vietnam for any particular gain of our own, except the long term gain of persuading those in our sphere of interest who might turn to aggression that aggression will not succeed. My honourable friend went on to complain bitterly that we are in Vietnam and we have not offset the cost of our contribution with American contracting in this country. These are the kind of people who not so long ago were suggesting that we were trading the lives of our men in Vietnam for some advantage in public goodwill with the United States. There never has been a more miserable statement that that made in the Parliament.
We are not in Vietnam to make money. We are not in Vietnam to impress anyone. We are there to see that aggression will not pay, to bring some stability to that area and to do just the things that the Leader of the Opposition himself mentioned. We want to bring stability, to upgrade and to rebuild the economies and societies of the people in South Vietnam. But how do we do all these desirable things if the place is torn to pieces by war and aggression? How do we do arl these things if what we do today for the people of that country is destroyed tomorrow by the aggressor? There has to be stability and there has to be peace. It will be a negotiated peace, but we are all the better for negotiating from a position of strength. But I pass from that because these matters certainly wilt be discussed between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States and the relevant officers of his new Government.
One of the other little matters to which I think I must refer is the attitude of the Opposition on our recent decision to give aid - military aid as well as financial aid - to Malaysia and Singapore. This, of course, has met with complete opposition from the Labor Party, which would answer the plea of the people of South East Asia by withdrawing our military assistance from those countries. The leaders of Malaysia and Singapore have pointed out that the one great thing they need for the development of the economies of their countries is to establish confidence in the minds of those people who will need to invest money in Malaysia and Singapore, particularly if the future development of those countries’ economies and societies are to be protected. What sort of inconsistency is this on the part of the Opposition? In the first place the Opposition would deny the requests of the people of Singapore and Malaysia to give them the very means by which they can build up their economies and establish stability and growth in their communities. Yet Opposition members tell us that they are still in favour of helping the growth of economy and stability in those countries. I can say without fear of contradiction, from knowledge and experience, that the decisions taken by this Government in recent times to take up a fair share of our responsibilities in South East Asia will immeasurably clear the way for productive discussions by our Prime Minister with the new administration in the United States. But I hate to think what would have been the situation if the Opposition of this Parliament had had its way and we had been obliged to withdraw altogether, to opt out of South East Asia and to cut the painter from people with whom, by whom and alongside whom we are going to live through history.
If we pulled out of South East Asia the United States would have asked why it should be obliged to be the slightest bit interested in our own future security. These are the prices that have to be paid for reasonable arrangements and for good relations with powerful allies which this country will continue to need for a long time to come. There is a little more inconsistency in the Opposition. In the first place the Leader of the Opposition tells us that we ought to have our own strong policy about Vietnam. He has said that we ought to be in the United States pushing that firm policy with the administration of the United States. We have had a firm policy, ft has been put to the United States. This policy is not necessarily wrong if it happens to run parallel to that of the United States.
The next inconsistency shown by the Opposition is in the complaint we are told that we have failed to sign the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. The Opposition does not seem to be able to differentiate between the signature of a treaty of this kind and its ratification. The Leader of the Opposition says: ‘Why do we not sign it? We are going to have to sign it pretty soon. We might just as well sign it now.’ Surely, this is the very antithesis of what he said in the Vietnam situation. Here again we have a strong policy of our own. It is a policy that looks forward to the years of technological development in this country. It is the responsibility and the obligation of this Government to make sure that our opportunities in the fields of nuclear science, nuclear energy and all the other fields in which nuclear power will be important, are not denied to us because we loosely sign a non-proliferation treaty without being certain that the national interests of this great and increasingly great country are properly preserved. Therefore, on the one hand the Opposition says: ‘Have a strong policy and follow it’. On the other hand the Opposition does not have any policy on this except for this country just to scuttle away and let the people who put up this treaty pressurise and browbeat us into signing something that might well mean the signing away of the national interest.
There is no time, in a debate of this kind, for me to go into many other matters which have been debated. But again the Deputy Leader of the Government, my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry, has pointed out that most of the matters that the Opposition has raised in this debate are matters of day to day administration. These things do not await a visit overseas of a Prime Minister before they are settled. They are dealt with and settled on a day to day basis. If honourable gentlemen want to raise debates on any of these matters, the device which has been used this afternoon is open to them. They can debate any matter they like. But I hope that when they bring before the House any matters of public importance they will realty want to debate something in depth and not waste the time of this Parliament as they have tended to do this afternoon.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who has just resumed his seat, most carefully walked right around the major issue that concerns his own administration and that is precisely what his Department and he, as its Minister, intend to do in relation to the FU 1 aircraft contract.
– We are talking about what the Prime Minister is going to do overseas.
– This will be one of the main matters. The Minister has had his say; let me have mine. The situation is that a minimum number of these aeroplanes are to be purchased and I would say that there will be a very substantial increase in the charge that has to be met for testing and development. All Government speakers up to date have suffered amazing lapses of memory and none so much as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) himself. He seems to suffer from some chronic amnesia - some chronic forgetfulness - where time is concerned because be referred to the need to find out just how withdrawal can be effected from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If he had done bis homework he would have found that Article X of that Treaty states:
Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardised the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance.
I repeat those last words: ‘three months in advance*. The Prime Minister, again on a question of time, chooses to mislead the House. All Government speakers have asked why this matter has been advanced today. It would be a sorry state of affairs for Australia if it had not been, judging by the
Prime Ministers performance on his recent lamentable visit to the United States immediately prior to the Presidential elections. He goes on this occasion as a Prime Minister not having a mandate from the people. He goes there as a man with a very great need to mend a lot of fences. As a matter of fact, during his recent visit his performance was pathetic indeed. There was less clarity in his stated objectives than in those of any Prime Minister who has gone before. It has been suggested that in 20 years no similar matter of public importance has ever been put before the House. The need has never arisen before. This man is not competent, and if honourable members want the proof of it I have it in the text of the Press briefing given by the Prime Minister at Blair House in the United States on 28th May 1968. Here is the proof of his ineptitude - his crass ineptitude - on a matter of vital importance; our trading relations with the United States. The Press report reads:
PM. Well, we discussed - expressed Australian interests, and our hopes that such things as our export of meal to the United States would not be affected by any action, that the international agreement might be proceeded with - expressed our hope that it would be proceeded with, expressed our interest in sugar … we felt that any prevention of our access to this market, any additional prevention would go badly in our interests. . . .
PM. No, no - it was commodity matters.
P.M. Well, that falls in wilh - yes - wool and meat.
PM. Well, we put our case as strongly as we could. But there are a lot of difficulties, as you know, inside the United States, as you know indeed inside our own country . . .
He went there totally unprepared and not properly briefed either. 1 want to know who is going with him on this occasion, because on his last trip to the United States this is what happened: He went as a new broom Prime Minister who chose to travel without advice or companionship from the Department of External Affairs. It will be interesting to know whether the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), who is sitting at the table, will be accompanying him.
– It will be no good taking him.
– At least he is the Minister in name. When the Prime Minister went to the United States he wanted to determine America’s intentions with regard to South East Asia. He found that they depended, to a large extent, upon Australia and other countries in the region. He chose not to travel with a senior adviser from the Department of External Affairs, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, who accompanied the late Mr Holt on his visit. Why did he not bring the Australian Ambassador to Washington, Sir Keith Waller, to Honolulu as did Mr Holt? The Prime Minister chose to formulate his own foreign policy intentions. This foreign policy, of course was formulated with his grand vizier, whom we all know. Finally when he did seek in Washington a firm undertaking that the United States would underwrite any Australian involvement in Malaysia he did not get it, and he knows that lt cannot be obtained. Most of his negotiations there, such as they were, were a desperate endeavour to write into the ANZUS Treaty something that has been stated here time and time again and has never been accepted in the United States. As for his present entourage it will be interesting to see who will be accompanying him on this occasion, because if ever someone needed expert advice this man does.
Who today in the United States can say what Australia’s policy is on foreign investment? Who can say whether we are prepared to stand up for our rights in relation to trade with the United States? At the present time we are down the drain in our trading with the United States to the tune of nearly S600m a year. And the Prime Minister is going to meet a businessman’s administration - a businessman’s goverment - led by a President who stated that lie favours protection. The world today is reverting to stark national economic autarky. There is no other word for it. He is going to see the only man that he never really contacted in his visit to the United States - and it was a howling mistake on his part. If there were a further mistake that could be made it was this: He was indiscreet enough - and the report came from Alan Ramsay who was there and who is a well known reporter - to state that he would have preferred to have seen Mr Humphrey.
In other words the Prime Minister has to go under the worst of auspices, wagging his tail and making suitable ingratiating noises to clear the deck with a man whom he personally did not want to see. I am no advocate for Mr Nixon; I am stating the depth of the Prime Minister’s foolishness. The only man he did not have time to see was the man that everyone in the United States tipped would be the next President. He rated the briefest of telephone conversations with our Prime Minister. No Australian Prime Minister has made less impact on world public opinion. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) referred to the tickle the tummy speech in London. What the honourable member was charitable enough to omit was that none of the London Press thought enough of the address on that occasion to publish it. So much for the Prime Minister’s impact on the English Press. Instead of referring to a dog having its tummy tickled it might well be said that certain types of foreign investment are kicking Australia like a mongrel dog.
Is the Prime Minister going to America to put up a fight. Does he think that in dealing with some hard fisted, tough-minded businessmen led by a President who is skating on thin ice because he is faced with an adverse Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives - there is a Democrat majority - he will get anything except by the hardest of hard bargaining? If he thinks that his personal charm is going to work wonders over there he is making the mistake of his life.
– You could never think that about your personal charm.
– I could not care less about the honourable member’s opinion. I know that it is important to Australia’s vital interests, which are at stake, and they could not be in worse hands than they are now. We are led today by a man who has a taste for authoritarianism, who has a taste for extra-parliamentary government and who does not want to come here and put his cards on the table to be discussed because he is vulnerable and he well knows it.
– The matter of public importance that we are discussing is quite amazing. It relates to the Government’s ability to inform or consult the Parliament on those aspects of foreign policy, defence contracts, trade and aid which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should discuss with the President of the United States of America. As my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), has rightly said, the leaders of this Government have made many visits overseas for informal and friendly discussions. On no previous occasion, as far as I am aware, has any debate taken place in this Parliament on the subjects that they proposed to discuss. But more importantly on no previous occasion has the Opposition suggested that such subjects should be debated in this place. So, in discussing these issues as a matter of public importance today, we are adopting a new approach. If that is the Opposition’s real view, it is fantastic. The Prime Minister might just as well send the President of the United States a copy of Hansard with a covering note. But everyone knows that that is not the real reason for this debate. Everyone knows that the real reason is to use this device to rehash the ideas of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on a wide range of subjects in the compass of a very short time limit.
The Prime Minister’s purpose is to meet the new President of the United States, to exchange ideas with him and to explore common problems. It will be a valuable opportunity for them to gain insight into each other’s point of view, to exchange information and to learn about the policies being pursued by their Governments. This kind of meeting is not an occasion for negotiation. It is not an occasion on which formal proposals of policy are made by one government to another with a view to seeking agreement, and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) made the great error of thinking that it is. It is not a time of hard bargaining, as he suggested. It is a time of friendly, informal discussion that will lead to greater understanding of each other’s point of view.
We heard from the Leader of the Opposition his usual long catalogue of slick, glib generalities, often misleading - I will point to some areas in which they were misleading - on a wide variety of subjects that have been widely debated in this Parliament on a number of occasions and of which, I would imagine, both this House and the nation are fully cognisant. He mentioned, for example, the Fill aircraft, which is one of the items in his catalogue. How many debates have we had in this Parliament on the Fill aircraft? Is anyone in any doubt about the Opposition’s views “or the Government’s views on it? I want to raise a matter that I think is of much more concern. The honourable gentleman turned back to history to refer to an accusation he made about the previous Prime Minister, Mr Holt, in relation to bombing in Vietnam. He has stated on several occasions that the late Prime Minister, when he was in America, tried to encourage the bombing of Vietnam. This was refuted by Mr Holt himself. The Leader of the Opposition has repeated this accusation time and time again.
– I quoted a speech of his.
– The Leader of the Opposition has quoted a lot of things out of context, but let me make it quite clear that what Mr Holt said in 1967 was this. 1 have made that clear. I have made it clear that we would not urge on the United States a cessation of the bombing unless there was an answering response from Hanoi . . .
That is the basis on which the bombing did in fact cease. But it is quite impossible, as many of us have found, to get home to the Leader of the Opposition that he is destroying himself and his Party by repetition of false accusations and without completely speaking the truth.
In a different vein but just as inaccurately, he dealt with the question of Australia’s external aid. Here he adopted’ a new device - not new in debating techniques but new for him. He spoke the truth, but a very small portion of the truth. He said that Australia’s aid to United Nations agencies put us seventeenth on the list and this was a matter for some reproach. He did not deal in the context of his speech with the fact that in terms of total aid we stand very high. He mentioned a figure of $1.5m, but he did not say that our externa] aid in this year will amount to $154.8m. What could be more misleading than to refer in derogatory terms to our aid to United Nations agencies of $1.5m when our total aid is $ 154.8m?
The honourable gentleman does not make genuine comparisons; he makes only those comparisons that suit him. He referred to the Netherlands’ aid to Indonesia and to our aid to Indonesia. He said that we should be ashamed of our effort. Again it is true that in this financial year we are giving only $J2.7m worth of aid to Indonesia. We took the somewhat unusual step of announcing this aid well ahead of the introduction of the last Budget, because it was an urgent matter that we felt had to receive attention. Normally our aid grants are made in the context of our Budget. The Leader of the Opposition said that our aid to Indonesia does not stand up well alongside the Netherlands aid to Indonesia. He forgets al’l the other countries that we are helping. He forgets that, on the per capita basis and on the basis of gross national product, the percentage of our aid in total to other countries is far greater. He forgets that the Netherlands has strong traditional ties with Indonesia, that it has large capital investments in Indonesia, that it has many commercial operations there and that it has strong hope of negotiating compensation in some form or . other for confiscated properties. The Leader of the Opposition has neglected to mention all these points.
Included in the catalogue of subjects mentioned by the honourable gentleman is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Let me list the countries that have so far ratified the Treaty. Of eighty-eight signatories–
– lt will take a long time.
– The honourable member Should not fall into the error of confusing signature and ratification. So far ten countries have ratified the Treaty. They are Ireland, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, which is a country of some significance and a nuclear power, Denmark, Canada, Cameroon, Mexico, Finland, Norway and Equadore. The United States of America has announced its intention to ratify the Treaty. Of the 88 signatories, those are the countries that have so far committed themselves to ratification.
– We have not even signed it.
– -That is quite immaterial. Of 88 signatories, only 10 have ratified. The Treaty cannot come into force until a quota of 40 of the signatories has ratified it and until all the nuclear powers that have signed it have ratified it. Surely in a matter of this importance we should give deep consideration to our position in relation to the nuclear powers that have neither signed nor ratified it. This debate, of course, is not the place to discuss this question. I merely point out to the House the political device that is being used. Under the guise of trying to discuss the matters that the Prime Minister should take up with the President, the Opposition is ranging over an enormous field of subjects, though our views on them are very well known.
Minister’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for External Affairs in respect of three matters. The first matter concerned my reference to the late Prime Minister Holt on his last visit to the United States. I relied on a speech, the full text of which was available to all honourable members, made by Mr Holt at Los Angeles after he had had talks in Honolulu but before he had had talks with the President in Washington. The second and third matters concerned the attitude of the United States towards development programmes and in particular with regard to Indonesia. I quoted from two replies which the Minister gave to me, one under the heading ‘Financial Aid to Indonesia’ and given on 4th March. J drew the comparison between the amount and the promptness of American aid to Indonesia on the one hand and Australia’s on the other. The other answer was given by the honourable gentleman on 18th March and related to the United Nations development programme - not agencies in general but the development programme. I pointed out that the United States, which has seventeen times our population, contributed fifty times as much as did Australia.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. lt is proposed by this Bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act in two respects. One amendment which arises from the two tier price system for gold will exempt from tax income derived from the sale of newly mined gold for industrial purpose and use in Australia. The second amendment is purely a drafting measure to remedy a technical defect in provisions which limit the amount of the special income tax rebate for expenditure incurred in promoting exports of goods and services from Australia.
