26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Miss BROWNBILL presented a petition from pertain citizens of Australia showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as self-reliant, independent individuals and where, they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there, by qualified teachers are . crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that, present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system, preschool facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
Mr BRYANT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing that the National Service Act 1968 is unduly harsh in that it (i) makes provision for the use of conscripted young men for overseas service; (ii) makes no allowance for conscientious objection to a particular war; (iii) provides an unduly harsh penalty of two years gaol for those young men whose conscience compels them not to comply with the Act.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should respond to our plea for the early repeal of the Act, and the immediate release of any young men who are now in prison as a result of their conscientious refusal to comply with the Act.
Petition received and read.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing that the National. Service Act 1968 is unduly harsh in that, it (i) makes provision for the use of conscripted young men for overseas service; (ii) makes no allowance, for conscientious objection to a particular war; (iii) provides an unduly harsh penalty of two years gaol for those young men whose conscience compels them not to comply With the Act.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should respond to our plea for the early repeal of the Act, and the immediate release of any young men who are now in prison as a result of their conscientious refusal to comply with the Act.
Mr LEE presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing that all social service benefits and pensions - as with child endowment and maternity allowances - should be payable to everyone without a means test on income, as the social service tax was imposed by the FederalGovernment with that object in mind. Thousands of elderly folk will have paid this tax for many years-without getting any- . thing in return, and some are still paying it, or paying the equivalent of it since in 1 950 the tax as a separate ‘assessment was abolished, but the total rate of .tax remained much the same. But because of the means test, these people are debarred from an age pension and the benefits that go with it. This is not only unjust, it is immoral, and because of this the social service tax or its equivalent is seen by many ‘people as money obtained by the Government under false pretences, lt is well known that in 1950 $3 60m of this tax was paid into consolidated revenue. To say the least the Federal Government has obviously not fulfilled the promise implied by the tax.
By subscribing to superannuation funds or by making investments to provide retirement income, thousands of elderly citizens have saved the Federal Government millions of dollars annually. Through their thrift they are now debarred by the means test from receipt of the pension and from participating in social service benefits.
Due to inflation in our economy the value of incomes from superannuation and investments has been whittled away by price increases. Since 1950 consumer prices have gone up more than 100%. Under existing financial arrangements this inflation seems to be inseparable from a fast industrial growth rate. In the last decade there has been a vast industrial expansion resulting in a much greater output of goods. All elderly folk arc entitled to benefit from this increased productivity which, directly and indirectly, they have helped to create during their working lives. Any denial of this is illogical, not to say immoral.
Economically considered the payment of an age income to all senior people (women at 60, men at 65) should create no problem at all. It is beyond dispute that industry could easily produce the extra goods needed. Retailers and industry generally would welcome the increased market for products that would follow a lift in the incomes of thousands of elderly people.
The payment of a means-test-free income as a right to all men and women reaching the age of retirement, and to widows and the incapacitated, is a social development common throughout the world today. Australia, unfortunately, is one of the few advanced countries where this humane and just policy does not apply.
The removal of the means test will rid us of the humiliating and distressing surveillance of the private affairs of elderly citizens and will therefore prevent essentially honest people from being forced into deception in trying to hide their incomes and assets from the authorities. Further, it will eliminate the practice, now becoming almost standard, of senior citizens jettisoning their assets by overseas trips on the eve of their retirement so hat they will be eligible for social service benefits.
The removal of the means test would free many skilled people for useful employment resulting in an increase in consumer spend ing. The increased government revenue from both direct and indirect taxation would largely offset the cost of the additional pensions. It must be remembered, also, that the removal of the means test does not imply that all persons of pensionable age would automatically receive the pension since many people with ample incomes would not bother to apply for it.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should make a survey of the full requirements of pensioners of all types and adopt a policy for the progressive liberalisation of the means test resulting in its removal within 3 years.
Petition received and read.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS presented a petition from Lillian Verna Louisa Pedlar, an elector of the Commonwealth, showing that history proves that owing to the perpetuation of war this world’s parlous situation has reached unprecedented extremely alarming proportions, and history proves also that owing to unprecedented production, and other factors, all attempted onesided leftist and rightist bloc solutions inevitably fail.
The petitioner prays that the Australian Government proclaim the urgency to secure civilized impartial outlawing of war, by urging all parliamentarians, the United Nations Organisation, and various other political and religious organisations and avenues throughout this morally and spiritually ravaged world to plead to the utmost, on behalf of all humanity, the civilized impartial outlawing of war and thus by the first things first policy restore to this stricken world greatly improved conditions, including essential stability and very probably world wide greatly improved weather conditions including those in New York.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to inform the House of the forthcoming visits overseas of Ministers. The Minister for the Army will leave Australia tomorrow, Friday 28th March. He will spend Easter with Australian troops in Vietnam and also will visit our troops in
Malaysia and Singapore. The Minister for Health will act as Minister for the Army during Mr Lynch’s absence. The AttorneyGeneral will be journeying to New Zealand to attend the New Zealand Law Society’s Centennial Conference from 8th to 12th April. The Minister for Immigration will act as Attorney-General during this period. As honourable members are aware, I will be leaving on Saturday, 29th March, on a visit to the United States for discussions with President Nixon and to Canada for talks with Mr Trudeau. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry will be Acting Prime Minister during my absence.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Is it true that the current naval shipbuilding programme is coming to an end at Cockatoo Dockyard and at Williamstown Dockyard? Is the Minister aware that concern is being expressed that work opportunities at these centres could be gravely curtailed? To ensure continuity of employment at both places will the Minister make an early statement announcing the Government’s naval shipbuilding programme?
– An announcement of the Government’s total defence programme certainly will not be made by me in answer to a question, nor will I announce in such a way any part of that programme. It is true that concern has been expressed about the decline in the work load in several shipbuilding yards. However, I point out that many opportunities exist for the yards to service naval vessels. At Williamstown in particular there is a considerable amount of work in building torpedo recovery vessels. The short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is that no announcement of the Government’s programme for the Navy will be made in answer to a question.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has the. President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission confirmed what honourable members on this side have been saying for years, namely that if inflation is to be curbed unions must be persuaded not to be so greedy and grasping? Has productivity kept pace with increases in wages in recent years? If not, how does the Government propose to tackle the problem?
– I have seen a Press report of the matter referred to by the honourable member but I have not yet had the text of the statement placed before me. I expect to have it in due course. I always pay close attention to anything Sir Richard Kirby says. In respect to the remarks about the behaviour of unions, it is desirable at all times in these matters that people on both sides behave moderately. If they do not, great difficulty is experienced in exercising reasonable control over the economy. The honourable member will recall that we have put before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, at least in the last 2 years, the thesis that if wage increases of a general character are considerably in excess of increases in productivity, prices will rise and inflation will ensue, lt is not to be said that this is the only cause of increased prices and costs. There is a general and considerable pressure on Australian resources at the moment, whether they be labour resources of other kinds, which is extremely difficult to contain. Undoubtedly wage increases in excess of productivity do push prices and costs up. On another occasion the President pointed out that this had happened in other countries, lt is a pressure which so far no Western country has been able to contain properly. But the health of the economy will, in large part, flourish or do otherwise according to our success in this area.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question concerning a matter about which I asked him a question a week ago, namely, the failure of overseas airlines to pay the new air navigation charges which came into force at the commencement of this year. The Minister will remember that he told me that there is a specified time under the International Air Transport Association rules and under the Act during which these air navigation charges must be paid, and that the time had not elapsed. In view of a Press statement to the contrary since then, I ask when this time elapsed. I also ask how many companies appear to be in default at this stage.
– I did read a report in the Australian Financial Review’ this morning. It is a little inaccurate, and I would like to correct one or two of the points raised. The time limit to which I referred last week when replying to the Leader of the Opposition related to the period of 14 days which must elapse after suitable notice is given to the international airline operators. At that time we had issued notices to all the airline operators who were in default. The 14 days have not yet expired for some and for others they are just expiring. We indicated at the time the notices were sent that they had 14 days in which to pay the full amount which was due. Now that the period has expired we will be taking suitable action to see that the amounts are recovered. Since I answered the question last week some airlines have paid. There are still nine airlines that have not paid, and the total amount still outstanding is $51,515. A meeting has been arranged with the Airline Representatives Board for next Monday to discuss this matter. In addition we have made it quite clear to the airline operators that these charges must be met.
A point was raised by the airline operators under the IATA rules as to whether there was any conflict with the Chicago convention. I make it quite clear that the interpretation of the appropriate clause in the Chicago convention indicates that we are quite within our rights in raising the charges on the basis that we did, that the charges are legitimately levied, and that we expect them to be paid. There is some suggestion that the international airline operators were not aware of a working party that is being set up between my Department and the international airlines to review the whole situation in relation to air navigation charges and other charges which also apply. This was reported in the Press this mornnig.
– ls this a Dorothy Dix?
– This is a helpful anticipation. The airline operators have indicated to the ‘Australian Financial Review’ that they were not aware of this working party which has been set up between my Department and the airline operators, lt is strange that 1 received a. letter only two days ago from Knut Hammarskjold, the SecretaryGeneral of IATA, confirming the information which I had conveyed to him. and which the airline operators already know, that this working party was being set up. The terms of reference are being worked out at the moment and the first meeting is expected to be held in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. 1 refer to the pending refund of contributions to pensioners and contributors under the 1959 Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. Can the Minister give the House any more recent information as to when these payments are likely to be made?
– There has been some unavoidable delay in computing the entitlement of each pensioner and contributor to the scheme mentioned by the honourable gentleman. It is necessary to go back to 1948 and compile the records of individual contributors from that date. We then have to collate the information and feed it into the computers. This will take a great deal more time than 1 would have liked and would have hoped for. We have put a high class team on to this work because we know of its importance. I also know of the continuous efforts that are being made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong to have this work expedited. I cannot give a precise date. The only assurance I can give to the honourable gentleman is to repeat that we have a very high class team doing this work and it has assured me that it will get the work completed as soon as it can.
– 1 desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister in connection with his projected visit to the United States and Canada. Will he indicate the kind of staff that will accompany him? In particular, will there be members of the staffs of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of External Affairs?
– There will be the head of my own Department and the head of the Department of External Affairs, as I understand it, coming with me. I believe that officers of the Department of Trade and Industry will not be accompanying me, but there are trade officials in that country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development in connection with the Copeton Dam. The Minister will recall that I asked him a question on this matter some 4 weeks ago, on 26th February. In reply to my inquiry whether the Commonwealth was prepared to support the New South Wales Government in the construction of the dam, he said he expected the Government to make a decision very shortly. Does the Minister realise that any small delay in the construction on the dam at this stage, because of the timing of the contracts, will mean a very lengthy delay in the total time taken to construct the dam? Does he not think that this project is worthwhile, considering that the general area sustains the only viable economic cotton industry in Australia and that it has prospects for producing other crops of equal value? Does he accept that the Commonwealth cannot afford not to support this project at this time?
– All the reports have been received by the Government from the various authorities analysing the benefits that can be expected from this dam, and it is now a question of the Government getting time to consider the reports. I will bear in mind what the honourable member has said about the need for an early decision. I believe that this dam is to be built over a period of 10 years, which does seem to me to be quite a long period; but nevertheless I believe and hope that the Government will be able to make a decision very shortly on whether or not to support this project.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Health by wanking him for the prompt answer that he gave to me in reply to my representations on behalf of the honourable members for Shortland and Hunter relative to the supply of Hong Kong influenza vaccine to the Newcastle City Council. From information in the letter, it would appear that there is a delay of approximately 6 weeks from the date of placing an order to the delivery of the vaccine. Can the Minister assure me that sufficient vaccine will be available for all those people in Australia desirous of being vaccinated, having in mind that the Government has had ample notice that there was going to a be heavy demand for this vaccine? Has the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories been exporting Hong Kong influenza vaccine? If so, how much has been exported, when was the last shipment and to which countries were shipments made?
– The reason why there will be a delay in filling the request by the Newcastle City Council for vaccine is that the City Council only lodged an order yesterday. It therefore takes its turn in the queue in relation to large numbers of authorities, firms and so on which placed orders a considerable time ago. Even in relation to the Newcastle application, I understand that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has given an assurance that this vaccine will be available, despite the lateness of the time of the lodging of the request, during the last week in April or the first week in May.
In respect of the second part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, all I can do is to restate what I have said before. This is that in the judgment of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and taking into account the assessment of the possible seriousness of this epidemic, it is believed that sufficient vaccine will be available. Obviously, I cannot give a complete assurance that there will be-enough vaccine available in all circumstances should an unusual number of people decide to have themselves vaccinated. All I can say is that on the best information available, and taking into account the sort of demand that is believed will eventuate in this case, it will be available in the time scale laid down.
The answer to the last part of the honourable member’s question is that I understand that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories did fulfil an order earlier this year of something slightly over 1 million doses for the United Kingdom. According to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, fulfilling this order did not delay or hinder in any way its capacity to fulfil the Australian orders. In introducing a vaccine which contains a new strain, there are always difficulties in production which have to be ironed out. The existence of a firm order of this type at this time put the Laboratories in a position to produce at the very great capacity it is at the present moment.
– During his recent visit to Tasmania was the Minister for Primary Industry told of the urgent need for an early decision by the Devaluation Reporting Committee concerning solid pack apple? Is the honourable gentleman in a position to inform the House of the progress being made by the Committee?
– Having visited the Tasmanian apple growing area on the invitation of the honourable member for Franklin I .can understand his concern about this matter. I also appreciate that he comes from probably one of the most bountiful apple producing areas in the world. I understand the significance of getting an early decision on this question of solid pack apples or, to use a description probably more clearly understood, canned apples, because this process allows those apples which are not suitable for the export trade to be used for some other purpose. The industry, however, has only recently submitted a claim to the Government for devaluation compensation and officers of my Department have been investigating the figures that it presented. In fact, an officer has been in Tasmania and has only recently returned. He will be giving information to the Devaluation Reporting Committee and I imagine that that Committee will be making a submission to the Government very shortly.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister yet aware that President Nixon ordered the United States Defence Department on 31st January 1969 to work out detailed plans for ending the draft system and establishing an all volunteer army? If so, does he intend to follow in the footsteps of President Nixon by ending the present system in Australia and returning to an all volunteer system, thus preserving the spirit of ANZAC?
– I think I have already made it publicly clear that I do not see how in the future defence forces of the size that Australia will require can be carried on - and I speak of the future, not just of the Vietnam war - without national service being an integral part of Australian life.
As far as preserving the spirit of ANZAC is concerned, I would remind the honourable gentleman that during the 1939-45 war the Labor Party, which was then in Government, also found it necessary to use national service and conscription.