Honourable members may recall a statement to the House on 27th November last year announcing the Government’s intention to introduce the amendments proposed in the Bill in relation to sales of newly mined gold for industrial use in Australia. These proposals follow the adoption on 18th March 1968 of changed arrangements for the marketing of newly mined gold. As background to this amendment I mention that all newly mined gold produced in Australia and Papua and New Guinea is required to be delivered to the Reserve Bank. Since its formation in 1951 the Gold Producers’ Association Ltd has been authorised to purchase from the Reserve Bank newly mined gold delivered to the bank by members of the Association if the gold is not required by the Bank to supply industrial users of gold in Australia. The Association’s purchases are made at the official price and its sales have been in overseas markets where premiums above the official price can be obtained.
Since 18th March 1968 the Association has been authorised to supply newly mined gold used for industrial purposes in Australia. Previously this gold was supplied to users only by the Reserve Bank at, broadly, the official price. In brief the Gold Producer’s Association is now authorised to purchase from the Reserve Bank at the official price the newly mined gold delivered to the Bank by Association members and to sell that gold at market prices to both overseas buyers and Australian, users of gold for industrial purposes.
When it was decided in 1951 to permit the sale overseas of newly mined gold by an association of gold producers, special provisions were introduced into the income tax law as an extension pf the provisions which exempt gold producers from tax on their income from gold, production. The 1951 amendments applied to exempt such an association from tax on its income from overseas sales of gold produced by members of the association. Distributions to members out of the profits from these sales were also made exempt.
The new gold selling arrangements which the Government has approved mean that gold producers are, through their Association, able to profit from sales at market price of gold that is to be wrought or worked in Australia. This Bill will extend to these profits the’ exemptions that have hitherto applied to profits from overseas sales at market prices. Accordingly, profits of an approved company that is owned by producers of gold in Australia and Papua and New Guinea from the sale for industrial use in Australia of gold produced by them will be exempt from income tax. The exemption will, of course, extend to dividends distributed to the producers out of these profits. 1 turn now to that part of the Bill which deals with the special rebate of income tax for expenditure in promoting exports of goods and services from Australia. The rebate of 42.5c for each Si of eligible expenditure is allowable in addition to any deduction for the same expenditure available under the general provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act. There is provision, however, for an upper limit on the tax saving that can be achieved by the allowance of both a rebate and a deductionThe saving cannot exceed 87.5c for each $1 of eligible expenditure. Where this limit would be exceeded, the rebate of 42.5c is reduced to keep the total tax saving within the limit.
Complex provisions were necessary in the legislation to calculate the amount of the tax saving arising from the deduction of the expenditure in at1) the varying circumstances which can arise in practice. A technical defect in these provisions can prevent the amount of the tax saving being calculated on the basis originally intended. The cases in which the provision would not operate as intended are likely to be few as they involve there being, in the one assessment, both a deduction for export market development expenditure and a deduction for losses suffered in a prior year of income. Nevertheless, the position needs to be corrected and the Bill will remedy the defect that exists. In broad terms the proposed amendments will ensure that, as was originally intended, the formula for calculation of the tax saving from the deduction for eligible export market development expenditure produces, in all circumstances, the amount of tax actually saved through the deduction for that expenditure.
A memorandum giving more detailed explanations of the provisions of the Bill is being circulated to honourable members and I do not think it necessary for me to go into further detail at this stage. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend provisions of the payroll tax law dealing with rebates of tax for increases in export sales Insofar as those provisions apply to gold producers. Under the proposed amendments rebate entitlements of producers are to be calculated on a basis which, in contrast with the present law, excludes from the calculations sales of gold for industrial use in Australia. These changes in the law were foreshadowed in a statement in the House on 27th November 1968. The amendments are a consequence of a review of the tax situation which the Government made following changes in the procedures for the marketing of gold for industrial use in Australia that were put into practical effect last year. These changes have been referred to in the speech on the associated Income Tax Assessment Bill which has just been introduced, and I do not think it is necessary for me to go over them again now.
Since the inception of the scheme allowing pay-roll tax rebates for increases in export sales, newly mined gold delivered to the Reserve Bank has been treated as an export for rebate purposes, irrespective of whether it is ultimately exported, is used for Australian industrial purposes or is held by the Bank. In addition, tax-export dividends received by a gold producer from an approved producer owned company out of profits from overseas sales of gold at market prices have also been treated as export sales for rebate purposes. Under the revised marketing arrangements, of course, the Gold Producers Association will now be in a position to make distributions to members also out of profits from local sales for industrial use. With the increase that has taken place in the use of newly mined gold for local industrial use, as well as the changed marketing arrangements, the Government has concluded that it is no longer appropriate to treat sales of gold for industrial use in Australia as being export sales for rebate purposes. Entitlement to the pay-roll tax rebate is calculated on increases in export sales for a particular rebate year over the level of such sales in a prior base period.
Under the proposed amendments, the export sales for a rebate year of a gold producer who is a member of an approved producer owned company will be calculated by taking as a starting point the total of the amount received for his deliveries to the Reserve Bank and the dividends received from the company during the particular rebate year. The total amount will then be reduced by a proportion representing the extent to which the company’s total sales of the preceding year were for industrial use in Australia. Corresponding adjustments will be made for base period years. The proposed amendments will apply to rebate claims in respect of the 1968-69 financial year and subsequent financial years.
An explanatory memorandum giving detailed explanations of the provisions of the Bill has been made available for the information of honourable members and I do not propose to speak at greater length at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs - Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister assisting the Treasurer [5.4] - I move:
The principal matters dealt with by this rather technical Bill relate to the GovernorGeneral’s warrant, which is required to be obtained before money voted by the Parliament may be disbursed. The procedure set put in the present Act provides for the Treasurer to calculate the amount of money likely to become payable out of the Commonwealth public account for a period qf not more than 3 months, to classify it in the same divisions and . sub-divisions employed in appropriating it or to state the purpose for which it will become payable, and to obtain warrant accordingly. A quite separate control is imposed by another section of the Act which provides the machinery te restrict expenditure in the year on each item of the schedules to the Appropriation Acts to the amount appropriated by Parliament for the year.
The existence of a control on a subdivisional basis for a quarter or shorter period in addition to a separate control on an item basis for a year, complicates departmental and Treasury administration. Before the introduction of computers, the central Treasury ledgers were maintained at sub-division level. Now that computers are used in Treasury accounting, all records are maintained at item level and the reasons which were previously valid for warrant control to be based on sub-division totals no longer apply. Present methods also provide information much more quickly and as frequently as is desired, to both the Treasury and departments. Since the rate of expenditure can be observed so readily, the need to provide a quarterly warrant has also disappeared. It is therefore proposed to co-ordinate these controls by providing warrant control at item level and by permitting warrants to be obtained for the full amount appropriated, and not merely for the amount expected to be spent in 3 months or less. The savings from these changes in warrant procedures are expected to be of the order of $100,000 a year.
Another change proposed in the warrant procedures relates to the Trust Fund. Under the present law warrant is required to be obtained for Trust Fund expenditure, but this serves no useful purpose. Trust fund expenditure is controlled by ensuring that expenditure from a trust account does not exceed the amount available in that account. It is therefore proposed to remove the requirement for warrant to be obtained for expenditure from the Trust Fund. The Auditor-General must sign each warrant before it is presented to the GovernorGeneral, and there have been difficulties in obtaining his signature when he has been away from Canberra. It is therefore proposed to provide that he may appoint a person to sign the certificate in. the warrant in his place. The other changes in the sections dealing with., the GovernorGeneral’s warrant are not designed to change the current practice but. to bring the law clearly into line with this practice. Thus it is probable that, strictly,- . warrant is not at present required where Parliament has provided an appropriation which it is known will be used by the department controlling that appropriation for making a payment to another department or agency - such as payments for stationery and printing to the Government Printer.
The amendments are designed to make it clear that warrant is required for all such amounts appropriated, by the Parliament, in order to co-ordinate the warrant control with the appropriation control. Another change designed to bring, the law into line with present practice is. contained in the provision permitting the Governor-General to issue a warrant without obtaining the advice of the Executive Council. The practice is for the Governor-General to sign the warrant after the Treasurer ;has signed it showing the amounts required and the Auditor-General has signed it certifying that the amounts are legally available without the additional step of an .Executive Council minute in this time-critical operation, and as far as can be ascertained, this has been the practice since Federation. However, the Acts Interpretation Act provides that unless the contrary intention appears references in Acts conferring a power or function on the Governor-General are to be read as referring to the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Executive Council. The Bill therefore provides a contrary intention.
The opportunity has been taken to make a number of other desirable amendments, most of which will not change the current practice. Thus in their 61st report, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts noted difficulties arising from the inclusion of deduction and transfer items in the schedules to the various appropriation measures. A new section to deal with this problem is proposed. It is proposed also to validate the accounting procedures followed where there are amounts both due to and by the Commonwealth and these are set off one against the other when settlement is made. The wording pf the Act has also been modernised in a number of ways, in particular by replacing the words ‘His Majesty’ -by ‘The Commonwealth’ and by removing a number of references to the Treasurer’s deputy which are not used or needed in view of the Treasurer’s power of delegation. The Act has also been divided into numbered parts.
There are three other matters where rather more is involved than mere modernisation of wording or clarification of the law relating to existing procedures. In situations where a deceased estate is small, amounts due to the deceased person by the Commonwealth are paid without production of probate or letters of administration. It is proposed to provide authority for such payments in the Act to ensure that the Commonwealth is free from further liability. The penalty provisions have al’so been revised and the penalties brought into line with those provided in the Crimes Act. And finally, where the Auditor-General is at present required to report every sum exceeding $200 allowed without vouchers or certificates or with imperfect vouchers or certificates, it is proposed to change the amount of $200 which was fixed over 20 years ago to an amount of $1,000 - this will not of course prevent the Auditor-General from reporting any such case no matter how small the sum if he considers it appropriate to do so. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 656), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill provides, as the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told us, for the Commonwealth to make payments to the States of recurrent grants in respect of universities based on contributions paid by the States in each calendar year. That is a very wide provision for the financing of Australian universities, and it should allow the House in the course of this discussion to say what it thinks about the present levels of grants and about the developments that have taken place in universities, and it should allow the House to look at some other aspects of education insofar as they affect universities. In addition to this quite general provision, there are a number of other matters that the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech. He said:
Because of the difficulty of ensuring that all payments in respect of a year are in fact made within that calendar year, the Act also provides for the Minister to exercise his discretion in the event of a State payment in respect of a year not being made until after the expiration of that year. However, in the case of recurrent grants payable by the Commonwealth to the States in respect of teaching hospitals associated with universities, the Act does not at present make provision for an exercise of discretion in respect of late payments and this has led to some difficulties in practice.
So the Bill provides for the inclusion in the Act a suitable power of discretion by the Minister. In some important ways it is desirable for the House to review the development of Australian universities.
– Mr Speaker, may I point out without in any way wishing to inhibit the honourable member, that this Bill is not in fact the broad Bill which he depicts it to be. In my second reading speech I said what the Act provides, and the honourable gentleman opposite used those words as though the Bill were dealing with the whole ambit of the Act. The Bill relates only to recurrent grants in respect of teaching hospitals, not to normal recurrent grants to universities or to any other aspects of universities. If the honourable gentleman wishes to have a debate concerning the total Commonwealth support for universities, I suggest that it may be outside the scope of this Bill.
-The point of order raised by the Minister for Education and Science is that the Bill provides for an amendment to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill 1969. The Bill provides for the Commonwealth to make payments of recurrent grants to teaching hospitals associated with universities. I think the honourable member for Yarra is fairly wide of the subject matter of the Bill. He may make passing reference to general matters, but he cannot make them the whole subject of his speech.
– The Bill is to amend the Act. I would think that when a government proceeds to amend an Act it should be open to the Opposition to say that we are critical of the amendment, because at this stage the needs are such that the amendment to the Act should provide additional amounts or different amounts. This would give the Parliament an adequate opportunity to consider what the Government is doing in the context of what it might be doing. The Minister would recognise that the opportunities for participation by this Parliament in discussion on what the Government does in the field of universities are not very widespread, and it is not often that we have an opportunity of discussing the Government’s attitude to universities and what is happening. I know that this amendment is in itself a machinery amendment to the Act, but I submit that the Opposition ought to be allowed to raise other matters that it considers the Government should provide for at this stage. This is the way I intended to debate the Bill. If the debate is to be confined purely to the machinery provision, I have nothing to say about it.
– I would like to take the same point of order as that raised by the Minister.
-I have given a ruling. The honourable member for Yarra is speaking to it. If the honourable member for Evans wishes to raise another point of order, I would like to know what it is.
– It is simply that the Bill refers only to the subject of teaching hospitals and nothing beyond that.
– That is the way in which I have ruled. The question is fairly clear. The Bill refers only to the payment of recurrent grants to teaching hospitals associated with universities.
– When introducing the Bill, the Minister used a line and threequarters to say what the Bill proposed. If the Minister expects me to take that much or anything less than that to discuss this matter, it will make any debate on this Bill quite worthless.
– The honourable member is not even accurate, f took a page.
– The Minister took a page to tell us what is in the Act, and he found fault with me for discussing the Act. I read the full quotation to indicate that he made reference to the Act, but if he wants me to confine the debate to the contribution he made about the Bill I can confine my remarks to about twenty words. This makes nonsense out of debating the subject. If the Minister and his supporters behind him want to take this attitude, it is all right with me. Sooner or later I suppose we will have an opportunity, with the Government’s consent, to debate the very important matters on which on this occasion one would have thought the Minister would have welcomed the views of the Opposition. If he desires to take this point of view - and I can well understand your ruling, Mr Speaker, because it is consistent with it - I have nothing more to say on the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 658), on motion by Mr Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition opposes the terms of this Bill. It is a simple Bill which proposes to increase the number of judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court from six to seven, in addition to the Chief Judge. Of course, at the present time there are five judges in addition to the Chief Judge. The Government gives as the reason for the increase that it is in the interests of strengthening the Commonwealth Industrial Court itself and providing a pool of judges who will be available for other work, including that in the Commonwealth Superior Court. The Opposition does not oppose th” measure lightly or on capricious grounds. It opposes the measure because fundamentally we have been objecting for many years to the fact that, in the vernacular of the trade union movement, this is the court of pains and of penalties. The Commonwealth Industrial Court in its present form originates from amending legislation which was passed in 1956 which, in its turn, resulted from the decision in the boilermakers’ case in that year. It is interesting to note that over the period since 1956 there have been persistent and consistent increases in the number of the judiciary, ft might almost be said that there is some type of parkinsonian law relating to the number of the judiciary in the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
Originally, the 1956 legislation provided for a Chief Judge and two associated judges. By 1960 the Government had found the need to increase the number of associate judges to four. By 1966 the number had been increased to six, and now we find that the appointment of an additional judge has been sought. It is interesting in passing to note that from my calculations there have been no fewer than forty-four amendments to the industrial arbitration legislation since its original introduction in 1904.
– Is there anything left of the original Act?
– I am afraid it is like the traditional pair of boots that have been so clouted and patched that nothing of the original uppers remain except, of course, the inheritance of continued industrial strife which is worse today than ever before, lt might be of interest to quote some words that were used a matter of 33 years ago on the subject of conciliation and arbitration. The words were as follows:
There is, f believe, in the words ‘conciliation and arbitration’ a responsibility for much industrial mischief in Australia. They have popularised the idea that the settlement of an industrial dispute is a judicial matter and that it ought to be attended to by judges possessing the ordinary legal qualifications. Such a notion is, of course, absurd.
The words, strange to say, were used by the Honourable R. G. Menzies, K.C., who at that time was Attorney-General and Minister for Railways in Victoria, lt is interesting to note the facts in relation to the original boilermakers’ case, the paltry nature of the offence on that occasion and the very sturdy opposition to it by the Boilermakers Society of Australia. The case concerned the matter of a hat being taken around at Mort’s Dock in Sydney for contributions for the dependants of other persons who were on strike. The collection was made amongst those unionists who still remained at work. The Commonwealth Government of the day, invoking the full force of its power and authority, instituted a prosecution. In 1955 the Commonwealth Industrial Court stated:
We are not impressed by the description of the contributions as being to dependants of the strikers although, even if they were intended for dependants rather than the *striker** themselves, they would still amount to a subsidy of the strike. Such support of the strike by the defendant Society must constitute a serious, if not the main reason for the strike’s continuance.
The sturdy men, prosecuted twice for the offence, finally took it to the High Court and their attitude was vindicated. The former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, who was at that time Minister for Labour and National Service, introduced amending legislation to correct the situation, in view of the urgency given to the review by the outcome of the High Court’s decision which was made by a narrow majority - a matter of four justices to three. Their ruling was that the judges of the Arbitration Court could not, as the Court was then constituted, validly exercise judicial power in addition to the power of arbitration. I shall quote from the second reading speech of the late Mr Harold Holt when he introduced the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in 1956. He said:
This had been taken to mean that the Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, cannot interpret awards, cannot deal with election irregulation, cannot deal with questions of law referred to it. . . .
Then he went on to say.
We have considered whether the High Court might not be the body to deal, in a judicial way, with these matters. We also consider the supreme courts of the States.
Finally the Government decided that a new court should be set up for the purpose. I repeat that there was to be a Chief Judge, not more than two. other judges and a division of functions as between the Industrial Court and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So with the succession of increases in the number of judges, we come to the present situation.
Australia is the most highly unionised country in the world. Figures quoted in the second reading speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in 1956 showed that Australia had 60% of its workers unionised, that the United Kingdom had 40% of its workers unionised, and that the United States of America had 27% of its workers unionised.. Of course, these matters are of vital importance to the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party having sprung from the trade union movement which decided, after a period of industrial strife in the last decade of the former century, that it would elect to Parliament men who could speak for it. There are still men in our ranks today who directly represent the trade union movement.
It is interesting to note the defects in our Constitution and the very serious limitations imposed on the rights of Parliament itself to control the system of conciliation and arbitration. In that regard I wish to make reference to another learned gentleman, Sir Frederick Eggleston, who, in a publication entitled ‘Reflections of an Australian Liberal’ - he means, of course ‘liberal’ with a small ‘1’ - made a very acute analysis of the functions of the arbitration system, particularly the manner in which it operates in Australia. In the 1890s several States passed factories Acts and set up tribunals of various kinds to determine wages and industrial conditions. At the time that the Federal Constitution was being drafted there was an attempt to give the Commonwealth power to follow the New Zealand system of conciliation and arbitration in industrial disputes. The Constitution Convention finally decided to confer such a power, but it was not a power to pass laws directly on the subject of wages and industrial conditions; it was a power to set up a tribunal which could conciliate and arbitrate after a dispute had arisen. The decision of the tribunal was to stand regardless of the laws of the Commonwealth or the States. Its decisions could not be overborne by any legislation of the Commonwealth or the States. The consequences of this decisive power have been momentous.
I will pass over the method of determining what is regarded as constituting a dispute. Because the constitutional power was confined to disputes extending beyond the limits of a State it was believed that only the few industries that were continental in scope would be involved. One feature which arose from the curious wording of the Federal power was that anything which was actually in dispute might be dealt with by the arbitration tribunal. The decision of the tribunal, of course, could not be challenged, whether it was on wages, working conditions or the like. A new province for law making by judicial processes had been created. Eggleston said in his publication: it is hard to understand why it should have been regarded as appropriate that the arbitral functions should be exercised exclusively by lawyers and that the usual juristic methods should be employed. As things are, the court has no independent expert advice on matters which are mainly economic and technical. It can make no inquiries of its own; it has no statistical service and it cannot watch the economic results of the awards or their effect on production.
It is worth reminding honourable members that in 1947, in an amendment to the principal legislation, the then Labor Government provided that the Court should have as part of its machinery an economic bureau which would, if developed properly, have been able to supply and have constantly available most of the evidence that the Court would need so that the time of hearings before the Court could be substantially reduced.
Criticisms of the system of arbitration are many. Today we are faced with the cumulative consequences of the most extraordinary limitation of powers. One of the fundamental policies of the Australian Labor Party is to obtain by referendum appropriate alteration of the Constitution so that measures can be passed which will permit Parliament to legislate directly in some of these matters. ‘Arbitration Court’ is quite a misnomer. I do not speak lightly on these matters. The very concept of arbitration is something different from what has in fact evolved today. Arbitration is a procedure for the settlement of disputes. It is accepted voluntarily that a mutually acceptable umpire shall deal with matters of controversy in lieu of resorting to the normal courts. But one decision has led to another and we have reached the situation today where conciliation has gone right into the discard. In fact, a legal cockpit is being provided today not so much for the settlement of disputes as for their exacerbation and, in many cases, perpetuation. I do not envy the difficulties of the judges who are functioning in these courts and I do not envy the difficulties of the various advocates, whether qualified or otherwise, in attempting to get some continuity on reasoning and policy.
Last week the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) referred to the fact that 1.968-9 could be a record year for industrial disputes in Australia. Industrial disputes in Australia during the first threequarters of 1968-9 resulted in an estimated loss of wages totalling $9.4m. The gloomy prognostication was made that the figures for the final quarter of the year could result in it being a record year. This, of course, is directly attributable to the recent decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the total wage case and to the arguments about the concepts of a flow-through in overaward payments. Australian workers can be led but they cannot be driven. The ALP has been bitterly opposed at all times to the concept that any worker who chooses, with just cause and after due deliberation, to refrain from the sale of his labour should be treated as a criminal. The workers are liable to penalties as well as the unions.
I do not want to hinder this House with a recapitulation of the history of the trade union movement, but I want to point out that feeling is rife amongst trade unionists that the only commodity in this country which is under universal price control is human labour. When unionists are forced to resort to arbitration tribunals they get late, delayed, tardy justice and their just claims are fought and bitterly contested by the best advocates that can be obtained by the employers. The trade unionists also feel that in the main the decisions are given so late that the original set of circumstances which prompted the initial application to the tribunal has long since passed and been superseded, .with continuing inflation, by an even worse set of conditions. Probably one of the most notable contributions to industrial mischief in Australia today was the abandonment in 1953 of the principle of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage.
– Order!’ I think that the honourable member is getting a bit wide of the Bill. I cannot see the relationship between the appointment of two additional judges to the Commonwealth Industrial Court and what the honourable member is saying now. The honourable member should confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I will link them up. The court has other functions of course, but from the trade union movement point of view one of its major functions is the exercise of the penal provisions of sections 109 and 111 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is in turn a direct consequence of the unsatisfactory decisions which are being handed down by the Commission from time to time because of variations and because of lack of consistency in general policy and wages philosophy. The average trade unionist today feels that no matter what he gains from the Commission it will be more than offset by a passing on immediately and arbitrarily by the employing interests, or by other groups of retail traders within the community, of what, was handed to him plus a further profit margin. That is a negation of justice because, in point of fact it was only when a given situation arose that the original . application . was made. Hence the saying today that wages are still chasing prices and have no hope of ever catching up with them., .It is noteworthy that Mr Albert Monk - a well respected man - in his retirement chose to emphasise particularly to this Government less than a fortnight ago the need for price control.
The people of Australia in the trade union movement are entitled to a better deal than they are receiving. They find today that there is a system of arbitration and a set of penal clauses which are still harsh and repressive and which perpetuate the philosophy and the outlook of the master and servant act of a former generation. It is a fundamental right, and it is one that we will fight for ceaselessly, that for an appropriate reason a trade unionist has the right to withhold the sale of his labour and not be punished for it either personally or through his union. There are further aspects of my argument that I want to develop in the time that is still remaining to me. I want in particular to refer to the very real need for wage justice to be done, and today the trade union movement is thinking in these terms. These are the days of amalgamation, of take-over bids and of giant corporations. Consequently the trade union movement is re-organising and amalgamating because a major aggregation of employers must be matched by similar organisation on the part of the trade union movement.
We of the trade union movement believe that there should be, before ever the functions of the Commission come into operation, a genuine attempt at collective negotiation. There is no parallel for the penal clauses which operate in Australia today in either the United States or the United Kingdom, both areas of considerable industrial sophistication. Accordingly the Australian trade unionists are well capable, in perhaps 80% of these cases, of negotiating by proper collective bargaining with major employers a contract which can be honestly and thoroughly observed by both sides. Of course there is always the traditional argument against the repeal of the penal clauses that there will be a spate of industrial stoppages. No trade union leader, other than one whose job is in jeopardy, can lead his men today into an unnecessary or an unjustified strike. I believe that in legislation such as this these matters should legitimately be raised.
– I rise to support the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and to take up the excellent point that he made when he said that the reason that the present staff - if one can use that term - of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is inadequate to handle the work before it is that so much of its time is taken up in dealing with section 109 and section 111 applications. I asked a question some time ago in this Parliament about the number of occasions when a trade union or a trade union member was prosecuted under section 109 for offences which could have been dealt with under section 119. Section 119 is the section of the Act which was originally designed to carry the penalties for breach of award, and it carries a maximum penalty of $200, which is a pretty savage sort of penalty for a unionist to have to pay for a breach of an award, particularly an award that is imposed upon him arbitrarily against his will by a conciliation commissioner or the Commonwealth Industrial Court. I was staggered, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) will be staggered too if he looks at the back pages of Hansard of 25th February 1969 where he will see the long list of cases in which unions have been punished under section 109 for offences for which they could have and should have been dealt with under section 119.
If the section I have just mentioned had been used for enforcing the terms of awards the judges of the Industrial Court would not have been required to sit as often as they have had to sit during the last several years in dealing with section 109 and section 1 1 1 applications. I think it is a misuse of this power on the part of the employers to go to the Commonwealth Industrial Court and to ask the judges to use section 109, and section 111 which is ancillary to it, to punish people who could be dealt with under section 119. 1 partly blame the judges of the Court for their own trouble, because instead of saying to the employers when these applications are made: ‘What steps have you taken to be conciliatory about these things?’ it is a fact that for a long time an application for a penalty under section 111 for a breach of a section 109 order almost automatically carried a maximum penalty of $1,000 for each offence. On many occasions I have discovered that some of the unions had a penalty imposed on them by the Court four times - that is multiples of four - so far as the maximum was concerned.
This has not happened so much recently because the brakes were put on eventually, I believe, by the Government, although the Government would stoutly deny that it had ever spoken to a judge of the Court about the severity of penalties. As an example of this multiple penalty, if the waterside workers had a strike in four ports they would find themselves paying four times $1,000. This is a savage application of the law. In my view it is not a correct and proper way to administer justice especially when one looks at the back pages of the volume of Hansard I have mentioned and examines the penalties imposed upon employers for breaches of their awards. It is an odd thing that although not one employer has been dealt with under section 109 for an offence which could have been handled under section 119 there are dozens and dozens of cases where unions have been dealt with. Conversely, whereas there has been a large number of employers dealt with under the provisions of section 1 19 not a single union was dealt with under that section. But what were the penalties imposed by the court - a different court, I am assured, than that which imposed penalties under section 111? The penalties ranged from conviction without a fine to fines of $5, $10 and the like.
-Order! I think the honourable member is getting away from the matters before the House.
– I will round off that point by saying that here we have a distinction between the two approaches. I believe that if we want to make the arbitration system of this country work we will not do so by getting more judges. We will achieve this only by having judges who are sensible enough to understand what objects the Act is designed to achieve and to set out achieving them by adopting not a cast-iron stereotyped attitude to all cases but by imposing penalties according to the merits of the case. I believe the judges ought to examine very carefully the attitude of employers. We will not get conciliation in this country if employers are going to be told by the Industrial Court that they can safely refuse to conciliate and can rely upon it to penalise the unions savagely whenever the unions try to obtain a better deal by direct action. We cannot blame the unions for their reactions. Employers at a conference may refuse to conciliate, saying: ‘We know that you cannot get any more than the amount fixed under the guide lines that the Commission recognises, and for that reason we are not going to give one iota’. If this is done the unions are forced into the position where they have to resort to strike action to get beyond the guide lines arbitrarily imposed upon them by the Conciliation Commission. This is the great trouble.
I would like to see the Government give some attention to the -encouragement of conciliation by these means: Why does not the Government have a look at the upgrading of industrial agreements? I do not think that unions would mind being forced to observe the terms of an industrial agreement entered into voluntarily. When I was Secretary of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia I negotiated many industrial agreements for terms of up to 3 years. I was always able to get better working conditions and rates of pay by means of industrial agreements negotiated in this way than I could by court action. This was because I was able to offer the employers an advantage. I was able to say: ‘If you will agree to the terms and conditions in my log of claims and enter into industrial agreements which can be registered then I can give you my word of honour that there will be no disturbance, no breach of the agreement and no strikes during the currency of the agreement’. Though it rested upon my word, I am proud to be able to say, as honourable members from South Australia can confirm, that never once did we break an agreement. I know that the present High Commissioner in London has gone on public: record as acknowledging this fact. Some of the agreements were of up to 5 years duration. But, as I said before, never once did we break an agreement until the 5 years were up. This was in spite of the fact that on some odd occasions we found, in respect of particular items of an agreement, that had we been free to repudiate or felt morally free to repudiate the agreement we could have done better by going to the court.
In my opinion there ought to be encouragement given to this procedure. We ought to say to employers: ‘Look, you might have to give more by conciliation than you would if you went through arbitration. But we will guarantee that once a union agrees to enter into an industrial agreement which is registered, we are prepared to give to the industrial agreement the force of law.’ Indeed, this is a greater force than is now given to an award of the Industrial Court. Why should not this action be taken? Why should not a union be encouraged to abide by a long term industrial agreement in return for some extra conditions? Why should not the employers have the advantage of some long term industrial agreement that is better for them than an arbitrary decision of the Conciliation Commission?
What I think is lost sight of - and I am afraid that the Industrial Court judges have lost sight of it too or otherwise they would not impose the savage penalties that they do - is that it is no fun for people to go on strike. We have reached the stage where nearly every worker in Australia is saddled with heavy hire purchase commitments. Therefore, it is no joke for them to go on strike. There is hardly any union that can afford to pay strike pay for any great duration. Unions certainly cannot afford to pay a very great amount of strike pay.
The right to strike, as the late Percy Clarey once put so well, is the real difference between a free man and a slave.
– Order! I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh is again getting away from the Bill.
– I am not unappreciative of the latitude which you have given me and I hope not to abuse it, but I want to make one other quotation from the late Mr Justice Higgins who was one of the greatest industrial court judges that this country has ever produced. He may have been a great lawyer as well - he possibly was - but I am not talking about his knowledge of the law because I would nol be competent to do that. But I would say he would be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of Australian industrial court judges. Mr Justice Higgins made the point, which I thought covered the situation of the working man when he said:
The power to withhold bread or to close the bread basket is more compelling than the power to withhold labour.
So it is; it is much more compelling.
For that reason we are not happy about the situation. We believe that the Industrial Court judges have been too prone to impose heavy penalties on the application of employers. They encourage employers firstly to bring cases unnecessarily to the court, and secondly to play on the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will not go beyond certain guide lines and therefore they can refuse to conciliate.
– Does the honourable member think they are biased?
– The Industrial Court judges? I would not like to say they are biased. .1 have had some dealings with them and I do not think they are to any greater extent, than perhaps all of us here are biased. Rather, perhaps not as much as we are. But I want to say that judges of the Industrial Court are paid to do a job. The job they are doing is the job we tell them to do. We pass the Act and we tell them that this is the law we want them to administer. We cannot blame the judges if, in the application of the Act, some unfair or unjust result flows from it. The fault is not with the judges so much as with the Parliament for giving them the unfair instrument of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act with which to bring about conciliation and arbitration.