– My question is directed to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Has his attention been drawn to incidents which are . occurring at Weebo Station near Leonora where stones are being removed from Aboriginal ceremonial grounds? Although I understand this area is under State administration, is his Department able to do anything to clear up the situation? .
– In answer to the honourable member, I am aware of this situation and it is causing some concern. The facts are fairly simple. On Weebo Station, some 80 miles from Leonora, there is ceremonial ground of considerable significance to the Aboriginals. This ground has been protected by the local land owners, but recently an application was made for the mining of these grounds of stone of a particular colour which was thought to be suitable for the facing of buildings. The Department of Native Welfare in Western Australia opposed this application but the local courts approved it, with, I think, a stay of 2 months for some reconsideration of the matter. 1 have made inquiries and I find that this ground is of very considerable ceremonial importance. It was regrettable that when the case was heard this was not stressed more strongly, but I can understand this because in Aborginal custom sacredness and secretness very often go together, and the Aboriginals who would be most concerned with this ground would be very reluctant to give any evidence of the rituals or of the location in question.
We may perhaps be thinking of this as something unreasonable. But would we, for example, believe that it was compatible with the practices of Freemasonry for a Freemason to give in open court the details of the ritual of Freemasonry? Or would we think it compatible with the duties of a Catholic priest for him to give in open court things which had been told him in the confessional? Sacredness and secretness do go together, and for this reason the Aboriginals concerned would have been very reluctant to make public in court the things which were of most concern to them and which were most vital for this particular thing.
I have been in touch with the State authorities. As the honourable member has said, the matter is one for them. Since this House has passed no laws in this regard I would have no specific authority in relation to it. 1 can only say that I would hope that the State authorities would find some way compatible with their own State laws of rectifying a situation which I think should not have been allowed to arise. If this is not so, then 1 would hope that the applicant concerned would find it in his heart to withdraw his application. If this were done, then of course some compensation should be found for him for any monetary outgoing which he has expended up to date in relation to it. As I have said, this is a matter of State and moral concern. I do not have any authority in the matter but I do express a very distinct view of what is the right thing to be done.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. Has the General Dynamics Corporation of America asked that components of the Fill aircraft be made in Australia? Did senior officers of the company visit Australia to discuss such a deal? If so, was an agreement reached for the making of Fill parts in Australia?
– Pursuant to discussions which had been carried on with the United States of America through the Department of Defence, and with individual contractors over quite a period, General Dynamics did send a delegation to Australia quite recently seeking some contracting capacity for certain parts of the Fill aircraft. This matter, as I think the honourable gentleman will understand, is one of having quotations in terms of price, time, quality and so on, and on that basis a contract may or may not be awarded. The date for consideration of the contract, as I understand it, will be about the end of the month. We have no further information available than that. I might also mention, however, that these wing tanks are at the present moment being made in America by
General Dynamics themselves, and it is in pursuit of the Government’s desire that there should be an increase in subcontracting to Australia that the company has in fact opened this particular tender for Australian consideration. The honourable gentleman will also be pleased to know that there are at the present moment in Australia, I think, two other organisations - there is certainly one major organisation - also seeking sub-contracting capacity in Australia. This, I think, is some evidence of the matters referred to by the honourable gentleman in the debate yesterday.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the $25m farm reconstruction scheme that was offered by the Commonwealth to the States over 12 months ago. Can the Minister inform the House, and the many low income dairy farmers who are anxiously awaiting implementation of this scheme, as to what progress has been made towards acceptance by the States of this practical and generous offer from the Commonwealth?
– Some time ago I mentioned to this House that the Prime Minister had written a letter to the Premiers laying down the conditions of the Commonwealth’s proposals. Since then the Premier of New South Wales, speaking on behalf of the other Premiers, has written a letter back to the Prime Minister setting out what the States think the terms and conditions should be. So I feel I am not at liberty to reveal them at the moment as it is correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premiers.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of the threat to Australian wheat export sales posed by current Canadian sales to major consuming nations on 3 years terms of payment and its willingness to further extend such a period? What protective action does he contemplate? Will he discuss this matter with the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau, on his pending visit and on what basis would such discussions take place?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry will answer this question.
– It is a fact that Canada effects sales of wheat in substantial quantities on terms that we have not matched in some circumstances. The terms of sale to China are, I think, similar to the Australian terms. I think that the terms given to some of the European Communist countries are more liberal than our terms.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. On Tuesday last I asked the Minister to clarify to this House the likely effect of the Tariff Board’s declared policy towards new industries requiring protection in the 50% area. As that reply was quite inconclusive, I now ask: Taking into account the fact that new ventures are required to be in commercial production before the Minister’s Department will approve a reference to the Tariff Board, does the Minister foresee that the Tariff Board’s announced policy of being unlikely to recommend protection for new ventures or extensions of existing production that may require more than 50% effective rate of protection will effectively prevent any such investment in the first place, so that the Government will not be called on-
-The honourable member should ask his question. It is becoming long and involved. I ask the honourable member to ask his question.
– Can I repeat that last sentence?
– No. I ask the honourable gentleman to ask his question or resume his seat.
– May I repeat the last sentence in order to make my question quite clear?
-Order! Provided the question is in the correct and proper form in relation to Standing Orders, the honourable member may do so. Otherwise he may resume his seat.
– Thank you. Will this result in a position where the Government will not be called on to make what he and the Prime Minister have said is its own decision meaning that new investment wil) have been choked off by a policy decision of the Tariff Board and not of the Government?
– Under the charter to which the Tariff Board operates it is regarded as within its province to make such decisions as it has intimated. I do not think the intimation is in an absolute form. On the other hand, as I have said and as the Prime Minister has said, the Government is in charge ultimately of tariff making and protection of industry. Let us suppose any significant industry was contemplating establishment in Australia and it was really in doubt as to whether it could undertake the investment in the light of the Government’s normal policy not to . accord a tariff until an industry is established. That is a policy, but not an absolute policy. The Government has left itself sufficient flexibility to . accord in particular circumstances a tariff before the establishment of an industry. This is what we call an anticipatory tariff. I think that in all those circumstances, the best course would be for the industry to approach the Government through the Minister for Trade and Industry and submit its intentions and express its doubts as to whether the investment was justified in the light of the Tariff Board’s announcement. If this were done I, or whoever was the Minister for Trade and Industry at the time, would, I am sure, take the matter up, consider it and if necessary bring the matter before Cabinet where a- decision would be made.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. The honourable gentleman willi be aware that the national status of persons born in Papua is defined by the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-66, that is, they are Australian citizens and British subjects. What will be the position when independence has been obtained? Will the citizens of Papua be allowed to retain Australian citizenship should they so desire, considering that they have already held Australian citizenship for over 60 years?
– As the honourable member for Batman says, Papuans are Australian citizens and British subjects. They are Australian citizens because the Act provides that persons born in Australia are Australian citizens and Australia is defined to include territories other than trust territories. Persons born in trust territories are Australian protected persons and are on a slightly different footing. If these territories become independent, they will, of course, become separate countries and persons born in them will become citizens of those independent countries owing allegiance to the Government of those countries. That is what happened when Nauru obtained its independence. Persons bom there are citizens of Nauru, which is an independent national unit. It would be possible to make special arrangements for such persons to have Australian travel privileges or something of the sort, provided they were desired and sought and the Government of Australia at the time was prepared to grant them.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is he aware that complaints are being made by many householders in my electorate and indeed throughout the metropolis of Melbourne that officers of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, both male and female, are using threats and, I am informed, adopting a very arrogant manner in soliciting information from householders for the purpose of statistics? Will he act to stop this practice and will he consider placing an advertisement in the daily Press stating why these investigations are necessary, the suburbs that the officers will be scrutinising and the day on which the interviews will take place? Does he not agree that action of this kind would remove the hostility and suspicion that at present prevails?
– I have grave doubts as to whether people chosen, by the Commonwealth Statistician would use threats and intimidation to obtain the information that must be obtained under the provisions-
– 1 can show it to the Minister in black and white.
– Then the honourable member, instead of generalising, should write to me and give me the opportunity of investigating each complaint. Nonetheless, if he would please give me some details I will refer them to the Statistician and my own Department. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I will have inquiries made as to the desirability of more publicity being given by the Treasury and the Statistician with the object of informing people why it is essential that census statistics be collected. I would have thought it was self-evident. I will also have a look at the desirability of publishing advertisements setting out when members of the branch involved in taking the census are to be in various localities, especially the locality represented by the honourable gentleman.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. I refer him to a statement made by him on 8th December 1968, headed Issue of Special 50c Coin to Commemorate Captain Cook’s Voyage to Australia’. In view of the historical significance of the bicentenary of such a notable feat will he consider the advisability and feasibility of the Government having 1 million $10 gold coins struck to be issued prior to and during the celebrations? Is he aware of the publicity value that such a coin would attract, especially overseas?
– From memory I think that the Treasury or Mint officials considered the desirability of issuing a special gold medallion. The honourable gentleman mentioned a figure of one million. That proposal was immediately dismissed because we felt that only members of the wealthier section of the community would be able to purchase the medallions. The whole intention behind striking a special 12-sided coin to commemorate the landing of Captain Cook in Botany Bay was to permit all members of the community, no matter how wealthy or in what particular income bracket they were, to obtain the coins and to keep them for themselves and their children. 1 will have another look at this matter, but I am fairly certain that that was the main reason given by the Department for not issuing a special medallion. There was a second reason: If we were to have a gold content in the coin, unless we were to put a special alloy in it, it would need to be a very small coin and would therefore serve no useful purpose. Nonetheless I will have a second look at the recommendations made by the honourable gentleman and as soon as I can I will let him know the firm view of the Department.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that an agreement with France relating to the taxation of airline profits was signed in Canberra this morning. Copies of the agreement are being made available to honourable members. Unlike the comprehensive double taxation agreement with Japan which the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced to the House last week, this agreement deals only with the matter of international airline profits. The taxation treatment of these profits is normally one of the things covered by a comprehensive double taxation agreement. In this sense, the present agreement is what I may describe as a limited double taxation agreement.
The agreement with France will provide for the reciprocal exemption in the country of source of income from the operation of aircraft in international traffic. A clause to this general effect is in all Australia’s comprehensive double taxation agreements. Under the agreement with France, Qantas Airways will be exempted from French income taxes on its profits from international traffic while the French airline, UTA, will be correspondingly exempted from Australian tax. The agreement will not enter into force until each country has taken the steps necessary to give it the force of law in its territory. Legislation to give the agreement the force of law in Australia will be brought before the House as soon as practicable.
– by leave - A vital part of our progress in national growth is to make the best use of the resources available to us. Of all the resources available to any country the most valuable, the most important, is people. The growing numbers of young Australians, in which term I include all those children of settlers of whatever national origin, now graduating from our schools and universities are already showing that they can more than hold their own in the highly competitive world climate of modern business, technology and professional endeavour.
Of our rapid population growth only half comes from natural increase; the other half comes from immigration. To achieve a balance within our total population growth we must attract a cross-section of occupational skills amongst migrants. It would be unrealistic to seek as migrants only those, with manual skills and tq expect our own training establishments to provide all the professionally qualified people we will need.
As our primary production becomes more scientific, as our industrial base broadens and as our manufacturing processes become more highly developed the demand for people with specialised knowledge and training, scientific and executive skills will accelerate. As our community grows we will need more professionally qualified people to attend to our health, to teach In our schools and universities and to maintain our standards as an advanced community. This demand must, be satisfied in the national interest. The vastness of our natural wealth, the pace of our development, while still retaining economic and political stability and the tenor of our way of life are attracting the attention throughout the world of people with vigour, initiative and ability. If we are to take advantage of the opportunity of incorporating them into our community we must make it possible for those whose qualifications measure up to our standards to practise their professions in this country.
It is true that among the 2 million settlers who have come here since the war there have been many whose professional qualifications have been recognised. They are making an important contribution to Australia. Others, however, for reasons not related to their personal competence have been unable to practise their professions. We have regarded their qualifications with hesitation or indifference. For others who have not yet come here but would like to do so there are obstacles so difficult to negotiate that they are tantamount to prohibition. It is in our interest that this potential be opened up.
There is throughout the Australian community a growing realisation of a serious problem in the recognition of overseas pro.fessional qualifications that must be tackled unemotionally and with the welfare of Australia as the main consideration. This is not a matter of dispute between professional people and others. That a problem exists is just as clearly recognised within the professions as it is outside them. All those who have been close to the question find common ground in their desire to see it examined outside the influence of politics or sectional interests. They wish to see the preservation of Australian standards but they also wish to avoid wasteful failure to recognise qualifications equal to our own.
Analysis of the problem ted to the conclusion that one of the main obstacles to be overcome was the absence of authentic information on which the authorities responsible for recognition could base their judgments. With such important issues at stake as the health and safety of our community and the standards of professional performance generally, the responsible authorities have proceeded with understandable caution. The doubts - and the rejections - have been many because there has not been a readily accessible source of authentic information about the comparability of overseas .qualifications to our own Australian standards or to those of British countries with which we are familiar.
After studying and discussing the problem over a period of twelve months State Ministers for Immigration and I agreed on 12th February to establish a committee of eminent mcn charged with the responsibility of examining qualifications obtained in overseas countries and comparing them with Australian standards. This committee will not have executive functions but will act as an authoritative source of information for those with whom the power of decision will continue. The committee will not decide individual cases of professional men and women. It will direct and supervise the collection of information using methods it deems appropriate, through existing departments and authorities, through professional panels or otherwise in its own judgment. It will work closely with existing registration authorities. A cardinal feature of its operation will be its concern to maintain professional standards in Australia. At the same time it is hoped that through its work peopl’e whom we need will be given the opportunity to use their professional knowledge and skill to Australia’s advantage.
The committee’s task will be long and complex, but it will be of great importance. The ultimate result may be that a person wishing to come to Australia to practise his profession will be able to know before leaving his present home and position that upon arrival here he will be able to continue in his profession. Without this knowledge he will find little incentive to make the major decision to migrate. The committee’s terms of reference will be:
It was agreed by all States that the committee should comprise people whose personal standing and ability command universal respect. I am now happy to announce that the members of the committee will be Dr D. M. Myers, Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University, who will be the chairman; Mr G. W. E. Barraclough, Chairman of Unilever Australia Pty Ltd; Professor E. G. Saint, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland; and Mr D. R. Zeidler, Executive Director of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. They will all be well known to honourable members as men who by their personal ability have reached outstanding positions and are making a distinctive contribution in their various fields of activity. Among them they cover a wide range of knowledge and competence and they have the capacity to make judgments on information that will be furnished to them by the experts who will assist them in their work.
I believe that the joint action that has been taken by the Commonwealth and the States to establish this committee is a most important step forward. It will clear the way for Australia to attract people with ability and professional competence in a world increasingly competitive for human skills. I present the following paper:
Establishment of Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications - Ministerial Statement, 27 March 1969.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the ‘House take note of the paper.
– I want to protest about the failure of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) to have this statement included on the blue sheet which sets out the daily programme of business. I had notice of the statement before the Parliament assembled today and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) was supplied with a copy of it. I had read it through before prayers were finished. It seems to me to be a cavalier way in which to treat the Parliament as a whole. As I look around the House I see that we have only ten honourable members, including the new Leader of the House, present on the Government side.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honourable member has leave to make a statement.
– No. He does not need to have leave.
– As I was saying, there are only ten members of the Liberal Party present.
– There are six members of the Opposition.
– Yes. I am obliged to the honourable member for that comment.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Hindmarsh is getting a little away from the content of the statement.
– I doubt that, Mr Speaker. I think it is very relevant. An important ministerial statement has been read to the House, but only four members of the Australian Country Party, ten members of the Liberal Party and, I think someone said, only six members of the Labor Party are present.
– There are only two members of the Country Party present.
– Yes, there - are only two members of the Country Party present. This important statement, which should have attracted the attention of every honourable, member in this Parliament, has been read without honourable members, knowing anything about it. I am certain that if honourable members had known that the. statement was to have been read this House would have been, fairly well filled.
– It is open for debate.
-HOW can honourable members outside the chamber take part in a debate on a subject about which they have no notice? This. shows the validity of what I am saying.
– I rise to a point of order. What has been stated by the honourable member for Hindmarsh should not have been stated by him because he is very seldom in the chamber.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– You were not in the chamber when he exposed this.
– How- often are you in the chamber anyway?
-Order! .1 suggest that the honourable member for Mallee should cease interjecting.
– I think that the people of Mallee should know that the honourable member for Mallee only this minute walked into the - chamber himself and no doubt in a few seconds time, as is his usual custom, he will walk out again.
-Order! I draw the attention of the honourable member for Hindmarsh to the fact that this is not relevant to the statement before the House.
– Do not you think so?
– No, and I will not have my rulings handled frivolously.
– All right. I will not handle your rulings frivolously, Mr Speaker. I will resume my seat in the hope that later we will have an explanation for this disregard of the rights of honourable members.
– With the leave of the House, so that by speaking now I will not under the standing orders dispose of my right to speak later, I inform the honourable member for Hindmarsh that the failure to include on the blue sheet notification that this statement would be made was entirely my error. I mentioned this to the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) yesterday and I told him that I would ask my private secretary to contact his liaison officer, who ls responsible for having the blue sheet drawn up, but I forgot to ask my private secretary to do it. The blue sheet was actually printed before I spoke to my private secretary and therefore it was not possible to have the matter included on the blue sheet. The error was mine.
– Whilst I congratulate the Government on taking the step which it has taken, this is certainly something that is long overdue. This is a step that should have been taken many years ago. It ls a major problem, and it has been so for a considerable time. In fact, it has been a problem ever since we have had an immigration programme. The Government has delayed dealing with this matter for a long time even though Opposition members continually pressed for some clarification. All I regret is that the proposed committee does not include some representative from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Whilst I realise the type of credentials that the Government is investigating, and that it is trying to rationalise overseas standards with Australian standards, I think that there should have been someone from the ACTU or from the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations to ensure that people coming from overseas will ultimately become members of appropriate organisations. The Government should ensure that the standards which the committee will recognise are likely to be acceptable to those bodies. Whilst this Committee will deal with the acceptance of academic standards, there is a great need to have the trade union movement reconcile trade standards.
– They operate quite separately.
– I know that they operate quite separately. The men on this committee would not be expected to determine the trade standard of people who come here, but as one who for years was very active in an Australian craft union I know the problems. We had to face up to them time and time again. We had cases in which our union refused to accept certificates that were issued by recognised trade committees; we were not satisfied with the qualifications of the individuals concerned. Some migrants who come out here complain that they cannot join unions which recognise trade standards comparable to those recognised in the country of their origin. This is a major problem at the level of trade recognition, because the majority of people who come out here are at a tradesman level. The level the Government proposes to deal with represents only a very small minority of the migrants. I repeat that men at the tradesman level, and probably even those at a higher certificate level, have the problem of becoming members of a union or association of which they should be members if they are to follow in Australia the occupations which they were accustomed to following in their own country.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fox) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 15th April, at 2.30 p.m.
Army Land Holdings- The ParliamentRepatriation - Drugs; - Drought in Queensland - Radio Telephone Services - Postal Services - Power and Water Conservation Projects - Government In Australia - Referendum on Prices Control - Public Service - Commonwealth, State and Local Govern* ment Responsibilities - DecentralisationCommunist China.
That grievances be noted.
– As this is the grievance debate, I would like to express my objections to the actions of the top brass of the Department of the Army in their handling of various areas of Crown land which happen to be under the jurisdiction of that Department. I refer especially to a large area of that type in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith. I refer again to the Long Bay rifle range. I first of all point out the queer mentality of the Army brass hats who have from time to time over the last 20 years of my stewardship as the Federal member covering that area of Crown land insisted in their replies to my request to have this land thrown open for home building that it was necessary to retain the range for rifle practice for the Army and other public bodies such as rifle clubs.
In the long distant- past, in the days of the horse buses, before the advent even of steam trams, the Army brass hats acquired this land at a nominal cost. At that time, in their minds, this land at Long Bay was way out in the country and was just the place for a rifle range. It was an area of approximately 400 acres and was just what they wanted. It was all right for that purpose then. However, we have progressed quite well since then. I do not know whether the Army brass hats have awakened to the fact that this country has progressed and that Sydney, the queen city of the south, has progressed to a great degree. I think that this should be obvious even to the Army brass hats at Victoria Barracks. We have come through the age of steam trams, electric trams and buses, and we are now in the time of diesel buses. We have even entered the nuclear age, but still the brass hats at Victoria Barracks are thinking in terms of rifles. They are still stumbling along through the horse and buggy days and, in the meantime, Australia has become more densely populated, especially in the areas I have mention. The population is growing every day. This is most noticeable in my electorate of Kingsford-Smith. Home building blocks are becoming scarcer every day and I think that some consideration should be given to this problem. It will become more grave in the very near future as the demand for homes becomes fiercer, especially in districts near to industrial centres where there is a continual demand for labour.
This brings me to the point of urging the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) to vacate once and for all the Long Bay rifle range and hand it over to local bodies or the State of New South Wales for subdivision into building blocks to be balloted for by men who fought for Australia both in World War II, and in the Korean war and also -by the conscripted youths of our present Army who are fighting for the same cause in Vietnam. I must add to that large body the members of the general public in my electorate. This suggestion must appeal to the Minister for the Army and also to that great Australian nationalist, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who is always pointing out in the daily Press how anxious he is to improve the image of Australia. Of course, he should have no trouble in getting solid support from his followers on the back benches. The indications were there in the last week or so of the very solid support given to the Prime Minister in other matters. The Prime Minister should not forget our young national servicemen in Vietnam. When the time comes for their return, they will be of marriageable age and will be most anxious to procure building blocks through ballots. The rifle range at Long Bay has an area of 400 acres. Each acre should provide three building blocks. This would be a great gesture to our boys who, after all, have fought for this privilege. This is a chance for the Liberal-Country Party Government to show its practical patriotism. The 400 acres, with three home building blocks to the acre, would provide 1,200 home blocks. This means mat 1,200 of our servicemen or ex-servicemen could be lucky in a ballot to procure a block of land on which to build a home. I would suggest to our patriots on the opposite side of the House that they get right behind my suggestion.
– Is the honourable member not supported by his own Party?
– My Party is already behind my suggestion. The honourable member who has just interjected should show his practical patriotism and get up and say that he supports the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith in his very humble suggestion. These 1,200 building blocks would be available for the boys when they came home. I hate to see this land lying vacant. 1 live close by and 1 can assure the Minister that there has never been any activity oh this rifle range despite the protestations of the Army heads who cannot get their thinking past the old horse and buggy days. I have a suspicion that there may be little convivial gatherings there at different times. Although I am a teetotaller myself 1 have no objection to people attending a convivial gathering, but let them go somewhere other than the rifle range and leave the rifle range vacant for building purposes.
– Does the honourable member think that they might get shot?
– I do not mind who gets shot, as long as they do not get shot with rifles. Anyhow, I do not think the rifles that the Army brass hats are thinking about are capable of doing damage to anyone. But it is odd to know in 1.969 that our Army brass hats, our military leaders, are still thinking in terms of rifles. Save us from our friends. May I suggest that if the troops about to leave for distant lands or to take part in the highly mechanised war in Vietnam require some rifle practice they get a rifle range somewhere near the camp at Liverpool. An Army camp is located at Liverpool, and the Army brings men 40 miles each way from time to time to have a bit of rifle practice at the Long Bay range. That is good organisation, to say the least! I believe that something should be done about this matter. Our lads coming home from the war in Vietnam are of a marriageable age. There is no hope of their ever acquiring a home of their own simply because this vast area of land lies vacant year after year. I think that it should be thrown open for ballot to give these boys the opportunity they long for. This is their opportunity to build homes for their families to be.
– The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House and, through radio and other means, the attention of the Australian people to the deliberate campaign of smear which has been directed against the Prime Minister (Mr
Gorton) almost since he assumed office. The purpose was to discredit him and to bring down this Government by destroying its leader. Having regard to the events of the last 2 weeks, 1 think that it is high time that we had a look at those who have been dredging away behind the scenes rather than concern ourselves with the behaviour of the fall guys or pigeons who have spread the word. I hope that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) who has just resumed his seat will listen to this important statement. These tactics would have been used no matter who became the Prime Minister to succeed the late Mr Holt and, in fact, this campaign of smear and innuendo was being used against him.
The campaign against the Prime Minister commenced on 10th July last with paid antiGorton advertisements in various daily newspapers authorised by a faceless and nameles group called the ‘Business Men for Democratic Government’. On the next day, the radio station 2GB in Sydney recorded an interview with a Mr Francis James who said that he supported the views of the wealthy businessmen running the advertisements and that he had agreed to sub-edit and to put out on their behalf a Press release. I have here a transcript of that interview. This gentlemen said, among other things, that we should ‘get Gorton out’ and that the group would work ‘quietly through Party channels’ as well as ‘by word of mouth’ to use his words.
– Is this the same Francis James who claimed that there was a security report about him?
– Yes. I have a little more to say about him in a moment. These are all his own words, not mine. He went on to say in this interview that ‘one man there represented a pretty large transport group’ and that although he was not free to mention names he did say that Mr St John was being considered by some of this group as a possibility for the Prime Ministership. Referring to the Prime Ministership he said that ‘nobody could do worse than Mr Holt - only Mr Gorton’.
On the same day, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ ran a story headed: Tracking Down the Kingmakers’. But the only one unearthed was a Mr Sayers who said that he was a member of the group and that Mr Francis James was a spokesman. Then, 2 weeks later, the President of the Liberal Parties in New South Wales and Victoria drew attention to the activities of two other anti-Government groups - the Australian Reform Movement and the Basic Industries Group - and described them as ‘conspiratorial*. The President of the Australian Reform Movement, which formerly was known as the Liberal Reform, is Mr Gordon barton, who is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of IPEC, a very large transport company and a bitter opponent of the Government over its two airline policy. In the last general election, his group ran candidates against Government members and Mr Francis James was its candidate for the seat of Lowe. This group seems to be able to spend large sums of money in a variety Of ways as evidenced by the distribution throughout Australia of thousands of free copies of this particular phoney publication, which all honourable members have seen, called ‘Ramparts’, which is normally 50c a copy. That this publication is a phoney has been confirmed in a report in the Adelaide Advertiser’ early in March by the President of the University of Adelaide Labor Club, Mr R. Anderson.
The Liberal Reformists are opposed to Australia’s involvement in South East Asia and therefore are strongly anti-Government. There is also evidence in the records of this Parliament of the efforts by Mr Francis James to raise money to send not only medical supplies but also arms to North Vietnam. An anti-Vietnam letter published in the ‘Advertiser’ on 15th October 1968 ls typical of the kind of company its members keep. The signatories included Gordon Barton of IPEC, Ken Thomas, presumably of TNT, Harold Levien, Professor Fitzgerald, Professor Duncan and various other sponsors active in ACICD, which, as honourable members know, is the Communist infiltrated peace group responsible for the demonstration only last Tuesday, carried even into the chamber of the Senate. Mr Francis James is also the editorial director of a phoney church trust which was formed for the sole purpose of giving respectability to his phoney church journal known as the ‘Anglican’.
On Thursday, 19th December last, the Anglican’ ran an editorial headed: ‘Scandal in High Places’. It said:
There is good reason to expect that the first frank and full catalogue of the facts at which are compelled merely to hint may appear before very long in the overseas Press.
We have all seen the references in the overseas Press to the ‘Get Gorton Committee’ and so on, and the pattern of smear becomes patently obvious. This phoney church journal run by Australia’s No. 1 con man has already destroyed by smear and innuendo one of the greatest leaders ever ordained in the Anglican Church and has now been used as a vehicle to attempt to destroy a man holding the highest elected office in the country.
In my view, the final damning piece of evidence of its connection and its activities which should be revealed at this time and in this place is the identity of its printers. The ‘Anglican’ is printed by Quality Press Pty Ltd, which is a company owned and operated by the Communist Party of Australia. This company was incorporated in New South Wales on 29th July 1964, and the relevant documents were lodged by R. Mortimer of 168 Day Street, Sydney. The Sydney telephone directory lists this address as ‘Communist Party Headquarters’. R. A. Mortimer is a member of the National Executive of the Communist Party, and one of the directors of Quality Press ls Mr Harry Stein who is the Communist member of the Press Gallery in Canberra or who, at least, was. Members of this House and all Australians listening should recognise the technique which has been used to attempt to destroy the Prime Minister. My only regret is that one of my own colleagues was gullible and stupid enough not to recognise lt.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I would not have come in on this matter or after this speaker if it had not been for the references that he made to Mr Francis James. A week ago, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) demeaned himself sufficiently to attack Mr James under privilege. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has repeated this attack and has gone into greater detail evidently to try to justify what the Prime Minister did. I do not know whether what he says about the church newspaper concerned is true. It would come as some surprise to me if it were true. My impression is that the Bishop of Adelaide is one of the parsons who is responsible for this paper. However, the paper can speak for itself. If it does, it will not do so under privilege. The honourable member who represents the interests of the extreme right and who makes attacks on persons under privilege - he has made very few contributions in the House but most of these come in the categories that I have described - can say these things under privilege about it. But the newspaper can answer these charges for itself.
Mr Francis James cannot. Whatever one may think of Mr James, he is in fact a very skilful and effective writer indeed. If he was in this country there is no doubt that he would have spoken and written on his behalf and, as with everything he speaks and writes, it would not be under privilege. But since the honourable gentleman has taken up where the Prime Minister left off perhaps I should put it on record that Mr James is not in Australia at the moment - and for very good reasons.