Sir, I will conclude on that note. May I thank you for giving me the latitude that you did. 1 would like to have dealt with this aspect more fully. But at the same time I appreciate your position. I realise that Standing Orders prevent me from doing this, ft is for the reasons that I have just indicated that we are opposed to the Bill. We think if something more was done to encourage conciliation and upgrade the legal status of industrial agreements not only would there be less work for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - and we are not dealing with that body in the Bill - but there would certainly be less work for the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– in reply - The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has ranged very widely in speaking to this Bill, covering even the question of the limitations on the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate with respect to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. He has ranged over criticisms of the arbitration system, as to whether we should have greater emphasis on industrial agreements which are registered. Just pausing there, I may say that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for them if the parties are willing to have agreements. They can make them and they can register them and they have effect under the Act. He attacked what are now called the ‘penal provisions’ of the Act. Really, we are concerned in relation to this Bill with a rather narrow question - the question whether the number of judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court should be increased by one. This is a very narrow point and it does not really involve the other policy matters which the honourable member has covered.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) followed him and he again spoke of the penal provisions of the law. He referred to the question of industrial agreements. I come to the real issue, which is raised by this Bill, and that is whether we should now increase the number of judges of the Court. When the Commonwealth Industrial Court was created, by section 10 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1956, it was provided that it should consist of a chief judge and not more than two other judges. The Chief Judge, Sir John Spicer, and Mr Justice Morgan and Mr Justice Dunphy were then appointed to the Court. This provision was amended, by section 3 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1960, to increase the number of other judges from two to three. This enabled Mr Justice Joske and Mr Justice Eggleston to be appointed to the Court after the retirement of Mr Justice Morgan. In 1964 section 3 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was further amended to permit the appoint ment of four judges in addition to the Chief Judge, and Mr Justice Smithers was appointed. Section 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1966 again increased the maximum number of other judges to six, and Mr Justice Kerr was appointed following that amendment. Ministerial speeches were made on the occasions of the amendments and the need was pointed out for the increase owing to the increase in the work of the Court.
The Commonwealth Industrial Court, besides attending to its own judicial work which covers the proceedings for penalty under sections 109 and 111, as has been mentioned, provides a pool of judges to assist and relieve the resident judges of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory when this is necessary. Some of the Judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court also hold appointments in the Supreme Courts of the smaller external territories, such as Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Island and Norfolk Island. These do not involve a great deal of judicial work but it takes the judges away for some periods. They also sit as courts of marine inquiry, and in the case of air accidents it is customary to ask for a judge of this Court to sit as the judge on the inquiry into the accident. In addition to this, one of the judges, Mr Justice Eggleston, as President, and another judge, Mr Justice Kerr, as Deputy President, have been appointed to the Trade Practices Tribunal. Again, we use judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court for the Copyright Tribunal. The chief judge, Sir John Spicer, has been appointed President of the Copyright Tribunal and it is necessary to appoint two more members, probably from this bench, to that tribunal.
It is necessary to have at least one of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court fairly regularly available in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to assist the resident judge. The list here is growing with the growth of Canberra and it has been found increasingly difficult for the existing judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court to give the resident judge the assistance that he needs. In the Northern Territory, the kind of civil cases that are being heard - like the claim by the Aboriginals in relation to Gove - are talcing up a great deal of the court’s time and we cannot allow the criminal matters to accumulate and be not dealt with promptly where the liberty of people is involved. The judge of the Northern Territory court has asked for assistance.
The basic industrial jurisdiction of the Industrial Court is at present calling on the judges for fairly constant attention. This is a period where there is a certain amount of industrial unrest and from time to time these judges must be available, as a matter of urgency, to sit on the peculiarly industrial section of their jurisdiction. It is desirable that when they do sit there should be three judges sitting, although this is a court which can be constituted by two judges. Generally we regard it as undesirable that the Court should be constituted by two judges. It is considered preferable, if practicable, to have three. They may be required to sit in widely separated parts of Australia at the same time - maybe in Perth and in Sydney - and we believe that if we increase the number, which at present is a chief judge and five judges, to a chief judge and six it is more likely that six judges will be available so that two courts of three can be constituted in different parts of the Commonwealth.
Court statistics show that in 1968 some 457 matters were dealt with by benches of three judges - these are matters having separate proceeding numbers although some of them were held and dealt with together - sixty-nine matters were dealt with by benches of two judges and five matters by a single judge. I mention these statistics to show that the main industrial pressure on this particular Court is when it is sitting as a bench of three. The strength of the Court is such that, when we add to this the need to provide judges for the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the other territories, and these other tribunals - the Trade Practices Tribunal and the Copyright Tribunal - the resources of the bench, as at present constituted, are unduly strained. It is for these reasons that the Government believes that we should increase the number of judges on the bench by one. I commend the Bill to the House.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 33
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bowen) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 772). on motion by Mr Erwin:
That the House take note of the following paper:
Export of Merino Sheep - Ministerial Statement, 20 March 1969.
– The matter before the House is the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) on the merino export embargo. In supporting his decision, I point out that the embargo is not being totally removed but relaxed. This is not an apology; there is an easing of the embargo which, to my mind, to the Government’s mind and to the mind of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, affected the industry adversely. The conditions that apply to the easing of the embargo are:
The last condition is very important. It throws the responsibility for reviewing this decision on the wool industry. If the body representing the industry agrees that it is in the best interests of the industry to relax the embargo, who are we as members of this House to disagree? It is a policy of my Party and the Government to listen to an industry organisation and act on its recommendations rather than to dictate to an industry, as the Opposition does. It is true that hundreds, if not thousands, of people throughout Australia will oppose the proposal to ease the embargo for a number of reasons. Many could be personal reasons and no doubt some will be selfish reasons, but those who oppose, the easing of the embargo are looking at it. only on a short term basis. However. I will ‘ deal with that matter later. The all important issue is whether the lifting of the embargo is good for the industry and for Australia in general. In deciding whether we support the Government’s decision we must first ask why the embargo was imposed, when it was imposed, and whether it had outlived its usefulness or effectiveness.
The embargo was proclaimed in 1929 and applied to the export without ministerial consent of stud sheep only. Two of the main reasons given at the time for imposing the embargo were the fall in wool prices resulting from a world depression and the fear of competition from South Africa and Russia, both of ‘ which were importing Australian merinos. I think we should also look at the history of the embargo as it was applied in 1929, because in 1930 it was decided to exclude corriedales, polwarths and other non-merino breeds from the scope of the proclamation on the basis that those sheep were readily available elsewhere. It was in the mid- 19308 that the ban was extended to all merino breeding sheep. In 1950 merino semen was included in the embargo. The export of merinos to New Zealand has always been permitted but an agreement was negotiated with the New Zealand government that merinos exported to New Zealand from Australia would not be reexported from New Zealand. .
Prior to the establishment- of the Australian Wool1 Industry Conference matters relating to the embargo were left virtually in the hands of the Australian Agricultural Council, but in 1962 they were handed over to the Wool Industry Conference for its consideration. After many years of discussion the Conference finally agreed in November 1968 to recommend to the Government a partial lifting of the ban. That is the history of the embargo.
I propose now to deal with some of the arguments for and against lifting the embargo. Arguments in support of the lifting of the embargo include the increasing competition from synthetics. This is a factor which did not apply when the embargo was first imposed in 1929. This competition makes it essential that both quality and availability of apparel wool should be improved on a world wide basis. Another argument is that the percentage consumption of wool is decreasing every year because we do not have available in sufficient quantity wool of the quality to compete against man made fibres. It is argued that income from the export of stud merinos, small1 though it may be, will contribute to our foreign exchange earnings. There is no embargo on the export of polwarth sheep although as a breed they carry a very high proportion of merino blood. Nor is there an embargo on the export of any other type of sheep.
It is argued that the relaxation of the embargo would be likely to help to ensure the future stability of the Australian wool industry by increasing world production of apparel wools, thus taking advantage of opportunities to fill1 the gap and thereby restrict the scope of other fibres to exploit available markets. The restricted market for stud merinos since 1929 has led to a marked reduction in merino stud breeding. The easing of the embargo would increase production and help to raise the standard of flock rams to increase production of fine wool. It is interesting to note that the stud merino export market formerly available to Australia has been secured by other countries, such as South Africa and Russia, which permit the free export of merino sheep, as does New Zealand. The easing of the embargo would not of itself tempt major studs to sell’ their top sheep for export but rather to keep them and build a higher standard of flock for themselves. This is contrary to what some of my friends opposite believe.
Despite low prices for wool and the gradual increase in export earnings from wheat and meat, wool is still our biggest export earner. Any increase in the production of wool or in the price obtained for wool will, definitely have a beneficial effect on the national income. Sheep numbers have been increasing gradually. This is obvious from a study of statistics kept since the early 1900s. Over the years the production of wool has increased. Naturally, the production of wool is related to sheep numbers. Although the price obtained for our wool is not what we would like it to be, contrary to general belief it does not fall with increased production. The .real problem in the industry is the increased cost of production. The price of wool does not keep pace with the cost of production. But if we can produce more quality wools throughout the world - not only in Australia - we can expect to see an increased interest on the part of woollen mills throughout the world. Their problem is their inability to secure sufficient quality wools to meet their demands and so invariably they turn to man made fibres. The population of the world is increasing by 1.8% annually. World wool production is increasing by about 0.7% annually while the production of man made fibres is increasing by about 12% a year. So there is a big gap between wool production and the production of man made fibres. It is important that we endeavour to increase the quantity of quality wools produced.
It would not be fair to say that the lifting of the embargo has not been carefully considered. The honourable member for
Dawson (Dr Patterson) had a good deal to say about the lifting of the embargo not having sufficient support from the industry. Earlier I said that there had been overwhelming support in the Wool Industry Conference for the lifting of the embargo. 1 cannot see any reason why we as members of Parliament should oppose decisions of industry spokesmen. It is true that there are some people who disagree with the AWIC, but while that Council is in existence it is the spokesman for the industry and consequently we should listen to its arguments. Over the years the wool industry, the Wool Board and a number of other organisations have studied the lifting of the embargo. The Government has gone part of the way; it is easing the embargo. Honourable members will recall the name of Sir Ian Clunies Ross. I quote the following paragraph from a document which I have and in which his name is mentioned.
CSIRO scientists consulted - in recent years on the embargo believe that the. arguments put forward by Sir Ian Clunies Ross in favour of lifting the embargo arc even more valid today than they were in 1951.
That statement speaks for itself.
I support the Government’s move. I believe it is the correct one. Although many wool growers will disagree with the Government’s decision 1 believe that in the long term it will prove to be correct. I have no hesitation in supporting the announcement made by the Minister for Primary Industry on the easing of the embargo on the export of merino sheep.
– Never before have I heard the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) try so hard to make a case than he has tonight. I feel sure that every member of the Australian Country Party will have a conscience about this for a long time to come now that the honourable member for Wimmera has supported this predominantly Liberal move in lifting the 40-year-old embargo on the export of Australian merino rams. 1 listened to the statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) on the lifting of the embargo, and I have read his speech again. I am quite sure that he had his tongue in his cheek many times in attempting to bolster up the case for this dramatic and historic change in national policy. The pressure for this change must have come from a very small group of men, namely, the stud masters of Australia. They do not number many but they are powerful men, especially when it comes to lobbying and putting their point of view. I do not disagree with lobbying. I do not condemn it. The very basis of a democratic parliament means that we can have lobbyists here every day we sit and often when we are not sitting. Lobbying is quite legitimate, and I am in favour of it.
– Soldier settlers have studs also.
– Yes, and I do not think that the soldier settlers are very happy about this. Some soldier settlers may have studs that will come within the framework of the export of merino rams. The rank and file members of the wool industry obviously did not have much of a say in this decision. The pressure came from the top stud masters of Australia who have been fighting on the fringes of Parliament for a long time for this lifting of the embargo. They have been talking, agitating, writing, ringing up and leading deputations to the Minister for Primary Industry and also to the Prime Minister. They will benefit financially from this decision because their sheep will be exported. These sheep will not go for nothing. They will be the best sheep that can possibly be bred and they will bring a big price on the world market. The Minister for Primary Industry did not indicate where these sheep would go - whether it will be Russia. China, the United States of America. South Africa or to some other country. We do not know this yet. lt is significant that the Government has not disclosed their destination. This is the somersault of all somersaults in rural affairs over the last 40 years. No somersault has equalled this one. All governments, since 1929 have strenuously opposed the export of our famous merino Tarns. In the year in which the Scullin Government introduced this embargo there were 5,000 rams, intended for export to Russia.
– They were not rams; they were ewes.
– There is quite a difference of course. Somebody asks me how I would know. The best wool country in Australia is in my electorate. I was born on a farm. If the honourable member for Riverina can prove to me that they were ewes, then I will accept his word. Those 5,000 merino sheep were intended for export for breeding purposes.
This decision by the Government followed upon a decision of the Australian Wool Industry Conference based on a vote of 37 to 16. if eleven other wool growers had decided to vote against the ban this decision would not have been taken. Eleven wool growers out of 80,000 in Australia changed this 40-year-old policy. No-one can say that it was a unanimous decision. I am quite sure that the pressure and lobbying that went on before and during that conference would be equal to the best we have ever seen here in this Parliament. It was clever and consistent, and it has proved to be successful. Why was a referendum not held? A year or two ago a reserve price plan was put to the wool growers of Australia. The Government decided that it was such an important issue that there should be a referendum. The Government’s policy over the years has been that when anything tricky arises the people should decide it at a referendum. A referendum was held on the reserve price plan but it was lost by 52% to 48%. The lifting of the embargo on the export of merino sheep was not put to the wool growers. I am positive that if it had been put to the bona fide wool growers of Australia it would have been overwhelmingly defeated. Only a minority of the wool growers reached this decision, and the Government has fallen for that decision.
Fancy a decision of such tremendous importance and with such far reaching repercussions being left to a meeting of forty wool growers to decide! It is incredible that such a revolutionary decision was not made at a referendum of all bona fide wool growers in Australia. In fine merino wool Australia has an exclusive commodity; it is the best that can be produced in the world. Merino wool has been the key to Australia’s wool standards. It has been the cornerstone of our heritage. The honourable member for Wimmera said that only 300 rams would be exported in the first year. The number could be 500 next year; it could be 1,000 the year after. Do honourable members really think that this decision will be withdrawn once the exports start? These big men, the stud masters, will see that pressure will be put on this Government to increase this number and not to decrease it in the years to come. John Macarthur started the Australian merino flock with many fewer than 300 rams, and this could well happen overseas. Of course it will if this export of merino sheep is permitted. It does not matter if the number of sheep exported are spread amongst one, two, three or more countries; the merino blood flocks will increase in widening circles, and within a few years Australia will1 experience immense competition from these countries. We will export merino sheep to X number of countries. The supporters of this scheme say that the breeding of merino sheep overseas - merino-cross if you like - will enable overseas buyers to see at first hand the quality of such fleece and of the garments woven from it. They thus argue that the demand for such wool will increase, which will be to the advantage of the Australian wool man. This, of course, is a fallacious argument. Let me quote from a letter received from a wool grower this week:
Lt should be pointed out that it is proposed to offer only the best quality rams to overseas buyers if the embargo is removed. Therefore, if the cream of the stock is sold overseas, what chance has the local man of ever raising his wool quality?
The tongue in cheek statement that exporting our best rams (at a good .price of course) will help the world to produce a greater quantity of finer wool which, in turn, would improve demand, thus helping Australia is sheer balderdash; it is more; it is an insolent confidence trick to perpetrate on Australian woolgrowers.
If other countries improve their production of fine wool they would cease buying Australian and may eventually become competitors with us for this product. Graziers would be faced with quotas (happening now with wheat) and wool would soon lose its position as Australia’s prime single item of export trade if good merinos are permitted to be sold overseas. To allow one single ram to be exported would be a crime against Australia and its wool men who have given their working lives to this industry, and this does not mean stud breeders.