– He is in North Vietnam, is. he not?
- Mr James is not in North Vietnam. Mr James may be in other countries in South East Asia. He is out of this country on his way to Britain at the expense of the British Government. He is going to Britain to have medical treatment which is not available in Australia.
– Did you say mental or medical?
– I said medical. Mr James is out of Australia. He is on his way to Britain. He is going at the expense of the British Government to receive medical treatment at the expense of the British Government. The treatment arises from war disabilities suffered while serving with the Royal Air Force. The British Government acknowledges its responsibility for this condition. It is a condition from which he has suffered for over a quarter of a century and which cannot be cured in this country at the expense of the British Government or any other government or any citizen. He is out of this country because of his war service. When he comes back he will be able effectively to answer the contemptible things said about him in this place by the honourable member and by the Prime Minister. I would hope that other honourable members would stay their hands until he is in a position to speak and write on his own behalf. One may or may not agree with him, but his skill-
– Why do they not meet him on common ground?
– It would be completely out of character for the previous speaker to do so.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, do I have to tolerate that sort of attack? He says it would be out of character for me to meet Mr James on common ground. I would like to put my war service alongside that of the Leader of the Opposition, if we are going to talk about war service.
– It is not the honourable member’s war service, it is his conscience.
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) that no assistance is given to the House by interjections that are being made or replies to those interjections by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and 1 would suggest that the House would come to order and debate this grievance day in an orderly manner.’
-I merely intervened in this grievance debate today to express the wish that honourable gentlemen would at least have the decency to defer any remarks they have to make about Mr James until he returns from Britain where he is undergoing treatment for. his war disabilities. J might express the hope further that what they say about Mr James might be said in the same media as he has to use, that is,those which are not under privilege.
– My purpose in rising in this grievance debate today is to make a plea on behalf of a small section of the totally and permanently incapacitated returned servicemen, that section which is qualified for recreation transport allowance. As some honourable members would recall this allowance was initiated in 1927 The recreation transport allowance in those days was £10 per month for those returned servicemen who qualified, and since that time no changes have been made in this transport allowance. In the Budget debate in 1927 the then Minister for Repatriation said that the Government would provide suitable transport at a cost up to £10 per month for recreation purposes, the obvious reason being that these special TPI servicemen did not have certain faculties possessed by ordinary people, and the recreation transport allowance was initiated to make sure that they lived out their lives in reason and in comfort. I believe that the Minister of that day was reasonable. I believe that the allowance was an excellent one for 1927, hut since 1927 - that is 42 years ago - despite requests by honourable members on this side of the House and, no doubt, on the opposite side of the House, successive Ministers have not seen their way clear at Budget time, or at any other time, to increase this recreation transport allowance. Under pressure at times Ministers nave admitted that costs have increased, and I would say that costs have increased possibly twofold or threefold since 1927.
But even under this pressure by honourable members, and even though the present Minister has admitted that costs have increased, he still! has not made sufficient impact on Cabinet at Budget time to have this transport allowance increased. My researches indicate that some 21,278 returned servicemen are TPI pensioners but only 2,713 of these TPI men qualify for this special $20 a month transport allowance. I wrote to the Minister in 1966 regarding this matter and his reply dated 9th September said in part:
The rate of the recreation transport allowance will be carefully considered when repatriation benefits are being reviewed at Budget time.
But nothing happened. In the next Budget there was no increase in this transport allowance and nothing has happened for 42 years so far as this small consideration is concerned for this real need for a section of our returned servicemen. I know that the executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League has also approached the Minister on many occasions, and the Minister in January 1969 raised the shutter so far as this transport allowance is concerned and said that the Government could not see its way clear to make any change In this allowance in this year’s Budget. Of course, the executive of the RSL would know, as we would all know, that nothing happened in the Budget last time and nothing has happened for 42 years so far as this transport allowance is concerned. I think that the national executive of the RSL, and I in particular, would like to know why changes have not been made during this time.
Another calculation I have made centres around the possibility that the transport allowance may be increased, say, by $10 per month for each pensioner. The approximate cost would be only $350,000. If the increase per month was only $5 for this recreation transport allowance the cost to this great nation of ours would be only $175,000. I say that the figure is small, very small, compared to all the allowances that have been increased and will be increased in future budgets, and I say that the Minister must put up a better case in future to ensure that this small assistance to certain totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen is increased. In fact, the Minister admitted in his letter dated 31st January this year to the RSL that costs have increased. He said in his letter:
You may be Interested to know that my Department did, in 1962 and again this year, conduct a review of the amount of this allowance on the basis of passible changes in transport costs over the years. The more recent review, which was based primarily on taxi fare movements over the year* - this being the type of transport likely to be used by those eligible for recreational transport allowances - does indicate some general increase in costs, although it ls by no means a substantial increase.
I should like to advise the Minister, and all members of Cabinet, for that matter, that costs have doubled and indeed trebled since 1927. There has been a substantial increase in costs since then, and these men who qualify should be given the advantage of some increase in allowance. I do not know what the Minister means when he speaks of a general increase in costs. On every occasion on which he has been approached on these matters the Minister has said that they have been considered at Budget time or will be considered when the next Budget is being framed. We, and I am sure also the national headquarters of the RSL, would like to know what form this consideration has taken and why the answer has always been in the negative. The Minister admits, as we all do, that costs have increased over the last 42 years.
Something could and must be done for these returned servicemen. I should like to know how, when they have had this proposition put up to them, the members of Cabinet have come to decide that it should be rejected. Despite the fact that costs have increased over the years no increase has been awarded to these TPI servicemen. I do plead today with the members of the Cabinet to give serious consideration to this matter either at or before Budget time. There has been no change in the allowance since 1927. Why?
– A few Weeks ago a constituent of mine who had formerly lived on the north shore of Sydney got in touch with me and told me a rather moving story. In response I told her that as a member of the Federal Parliament I was very limited in what I could do, but she asked me to give the case in question the widest possible publicity. It appears that, while living on the north shore, her son was attending the high school in that area. While there he became addicted to drugs. Drugs were available to him at the high school and he had been taking them over a period of 12 months. They were being sold to him by another member of the school. At the end of that period the boy was well and truly addicted.
– Was he a pupil of the school?
– He was a pupil of the school. At the end of 12 months he was well and truly hooked, if I may use that term. In desperation he sought admission to a psychiatric centre in New South Wales for treatment in the hope that he would be cured of this complaint. While he was receiving treatment in this institution an attendant there was making it possible for those who were supposed to be getting treatment there to continue to have access to drugs. In desperation this boy ran away from the institution. This woman told me that her son’s case was not the only one of its kind. She. tells me that this type of thing is happening in New South Wales on such a scale that the public woul’d be staggered if the truth were made known.
The case to which I refer was brought before the notice of the New South Wales Drug Squad. This woman had notified the police about the matter. She also spoke to the principal of the high school on the north shore who promised her that he would get in touch with her. This was about 6 months ago, and so far he has failed to get in touch with her.
About 18 months ago I brought before the notice of the House the question of drug addiction in this country. I repeat now what I said then. Drug addiction is growing in Australia. It is far more rampant here than most people are prepared to admit. At that time the Minister concerned denied that this was so, but recently he has admitted to some extent that what 1 said was true in that he has set . up. a committee that will more or Less co-operate with the States in investigating this problem. I am not talking now about what is happening in America or what we read about what is happening in America; I am talking about what is happening in our own country. Drugs are being sold at our high schools and pupils from these schools are now seeking treatment in institutions.
Both Federal and State authorities should be making a determined effort to put down this traffic in an attempt to minimise the effect it is having, but the New South Wales Government has a strange reluctance to facing up to allegations made in connection with it. I feel that this attempt to push the problem on one side, to keep it out of the glare of public concern, is not helping to overcome the problem. In fact the menace is growing greater and greater. I think that the Commonwealth could do much more than it is doing. It should seek greater. co-operation from the States in putting down this traffic. There should be greater activity on the Commonwealth’s part through its customs officers; I do feel that the customs authorities could do far more today than they have been doing in the past. If a determined effort is not made to curb this growing drug traffic we in this country will pay the price other countries are paying for their failure to face up to the problem earlier.
Irrespective of what anybody else says, there is evidence that there are strong drug rings operating in this country. We do not have to rely only on what is happening in our own country for evidence of this menace. Those of us who read the newspapers will know that within the last 6 or 9 months at any rate an increasing number of Australians are being arrested overseas, particularly in America and in London, for their alleged connection with the drug traffic. I think it was about 9 months ago that a ring in which three or four former members of the New South Wales Police Force were active members was arrested in New York. Those former police officers are now standing trial for their alleged activities with that ring. A few weeks ago we read that another Australian, a woman, was arrested in London. I submit that it is dangerous for members of Parliament, whether they be members of the Commonwealth Parliament or a State Parliament, and irrespective of the Party to which they belong, to close their eyes to this growing menace. I submit that an examination of what is happening in Sydney will prove beyond any doubt that drug taking, with its consequent effects upon the families of addicts, is far more widespread than many people are prepared to acknowledge. Because of what has happened to one member of her family the woman to whom I have referred has asked me to do whatever 1 can to give the matter prominent publicity in the hope that the authorities, both Federal and State, will take a greater interest in this problem than they have done to date, that they will display greater activity in trying to combat the menace in this country and that they will realise that just sweeping problems under the carpet is not solving them.
– I wish to draw attention to the drought position in Queensland. The position in drought affected parts of that State is deteriorating rapidly. As honourable members know, the condition of stock deteriorates seriously and quickly once fodder disappears, as it has done in the drought stricken areas to which I refer. I know that the Commonwealth Government is aware of the position because the Queensland Government has made representations to it for assistance. I appreciate what the Commonwealth Government has done already in providing assistance on a $1 for Si basis, but I feel that this will not be enough to overcome the problem. I understand that the Commonwealth Government has also indicated that it will consider making grants available to the State if representations are made to it after 30th June. I appreciate this, and I am sure the people of Queensland also appreciate it. But 1 want to emphasise that I believe if this drought continues until then, the assistance given will be too late in many cases. So I rise to urge the Government to give favourable consideration to the representations that could be made by the Queensland Government to make grants available before the end of June. I realise that it is necessary for the Queensland Government to take the initiative in this case. But having looked at some of the problems in my own area, as has my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who has made a special visit into parts of the drought stricken areas in his electorate and who assures me that the position is very serious - even critical - and is growing worse day by day, as it is in my area, I urge the Government to give favourable consideration to representations, if they are made, for a review of the position before 30th June. In my opinion the 30th June is much too late for assistance to be given should the Queensland Government make representations proving it does not have the finance available.
I believe it will be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to provide grants and the essential assistance that Queensland will need. We know that people living on the land have to make provision against drought but this has been one of the most serious periods of drought that people in the area have ever experienced. The price of sheep has been so low that it has been difficult for farmers to set aside the reserves of funds for drought purposes sufficient to enable them to make anything like adequate provision. Tt has been suggested that cattle in many of the drought areas today should be moved south. I point out that tick restrictions will prevent the effective use of southern areas because the stock are in such a condition that they will not withstand the handling necessary to make them comply with New South Wales tick regulations.
I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) will be visiting Queensland at the weekend. I express my very deep appreciation to him for making himself available on a Sunday - next Sunday evening - and on Monday morning to people in my electorate. This visit will enable the Minister, and through him I hope the Federal Government, to be directly informed of the desperate position in which many people in the drought affected areas find themselves now. Of course, he will not be able to make visits to all areas, but he will be able to get an indication of the seriousness of the position. As I say, I believe he is to be commended very warmly for his willingness to come out on a Sunday. I understand that the Minister will arrive at 10 p.m. in time to enable him to get to my area. This is something that we deeply appreciate.
I want to refer now to the radio-telephone services in the far western areas of my electorate. In particular I wish to refer to telephone services at Bedourie and Birdsville. The Diamantina Shire Council, which is the local authority in that area, desires a radio-telephone to be installed in the Bedourie post office for public use. It does not care where the radio-telephone is linked to so long as it operates efficiently. In addition to a public radio-telephone being installed in the Bedourie Post Office, the Diamantina Shire Council considers that approval should be given for any station in the shire also to have a radio-telephone installed on departmental terms. It is worthy of mention - and this could be unique - that the Diamantina Shire Council has for years transmitted and received all public telegraph business over its private radio transceiver at no cost to the Commonwealth Government. The Council’s transceiver is designated 8XU Bedourie. The cost to the Council for this operation has been over $1,000 annually. Because there is no public telephone, medical air radio becomes a must and involves the Council in additional cost because an officer has to work outside ordinary office hours to maintain this service.
The Diamantina Shire Council considers, and 1 strongly support it, that the Commonwealth Government should install a public radio-telephone in both Bedourie and Birdsville post offices at no cost to the Council. This would relieve the Council of having to give this telegraph service which is in effect paid for by the ratepayers. This type of service should be available at every post office.
– That is fair enough.
– I agree with my colleague that such a suggestion is fair enough. It certainly is. I am glad to have this support. It is also not possible to telegraph money or purchase postal notes at Bedourie or Birdsville post offices. Surely, this position should be rectified. I just want to refer to the attitude that maybe the economics of this service would be insufficient to justify the provision of it; I want to point out that people in these areas are without many of the amenities that are provided by the Government for the great majority of people in this great country of ours. But the people in these areas do perform a very necessary part of the duty of the Australian people. They utilise great areas of our country that are outside the areas where amenities are provided. ‘
– Hear, hear.
– 1 thank the honourable member for his support and I hope that he will continue to give it.
To give an example of the value of what is being done in this area, 1 should like to refer to a letter I have received from the Quilpie Shire Council dated 18th’ March. The Council is not asking for anything in regard to the service I have mentioned, but the letter supports the need for such a service and the value that is being given by people in these areas. The letter states:
Please find hereunder particulars of stock movement for the 8 months ended 28th February 1969.
The total number of cattle handled at the railhead was no less than 26,758 Head. This is the number of cattle handled at the railhead for the Channel country which is the area to which I have been referring. In addition, 31,796 head of sheep were handled at the railhead. This means value to the Government in many ways. It means export income. It means that our railways are being used. It means that in the years when profits are mad& - and they seem to be something of the past now - the Government gets taxation benefits. I hope that the Government will consider this very deserving section of our community which is doing a job that is the responsibility of the Australian people. I hope the Government will accede to the request that 1 have made. This is only a very small matter to the Government but it is big to the people in the area. I believe that they are justly entitled to receive this service.
– The speech of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) implied criticism of the Government for its treatment of the people of Queensland with respect to drought. I do not intend to talk at length on the drought position because the seriousness of it has been amply demonstrated in the House and in newspapers. During the recess a week ago I spent 2 days in the lower Cooper area of Channel country. This area is luckily not in the area of serious drought, but as we get further east into the areas I happen to be in towards Charleville in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa, there is no question of the seriousness of the drought. I share his view, which is held by most Queenslanders, that this discriminatory treatment which is so frequently practised by this Government against the people of Queensland with respect to developmental projects, drought and areas which have the highest rate of susceptibility to drought, is to be deplored. lt is also deplorable that some rigourousness has been put on the date when a review will be held. This review will take place on 30th June irrespective of the severity of the situation. In my opinion this is a very cavalier attitude to take towards the problems and plight of the people in these areas.
The problems’ of various postal services are not confined to western Queensland. I happen to live 10 miles north of Mackay. I cannot have my letters delivered to me because of some absurd rule that I happen to live within 1 mile of the end of the Post Office line. The only way I can get my letters is through my electorate office in Mackay. Other people who live within 1 mile of the end of the line suffer as I do. They do not have their mail delivered either.
The principal point I want to raise today is what I call the irresponsible and cavalier approach of the Commonwealth Government towards the needs of Queensland for the development of large scale power and water conservation projects. The attitude of the Government, as I see it, is to be deplored. The frustrating and delaying tactics of the Government with respect to the provision of Federal funds for the construction of an urgently needed power house in central Queensland is another example of what I call the cat and mouse politics played by this Government when handing out funds for development projects in Queensland. We saw this procedure adopted with the brigalow and beef roads. We saw it with the Ord River and the Emerald irrigation projects.
The Federal Government knows full well that the case for power development in Queensland is unassailable. Yet it refuses to make a decision, obviously because it considers that this is not the right time politically to do so. The unwarranted discrimination against Queensland in the allocation of funds for the $50m water resources development programme has resulted in not even one Queensland project being included on the short list of water conservation projects, as it is called by the Minister for National. Development (Mr Fairbairn). It is becoming clear to me that the Government will behave as it has in the past and will wait until the eve of the Federal election before announcing its decision on water conservation projects and, as Queensland has been left out of the water resources programme, it will then make a decision about a’ power house.
– That is not fair.
– It may not be fair, but it is consistent with the Government’s past actions. If the honourable member for Barton takes the time to look he will find that every decision to allot funds for development projects in northern Australia has been made on the eve of an election or at a time when the Government has been suffering from some political adversity. This is not the way to determine priorities. Surely to goodness we can make relative feasibility studies and show some measure of sanity when determining priorities.
We are told that Australia is fighting desperately to maintain its balance of payments equilibrium in international trade, but it seems that priorities for development projects are determined on the basis of political opportunism. I have tried time and time again in the House, as other honourable members have, to get information on how the Government determines the priorities between the Ord River, the Emerald and other irrigation schemes. But except in relation to two projects, the comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia and the brigalow scheme, no information has been made available to the Parliament or to the people that would enable us to learn how priorities are determined. Until a large power house is built in Queensland this State has little chance of capitalising on its vast mineral resources. Because of the paucity of power at an economic rate the aluminium smelter went to New South Wales.. The coastal areas of Queensland have the highest unemployment rate in Australia and there is a need for essential secondary industries to be developed there. The hinterland of the area contains the mineral resources and labour is available. Young people leaving school now are unable to find jobs and so go to the capital cities seeking employment.
The Minister for National Development and other Government supporters have had a lot to say about the priorities for water projects, but what the Parliament needs to be told is how the Government determines the priorities. No-one can ascertain this, because the Government refuses to release any reports on water conservation projects. We have had to listen to the Minister for National Development say that six projects are on the short list. But when I asked him how he determined the priorities I did not get a positive answer. It transpired that the projects were put on the short list because the States said they were the No. 1 priorities. Despite the huge recurring losses and the scope for large scale water conservation in the river basins of central Queensland, Queensland will not get one cent for water conservation from the Federal Government in the 5-year programme for the development of water conservation projects. It is high time that the people of Queensland were made aware of this situation.
I am repeating a fact that has been stated in various ways in the House by the Minister for National Development. Priorities have been given to six water projects in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. But the Government has consistently refused to allow the Parliament to debate the method of determining the priorities. All the Government will admit is that the great Burdekin River propect in Queensland was not even submitted by- the
Queensland Government for consideration in framing the national resources development programme, although in recent weeks the Queensland Government has been making promises almost daily about the Burdekin. This is not my statement; the Minister for National Development has implied that the Queensland Government did not list it as a project worthy of investigation and inclusion in the water resources development programme. The Kolan-Burnett-lsis project is one of great merit. It is needed, but the Federal Government has given it a low priority. That again is a statement made by the Minister for National Development.
Since the priorities in this programme were determined there has. been a great change in the economics of the sugar industry. A principal immediate result of the International Sugar. Agreement has been the doubling of the world free price. This alone must place a different emphasis on the determination of priorities. We can only view with some suspicion the Government’s refusal to make available to the Parliament information showing how the priorities were determined. As I have said before - anyone oan check the facts - every decision to undertake major development projects in northern Australia, such as the brigalow, the Ord, the Emerald and the beef roads, has been made on the eve of the Federal election, the eve of a by-election or immediately following some political adversity that has overtaken the Government. That is not the way to determine priorities. We need some sanity in determining priorities and a progressive policy in the provision of funds for development projects so that proper planning can be implemented. Let us hope that this year on the eve of the election we will not have a continuation of the Government’s practice of making a spate of political promises about development projects. Such action engenders suspicion in the minds of the people. We want to be able to debate in the House the priorities that have been determined by the Government so that we can establish, for example, whether the Ord has a higher priority than the Emerald and whether the Emerald has a higher priority than some project in New South Wales or other States.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Barnes) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being continued until 3.30 p.m.
– What I have to say is not directly .related to the speech that has just been made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), but on the other hand it is not entirely alien to it. Australia at this crucial point in her. history has ceased to be a colony of Britain or a province of America. We must stand on our own feet as an independent nation. It is therefore important to consider whether our governmental structure, devised in the- past, is adapted to the requirements of the nation in the present age. The essence of my argument is that, since we are stuck with the federal form of government, we should set about devising the intergovernmental machinery best calculated to establish the priorities between competing claims in the various fields of government, the most efficient use of our resources for the benefit of the Australian people and the best method, in accordance with our democratic processes, of giving effect to these objectives.
The federal system in Australia has been bedevilled by reason of the fact that the States, under the Constitution, have wide responsibilities for providing services for their citizens but are dependent on the decisions of the national Government for a large, and increasing, proportion of their revenues and loan moneys.
The machinery for adjusting the competing claims on revenue and loan resources of the national and State governments consists at present of a Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting held over a period of a day or two each year. The proceedings have become stereotyped. The meetings are preceded by huffing and puffing on the part of the Premiers about the need for more money than they expect to get; by bearish growls from the national Treasurer (Mr McMahon); by insults and recriminations at the Council table; by moans and groans over the amount received, usually including a sweetener in excess of the strict entitlement; and by cries of triumph, as Premiers return home, at having cleverly achieved the lion’s share.
Clearly an adult nation cannot longer allow such important decisions to be made by horse trading, threat and political blackmail. It is more than high time to face realities and devise a rational system of serving priorities in due order and in the best interests of the people of this country.
The first reality that has to be faced is that there can be no return to the original model - the national Government and the State governments each with recourse to their own fields of taxation, including the overlapping field of income tax, and free to ignore one another. The Constitution was framed before Keynes, was born, before the development and refinement of central banking - and honourable members have only to read Giblin’s book on the history of our own central bank - and before the experience of managing economies acquired in World War II.
It is today .beyond question that the ultimate decisions in regard to the quantum and incidence of taxation and the overall control of government expenditures, and broadly their direction, must remain in the hands of the national Government in today’s conditions, for. national as well as economic reasons. When it is understood that the alternative means a reversion to instability in employment there can be no doubt regarding the decision of the Australian people on this point.
If, however, it is accepted that too little regard has been paid in the past to the services provided ‘ by ‘the States, how do we achieve a better balance in the general interest? Since the advent of uniform taxation the expedient used has been a formula negotiated at 5-year intervals, in respect of revenues, and a succession of ad hoc decisions regarding the distribution of loan funds among the States. The formulae have never been strictly adhered to; the variations have never had logic, consistency, principle or justice to commend them. And the same is true about, the special grants to the smaller States, designed to secure parity of opportunity and living conditions for all Australians.
There is common agreement among all unbiased students of the present situation that the current formulae should be scrapped and replaced by. first, revenue grants from the national Parliament to the States, based wholly, or with minor modifications, on their respective populations and adequate for their normal day-to-day services; secondly, the kind of stamp duty tax that the States are now levying as a betterment factor under their own control; thirdly, selective revenue grants to encourage the desirable development or improvement of the States’ services; and, fourthly, special capital grants for the purposes of national development - that is. developments in the best interests of the nation as distinguished, from . provincial interests. The alternative , is. a sheer waste of scarce resources and failure to meet the most glaring deficiencies in the nation. But a scheme of this kind hinges entirely on the correctness and wisdom of the decisions taken in each of the four matters that I have enumerated. This is the nub of the whole thing. ,
There has been a complete lack of principle and of detailed investigation, using modern techniques of analysis, in regard to the allocation of resources available to governments, lt is time that the methods of large business organisations were applied to the public sector. What I suggest is that a States bureau should he set up in the Prime Minister’s Department, with a high powered staff and’ divided into sections related to the principal. State activities, such as education, health, transport, urban and country development and so forth. Its function would be to establish continuing contact with the State departments and agencies concerned and with relevant Federal departments for the purpose of close collaboration in the study in depth of problems in the various fields, and to advise the Prime Minister on the grants required, and the minimal conditions that should be attached to them, to ensure that the most urgent needs are met in each category, and with due regard to the priorities as between the various categories. This last function would not be easy, but an attempt to elaborate some principles is needed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– An example of what 1 had in mind before the suspension of the sitting is the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads recently tabled in the
House and the Government’s decision based upon it. For the first time since the system of Commonwealth aid roads grants was instituted an assessment of needs on modern scientific principles was made and a just decision was possible in the light of day, instead of the primitive horse trading technique behind closed doors adopted in the past and appropriate to another age and time.
Similarly, an expert body should be set up to make cost-benefit studies of proposed national development works. The results should be duly tabled in this Parliament so that the kind of political jiggery-pokery that produced the Ord and Emerald schemes will never be repeated and so that States may have the assurance that national works will be determined on objective criteria and will not be the result of backstairs deals or political or personal predilections. Indeed, such a body was proposed by the Vernon Committee. 1 suggest that the States bureau, which I have proposed, should be set up in the Prime Minister’s Department rather than the Treasury because firstly the Treasury is, very properly, a tight fisted department and has failed in the past to do more than produce innumerable figures on the problem of Federal and State relations, and secondly because the weight of the Prime Minister has to be brought to bear to counter the claims upon resources made by all Federal departments. Perhaps J should add that in this field there is a supreme need for imagination and statesmanship beyond and above the squabbles of the various Federal departments for a larger share of the cake.
Finally, while not seeking to diminish the value of meetings between Federal and State Ministers - for example, the AttorneyGenerals’ Committee, the Australian Agricultural Council, meetings of various Ministers for Health and, under better conditions than now prevail, meetings of the Prime Minister, Premiers and Federal and State Treasurers - I think it is wrong that debate on all of these important matters should be held in secret cabals and the result produced in this Parliament on the basis that the decisions are matters of agreement between the governments concerned and that the sole duty of this Parliament is to ratify them. At the very least the Parliament should have before .it papers of the type of the Bureau of Roads report and a paper such as used to be produced of the proceedings at Premiers’ Conferences.
Of course, there would have to be certain transitional arrangements- a decision, based on evident principle, about base revenue grants - which at the commencement, having regard to the political realities, would have to leave no State worse off than it would have been at that time under the old arrangements. This would be costly but, I believe, worth the money.. All reform means a rumpus, but within the next year or two we must become a nation if we are to survive. Alternatively we shall be an inefficient provincial backwater.
– I. shall contine my remarks to what I consider is the vital necessity of submitting to the people a referendum seeking to confer on the Commonwealth constitutional power to control prices, charges and what are termed fringe bank interest rates. I contend that this is the only effective means of controlling upward spirals in prices and costs which have been prevalent for the past 20 years. In substantiating this claim it is essential to trace the history of Commonwealth control of prices and charges. This power was assumed by the Menzies-Fadden Government in 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, under the defence provisions of the Constitution. In 1939, when prices control was initiated, the average basic wage was $8.10 a week. In Septemper 1948 the Chifley Government relinquished prices control following the defeat of the referendum held in May of that year. At that time the basic wage was $11.20 a week, an increase of $3.10 or 38.3% over the 1939 figure, ft must be remembered that for 4 years of that 9- year period Australia was fighting for its survival while there existed the usual inflationary trends which are manifest in time of war.
Now let me compare what happened in that 9-year period from 1939 to 1948 with what has happened since September 1948. In 1948 the average basic wage was- $11.20. Today it is $35.30, representing an increase of 215%. I hasten to say that I am not suggesting for a moment that prices and charges that prevailed in 1948 would have been similar today if there had been Com monwealth prices control because I realise that our national development, our immigration programme and increased prices for imports, freight and handling charges would have meant increases in prices and costs. However, I submit’ that prices and costs would not have reached their present high level if the Commonwealth had exercised control over them. I vividly recall the false and misleading propaganda initiated by the Literal-Country Party coalition Opposition under the leadership of Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Arthur Fadden, during the campaign preceding the prices referendum in May 1948. They claimed that the States could adequately .control prices and that private enterprise and healthy competition would keep prices stable. As well as being aware of the impracticability of the six States reaching unanimity on prices the Liberal-Country Party coalition was well aware of the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution. The section reads:
On the imposition’ of ‘uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means, of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
This provision would nullify effective prices control. For example, if galvanised iron produced in Newcastle was exported to Victoria the New South Wales Government could not set a price upon it and the Victorian Government could not set a price upon it until it reached’ a railway siding or a wharf. Mr Chifley stated that if the Commonwealth did not have constitutional power to control prices and charges the situation would be like that of a dog chasing its tail. In other words, wages would chase prices. Every aspect of Mr Chifley’s prediction has come, to pass. Since the relinquishment .of prices control by the Commonwealth we have experienced spectacular inflationary spirals in local government and water and sewerage rates. Since 1939 these increases have been between 500% and 600%. The price of land for home building has skyrocketed beyond the means of a large percentage of wage and salary earners in the lower income bracket. For- example, in 1939 the value of the land upon which a home was built represented, on average, 10% of the value of the property, but today it represents about 30%. The price of essentials, such as groceries, fruit, vegetables, meat, shoes and clothing has increased much more, proportionately, than has the basic wage.