It is interesting to mention that Russia has the monopoly in the production of furred goods from sables. American sables over the years have been trapped out of existence. Comparative costs for coats in America are given as $6,000 for mink and $15,000 for sable. An article in an American newspaper stated:
Russia has a monopoly in sable and intends to keep it. We have a monopoly in merinos and we are to sell out our heritage overseas. It is as simple as that. Therefore, the Australian Labor Party is strenuously opposed to this latest decision by the Government. In the short term the interest in the Australian grown merino may be quickened, but in the long term the decision to spread our merinos over the earth can be disastrous. Has it occurred to the wool men who voted for this historic change of policy that the result may be the opposite of what they predict? Our merino rams, mated overseas with non-merino stud ewes or crossbred types, could produce a class of wool inferior in quality to the clips we know here in Australia. If this happened, the impact on overseas buyers would be exactly the opposite of what the wool men expect. In other words, this colossal experiment could be a failure, and the type of wool finally developed with the Australian merino rams could be of a quality inferior to our own. Therefore, it would not boost the sale of Australian wool overseas, as the wool men hope it will. If this happened, the buyers would have to come back to our Australian wool in the long run. We produce plenty of wool and we sell every bale of it every year. A class of wool could develop which would be a travesty of the fine merino and crossbred wools that we export now. The sales could taper off, and the front windows of shops overseas could be filled with shoddy goods if this experiment failed, as of course it could. There is no guarantee that it will be a success.
This is a colossal shot in the dark by the Australian Government. It has been fiddling with an industry which has been one of our bulwarks during the whole history of Australia, ever since Macarthur brought the first sheep to this country. According to the statistics in the Australian Year Book’ for 1968, Australia, with onesixth of the world’s wooled sheep, produces almost one-third of the world’s wool and more than half the world’s fine quality merino wool. The bulk of the production, of course, is exported. Wool is declining as a basic earner of our export income. It has been widely believed that 40% of our export income was earned from wool sales, but during the last 5 years the proportion has been 32%, and for the last year of that 5-year period it was only 28% of our overseas earnings. We have to do something to boost the production of fine quality wool in this country instead of exporting overseas our fine wool rams. We have to help lift the earning power of our Australian wools. The export of merino rams will have the opposite effect, and I think the decision to export them is a disastrous one to make at this time.
In 1966-67 Australia produced 30% of the world’s total of all types of wool. Other principal wool producers were: New Zealand, with 12% of the world total; Argentina, 8%; South Africa, 5%; United States of America, 4%; while production in the United Soviet Socialist Republics, China and Eastern European countries together amounted to 20%. Australia’s wool clip is predominantly from merino flocks, yet we are to export this heritage overseas as we export our minerals and many other Australian resources. The Leader of the Country Party said a few years ago at a Country Party conference, in one of the most telling statements that he has ever made, that we are selling our heritage farm by farm. Now we are to start selling it ram by ram. I cannot understand the philosophy of the Country Party in supporting this move, which is a retrograde one as far as the Australian wool industry is concerned. It is absolutely incredible to me that Country Party members could fall far this thimble and pea trick that has been put over them. One woolgrower has described it in his letter as a confidence trick. He said that the small woolgrower has been so busy trying to keep his head above water financially that he has not had time to attend meetings, whereas the wealthier, more established studmasters have been able to do so. Therefore, the small woolgrower has been outmanoeuvred, out-thought, out-lobbied and out-fought in this fight.
It is very interesting to consider how the decision to export merino rams slipped through the wool industry conference. The 1967-68 report of the Australian Wool Board does not contain one line about exporting merino rams. There is not one single line in the report that mentions that there is any move afoot to change the policy thai has been in effect for 40 years. Where has the decision been hidden? What pigeonhole has it been in? It was a subtle decision that was made behind closed doors, as so many big decisions are made. But the Government has fallen for it. Sir William Gunn mentioned the interest surrounding the wool situation in Australia in his 1967- 68 report . to the Minister for Primary Industry, when he said:
A heartening feature of the year was the continuing demand for the finer section of the Australian clip, despite the textile recession, increasing competition from other fibres and the stresses preceding sterling devaluation. Prices obtained represented substantial premiums over those for directly competitive synthetic fibres and by the end of the 1967-68 wool selling season an extremely wide margin also separated finer and coarser wools.
Throughout the 1967-68 season, prices for finer wools were generally higher than those in the previous season. However, the Australian average price per pound (greasy) was 41.75c.
This year the average price has increased to 46c or 47c per lb. There has been an increase of 5c or 6c per lb in the average price of wool this year. So we are gradually climbing out of that prices depression of 3 years ago. Of course, our wool industry is capable of rescuing itself and getting out of such depressions, but it will not be encouraged to do so by the export of this wonderful exclusive commodity in the form of merino rams. Only 2 or 3 honourable members on this side of the House will speak on this subject. There will be a number of speakers from the other side of the House. I believe that although we are in the minority in this House, as regards the number of speakers on this statement by the Minister for Primary Industry, we are representing the majority of those people outside this Parliament, who cannot speak here and who would, if they had the opportunity, renounce the decision by this Government.
– Before making my contribution to this debate and answering the points brought forward by the Opposition, I should like first to thank the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) for his action in fully discussing with the Government members wool committee this proposal to relax the ban on the export of merino rams. The committee greatly appreciate being given the opportunity to discuss this matter withhim.Membersofthe committee found the discussion to be of great assistance to them in their subsequent investigations on this subject. At the outset I should like to make it clear that I support the Minister’s statement, although there is one relatively minor point which I feel might be considered by the Government and to which I will refer later in my speech.
I should like to make some comments on the extraordinary speech which has been made by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). During his speech he said that this proposal to relax the ban - and I am paraphrasing what he said - was the result of intensive lobbying by a small number of stud breeders. He is clearly ignorant of the constitution and membership of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I will not go into this matter in detail, but I recommend to the honourable member that he should find out for himself just how representative- the AWIC is of the wool industry- of the bona fide wool growers, which is the phrase I think he used. He then equated the sable fur industry in Russia with the Australian merino industry. Really, J despair of trying to get somebody who is capable of making such a statement to understand the problems of the world wool industry. I think he said that the proposal slipped through the AWIC. I remind the honourable member that this subject has been on the agenda of the AWIC for over 5 years. He also said that the small growerhad not had time to get organised and to attend meetings. I put to him that 5 years is reasonable notice to take some interest and interest has been taken. .
– Where was it publicised?
– If the honourable member for Wilmot is not capable, or a grower is not capable, of looking at what has been on the agenda of what is called the wool growers parliament for over 5 years, I do not think he has any’ great understanding of the industry.
There is one facet of this, matter on which we all agree, and that is, that this is an important proposal. It has been pointed out by more than one speaker that wool is still our greatest single export earner. I am afraid that I must again correct the honourable member for Wilmot. . I think he said that on the latest figures he had, the money derived from the export of wool represented 28% of all export earnings. According to the latest figures I have, it is 25%. Therefore, anything which concerns this industry is of vital concern to Australia. But there is another most important factor to be considered in relation to this subject. Wool is the only major export earner which enjoys the priceless advantage of free access to every market in the world, with the single exception of the United States of America. Other products, particularly primary products, have to contend with tariff barriers and quota restrictions. As the Minister himself well knows, the biggest difficulty facing many primary products is gaining access to markets. But wool does not face this difficulty. So it can expand production without fear of creating the problems of disposal which are causing such concern in some other industries. In addition, an expansion of wool growing by using the resources of land and capital at present devoted to other products would relieve the over production problems of some of the other industries. I am thinking in this context particularly of wheat.
It is clear then that an expansion of the wool growing industry is in the interests not only of the growers themselves but of primary producers generally and the Australian economy. It will be my purpose to show that the proposed relaxation of the ban on the export of merino rams will in fact help to expand the wool industry. It will not merely expand it, but perhaps even more importantly, it will improve its quality. All major users of wool are agreed that there should be a much greater emphasis placed on the quality of wool produced, particularly fine wool of a count of 64 and finer. This is the type of wool which it is considered has the best future. The greatest threat to its continued use is, rather paradoxically, the fact that there may not be enough of it. It is this argument which people not familiar with the industry and its ramifications find hardest to understand.
The fact is that since world population ls increasing 2 times faster than wool production - that was mentioned by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) - the percentage of the world textile market held by wool is decreasing, not through lack of demand but because of environmental and genetical limitations.
Wool production cannot keep pace with population increases. Twenty years ago wool held 13.5% of the market. Today, despite greatly increased production, it holds about 8.5%. If these trends continue, it will not be too long before this percentage of 8.5 is cut in half. I would like the honourable member for Wilmot to pay particular attention to the argument that I am putting forward now. It is difficult to understand and it requires some attention in order to understand it. If this figure of 8.5% which is our present percentage of the world textile market is cut in half, there would then be a very real danger that wool would represent too small a proportion of the total market for the major processors to worry about it; that is, it would not be worth their while to make very large capital investment in the specialised machinery needed only for wool processing.
Several of the largest users of wool in Japan have told me that they consider the lack of adequate supplies of good wool to be by far the greatest danger to the wool industry. If sufficient wool of the required quality were not available, the textile industry would inevitably turn to synthetics to fill the gap. Once a section of the market were lost to wool it would be extremely difficult to recapture it. Since all informed opinion has come to the conclusion that Australia itself cannot increase supplies of wool quickly enough, it is clearly in our interests to ensure that other countries make a worthwhile contribution to world supplies. The fear has been expressed that an increase in the supplies of fine wool made possible by an infusion of Australian merino blood might outstrip demand and depress world prices. I refer the proponents of that argument to the Australian Wool Board’s White Paper on the embargo in which it has been stated that any increase in supply would be gradual and that any change in the established pattern of land use or of animal husbandry in the other countries concerned would also be gradual. However, I have no doubt it will be claimed that while relaxing the ban may be of advantage to the world wool industry as a whole, it will not directly benefit the Australian grower. This argument seems to forget the stimulation that a partial lifting of the ban will give to our stud industry. A stimulation is badly needed to ensure the continuity of our great parent studs. In case anybody charges me with self-interest, I would like to add that I have no interest in or connection with the stud industry.
The White Paper prepared by the Australian Wool Board on this subject states that an analysis of figures recorded in the Australian merino stud flock register reveals that Australia’s merino stud industry is capable of supplying all the rams required for the Australian merino flock industry. The added incentive of producing a limited number of rams for export will encourage studs to lift their standards, which will be to the benefit of Hoek ram buyers. I think that the honourable member for Wimmera also mentioned this point. Another argument put forward by those opposing any relaxation of the ban is that it will raise the price of flock rams. These people seem to forget that with only a limited number of rams to be exported and because of the high cost of the transport involved no buyer will be interested in flock rams; it will be economical to buy stud rams only.
I come now to the point J mentioned earlier to which I hope the Government will give attention. To allay the fears of flock ram buyers - even though 1 believe these fears are unfounded - I suggest that an export tax of perhaps $100 be levied on each ram exported. Few, if any, wool growers pay more than $100 for flock rams. Such a tax would make it perfectly plain to them that their interests are in no way affected by the proposal to relax the ban. 1 consider that I have answered the arguments put forward against relaxing the ban. I have also enumerated some of the advantages to be gained. But there are several other points in favour of a partial lifting of the embargo that I would like to mention. It is an unfortunate fact that many wool growers - particularly in South America - who are producing substantial quantities of wool make no contribution to the International Wool Secretariat for research and promotion. But they are able to cash in on the work done by the IWS with money contributed by Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. I know that efforts have been made to get these countries to join the IWS and so increase the money available for research and promotion, but these have been unsuccessful. There is no doubt in my mind that relaxation of the ban will greatly strengthen our hand in these negotiations. More importantly, it may give new impetus to our longstanding battle to persuade the United States to abolish or reduce its wool tariff.
Another point that the Opposition seems to overlook completely is the fact that in 1.951 the embargo was investigated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. This point was mentioned by the honourable member for Wimmera. As a result of arguments put forward by no less an authority than the late Sir Ian Clunies-Ross the Standing Committee on Agriculture recommended that restrictions be relaxed at the discretion of the Commonwealth Government. I would like to ask: Are honourable members opposite, including the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wilmot, setting themselves up as greater authorities on this subject than that brilliant Australian scientist?
– Of course they are.
– 1 think they are. In 1962 the Standing Committee on Agriculture again recommended that the embargo be relaxed. I think it was about that time that the matter was referred to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. In fact, so far as I have been able to ascertain, no expert opinion has ever recommended that this embargo remain in its entirety. We can now add the AWIC to those in favour of a partial relaxation of the embargo. I am perfectly confident in the competence of the duly elected representatives of the Australian wool growers to make their own decisions on matters vitally affecting their own interests.
[9.51 - Firstly, I wish to comment on the speech made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) following the statement made last Thursday evening by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) on the export of merino sheep. From the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson it is apparent - and the speeches made by other honourable members opposite confirm this - that the Opposition has decided that it can take political advantage of this proposal by building up emotional appeal on the basis that the Government is approving of the sale of something that is exclusively ours and is part of our national heritage. The Opposition is not prepared to face up to the facts. The honourable member for Dawson made this completely apparent in his opening words.
– He does not understand the position.
– No. he does not. He referred to the relaxing of an embargo which has been in force for 40 years. He gave the impression that the embargo the Government is now relaxing has been in existence since 1929. The honourable member completely forgot the history of that embargo and the way it evolved. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) have already dealt with this aspect, so I will not go through it in detail. The honourable member for Dawson apparently does not realise that the conditions of the embargo have changed during the past 40 years and that this is yet another change. The honourable member for Wimmera has outlined the basic traditional arguments for and against the embargo. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who has difficulty in distinguishing between rams and ewes, completely neglected the facts of the matter and made an emotional appeal. But no-one can live on emotions; the realities of the wool industry have to be faced. At one stage the honourable member for Wilmot completely contradicted himself. He said that if the progeny of exported rams turned out to be no good we would not get the increase in fine wool that we hope to get from exporting merino rams. Thus he admitted in a funny reverse way some of the arguments of the experts in favour of exporting these rams.
I believe that the honourable member for Corangamite made one of the most important points. I will not labour it because he covered it very well. I refer to the world Supply of wool and the fact that if we get down to about one-half of the 8% or 9% of the textile market that wool has at present we will face the danger that a number of the large manufacturing mills will decide that the volume is too small for them to maintain or replace the special machinery required to process the wool fibre. It is interesting to look at a slightly higher range of percentages than the honourable member for Corangamite mentioned. In 1940, raw wool represented J 2% of the world’s supply of textile fibres. During the war years that percentage rose, due mainly to manufacturing reasons. In 1945, wool held 16% of the world textile market. This is when it reached its peak. The decrease was rapid. In 1949, wool held 1 1 % of the market. The decrease since then has been slower but, unfortunately, steady. Today the figure is only 8% or 9% but it is not losing much ground. The wool industry has to face up to a rapid expansion in man-made fibres. These fibres are at present attacking the wool market throughout the world and apparently are about to attack or are already attacking the cotton market, too.
But the most important point, 1 believe, in this debate is the means by which the Government should consult with wool producers on matters affecting the wool industry. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in his statement last Thursday announced the Government’s decision for a limited relaxation of the prohibition on the export of merino breeding sheep subject to certain conditions and annual review. This decision was in accord with the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Unlike the AWIC recommendation on the reserve price plan this recommendation contained no suggestion of a referendum of all wool growers. The Government’s action has therefore been consistent in responding to requests by the industry through the AWIC. There are, of course, wool growers who maintain that the AWIC is not a true wool parliament’ - I would go along with that to some extent and have in fact criticised the AWIC frequently in the past - and yet 1 do not know of any wool growers who would seek to have the Government making decisions about the wool industry without any consultation with wool producers. How do we achieve that consultation? lt has certainly already been achieved at least to the extent that the Wool Industry Conference speaks for the bona fide wool growers of Australia. As the AWIC has representation from wool growers and their organisations throughout Australia it cannot be said to represent other than at least a substantial proportion of wool grower opinion. Equally it must be admitted that it is within the hands of the wool growers themselves to improve that representation by taking action through the branches of the industry organisations to which they belong or by joining such organisations if they do not already belong to them. I do not think that anyone will be arguing that every decision should be subject to a referendum as this is, I think, generally recognised as impracticable. On the other hand there are those who say that this particular decision is so fundamentally important to the Australian wool industry that it should be the subject of a referendum. Let us examine that proposition. Firstly, it was not contained in the recommendation from the AWIC. Secondly, there has been apparently no ground swell of opinion from wool producers throughout Australia advocating a referendum.