I emphasise that the Government’s failure to implement its 1949 promise to maintain the full value of social service benefits, particularly child endowment and the maternity allowance, has resulted in many parents in the lower income group not being able to increase the size of their families because to bring a child into this world and rear it properly is indeed a luxury. This result is reflected in the falling birth rate. We must also remember that every time the basic wage is increased the worker is placed on a higher tax group, yet the full cost of the increase - often a little more - is passed on to the consumer through increased prices. So the worker loses on the deal. As the Opposition has pointed out on numerous occasions, any prosperity enjoyed by “people in the low income bracket is due to the fact that the wife, because of economic circumstances, has no alternative but to go to work to supplement the family income. Inflation is like a thief in the night. It robs the value of your bank savings; it robs the value of your insurance policy; it robs the value of your pensions; it robs the value of your superannuation; it robs the value of your purchasing power. It means you are forever paying increased council and water rates; it means you are paying spiralling prices in rentals; it means you are paying spiralling prices in the purchase of homes; it means you are forever paying increased bus, tram and rail fares to and from work. It means you are forever paying increased prices for essential foodstuffs, clothing, e tce tra. It means you are forever paying increased costs in educating your children and it means that the primary producer is forever meeting increased costs of primary production.
From time to time in this House it has been argued by honourable members on the Government side that price control and black markets are bedfellows. It is true that during the price control era black markets did exist, but that was in the post-war period of a world shortage of goods due to the changeover from war production to normal peace time production. To assert that similar black markets would automatically follow the reintroduction of Com monwealth price control is simply poppycock, because there are no commodities in short supply today. I submit that the majority of the Australian people are sick and tired of wages chasing prices and of spiralling inflation, and if given the opportunity they would vote Yes in a Commonwealth prices referendum. The alternative to Commonwealth price control is deflation which we saw introduced by this Government and preceding governments over the last 20 years in 1951-52, in 1956 and in 1961-62. I emphasise the point that if this referendum is given to the Australian people they will overwhelmingly support it.
– It has been reported that on Saturday last approximately forty customs officers raided the vessel ‘Himalaya’ and seized 30 lb of marihuana which was valued at about $25,000 on the Australian drug market. This find, we are told, resulted from the recent seizure by New South Wales police of 25 lb of marihuana from a house in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Information given following this raid led to the finding on the ‘Himalaya’. This represents a total haul of 55 lb of marihuana, valued at $40,000 on the black market. This certainly puts this case into the big time rackets and we are indeed fortunate that this ring has been discovered, although in all probability it has not been broken. I rise today to express my concern at the outdated and outmoded attitudes to this problem which have prevailed for so long in this country. It was due to the initiative of Prime Minister John Gorton that the recent conference to discuss this fast growing problem of drug and narcotic trafficking was convened. Under the chairmanship of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) various State ministers met in Canberra on 14th February this year to discuss and aim for a new approach to this matter of grave importance.
When we study the lenient, candylike penalties which are at present written into the State statutes, I believe that every parent in Australia has cause to say: “Thank you, John Gorton, for your concern. Your action may prevent my offspring from becoming involved in the vilest form of human degradation that man has yet devised.’ Personally, I loathe and detest pushers and peddlars. I serve notice now that, whilst I acknowledge the right of the individual to determine his own destiny, while I am granted a platform in this Parliament I will do my utmost to make as difficult as possible the lives of those persons who make their living from the very probable ruination of lives of others. The incredible situation exists in Tasmania where the penalty for the first offence of deliberately cultivating marihuana is $40.
– lt is rather amazing that the honourable member for Wilmot should come out and agree with such a lenient penalty. That penalty of $40 .is a little more than the fine imposed for .catch* ing and keeping illegal sized fish. For comparative purposes, 1 mention that’ in my own State of Queensland the. penalty for a first offence involving drugs, and this Includes narcotics, is a maximum fine ‘ of $800 or 6 months “gaol or both. In New South. Wales and in South Australia the maximum penalty is $2,000 or 2 years gaol or both. In Victoria natcotic trafficking brings a maximum penalty of $4,000 or 10 years gaol or both, while in the Northern Territory - this comes partly under our control - the maximum fine is a mere $400 or 1 year gaol or both. I submit that these penalties are more suitable to yesteryear when a name like Cannabis , Sativa was foreign to our shores. In the United States of America the Johnson Administration amended the Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965. This new law increased the penalty for the illegal manufacture, sale, possession with intent to sell, . or counterfeiting of a depressant or stimulant drug from that of a misdemeanour to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment or a $10,000 fine. For the unlawful sale or delivery of a depressant or stimulant, drug by an adult to a minor, the maximum penalty is 10 years or a $15,000 fine for the first offence. A subsequent offence brings a penalty of 15 years gaol or a $20,000 fine. As well as harsher penalties they have a principle which apparently has never been considered in Australia, that is, specific penalties for those who supply drugs to persons under r8 years of age.
It will be of interest to those persons in the Australian society who advocate the legalising of pot - some of whom, because of their own personal problems, resort to abuse and describe those unequivocally opposed to such suggestions as fanatics - : to learn that there is special provision for marihuana and the like in the United States Federal penalties. The sale, barter, exchange, giving away or transfer of any’ narcotic drug or marihuana to a person under 18 years of age. brings a penalty of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and not more than 40 years, and in addition a fine of not more than $20,000 may be imposed. If it were not ‘so serious, the conviction of an American at Southport, in Queensland, who was- fined the maximum of $1,000 under our Customs Act for receiving a parcel . containing ‘ marihuana seed through the post from California, .would be laughable. In1 his” own country he would have been fined anything from 20 tq ‘40 times the maximum-. penalty which can be imposed in Australia. When we consider the huge rake ‘‘Off that’ some of the racketeers ‘get’ for. dealing in drugs, surely these fines, and penalties are more in keeping than What V* ‘ have.’ here in Australia. It is even suggested’ by . some that the gains of these. people- are such that they do not deserve any choke at all in the matter of a gaol sentence’ dr a fine. With the con:currence .of .honourable members I incorporate in Hansard– an extract from the United States- Federal Act relating to the marihuana tax.
Compromises : arid closing “agreements. In connection with liny compromise under section 7122, or offer of such compromise, or in connection with any closing agreement under section 7121, or offer to enter into any such agreement, willfully
Sec. 7237. Violation of lans relating to narcotic drugs and to marihuana
Sale or other transfer without written order. Whoever commits an offense, or conspires to commit an offense, described iri section 4705 (a) or section 4742 (a) shall be imprisoned not less than 3 or more than 20 years and, in addition, may be fined not more than $20,000. For a second or subsequent offense, the offender shall be imprisoned not less than 10’ or more than 40 years and, in addition, may be ‘ fined not more than $20,000. If the offender attained the age of 18 before the offense and -
Conviction of second or subsequent offense.
For puproses of determining prior offenses under the preceding sentence, a reference to any subsection, section, or Act providing a penalty for an offense shall be considered as a reference to such sub-section, section, or Act as in effect (as originally enacted or as amended, as the case may be) with respect to the offense for which the offender previously has been convicted.
Procedure. After conviction (but before pronouncement of sentence) of any offense the penalty for which is provided in subsection (a) or (b) of this section, subsection (c) or (h) of section 2 of the Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act, as amended, or such Act of July 11, 1941, as amended, the court shall be advised by the United States attorney whether the conviction is the offender’s first or a subsequent offense. If it is not a first offense, the United States attorney shall file an information setting forth the prior convictions. The offender shall have the opportunity in open court to affirm or deny that he is identical with the person previously convicted. If he denies the identity, sentence shall be postponed for such time as to permit a trial before a jury on the sole issue of the offender’s identity with the person previously convicted. If the offender is found by the jury to be the person previously convicted, or if he acknowledges that he is such person, he shall be sentenced as prescribed in subsection (a) or (b) of this section, subsection (c) or (h) of such section 2, of such Act of J lily 11, 1941, as amended, as the case may be.
of any offense the penalty for which is provided in subsection (a) of this section, if it is the offender’s second or subsequent offense, the imposition or execution of sentence shall not be suspended, probation shall not be granted, section 4202 of title 18 of the United States Code shall not apply, and the Act of July 15, 1932 (47 Stat. 696; D.C. Code 24-201 and following), as amended, shall not apply.
The incorporation of this extract will give honourable members an opportunity to study the penalties.
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to supply honourable members with details of the State penalties in the US. Even the US Department of Justice, which incorporates the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, does not possess comprehensive State statistics on this matter. A few years ago, a comparison of US Federal and State penalties was obtained. It was determined that 5 States had penalties considerably more stringent than the Federal law; that 19 States had penalties considerably less stringent than the Federal penalties by allowing probation, suspended sentence or parole for any offence; and that 18 Stales were less stringent in that they allowed probation, suspended sentence or parole for any offence.
We heard earlier today a speech from the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor), during which he advised us of drug peddling in the schools in Sydney. He has most certainly done this Parliament a great favour in bringing the matter to our attention. I have had my own suspicions of happenings in two or three Brisbane secondary schools but because of the absence of definite proof, have been reluctant to mention them. But to point to definite cases of young people being involved with drug-taking, one does not have to go into the schools. Every day in Australia we can find a newspaper story relating to the conviction of people of 17 or 18 years of age. [t is not they who are to blame. The blame lies with those responsible for introducing the drugs in the first place.
I refer to my earlier words when I acknowledged the right of the individual to determine his own destiny. 1 refer also to persons who at one time have been independent but have been reduced to the stage where they now seek to become free of the yoke of drug addiction. Society has a responsibility to help these unfortunates but just as it has a responsibility in this field, it has a most definite say in determining whether or not we are going to stand by and watch a handful of undesirables turn this nation into a junk heap. I believe, Mr Speaker, that Australians, almost to a man, desire us to stop pussyfooting with this problem. It is now up to the Common wealth Government and the State Governments - both Liberal and Labor - to get cracking because in my opinion we have handled this matter in a most inept and unsophisticated manner.
– Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The honourable member for Griffith, in response to an interjection of mine, said that I was quite happy with the $40 fine for a particular offence in my State. I am not happy with such a fine. I agree with all his submissions this afternoon and congratulate him for bringing the matter into the House.
– 1 advised the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) earlier today that it was my intention at this time to raise the case of Murray Fraser Sime, a young man who was a former employee of the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney, which is under the ministerial control of the Attorney-General. I am glad to see that the Minister is in the House. 1 have raised this matter here on two previous occasions and Mr Sime’s case has received great publicity in the Press, lt is alleged that Mr Sime, who holds a position on the Students Representative Council of the University of Sydney, signed a document which specified some arrangements in connection with a protest which was to be staged in opposition to the conscription laws of the Government. This document was to be circulated among a selected few members of the Students Representative Council. Regrettably, a member of the Council or some one associated with the University and whose identity is not know to me obtained copies of this circular and. as a skylark, and correctly anticipating that the circular would outrage members of the Government, sent them to several Ministers of the Federal Government, including the Attorney-General .
This was done without the authority of the SRC and certainly without the authority of Mr Sime. Nevertheless, it was done. The upshot was that Mr Sime was interrogated by two Commonwealth police officers on 21st February at his place of employment. I want later on to come back to some details in relation to this interrogation and subsequent events. As a result of the interrogation, Mr Sime was charged under section 55 of the Public Service Act and regulation 34 of the Public Service Regulations. Incidentally, these are broadly sweeping, dragnet provisions in the respective pieces of legislation. A penalty was imposed upon Mr Sime because in the presentation of these documents was included a telephone number at which he could be contacted during working hours. The telephone number was that of the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney.
– Does the honourable member condone that?
– I think it is a relatively minor, unimportant thing. Innumerable people give the telephone number of their office as a means whereby they can be contacted during working hours. Let me repeat to the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) and to all honourable members that as far as Mr Sime was concerned this circular was to be distributed amongst only a select few responsible members of the SRC. I cannot see that any great harm could be done as a result of this. The harm arose from the skylark which I mentioned.
The offence with which Mr Sime was charged is a relatively trivial one by any measuring stick. The penalty imposed upon him was that his salary be slashed by $585 a year, and the penalty was to be effective for a 10-year period. In other words, his salary was to be slashed by this amount from its level of $4,755. The penalty is the equivalent of 6 weeks’ pay each year for 10 years. This is an enormous penalty to impose on any man, and the relative triviality of the offence does not justify the enormity of the penalty which was imposed on Mr Sime. This is a blatant injustice in our society which prides itself on the freedoms and rights of individuals, and tolerance for individuals where possibly there has been transgression of legislation, especially where the transgression is only minor or trivial. This transgression was only minor and trivial.
Certainly the penalty imposed on Mr Sime because of its enormity bears no relationship to the trivial nature- and I cannot stress too often that it is trivial - of his offence. Only within the last couple of weeks I have read in the newspapers that certain officers of the Department of Customs and Excise have been charged with offences in relation to the entry of tobacco into this country and in relation to certain misconduct. The Department of Customs and Excise has lost $2m to $3m revenue as a result of these offences, and I understand that some of the officers who were convicted of misconduct were fined only $4 or $5, which is a relatively small amount. They were fined only $4 or $5 for being involved in and convicted of misconduct which in total deprived the Commonwealth of something like $2m or $3m. Mr Sime was acting on a matter of conscience and not tor any personal gain or advantage in a material sense. He was under the direction of the SRC to carry out certain instructions which were to be conveyed to a selected few. He was carrying out these instructions because of his involvement of conscience, and for doing so he was fined $585 a year for 10 years. Is this fair? ls this justice?
What sort of justification can the Attorney-General give to the Parliament for remaining indifferent and refusing to act in relation to this horrible form of discrimination against this young man? Mr Sime has sent to me a statutory declaration. It has been sworn on oath, signed by Mr Sime and witnessed by a justice of the peace. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate it in Hansard:
I, MURRAY FRASER SIME of 42 Church Street, Balmain, Barrister, do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:
On Friday 21st February 1969 I was interrogated at 119 Phillip Street, Sydney by Superintendent Davies of the Commonwealth Police Force also present was an Inspector from the Commonwealth Police Force and Mr J. P. Messner, a Solicitor and Principal Legal Officer in the employ of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. Mr 1. P. Messner was present at my request. Also present was Superintendent Davies’ Secretary.
During the course of the interrogation Superintendent Davies inter alia showed me a letter allegedly signed by me which he informed me had been received by the Attorney-General Mr Nigel Bowen. ‘ Davies also showed me an envelope addressed to the Right Honourable Nigel Bowen Attorney-General Parliament House. Davies further informed me that other Ministers of the Government had received similar letters.
No other evidence other than the letter addressed to the Attorney-General, referred to in above, was shown to me during the course of the interrogation or at any other time.
At the conclusion of the interrogation I requested a copy of the record of interview. Superintendent Davies informed me that he had no authority to give me a copy and that this was a matter for the Secretary of the Department Mr Hook to decide. I therefore asked Davies to include in the record a special request of Mr Hook for a copy of the record of interrogation to be forwarded to me as soon as possible. 5. Immediately upon the conclusion of the interrogation, the Inspector present at the interview went to my office accompanied by myself and Mr I. P. Messner and he searched my locker and office, also present was my roommate Mr I. Walker. A Solicitor and Legal Officer in the employ of the Commonwealth’ Grown Solicitor.
On the 27th February 196? I was charged with 2 offences under the Public Service Act and Regulations made pursuant thereto! . AND I make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1900. DECLARED at Sydney in the State of New South Wales This Twenty-sixth day df March, 1969. Before me -
A Justice of the Peace in and for The State of New South Wales . MURRAY F. SIME ,
On Tuesday last I asked the AttorneyGeneral whether it was a fact that he had intervened in the Sime case, and. he denied that he had. The first point I want to make is that Mr Sime was convicted by a kangaroo court which gave him no opportunity to convey his case in defence or to crossexamine witnesses. The proceedings of this kangaroo court consisted solely of the decision of bis interrogators.’ This kangaroo court acted under the administration and control of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General is the Minister responsible for the actions of his officers, so he does have a responsibility here. That is the first point.
The second point is that the clear implications of the statement made by the Attorney-General in this House on Tuesday is that he was not involved in any way in this case. Mr Sime’s statutory declaration shows that the Commonwealth police officers who interrogated him produced a letter allegedly signed by him, one of the circular letters the subject of the complaint, and an envelope addressed to the AttorneyGeneral, which presumably contained the letter. These were the only documents presented to Mr Sime by the Commonwealth police officers in their interrogation, and this was the evidence on which the charges against him were based. Additionally, the police officers indicated that other Ministers had received similar documents. The point is that the only evidence that was presented to Mr Sime when he was being interrogated was that circular directed to the Attorney-General, and attached to it was an envelope which allegedly had contained that circular and was addressed to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General was well informed and in fact initiated the action which was responsible for Mr Sime incurring this conviction which is so excessively harsh and cannot be justified.
Clearly, there is a derogation of natural justice on two important points. The first point is the right of hearing. Mr Sime at no stage was given the right to put forward verbally his case before an impartial judicial body, nor was he given the opportunity of interrogating witnesses. The second point is that it is a derogation of the bias rule. This is, that the person charging an offender should not be the same one who is convicting that offender. The Attorney-General with his experience of law well knows those two important principles of natural justice which are transcending principles in the application of law. Yet he stands unmoved and indifferent while Mr Sime has imposed upon him an extravagantly harsh penalty which cannot be justified in any sense or appreciation of natural justice and which, anyway, has had its effect in forcing Mr Sime out of the Commonwealth Public Service.
I ask the Attorney-General: Is it normal practice for police officers to interrogate people who allegedly have transgressed departmental regulations - civilians in the civil service? Is it normal practice for police officers to do this? Is it normal practice for police officers to search their belongings? What does the Public Service want - a group of non-persons, depersonalised computers, mental eunuchs? The Public Service Act and Regulations are a cudgel for belabouring the Public Servants into docile submission
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– . . .
-Order! I direct Hansard to omit from the report the words spoken by the honourable member after I informed him that his time had expired.
– Mr Speaker, one of the points raised by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in . his speech I would like to answer first. This is the suggestion by the honourable member that in some way the answer to his question on 25th March was not accurate. One can have a look at this question. I answered the latter part of it. It was addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I refer to this part of the question:
Finally, is it true that the Attorney-General took a personal interest in having the charges and penalty pressed against Mr Sime?
This document which the honourable member produces as evidence that this is wrong says that the police produced to Mr Sime a copy of a letter which had been written to me. Is the honourable member prepared to come into this House and say that this is evidence that I pressed charges and penalty against Mr Sime? This is a. commissar mentality- the fact that a. letter addressed to me was shown to Mr Sime is sufficient for the honourable member to say that when I say I did not press charges, did not press penalties, did not intervene, for clemency or otherwise, I am not stating the matter correctly. This is a commissar mentality. There is not a shred of evidence, to support it.
– There is.
– Indeed, my answer was perfectly correct. Let us have a look at this matter. It is true that a letter came to me and to other Ministers. If is a letter which has been referred to in connection with this case. Apparently, from what now appears, this letter was shown to Mr Sime. As far as I was concerned, this appeared to me to be a matter affecting discipline in the Department ‘ and therefore, as it fell under the jurisdiction of the Permanent Head under the Public Services Act, I passed it on to him. It is his responsibility to maintain discipline in his Department. As far as any action by him is concerned, I did not interfere.
– That is not what-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley has spoken in this debate.
– That is to say, when the police went to see Mr Sime, it was at the Permanent Head’s direction; if a charge was laid, it was his - charge. I would not have known of the charges until after they were laid. I did receive eventually copies of the charges that had been laid. As to penalty, I would not have known what the penalty was until I read of it afterwards. If the honourable member, for Oxley is prepared to come in and. make these suggestions against me on a mere statement in an affidavit that the document which happened to be shown to Mr Sime was a document addressed to me I think, as I say, it reveal’s a commissar mentality.
As far as these charges and the penalty are concerned, the charges have been publicised. They have ‘ been given in full in answer to a question directed to the Minister who represents me in another place. There is no need to repeat them: The House has heard the penalty. T should point out that if Mr Sime .thought that this penalty was excessive, if he thought that it was harsh, there is full provision for appeal to an appeal board which .’ can review either whether he. should be found guilty of the charges at all or whether, if he is guilty, the penalty is excessive and whether it should be reduced. But Mr Sime does not go to the appeal board. Doe’s he genuinely believe that this penalty was excessive? If he does, he has a full right pf ..appeal. He would on that appeal under, the’ Public Service Act have a right to all documents. He does not have a right to documents under the immediate processes of the Public Service. Act before his Permanent Head. This is a matter that seems to have been objected to. But the Act is being followed out. The safeguard in this provision is that a man has the right of appeal and on appeal to be supplied with 1 all 1 documents and to objectively - - -:
– Was Mr Sime-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Oxley that he restrain himself from interjecting.
– -But 1 am trying to-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley1 will remain silent.
– Not too much democratic justice-
-Order! In spite of my warning, the honourable member for Oxley is interjecting continually. If he offends again, I will deal with him.
– Some statements have been made about police conduct. As I understand it, as the facts have been supplied to me, when this was raised I made some inquiry. The police did go to interview Mr Sime in his office. They saw his principal, who is the Principal Legal Officer in charge of his section. Mr Sime came into that office and was introduced to them. His Principal Legal Officer then suggested that he should leave unless Mr Sime wanted him to be present. Mr Sime asked that he remain. At the end of that interview, Mr Sime was asked whether he would have any objection to the police searching his room. He said that he would not but said that he would like his Principal Legal Officer to be present with him. I understand that one police officer, Mr Sime and the Principal Legal Officer then went to his room. When they arrived there, there was one other legal officer there who left the room immediately. While they were there, another officer came to enter the room but was waved away. Those, as I understand them, are the facts and, as honourable members can see, they are very differently put in the newspaper publicity emanating from-
– Why did you use police on a public servant?
-Order! I regret to take the action that I am going to take, but the honourable member for Oxley has not heeded my warning. If he thinks he can continue to interrupt the speakers and to ignore the Standing Orders of this House, I want to remind him that he cannot. Already I have said that, if he offended again, I would deal with him. If he offends on this occasion again, I will deal with him.
– As far as the bringing in of the police at all is concerned, this does not depart from normal procedure where some charge is involved. Finally, I think I should deal with the suggestion that I as Attorney-Genera), or the Government, should have intervened, and that I was remiss in not intervening in some fashion. This is an extraordinary suggestion. In the Public Service Act, as the honourable member must know, very great care has been taken to place these disciplinary matters beyond the control of Ministers of the Government, to allow in this type of matter the Public Service to look after its own affairs. The discretion is vested entirely in the Chief Officer, or alternatively the permanent head, and provision is made for an appeal to a Public Service appeals board. If the Attorney-General or the Government tried to tell the Permanent Head, the Chief Officer, or the Appeals Board how they should act in the discharge of this statutory discretion, this would not be in accordance with the law. It is quite wrong that the honourable member should try, as it were, to make some political capital out of the fact that the Government and the AttorneyGeneral have not intervened when he knows very well that under the Act is would have been wrong for either to do so.
– In the 10 minutes available to me I want to deal with the deterioration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department’s service to the Australian people.
– The honourable member cannot do it in 10 minutes.
– I cannot do it in 10 minutes, but I just want to scratch the surface of the problem that concerns us all in country electorates, and even in city electorates. There has been an erosion of the postal services in Australia, the like of which we have never seen before in our history. Until 2 years ago there had been a progressive improvement in facilities for Australian people, but in the last 2 years there has been a progressive regression, if I may use that term, in telephone services. I am reminded of the erosion by the sea that is taking place around our coastline when I look at the service we knew and enjoyed a few years ago and then look at the service now. This reduction in services is quite deliberate. It is planned. It is like a planned campaign.
– It is an economic measure.
– An economic measure, yes. All sorts of things can be done under the excuse of economic measures. We know that the Postmaster-General’s Department is running at a loss in certain aspects of its work. I have here the report of the Postmaster-General’s Department for last year, and in the letter from the PostmasterGeneral to the Right Honourable Lord Casey under the heading ‘Financial Results’ I find:
May it please Your Excellency . . . Earnings for the year totalled $502.7m, an increase o£ $71.2m over the previous year. Expenses rose by S59.3m to $512.3m, due largely to wage determinations and increases in interest and depreciation charges. Expenditure on additional plant and buildings amounted to $272.7m. Trading operations for 1967-68 resulted in a loss of 59,648,106 compared with a loss of $21,502,239 in the previous year. The Telecommunications Service recorded a profit of $10,512,461 while the Postal Service operations showed a loss of $20, 160,567.
Now, why take it out on the country people particularly, when endeavouring to balance the Budget? This is what I am completely opposed to. If the Post Office is going to economise let it do so gradually and let it hit all people equally. But country people are back to where they were in 1900 in many aspects of the services they receive. Whole cities and country towns, whether large or small, are affected by this economic measure. Farming communities and isolated districts are really up in arms and it is a wonder the people are not marching on Canberra at this moment, or are not about to to do, in protest.
While services have been wiped out or reduced the costs of the Department have risen in postage, trunk calls, mail bag services and rentals. The only worthwhile improvement during this time of retrogression has been the subscriber trunk dialling telephone system which gives quicker communication between capital cities and country towns. I pay a tribute to the Department on the colossal programme undertaken to bring in STD communications. 1 pay a tribute to all the men who put down the cables and the men who are taking the wires off the poles because the cables have gone underground. This is a wonderful development. The telecommunications section, the new post offices and telephone offices - numbering seventy-one last year - the teleprinter services and the specialist services are all first class. I am not criticising these; they are tremendous.
The Department has a wonderful staff, and I have been a supporter of them for the 22 years I have been in this Parliament, praising them alt over the place for the improvements in their services. But suddenly these services are being reduced or terminated. They are being slashed in a cruel and vicious way. The deterioration in postal services to country and city alike has plunged us back to the early twentieth century. The reduction of posal services to country districts is unprecedented and unwarranted. It is a full scale retrogression.
Here are a few examples. Firstly, there is a reduction in postal’ deliveries in towns and cities from twice a day to once a day. In some cases even the once a day service is being wiped out, as in Wayatinah in the southern part of my electorate where there are still ninety homes.- The Department said that it was going to wipe out the once a day delivery as from 3lst March this year. This is altogether over the fence, lt is absolutely ridiculous. When is the Department going to stop this erosion?
Secondly, the early closure of country post offices has put the farming community in a very serious plight as far as their communications are concerned. I have here, without time to read it al’l, a statement in the Tasmanian Farmer’, which is the paper of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation. Many branches have, written in protesting at the early closing of non-official offices at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning, in effect this means that the farmer cannot get any mail from Friday to Monday. The fact is that the mail coming from Launceston to these country offices arrives after / / o’clock and cannot be sorted, so that the farmer does not get any mail until Monday. These problems are outlined in the statement 1 have in my hand and to which I have referred. The Central Council of the TFF is taking them up with the Department because the position is so serious. This statement says:
One man, Mr R. E. Fisher, said a mail delivery on Saturday was as important and perhaps more so to country people than to the urban population, who were themselves very ‘critical of the deterioration in postal services in recent months.
At least townspeople have a mail delivery on all week days which, of course, the country person now does not have. The statement goes on:
Mr A. L. Briggs said it was a further example of the disadvantages of living in the country, another cause for the drift from the land to the cities.
The third example is the closure of nonofficial post offices and reducing country mail services from 3 to 2 days a week, and so on. This has been going on throughout my electorate and it is happening in other country electorates. The Post Office is ripping the heart out of many country districts by closing down the non-official office. The life of the community revolves around the post office. These post offices in these areas, through good times and bad times, have been a tremendous asset to people living in the country, and 1 pay a tribute to all those non-official postmasters and postmistresses who are going to be chopped off from their livelihood because these offices are being closed down. Fourthly, there is a reduction of the status of offices from official to non-official. In one. town called Bothwell in the south of my area - it is a fairly large town unaltered over many years and the population does not change - the post offices are now being reduced from official offices to non-official offices.
– What is the population?
– I cannot remember - 800 or something like that. These. are backward decisions. Then there is the closing down of country line yards and centralisation of staff in the large towns or the cities. This is partly due. of course, to the introduction of cables and the removal of overhead wires, meaning that less maintenance is required.
Now I want to say something about stamps. I criticise some of the artists’ who produce some of our stamps. Some of our stamps are an utter disgrace to us in the modern world of artistry. They are pale, bloodless, hard to read, completely dull and uninspiring. When some of the stamps are put on the envelopes one can hardly see them. Overseas countries can buy and sell this country in the design, colouring and attractiveness of their stamps. Anyone who has had mail from overseas countries will know what I mean.
A new 30c stamp tq commemorate the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the Australian east coast by. Captain Cook is to be issued next April. At the moment the cost of air mail to overseas countries is 25c. Is the fact that a new 30c stamp is to be issued to be taken as an indication that next year the cost of air mail postage overseas is to be increased from 25c to 30c? Already its costs 80c to send a few papers and magazines to the United Kingdom. For this reason, less and less publicity from this country is getting lo overseas countries. The overseas rates are already vicious and reacting to the detriment of publicity from Australia. In conclusion let me say that I and my colleagues on this side of the Parliament hope one of these days to launch an urgency debate on this matter, for we feel that one is warranted. The deterioration and erosion taking place in the services rendered by the Postmaster-General’s Department have now gone beyond a joke. I trust that the protests made by all of us in this Parliament and indeed by people everywhere will lead to a return to some of the good conditions we enjoyed for so many years.