– How long has the industry known about it?
– For 5 years. Of course, this may still come, but the present indications are that it will not. Surely the honourable member for Wilmot realises that this matter has been under debate for some 5 or 6 years within the industry. By this I mean that it has been under examination by the AWIC for this period.
– Tasmania is a little Isolated.
– That could well be. But, of course, in general terms the embargo has been debated within the industry ever since it was imposed and as it has evolved since 1929. I have already made a number of representations on behalf of several individuals and branches of industrial organisations in my electorate of Eden-Monaro on this question of the embargo, and all of them to date have been against the decision and against any easing of the embargo. I understand from the Minister for Primary Industry that to date the greatest reaction against the present decision has in fact come from my electorate. Of course, this could have something to do with the proximity of my electorate to Canberra, and I expect it will be possible to better assess the Australia-wide reaction following this debate which is now taking place. If that reaction is sufficient to indicate that a prima facie case exists for holding a referendum, then I believe the Government should have further discussions with the AWIC and that these discussions should involve consideration of a referendum.
– You are having two bob each way.
– No, I am not. It is difficult, 1 know, for the honourable member for Dawson to understand this matter in detail. His electorate apparently is overwhelmed by sugar growers, but if he listens carefully to what I say I think even he might be able to understand. If the reaction is not even strong enough to indicate that a prima facie case exists for a referendum, then quite evidently the majority of wool grower opinion is currently supporting the AWIC recommendation and the Government’s decision in conformity with that recommendation. Some honourable members opposite have said there has not been enough time. This may be so. Five years might not be long enough and there might not have been dramatic publicity given to it to inspire a large number of growers to take positive action within their industry. At least this decision will test that. If there is a very great ground swell obviously lt will have to be taken into account by the Government. This remains to be seen, and to date the position is as I have described it. This is a fairly technical matter, although one would not think so by listening to the honourable member for Dawson.
It is a question of assessing what action is best in the interests of the Australian wool industry, an industry of fundamental importance not only to wool producers but to the whole Australian economy, and therefore, to every Australian. The Government, acting as the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) said, at the suggestion of the Australian Agricultural Council, asked the AWIC as the national body of Australian wool growers to examine the desirability or otherwise of continuing the embargo from the point of view of the wool growing industry. We know that the consideration was not taken lightly and that it in fact involved years of debate and study. Looking at the recent history of this study we realise that the AWIC, preoccupied with wool marketing, did not commence a study in depth of the embargo issue until June 1967. This latest study in depth was based on a comprehensive paper prepared by the Australian Wool Board, as well as on other expert opinion. As the Minister pointed out in his statement, all of this material was distributed to the member organisations of the Conference throughout Australia for consideration. But this was still a long and deep examination culminating in the decision by the Conference late in November last year to approach the Government. This approach was made officially in the first week of January this year.
The decision of the Conference was carried, as we know, by a substantial majority of 37. votes to 16, or a majority of 70%.. In turn the Government did not come quickly or lightly to its decision, which was not announced until nearly 3 months after the official approach had been made. The Government was well aware of the November decision, so it was almost 4 months before the decision was announced. Bearing in mind that the Government was already, and had been for years, familiar with the situation this could hardly be called a rushed decision. As well as considering the recommendation of the AWIC the Government consulted both the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the International Wool Secretariat and both these bodies expressed their support for the removal of the embargo. We should note that under this decision the embargo has not been removed but relaxed. I will perhaps come back to this point later. It is difficult to put any set of proposals and counter proposals into a nutshell, but I have at least attempted to do that in this case. Those who oppose any relaxation of the embargo, and those who support some relaxation of the embargo argue that that would be in the best interests of the Australian wool industry. Without even attempting to canvass all the voluminous evidence - in support of either side - much of it has been mentioned in the debate from this side of the House, anyhow, and I assumed that most honourable members who are interested would be familiar with it - 1 believe we can boil it down into two simple propositions.
Those who believe that the merino wool producers of Australia are principally in competition with other producers of merino or merino type wool in other countries are justified, from that point of view, in supporting the complete embargo on the export of merino breeding sheep from Australia. Those who believe that Australian merino wool producers are in common with the producers of similar types of wool throughout the world, principally competing with producers of other fibres, and particularly man made fibres, are justified from that point of view in supporting some easing of the embargo, or even perhaps eventually the total lifting of the embargo.
If this is the core of the argument - and 1 believe it is - we have to sort out who our real competitors are. However, if that is the core of the whole argument it is certainly not the core of this debate in the House. This debate is on a Government decision made in response to a recommendation by the industry. Apart from action within their own industrial organisations, wool growers have only one other main recourse: to the Federal Government and the Australian Parliament: that is through their Federal members: As I indicated earlier, there has been no Australian ground swell of reaction yet. I am advised by the Minister for Primary Industry today that there have been some dozen approaches from other members and about the same number, or a little more, from me. This indicates what the position is now. Of course, some of these approaches came from branches made up of perhaps 30, 40 or 100 people.
Even though, on the face pf it,, the reaction in the electorate of Eden-Monaro is roughly equal to the total of the rest of the reaction throughout Australia, it would certainly be very premature at this stage to say that even in Eden-Monaro the majority of wool growers oppose this decision. Let us take a look at the urgency of this matter. If there is to be any ground swell of reaction, let it happen quickly.. But, at the same time, remember that the gate is not being opened completely. We know that although there may be sales as a result of this decision within a couple of months, we will be selling only half the. .breeding pair. As I have put to the Minister in many. of the representations I have made to him, artificial insemination can multiply the effect of these 300 rams. But we should not forget that this decision proposes the export of only half the breeding pair. Importing countries could not hope to get anywhere under at least 8 years by successive importations.
Looking back over the history of the embargo we can see that there was ample opportunity between the mid 1930s and the early 1950s - 15 years - to send semen out of this country. Before that time flock rams could have been sent out. Merino sheep have been freely exported to New Zealand, but the New Zealand merino flocks have not equalled the Australian flocks. This raises the question of environment. I do not have time to go into this matter fully, but the basic question is whether we will still hold a dominant position in fine merino sheep. Fundamentally it is not a question of the industry coming cap in hand to the Government and making requests or demands. It is a question of meaningful discussions between the Government and the test representatives that the industry can elect for this problem and for other almost equally pressing problems relating to the wool industry.
I will continue to represent the views of my constituents to the Minister and to the Government, whether they are for or against the present decision - subject only to my belief that the Government should seriously consider any ground swell of producer reaction against this decision throughout Australia. I believe that the Government has acted wisely in accepting the recommendation of the industry, as represented by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, for this easing of the embargo, which is supported by the best expert opinion available in this country, and which, on the basis of all that information, ls in the best interests of the individual Australian wool producers and the people of Australia.
– This is a most important debate. I believe that the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) are to be congratulated on the measure that has been brought forward. This is one of the greatest things that has happened to the wool industry in the 40 years since the ban was first Imposed on the export of merino sheep. I believe this question has to be answered in three parts. Firstly, we have to consider the alleged disadvantage to Australia of permitting our merino rams to be exported overseas and increasing competition with Australian wool growers. The second consideration is the economics of stud breeders of merino sheep in Australia. Thirdly, there is the question of the politics of the operation. Firstly, I think there is no foundation at all for the allegation of disadvantages to Australia made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). With great respect I think the honourable member for Wilmot with his theological background seems to suggest that sheep breeding is an Adam and Eve job and that we have a monopoly on producing fine wool merinos. This is not so. Captain Mac Arthur and a few others evolved this great industry from the importation of Spanish sheep. The root stock is available to all countries in the world. Many countries have taken advantage of this situation, but they have never been able to produce anything comparable to our merinos simply because of the climatic factors involved. I would like to quote from the White Paper prepared by the Australian Wool Board on the embargo on the export of merino sheep. I think the Board summed it up when it said:
Environment plays a large part in wool production and has favoured the development of the Australian Merino industry. However, all of the genetic ‘ingredients’ that went into the development of the Australian Merino are available to other countries. There is now adequate knowledge of ovine, physiology and genetics to allow any country to evolve quickly a Merino type of sheep suited to that country’s conditions, should it wish to do so.
I would also like to mention Sir Ian Clunies Ross, who also supported the export proposal. Sir Ian was a very greatly respected scientist in Australia. He pointed out that no dangers whatsoever were presented by the export of merino sheep.
The South African situation is a case in point. South African sheep have evolved mainly in latter years from Australian stock. Prior to 1929 they obtained the root stock from Australia. If the South African climatic environment was suitable the South Africans would have no reason to import sheep from Australia. But this is not so. Another example is Argentina. This country has 54 million sheep. Only 11 million out of those 54 million are of the merino type, and this merino type wool, which is medium wool, is grown in the very arid area of Patagonia where the climatic situation is to some degree comparable with the Australian situation. The Russians, who are very skilled people in scientific operations, are producing fine merinos, but they have great difficulty because of their climatic environment. The Americans are in the same sort of situation. Therefore, this is no argument whatsoever: Other countries can evolve these strains from the root stock which is available to them but they have not been able to produce successfully the merino type of wool because they do not have the unique climatic and pastoral conditions that exist in Australia.
The second aspect concerns the economics of stud sheep breeders. There have been a lot of wrong impressions in respect of stud breeders. Stud breeding, whether it be horses, cattle, or sheep, is not a very economic operation. Possibly stud sheep breeders may have a slight advantage, but the stud sheep breeder is finding himself in a difficult situation because of costs. In the past he relied upon large flocks, when he had big areas of land. These flocks contributed to his income, but today his land area has diminished and he has been reduced almost to a stud breeding operation. Such an operation involves considerable costs. A breeder has to show his sheep and advertise them. Not only that, but he builds up a tremendous capital value and if a member of the family dies heavy probate charges are involved. The number of stud sheep breeders is diminishing all over Australia and it will be serious for Australia if the traditional stud sheep breeders go out of the picture.
The relaxation of the embargo is designed to assist stud breeders. It will be of benefit to Australian woolgrowers because if we have prosperous stud breeders we get better sheep. It is interesting to refer to ram sales in Sydney over the years. In 1928, the year before the ban on exports was imposed, 3,600 rams were offered for sale and 85% were sold. Skipping quite a few years, in 1959 there were 1,240 rams offered for sale and 78% were sold. In 1960 the number offered was 1,072 and 54% were sold. In 1963 only 75% of the rams offered for sate were sold. The situation has deteriorated all the time. I point out that the proposal is not to lift the embargo but to relax it to enable not more than 300 rams to be exported in the first year. If only 300 rams are to be exported then those exported will be the top rams. The average wool grower is not interested in the top operation. Some people have suggested that the ‘ tremendous prices offering will result in our losing our best blood lines, but this is absolute nonsense because no stud breeder will sell his best- animals, no matter what area of husbandry he is involved in, because if he did he would go out of business.
Let us consider now the political aspects. I am not surprised that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Wilmot will receive support from their colleagues, because their argument is a Socialist argument. They have suggested that the grower of stud sheep does not own that stock; it belongs to the Government to dispose of as it will or as it wishes. I remember a time when Labor was in power in the 1940s. A Labor Minister for Primary Industry sold wheat to a Labor Government in New Zealand at a price some shillings a bushel below the market value.
– lt was sold for 5s 9d.
– That is absolutely true. People are -apt to forget these things. It is a Socialist argument to suggest that the produce of a man’s effort on the land should belong to the government. This argument is contrary to this Government’s view. It is a Labor Party view. Fat lambs and butter have been sold at well below market value by Labor governments. Members opposite are suggesting that the sheep breeder should not have the right to get the best market possible. If a breeder of blood horses is permitted to sell overseas at the best price available and if a breeder of stud cattle is able to sell overseas with no embargo, why on earth is a stud breeder of sheep prohibited from selling overseas? This is quite illogical. This is basically the difference in the philosophies of the Government and of the Opposition.
I again congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry for this very forward step. The wool industry is completely safeguarded because the position has to be reviewed annually. Speaking personally, I hope that the embargo is relaxed even further and that more than 300 rams can be exported because the more prosperous our top breeders are the better the rams we will have to improve our sheep flocks in Australia and consequently to command a greater market overseas.
– For 40 years it has been the fixed policy of Australian governments- Liberal, Labor, Country Party and composite governments - to prohibit the export of merino rams and semen. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) has asked: Why should we not be able to sell them overseas? He said that the Australian Labor Party’s argument was a Socialistic idea to control the industry and to prevent the export of the products of primary producers. If that argument, which was tendered by the Minister, is valid I ask him and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony): Why has not the policy been changed before? Of course it has been the fixed policy of all governments to protect Australia’s basic industry - the very cornerstone of our economic life and the basis upon which the prosperity of Australia has been built. The action taken by the Government to vary this policy has been revealed clearly by the Minister for External Territories who concluded his remarks by suggesting that we might increase the number of rams permitted to be exported. The proposal is for a temporary relaxation of the embargo on exports. This change in policy is not merely a matter of relaxing the number to test the world and to see what is going to happen. The Minister has made up his mind firmly as an influential Minister in the Government that the basic policy is changed. This decision of the Government is the fatal, final step. There is no return. Having made this decision, those who produce wool in Australia can face the realities and the facts of life: In future merinos will be exported from Australia - not 300 rams each year but any number. The number is to be reviewed from year to year, as the Minister for Primary Industry declared in the course of his remarks.
Tonight we are considering a most important industry. It is a great misfortune that we should be discussing this matter when the proceedings of the Parliament are not being broadcast. A great number of people throughout Australia who listen to Parliament, particularly on topics like this, could be waiting eagerly to hear the views of their members. I heard the speech of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro). It was most difficult to decide whether he favoured or opposed the relaxation of the embargo on the export of merinos. He had a little bit each way. He knows, as we all know, that the wool growers in this district are not happy with the Government’s proposal.
Merino fine wool is the very basis of Australia’s prosperity. We produce approximately half of the world’s supply of this valuable fibre. The Minister said that the proposal we are discussing is a limited relaxation of the prohibition on the export of merino breeding sheep. But the Minister for External Territories immediately tore up that idea and threw it out the window. He claimed that it is nothing of the kind. His view is that we do not want a relaxation that will permit the export of a mere 300 merino rams a year; we have taken the step and the stud breeders should be able to export any number they like, regardless of the effect that this may have on the industry generally and on Australia’s economy. Honourable members on this side of the House are concerned about the economy of the nation. We are concerned about the welfare of those engaged in the wool industry and we have suggested to the Government that it would be reasonable, democratic and just to allow the wool growers to vote on this proposal. They should be allowed to decide whether the embargo should be relaxed.
The Minister for Primary Industry said that this decision is to be reviewed annually by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This body, on the Minister’s own statement, did not commence an inquiry into this very important matter until June 1967. The Minister has made great play of the competition from synthetic fibres. The burden of his argument in favour of the relaxation of the embargo on the export of merino rams is that it is necessary to build up the quality of fine wool throughout the world so that the wool industry generally, on a world basis, will be better fitted to meet the competition of synthetic fibres. He has explained that the textile fibres are expanding at a faster rate than wool production is and that wool’s share of the world fibre market is diminishing. But the Minister for Primary Industry, in his statement, contradicted this argument utterly by saying:
The fourth objection appears to overlook the fact that Australia alone, because of physical limits to its production capacity, seasonal variations and general environmental conditions, is unlikely to be able to meet the future world demand for good quality merino wool.
He complained that wool’s share of the world fibre market is diminishing, but then said that we are not able to meet the demand. He intends to correct the situation by providing the world with the merino sheep that produce this fine type of wool. He intends to export merino rams to other countries.
The Minister for External Territories said that the export of merino rams will not improve the situation; that Australia’s geography, Australia’s climate and Australia’s soils have special qualities and ingredients which enable Australia, and Australia alone, to produce this very fine wool that is so important to the world. Which argument is valid? Do we accept the view of the Minister for External Territories or do we accept the view of the Minister for Primary Industry? I suppose we should accept the view of the Minister for Primary Industry, but it is extraordinary to have such a conflict of views coming from two Ministers on such an important topic as this is. The Minister for Primary Industry is the responsible Minister and he has put the Government’s view on this matter. He also said that it is important for us to obtain goodwill in world affairs and that allowing world producers of wool to have our fine merino rams is one way of gaining goodwill. I question the price that we will pay to obtain this goodwill.
The Minister for External Territories spoke of the price that would be paid for the merino rams that would be exported, of the demand for them and of the value their sale would be to the Australian economy. Of course that is true. The Minister has pointed out that the Australian wool growers would not be able to pay the price for the top class merino sires, because they are of a special quality. The very best of our merino rams will be exported and Aus tralia, the major producer of this fine wool, will lose them. In the first year, 300 will be exported and, in the view of the Minister for External Territories, the number will be increased considerably in the future. I believe his view is correct. Once we start to export the merino rams, there is not much sense in saying that we will peg exports at 300 or any figure around that number. So the Australian producers will have the culls and the small wool growers in my district and elsewhere throughout Australia will be called upon to pay prohibitive prices for top class merino rams. The high prices for the top quality merino rams wiil be a burden that the Australian breeders can ill afford to bear because of the Government’s refusal to ensure that a fair price is paid for the wool clip and that the splitting of lots and the activities of pies are suppressed.
What will happen when buyers come from other countries to buy our merino rams? The Soviet Union and other countries buy on a national basis. Their buyers have the cheque book and the resources of their nation behind them. They can bid for our sires and put up the price. Of course, this is good for the stud breeder and for the Government, which is looking for foreign currency and needs international exchange to maintain the services of .government. But whilst the export of merino rams means easy money for the stud breeders and the Government, for the Australian people it is an absolute sell-out of a basic Australian industry.
One honourable member who spoke said that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation recommended in 1951 that we should export our merino rams. If this recommendation was made in 1951, why has the Government not acted before this? CSIRO is the font of knowledge and has the best interests of Australia at heart. It would know what was best for the industry and for the nation. This Government has been iri office for 20 years. If the recommendation was correct, the Government should have acted earlier.
– It waited for the wool growers to decide.
– Of course it thought of the wool growers. All I am putting and all that other members of the . Opposition are putting is that the wool growers should be allowed to decide. Let the people who work in the industry, who are dependent on the industry for their livelihood and who arc dependent on the industry for the future well being of their children decide the matter.
– Which wool growers?
– Let those engaged in the fine wool industry determine the matter. But the Government is not willing to allow them to do so. If it permitted this to be done, there would be no objection from this side of the House. I believe that there are arguments on both sides. Some people argue that we should hand over all our assets to the rest of the world, as the Government is doing now with our iron ore, bauxite, coal, nickel and the rest of our resources. The Government believes that it has good arguments for handing over our assets. We on this side of the chamber stand for Australia. We are concerned for our heritage and for the future of this country. We do not want to sell out a great Australian industry - an industry that is a valuable asset to this country. For these reasons we make a plea to the Minister for Primary Industry in the interests of this great industry and the nation as a whole to permit a referendum of growers to be held in order that they might determine this matter, as they are entitled to do.
– I listened with some fascination to the rather outmoded views of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). Before I develop my line of reasoning I would like to ask the honourable member and any of his colleagues one simple question: Can you tell the difference between a horned polwarth and a merino ram? If you cannot, you have no case. For years there has been no limitation on the export of horned polwarths. Nobody other than a great expert could tell the difference, so I presume that nobody opposite would know the difference. I hope I am right. Nobody opposite would know the difference, yet the Opposition suggests that there is a case for retaining an antiquated idea bora in the 1930s that the export of merino rams has something to do with the wool industry. This is arrant nonsense; it has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Given a little more time I hope to propound my views and 1 will repeat the question as 1 go, because the Opposition’s case lives or dies on this point. Can honourable members opposite tell the difference between the rams which may be exported now and merino rams? I say that they cannot. 1 would like to hear anybody in the chamber tell me the difference. 1 doubt whether anybody can, unless it is the starter of the Melbourne Cup.
– The wool is finer.
– Perhaps. I do not know whether the honourable member for. Macquarie was muddling mutton and wool when he referred to the drain on Australia’s prime merino rams by selling them overseas. I am by no means a wool grower but 1 can imagine the surprise of wool growers to hear their highly priced stud rams described as prime merino rams. If I could be equally facetious for a moment I would say that the genetic structure of the rams sold for high prices today is no better than that of a lot of flock rams. Genetically there is no difference in the national herd, within reasonable limitations. I suggest that the rams that go overseas probably will be the most economical way of utilising lucerne and concentrated grain that I can think of. This will be good business. It will be a good bit of trade and a good credit on balance of payments.
Anybody who has had anything at all to do with stock knows that for the sires or rams you save to use yourself you progeny test, you weigh the fleece, you use your eye and your judgment and you see whether, on past performances, a family will breed well. You sell the good looking ones that do not conform. This is how much of a drain there will be on the national genetic structure of the merino sheep industry. In my view this has been one of the most humorous arguments I have heard for a long time.
Let us look at the reasons behind the Government’s decision to ease the embargo. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) dealt fully with this matter. He pointed out that wool’s share of the world’s total fibre market is diminishing although the demand for wool is increasing. The demand for wool is increasing at a slower rate than the demand for other fibres. This reminds me that . present in Parliament House this afternoon was Mr Keith Hyland, the feather king who was released recently after being a prisoner of the Vietcong. Feathers have a diminishing share of the market for pillows, upholstery and whatever other things they are used for, but there is a slightly increasing demand for feathers themselves. Woo? is in the same peculiar position. Undoubtedly the honourable member for Corangamite, who speaks with great authority on these industry matters, would have pointed to the great danger facing the wool industry of the world - not Australia’s alone - if wool’s share of the fibre market becomes so small that it is not worth spending money to put in modern plant to utilise that share of the market. In effect what we are doing is trying to save wool’s share of the total fibre market. In this regard I agree with the point made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro).
Let us have another look at this matter because it is an interesting point. I maintain that the rate of improvement - I am sorry if I offend any stud breeders of merinos - in this country is nowhere near as great as the rate of improvement in Russia or in Nairobi, where I happened to be judging last year - cattle, not sheep. This is because in those countries the research establishments are in charge of the national breeding programme. So a minimum of time is spent on unimportant fads, except for the pure bred breeders, and a maximum of effort is put into increasing yield. Up to a point I agree with the honourable member for Macquarie that we owe our heritage to the work done by the early men in the industry, but if we look back over the years what do we see? We see in every State selection according to local ideas and environment. If any improvement was made it was a hit and miss affair, based very much on those principles to which I have referred.
Over a period of years there must be some genetic improvement but I maintain that this is nothing more than normal progression and cannot compare with the rate of improvement adopting proper scientific principles, as happens in countries like Russia, where they have had to build up their national herd in the case of medium to medium-fine and fine wools. So we are exporting at this stage not a genetic struc- ture or genetic material to any major extent but environment. I would like to know whether the Opposition sees anything wrong in Australia’s exporting some of its environment. As the honourable member for EdenMonaro pointed out, it is this environment which enables us io grow good wool in this country. Australia has the soil, the climate and the open spaces peculiarly suited to merinos. New Zealand does not.
Let me point to my own experiences in these matters. On a high rainfall’ development block in South Australia I had, up to a year or two ago, a fairly sizeable corriedale flock. Thank goodness I guessed the market trends reasonably well and put on that flock polled merino rams. This has given me a much finer clip - 58s to 60s - if not more wool. In this case the breeders have achieved something. They have achieved a genetic difference that has enabled merinos to throw rams without horns. This is an asset as far as I am concerned. But have they ever done much worthwhile work to increase the lambing percentages of the merino flock of Australia? The answer is that they have not done much about it. When I selected polled merino rams I selected them from ewes that give twins. These are pretty rare and the rams are not easy to buy. In this way I can keep my lambing percentage up. I put it to honourable members again: Are we exporting any genetic material that this country cannot afford to export? Of course the straight answer is no. I repeat that largely we will be exporting a very limited number of merino rams. Immediately we will be exporting up to 300 rams a year, Which is chicken feed. 1 know that some breeders purchase as many as 300 on their own account each year. But that is what we aim to export. 1 maintain that we will be very largely exporting environment and nothing else.
It is obvious to anyone other than those who sit at home and ponder deeply on industry problems within their own areas that their merino clips and sheep are spread to a fairly great extent throughout the world. I personally have seen very fine merino sheep in South Africa and at the Nairobi show in Kenya which I judged last year - a show judged out of interest by one of the top Australian breeders. I have seen rambouillet sheep in Nepal. Rambouillet sheep are spread throughout France to a minor extent, and I have seen them there. Rambouillet sheep are in America, and ail the sources of Russian aid are of rambouillet sheep. Such places as India and Nepal are drawing on the genetic structure of the Russian merino sheep. Frankly they are not as good in quality as ours, but once again I suggest that this is because of environment. Once the novelty is over I do not anticipate that there will be large sales each year, from say the Sydney ram sales, to overseas buyers. I think there will be the odd peak sale, but such sales will not influence for one minute the ordinary grade wool producer. These people will certainly buy top stud rams, and this is the reason why the Government anticipates that the proper sales will be made through auction such as at the Sydney ram sales. I do not think that anyone should worry about the slight loss to Australia of these particular top grade sheep.
I want to bring up another point because it seems to me that people have no awareness of it. Any animal, whether it be of cattle, sheep or anything else, strictly has two parts to it. I do not mean male or female. If you look at an animal, you are looking strictly at the phenotype. If you try to judge the factors that have a genetic make-up but which you cannot see, you are dealing with the genotype. This is very much the core of this particular matter. No-one would want us to sell top genotype material. I have already described how breeders select their top sires. Possibly what we want to sell and cash in on is the phenotype. I will describe this a little further. If you look at a beef animal you see what the beast is like. It might be chunky and straight over the loin. You are looking at its phenotype, but you cannot tell how it will breed until you breed from it. Champions very rarely produce champions, as I noticed the other day when a Victorian colt won a race. Phenotype is not important unless it has the right genetic structure. The job of the stud breeder and of the scientist today is to ascertain where that top breeding material is. Any practical breeder of cattle, sheep or other animal knows very well that frequently it is not the best looking or the show type sire that produces the goods. Rather is it from stock that the owner knows through past performances of blood lines, through progeny testing, through fleece awareness in the case of sheep, and through all those other attributes and factors’ that a good stud breeder follows with care and consideration, that a top breeding sire comes from.
I mention another minor point which has to do with the phenotype. I recall many years ago when I was in England on a scholarship meeting a man who is out here at present selling British animal semen - a Mr Eric Bosman. He said: ‘Come and have a look at the jersey cattle of England. They are very very different in type to the jersey cattle on Jersey Island.’ I went and had a look. The difference was not as great as it is in the 5 miles from where I live in the Adelaide hills down Willunga Hill to the plain. On the hills you get a fine boned jersey set rather low to the ground. Down on the plains you get a big upstanding, heavy rounder boned, meatier type jersey cow. This is an example of the effect of environment on the same genetic structure. This is exactly the point that is at issue in this particular debate. Are we selling genetic material or are we selling primarily environment? No-one can convince me that ever since there has been ‘a total embargo on the importation into this country of pedigree beef sires the quality of Australian beef has gone down one bit.
– lt has probably improved.
– I think it has. All that it has done has been to force a stud breeder who was a bit jealous of another to swap bulls. The Australian national beef herd today is genetically exactly the same as the Scottish herd. There is no difference. They have the same origin. Frankly this argument on whether or not we need imported bulls is nonsense, because the genetic structure today is precisely the same. I realise that this is arguing the other way to which this partial lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams should have us arguing. The two examples which I have given are good examples of the effect environment has on the same genetic structure, and also of the fact that we have no need to worry if we commence to sell mainly environment overseas by allowing the embargo on the export of merino rams to be relaxed very marginally.
The soil througout the world is being used to grow food and not to graze animals on. I add this to the point which was made very well by the honourable member for Corangamite a little while ago. As we live and watch the transformation of argicultural production throughout the world today more and more will this be so, whether we like it or not in this country. For that reason, arid in conjunction with the very good points made by the honourable member for Corangamite, I say that we have no option but to try and maintain our share of the total fibre sales on the world markets. I conclude my speech by referring to the point I raised when I commenced to speak. Is there one person in this chamber tonight who can pick the difference between a horned polwarth ram and a merino ram? If there is, he has a case for speaking against this decision. If not. then there is no case at all for opposing this decision.
– Debates of this nature always bring back to me nostalgic memories of my boyhood in the country districts of New South Wales. It is a true saying that you can get a boy out of the country but you cannot get the country out of a boy. That is why tonight, as one who was bom and educated in Currabubula, I speak on this important question. I would like to say that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) evidently spoke with great knowledge, because apparently the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who is a member of the Country Party, could not answer the question he posed about the difference between the types of sheep to be exported. The Minister at least did not say he could do so. The honourable member for Angas spoke with considerable knowledge of the subject, and I listened with considerable interest to him. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro), however, is certainly a man who would have two bob each way on the question. If a vote were taken on this measure, I wonder just where he would stand in the Parliament, because I could not work out whether he was for or against the proposal to export merino rams.
– Why does the honourable member not listen?
– I listened attentively, but I could not work out what the honourable member was saying. Therefore, tonight I would be interested to know where he stands, whether he is for or against the proposal or whether he thinks it is a good proposal or not. If I were the honourable member for Eden-Monaro I think I would be inclined to favour a referendum on this question, because the wool growers are the ones who should decide it. It is no good arguing that just because the embargo on the export of merino rams was imposed 40 years ago it should be lifted now. Many of our forebears did many great things, particularly for the primary industries. The fact that they saw fit 40 years ago to impose this embargo must even at this stage carry considerable weight with those who are arguing about it.
It is said that only 300 merino rams are to be exported from the country in the first year. The honourable member for Angas said that this is nothing at all. But there may be 600 the year after. Who knows? Maybe the yearly figure will grow to 1.000. These sales will certainly do the world of good financially for those who are selling the rams, but will they benefit the wool industry? These are the questions that might well be asked. It has been said that this is a move to counter competition from synthetic fibres and to assist the wool industry in its fight again synthetics. If anything, it will accentuate any competition with the wool industry. In his statement the Minister said:
After considering the comments and suggestions submitted by member organisations and debating the matter at length the Wool Industry Conference decided at its meeting in November last year to recommend to the Government a partial lifting of the embargo. This decision was made in a resolution carried by 37 votes to 16 - that is, by a majority of 70%.
I do not go by percentages to decide a great issue like this, lt is all very well to say that the resolution was carried by a majority of 70%. By the same token, the number of votes represents a very small percentage of the wool growers and others who should decide such a great change in policy as this. The resolution may have been carried by a two to one majority, but only 53 votes decided whether or not the embargo should be partially lifted. The majority was only 21, which is a very small number when we consider the importance of the industry to this country.
I am reminded, amongst other things, that this is not the first time that this matter has been debated in the Parliament. I remember that on 6th November 1957 we had certain trouble and certain queries were raised in regard tq the export of merino rams to South Africa. The Parliament is indebted to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), who raised this matter in the Parliament, despite the fact that he is more a consumer’s representative than a grower’s representative. He pointed out in this Parliament the dangers of what is happening today with the export of merino rams. At that time we had a really good Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the honourable member who is now the Treasurer and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr McMahon). He really knew and understood rural matters. When the Country Party could not provide a suitable Minister for Primary Industry at that time, the present Treasurer occupied the position with distinction and proved to be equal to or better than any Minister that the Country Party has produced. In this Parliament on 6th November 1957 the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith asked this question of the then Minister for Primary Industry:
My question to the Minister tor Primary Industry relates to the serious allegations against the South African Government that, contrary to the terms of an agreement with the Australian Government, it has sold to private interests merino rams which it was permitted to import from this country. Would the Minister, at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Delhi, to which I understand he is to lead a delegation, proceed to South Africa and make a personal investigation on the highest level?
The honourable member showed a real interest in rams by asking the Minister to go to South Africa. His question continued:
Also, will he, upon his return, report to this Parliament on the accuracy or otherwise of the allegations?
This is what the Minister said:
I well remember that one of the first speeches I made on wool was about the growth of the merino wool industry in Australia. If my memory serves me correctly, away back in 1797 Australia imported merino sheep from South Africa. Indeed, no lesser person than John Macarthur imported them from the Cape of Good Hope.
Later, Samuel Mccaughey imported Vermont merinos from the United States of America. Therefore, it always strikes me as peculiar that the claim should be made that ho merino blood is to be found in the sheep of either South Africa or the United States of America. So far as the four rams exported to South Africa are concerned, one died, one did not do the job that a ram is normally purchased to “do, one proved somewhat indifferent-
Some of these 300 ram’s might be affected in the same way. The answer went on: and the other - I am now quoting from official records - proved to be satisfactory. There has been a difference of ‘ opinion between the Commonwealth and South African Governments as to the interpretation of the licence. and whether the offspring of the Australian ram and South African ewes could be sold. It was ari honest difference of opinion, and we are now discussing with the South African Government, on- a most friendly basis, just what should be done in the future. We are attempting to evolve satisfactory arrangements acceptable to both governments. As soon as we have been ‘ able to reach an agreement, I shall be happy to let the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith know.
I point out again that maybe the Government is arranging for losses in respect of the 300 rams that are to be exported when the embargo is relaxed. Can we be sure that these stud rams will be ones that will fulfil what the Minister knows to be the obligation of animals of that nature? I wonder if the present Minister for Primary Industry will, after these 300 rams arrive at their destinations, give as intimate a description of this subsequent activities as the then Minister for Primary Industry did with respect to the four Sheep exported to South Africa in 1957. If he does, no doubt we will have a very long speech from him.
The honourable member for KingsfordSmith in 1957 highlighted many of the factors that are disturbing wool growers and other people in this country today. I refer to the export of merino sheep, on which has been built the wealth of this country, to competitors. This move will break down the stability of the Australian wool growing industry. These are most important matters. The fact that some people do not know the difference between one sheep and another, as the distinguished member for Angas said, does not alter the fact that wool is a basic commodity and has been a source of our wealth that other countries have envied for years. An embargo was imposed on the export of merino rams 40 years ago by our forebears. We are now breaking down that restriction to share with out competitors our wealth and prosperity. To my mind, it cannot help but have detrimental effects on the Australian wool growing industry.
I do not profess to speak with the intimate knowledge of those who live in country districts, but even the greatest novice in the Parliament knows that we are dependent on the wool growing industry in many respects to achieve a favourable balance of payments. It is something that all Australians acknowledge as the golden fleece of Australia. We are undermining the wool industry by exporting merinos without taking a referendum amongst those who know the industry. The decision to lift the embargo was made on the flimsy vote of 37 to 16. In other words, 53 representatives are to decide the future welfare of the Australian woo) growing industry. It is for that reason that it would have been fairer to ask the Australian people to vote on the matter in a referendum. The Government should have foreseen the dangers that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith brought to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry in 1957. The Government should let us know whether or not 300 is to be the maximum or minimum number to be exported, whether there is to be an increase in this number in subsequent years and whether our whole reputation may be destroyed if the Tarns exported do not do, as the previous Minister said, what rams are supposed to do. These are matters that the Government should look at. Not only could our wool industry be destroyed but our prestige as a country that produces good stud stock could also be destroyed if these rams fail in the mission for which they are being exported today.
I make this observation: 1 suggest that the Government should have held a referendum on the question. I am sorry that on a great issue like this the Government has seen fit to place the Australian wool growing industry in jeopardy on the vote of fifty-three people and to hold the vote up as an example of the full support of the wool industry of this country, when the Government knows full well that it is a real gamble. It is throwing overseas the experience of those people who 40 years ago helped to build the wool industry. To all intents and purposes the Government could destroy not only our market but also the wealth that we really have in the merino. The Government intends to share with our competitors something which they have been dying to get for years but which only a Liberal-Country Party Government could give them. I suggest that the Government should have held a referendum. I am sorry that more members of the Country Party do not support that point of view because, although we know it is a bit of a misconception, at least they are supposed to represent the wool grower.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armstrong) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I call the honourable member for Griffith.
– What again?
– We have heard a typical Labor expression: ‘What again?’ One would think that no person in Australia had any problem whatsoever. When the people on whose behalf I am speaking tonight read the speech and the interjection that has been made they will see how little some members of the Australian Labor Party care for people outside this Parliament.
Over recent weeks we have read articles in our newspapers tipping the possibility of a reduction in the rate of personal tax. There is neither a man nor woman who would not welcome such a step, but a reduction in taxation can be interpreted as either an indication that for economic reasons the Government wishes to increase the spending power of the community or, alternatively, ease the situation in this country whereby we are one of the highest taxed nations in the world. Being aware of the Government’s warranted and justified desire that we do not return to the inflationary trends of the late 1950s and the unfortunate by-product in the early 1960s, the former can be discounted. It is therefore safe to suggest that the present indications of the thinking aloud of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) are based on a matter of justice.
It is with justice in mind that I rise to my feet this night on behalf of the Australian Taxi Council, which is associated with the Taxi Council of. Queensland, the Victorian Taxi Association, the Taxi Cabs Operators Association of South Australia, City Cabs and Sandy Bay Cabs, Hobart, and in New South Wales, the Metropolitan Taxi Council. Over recent years they have made representations to the Treasurer on the matter of the reclassification of taxi cabs and private hire cars as ‘commercial passenger vehicles’ instead of the present classification of private cars for the purposes of sales tax determination.
At this point I thank the Treasurer for having, last November, personally interviewed Messrs Dwyer, Brading, Crellin and myself on this issue. There is no doubt that he understands precisely the terms of the complaint and accordingly is sympathetic. But the best expression of sympathy is positive’ action. At present, like every individual gathered here tonight, a person who purchases a new car for the purpose of usage as a taxi cab pays 25% sales tax. But unlike any individual present, they pay the much higher commercial rates for registration fees, comprehensive insurance and compulsory third party insurance. In fact, sales tax is the only charge in taxi operations which is not levied at commercial rates.
Society recognises taxis as a form of public transport. This is obvious when we consider that the transport system provided by many State and local authorities stops running around 11 p.m. and people have to cab it home or walk. It is the only 24- hour transport system available and is relied upon by the Red Cross for its blood transfusion services, the news media, the Government, drug manufacturers, hospitals and hundreds of other organisations connected with the humanities and our everyday way of life. It borders on the state of ludicrousness when we consider that buses are recognised to the extent of being completely free of sales tax, yet taxis are considered as private vehicles and attract 25% sales tax. It is time we moved an amendment to the law to provide relief and reclassify them in the commercial vehicle rate which attracts 15%.
The Transport Regulation Board in Victoria now requires taxi and hire car owners to replace their vehicles after 4 years’ operation, irrespective of the condition of the vehicle. Like conditions apply in other
States and thus owners must bear heavy depreciation and sales tax costs over a relatively short period. Because of the nature of their work, taxis do not retain the re-sale values of private, cars and this places taxi operators at an even greater disadvantage when compared with private vehicle operators. There is no stipulated life span for tax-free buses and it can be clearly seen that the cab .operators carry the burden pf sales tax at the highest rate applicable to motor vehicles, while other members of the public, transport industry escape this obligation completely. The efficiency of the industry is substantiated by the. use by so many of our own Commonwealth Government departments, which are finding it more economical, to use taxis than the vehicles operated by the Depart-; ment of Supply.
No doubt a reduction in sales tax would have a profound effect on stabilising operating costs, which would benefit ‘ the whole community^ and- while 1 refer to the ordinary man in the street, it’ is well to say for the record that if ifr my . own State of Queensland a taxi cab owner wishes to take one of his friends - a man in the street like the honourable member . for Scullin (Mr Peters) - away with his family for a day at the coast or in the mountains and he exceeds 25 miles, the regulations are such that unless that passenger be a member of his immediate family, he is required by the Transport Act and regulations of I960 to pay a permit fee at the rate of lc per passenger per mile. To suggest that a cab owner enjoys the same privileges as a private car owner is incorrect and, remembering the concessions granted to other sections of the transport industry, this is not just an anomaly, it is an injustice. I hope that serious consideration will be given to this matter and that some members of the Labor Party who have been trying to interject tonight will give it some thought and, perhaps, add strength to the very honest and just representations which are being made on behalf of all taxi drivers, whether they be Labor or Liberal supporters.
– I wish to draw to the attention of Parliament the particular disadvantage of many country families, as compared with city families, in meeting the education costs of their children. Many country families are
In the position of not having the same availability of day schools as enjoyed by their city equivalents. Country families have to find the money for additional transport charges, as well as the increase in school fees which independent schools now have to charge. Many country families have also to find the money to pay for boarding fees to. order to send” their children to a school at which their children will receive instruction and counsel in the faith and attitude to life to which the family itself adheres. There are many real cases where travelling distance makes it completely impracticable for students to attend the schools unless they are in fact borders. The effects are beginning to be felt in some schools, particularly country boarding schools where the number of pupils attending as boarders has fallen, and this has compounded the effects of rising costs.
To help overcome this particular problem these parents and these schools are not requesting a government subsidy, except in the sense of better taxation allowances. As tha Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is aware, I have made a number of representations to him on behalf of many of my constituents. I have now been asked by the Council of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Goulburn to raise this matter in Parliament and to seek from members of this Parliament serious and favourable consideration on the present inadequate taxation allowances. I repeat that this is not an appeal for a subsidy; it is an appeal for increased taxation deductions for people who now find that they cannot meet both the taxation demands on their income and the education demands on their income. Surely it is in the interests of these families and their children that they should be given the opportunity by the Australian Government to pay forthe education of their children. The brief and concise letter which was written to me by the Secretary of the Council of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Goulburn, reads:
The Council of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Goulburn, considers that the present allowable deduction of $300 for education expenses is quite inadequate in view of the continued increase in school fees due to the rising costs which independent schools are experiencing. Consequently, I have been instructed by the College Council to write to you asking you to make representation in Parliament to have the present allowable deduction increased from $300 to at least$1,200 per child per annum.
At present, the number of pupils attending many country boarding schools has fallen, with a consequent difficulty on the part of the schools in meeting fixed costs from the reduced fee income, and the Council feels that additional boarders could be obtained if a larger proportion of the fees were an allowable deduction for income tax purposes.
As well as the Parliament, I ask the Government, Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Treasurer to give serious and favourable consideration to this proposal to increase the present allowable taxation deduction from $300 to at least $1,200 per child per annum so that families living in country areas may be given the opportunity of paying for the education of their own children. I again stress that this deduction is only for payments actually made for educational purposes and should apply only while these educational expenses exist. This is not in any way a requirement or a request for a direct subsidy from Government funds. Country areas are losing those families which find themselves placed in such an impossible position that they have to move to metropolitan areas in order to educate their children. This is a great loss to country areas at any time, but it is an even greater loss when the people concerned are the professional people - and their families - who perform so many of the services upon which the community depends.
It is a curious anomaly that a fanning family can invest in improvements to the farm, which are tax deductible, and yet cannot in any way that even begins to be equivalent make a similar investment in the education of its children. I am not criticising the fact that improvements to farms are tax deductible. I believe that the present position should be preserved. But I do not think that there can be any reasonable doubt that investment in education is at least as beneficial an investment from the country’s point of view as any farm improvement programme. I ask that this matter be given serious and favourable consideration from the point of view that it will provide an opportunity for families in country areas to make an investment in the education of their children and to pay for that education on a basis which will approach the investments they are able to make in other fields in the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It should be noted that the New South Wales reserves shown above are ‘recoverable reserves’, which are calculated by applying an extraction factor to the in situ reserves. The Queensland reserves are not limited to extractable coal and are determined through drilling or cross checking by the Queensland Department of Mines. Reserves in Authorities to Prospect and Franchises are regarded as confidential by the Queensland authorities. As deposits at Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura come within this category I am unable to provide information in respect of each of these deposits. However I have been advised by the Minister for Mines in Queensland that, in total, the measured and indicated reserves in these latter deposits exceed 1,000 million tons.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Will he promptly review anomalies in the assessment of unemployment periods of seasonal workers, especially some in the meat and sugar industries who are repeatedly stood down for brief periods during relatively slack periods, and are then considered to be employed for a further period represented by their pro-rata leave payment on discharge for the season?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Assessment of unemployment is made in a way designed to avoid creating anomalies. If the honourable member is aware of any case which he considers warrants review, it will be re-examined on receipt of advice about it
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Based on the retail price index series published by the Commonwealth Statistician:
In this context it is relevant to mention that one factor to be taken into account in considering the amount of maternity allowance is the extent to which confinement expenses are offset by benefits available under the National Health Scheme introduced by the present Government.
Fishing in Papuan and New Guineas Waters (Question No. 1165)
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Naval Support Facilities at Cockburn SoUnd (Question No. 1223)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
– The Minister for Works has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
United Nations: Purchases in Australia (Question No. 1248)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What is the value of purchases which the United Nations and its agencies (a) made in Australia last year, and (b) will make in Australia this year?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– 1 supply this answer in substitution for the answer I gave to the honourable member’s question on 18th March (Hansard, page 625):
The Articles of Agreement of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development provide for a Board of Governors and a Board of Executive Directors. The Boards of Governors and Directors of the International Finance Corporation are composed ex officio of the Governors and Executive Directors of the International Bank. All the powers of the Bank and the Corporation are vested in their Boards of Governors. Each member country of the Bank appoints one Governor who is entitled to cast the votes of his member country. The Governor cannot cast the votes of other Governors. The Commonwealth Treasurer is the Governor representing Australia. The general operations of the Bank and the Corporation are conducted by their Boards of Directors. There are twenty Directors of whom five are appointed by the five member countries with the largest shares in the capital stock of the Bank. The remaining fifteen Directors are elected biennially by ballot of the Governors of all the other member countries. The Executive Director from Australia has been elected on the votes cast by the Governors for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He represents ali three countries on the Boards of the Bank and the Corporation and is entitled to cast the combined votes of the three countries. The powers of the Directors are limited to those delegated to them by the Boards of Governors.
VisitingDignitaries: Security Guards (Question No. 1129)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and 2. The administration of the Australian Capital Territory Police is not within the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General. I understand that an editorial in the Australian Capital Territory Police Journal referred to Heads of State visiting Australia bringing security guards with them and that President Park of South Korea was accompanied by twelve Korean security guards.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Is Mr Justice Kerr’s administrative appeals committee empowered to recommend appeals to the proposed Commonwealth Superior Court instead of appeals to the Director-General of Social Services by persons affected by a determination, direction, decision or approval of an officer under the Social Services Act?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is one of the committee’s terms of reference to consider the jurisdiction to be given to the proposed Commonwealth Superior Court to review administrative decisions. In making recommendations on the extent of this jurisdiction, it would be competent for the committee to indicate particular statutory functions in relation to which the Commonwealth Superior Court should exercise jurisdiction in the view of the committee.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Is Mr Justice Kerr’s administrative appeals committee empowered to recommend appeals to the proposed Commonwealth Superior Court by migrants (a) whose applications for naturalisation are deferred or rejected on security grounds or (b) who have been notified of the grounds upon which it is proposed to deport them?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See the ainswer to Question No. 1250.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690326_reps_26_hor62/>.