– I want to say something today about the complementary roles of Commonwealth. State and local governments, particularly as they apply in my own electorate, though many of the things that I have to say would apply throughout New South Wales and indeed throughout Australia generally. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) had something to say about the progress or otherwise of Post Office services throughout Australia. I suppose, if every honourable member expressed his own views, there would be considerable differences in what we see in our own respective areas. Although in the course of my brief remarks this afternoon I am going to make some complaint about some aspects of those services. 1 must say that my own picture in Eden-Monaro and right along the south coast from the Victorian border up to Milton-Ulladulla and through the tableland is that, over the last 2 to 2i years, we have had vast improvement in our telephone communications and services. This has not only been through the provision of automatic telephone exchanges but also through the provision of increased subscriber trunk dialling services.
– I mentioned that.
– I know you said that STD is going well, and, of course, it is. But in order to have STD services it is necessary to have the basic exchanges and trunk lines joining those exchanges. This is what we were particularly short of up to a few years ago along the coast. Till that .lime it could take a person up to 5 hours to ring another person higher up the coast, or on the tableland or in some parts of the metropolitan areas of Sydney and
Melbourne. Much of the coastal trade depended on continuing to attract people to the area and this inconvenience in telephone services was putting people off from going there. That problem has now been overcome to a very large extent, but only by the installation of a very large number of additional trunk lines and automatic facilities to match those trunk line services.
I have had quite a number of cases where the reduction in mail deliveries and the reduction in hours of business of the Post Office have caused a considerable amount of embarrassment to local businessmen and to farmers, particularly farmers on runs where in several cases they are being cut down to one mail delivery a week. In other cases there have been quite ridiculous little problems such as coin in the slot stamp machines that never produce stamps because they are not filled up. These are to some extent details, yet the Post Office has to find some answers. It is the postal side which, as we know, is the labour intensive side. I do not believe that it has anywhere near found answers yet. This famous machine - I think it is in Redfern - that chews up the mail occasionally is an instance of ways that it does not have to take to overcome the difficulties ‘ and the problems associated with its methods.
What 1 want .to complain about today, and to protest about very strongly, is one particular instance. It has to do with STD installations. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) on the way in which he has kept the Queanbeyan STD installation - the new exchange building and the equipment - right up to date. In about the middle of May we are going to see approximately $500,000 worth of equipment put into operation to provide for the Queanbeyan subscribers an STD service equivalent to that enjoyed now in Canberra. This is first class.
On the other hand, we have for some time now been programming the introduction of STD into Cooma. This was programmed to commence operations this year. Now, quite suddenly, and quite out of the blue, we have been informed by the Postmaster-Genera) a week or so ago that because of some failure in the manufacturing of equipment there is going to be a delay of possibly 3 years in the installation of this equipment. I was given this infor mation without any supporting reasons, and I must ask the Postmaster-General for those reasons. I have been assured by the Postmaster-General that he is having an inquiry made to get the full details for me. 1 just want to stress at this point of time that it will not be good enough merely to be assured that there has been some breakdown in one particular line of manufacturing which sets this programming back for 3 years, unless it has set the whole of the Australian programming back for 3 years - and I very much- doubt that it has done that. This will be a great disappointment to many people, including a great number who have hot been protesting about their standard of’ telephone services but who have simply waited on the development of the STD service knowing that as it comes in they will be linked with a rural automatic exchange. Now, after all this patient waiting, they are told they have to wait for another 3 years.
I leave that for the moment and go on at this stage to the complementary role of the three levels of government. The particular matter I want to emphasise today is the question of rates. I cannot canvass the whole field of it. It is a matter that has been debated for- almost the whole of the time since the rating system was first introduced. But we do have a situation where we have three governments involved, and involved at- every . level of government. 1 have made numerous representations on behalf of every single local governing body in Eden-Monaro on such questions as payroll tax and Commonwealth and State contributions from . the Commonwealth point of view. It is not good enough for the Commonwealth simply to answer that local government is a State matter. The Australian Government is already firmly involved from any point of view one cares to name that applies to the revenue and expenditure of local governments.
Today I received from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), in his role as Minister assisting the Treasurer, in response to representations - as it so happens on this occasion on behalf of the Queanbeyan Municipal Council in connection with payroll tax and rates, and payment in lieu of rates - the standard reply which is a document setting out the Commonwealth position. It deals with payroll tax, which I have not the time to go into now. It merely states that as a broad and substantial tax it cannot be varied without making some other arrangement to get the same sort of revenue. There are matters of rates. There are .commitments undertaken by the Commonwealth and anomolies which have yet to be worked out. The Commonwealth pays what it calls ‘grace’ payments- I think there could be a more graceful way of putting that - by way of the equivalent of rates for housing for employees. If the Commonwealth receives rates from a tenant it pays them to a local government body. It is stated in the terms of the document that provision is made at all times, for the payment of rates on war service homes. So, the Commonwealth has not tried to get around that. Payment is made on properties acquired by the Commonwealth when the buildings are occupied by someone other than the Commonwealth. In the case of Commonwealth instrumentalities, a rate equivalent is paid and the Commonwealth pays for roads, footpaths, kerbing and guttering abutting Commonwealth property, The Commonwealth does not pay for repairs or maintenance to the roads or paving.
I believe this could be greatly simplified and made much more equitable from the point of view of local authorities and Commonwealth Government if the Commonwealth simply decided to pay an amount equivalent to the rates that would.be paid by anyone else on ali Commonwealth property. This should apply to the State Government. This is the only equitable way in which the local government bodies can receive reasonable payments for services they now provide to Commonwealth and State buildings and instrumentalities.
– I wish to make a few remarks today on a matter on which I have spoken since first coming into the Parliament, but on which to date the Government has not seen fit “to take any real action. This is the problem which is directly associated with the centralisation of population in one or two cities of Australia. The last census figures, when studied, indicate that in Victoria the total growth for non-metropolitan areas - that is the areas outside Melbourne - for 5 years was less than 40,000 persons. The growth for the Melbourne metropolitan area in the same period was in excess of a quarter of a million persons. Therefore there was a growth rate in Melbourne per annum greater than the total population of the second biggest -provincial city in Victoria. This problem is being accentuated every year that action is delayed.
Geelong, which forms the major part qf my electorate,, has achieved what some people who talk about decentralisation seem to look on as the. magic figure of 100,000 persons. There are some 113,000 to 114,000 people , in the Greater Geelong area, but it has npt, as some people seem to think, achieved . self development, self growth. The city,. of Geelong is certainly far from having a. sufficiently balanced level of development . to employ and utilise the human resources . which are annually becoming available in this area.
Earlier this week I received an answer to a question which I had placed on notice relating to persons seeking employment in apprenticeship trades in the Geelong area. I asked: ‘
How ‘many qualified persons sought trade apprenticeships in the Geelong area after the completion of the 1968- school year?
In answer to that question the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) informed me that 237 youths and 12 girls registered with the district employment office for positions as apprentices. I also asked:
How many were placed in Geelong and the Geelong district? ,
I also asked how ‘ many had left the area and how many were still seeking employment at 1st February 1969. The Minister informed me that of the 237 boys who sought apprenticeships 79 were placed in the Geelong area and a further 13 were placed within the Geelong employment district. This meant that 92 of the 237 youths were able to find apprenticeship positions in the area. The Minister also informed me that of the 12 girls who sought apprenticeships, none was placed either in the Geelong area or outside the Geelong area. Thirty-two boys and one girl were placed in other employment leaving
II girls and 44 boys still seeking employment at 18th March of this year. I think this situation is not isolated to Geelong. It is a problem that exists in practically every provincial city in Australia.
A deal of manual employment is available. Most firms seem disposed to place their factories in country areas but few are prepared to place their office facilities in them. There are very few major firms which have their office headquarters in provincial centres. It is this situation that creates the imbalance which causes so many young people to be forced out of country towns into a metropolis. It causes the unequal growth of population which in Victoria has resulted in a situation where, with the exception of the Port Phillip district - this is the district surrounding Port Phillip Bay - there has been- virtually no population growth since 1932. There are a number of matters which both Commonwealth and State governments could undertake to remedy this situation.
Recently when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was asked a question relating to balanced development and decentralisation - honourable members can pick their own words - he waved his hands in an offhand manner and indicated there was a great deal of decentralisation taking place in the northwest of Western Australia. This was the sort of thing that the Prime Minister felt was decentralisation. I do not think this is the type of thing that we as a Parliament, as Australians and as a people should accept.
– The Prime Minister would not know any different.
– Most likely not. But he has the honour of being the Prime Minister of Australia and his opinions unfortunately almost invariably are the policies of the Government. So what he says we can take is Government policy.
– Surely that is not right.
– If the honourable member feels that one man is suitable to rule a country rather than a number of men with a collection of opinions, that is for him to say. I would have thought that the honourable member’s opinion would be just as valuable as his.
Recently 1 have had a number of complaints from business people who have sought loans to develop smaller businesses in provincial areas but who are being denied finance through banking organisations, including the Commonwealth Bank. It has been hinted to the business people that if they were to establish their businesses in the Melbourne metropolitan area they would be accommodated with finance. This is extremely serious and should be looked into because the indications are that this is in fact what is happening. People are not being given finance, which is available to people in the metropolitan areas, to develop businesses in provincial cities.
A further matter of considerable concern is the cost of communications for major business enterprises that operate outside the capital cities. A firm establishing its office facilities in the Melbourne metropolitan area has access to about one million telephone subscribers on local call rates. A firm which operated its major headquarters in any provincial, area in Victoria would at all times, with the exception of about 100,000 persons, be on trunk line costing for all its telephone services. With the spread of the subscriber trunk dialling system it should be possible as a: decentralisation measure to provide, for industry that is prepared to establish its offices in country areas, telephone linkages at the same rates as exist in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and the other major capital cities. I do not suggest that this should be provided throughout the whole range of services. Obviously the Post Office could not carry that sort of charge. But I believe that the Government could carry the cost of providing a decentralised facility in the form of metropolitan telephone fates for the industries established, outside the capital cities. I ask the Government to take this matter seriously and not to wait another 10 years before thinking about it and another 20 years before acting. If it does wait, there will not be anyone at -all outside the metropolitan areas.
Motion (by : Mr Kelly) - by leave - agreed to: i - * .
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of Order of the Day “No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being further continued until 3.45 p.m.
– Like other honourable members,-! received in my mail this morning two papers. One is headed Seminar, Contemporary China, 1969’ and advertises a seminar that is being arranged by the New South Wales Branch of the Australia-China Society to be held on
Saturday, 12th April 1969. Three papers are to be given. The first is by Bruce McFarlane of the Australian National University and is entitled ‘Economic Planning and the Cultural Revolution’. The chairman for this session is . Professor E. L. Wheelwright. The second paper is entitled China and the Overseas Chinese’ and the third paper is entitled ‘Student Protest - Red Guards and Others’.
The second paper 1 received is headed The Irrationality of the Fear of China’.: it is written by Professor C. P. Fitzgerald who, I am told, is a well known and . leading academic in New South Wales. Professor Fitzgerald sets out to ridicule the idea that Australia has anything to fear from Communist China. Time will not permit me to quote very much . from his paper or to answer what he says in any detail but I should like to draw attention to a few points because 1 think it is most important that the House and the people should give some thought to this big question. Undoubtedly, as Professor Fitzgerald argues, Communist China is a very significant factor . in . our region and in the world because of her size, her geographical situation and her . tremendous population of more than 700 million people. So this is a very important topic for Australians to study. But let us study it in the right perspective and let us look at both sides of the coin.
Professor Fitzgerald, in his opening statement, says that fear of China was used as a political instrument at the last election, that this fear was created in the minds of the people , and he describes it as a myth. He says:
The Chinese are not in the war in Vietnam and they are not participating in that war ‘in any way with armed forces.
I believe that statement to be correct. But Professor Fitzgerald does not go : on to say that American and Australian troops have from time to time captured in South Vietnam large quantities of munitions, hand grenades and other military equipment bearing Communist Chinese brands. It is perhaps a little exercise in dialetics or semantics to say that the Chinese are not in the war in Vietnam. At least they have equipment there, even if they do not have armed personnel there.
The paper contains other chapters with various headings. The Professor says that there is no nuclear threat, although 1 point out that China is becoming more and more a nuclear power in our region of the world and it can be assumed that China will become an even stronger, nuclear power as the years go by. Another chapter is headed Conquest by subversion’. He deals with containment by military force and describes it as a failure. Then, towards the end of his paper, he says that we should look at some facts. He claims that China follows a cautious foreign policy. He makes reference to Korea and Tibet. I would be more impressed with the genuineness and truth of the statements in this booklet if the Professor had given further facts. When referring to Korea he does not say that North Korea was in fact an aggressor nation against South Korea. He is merely an apologist for China. 1 would have been more impressed if the Professor, when dealing with Tibet; had pointed out, as has been documented by the United Nations, that racial extermination- genocide - has. been carried out in Tibet. A great many Tibetans have been murdered by the Red Chinese who. have moved into that country and taken it over. Let us by all means study the question of China but, as I say, let us have a look at both sides of the coin and do not let us be one-eyed when we are discussing and studying a matter that has such an important bearing on the future of our region of the world.
On the last page of the booklet the Professor says:
On this page he says further:
What I think we do require to do is to take a steadier look at China, recognise the fact that she is a great power, ‘ will be greater and nothing therefore can prevent a great power having great strength.
Then he poses a question. This, I believe, is a most important question for the people of Australia and for this House to consider. He asks:
What is the proper policy for a country of Australia’s population! background and character in this situation?
My time is fast running out, but I want to refer honourable members to a very warlike, spine chilling document that was issued in Peking in 1965. I hope that the seminar I mentioned will consider some of the points that have been set out in it. I obtained a copy from the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) some time ago and I have studied it. It contains twenty-one pages of small print. It is headed ‘Long Live the Victory of People’s War’, lt is said to be in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japan and it was written by Lin Piao, ViceChairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Vice-Premier and Minister of National Defence. I skip many pages because of the time and I go to a passage on page 22 under the heading ‘The International Significance of Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s Theory of People’s War’. Lin Piao stated:
It was on the basis of the lessons derived ; from the people’s war in China that Comrade Mao Tse-tung, using the simplest and’ the most vivid language, advanced the famous thesis that - ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’. lie clearly pointed out:
The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the .central task and the highest form of resolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries’.
At page 23 he stated:
Comrade Mao Tse-tung points out that we must despise the enemy strategically and take full account of him tactically.
He said at page 24:
Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’.
The background to this was the conquest of the rural areas of China by Mao Tse-tung and his forces in 1949 - the envelopment of the cities of that country and the ultimate capture city by city until they had control of the whole nation. Piao also wrote:
Ours is the epoch in which world capitalism and imperialism are heading for their doom and Socialism and Communism are marching to victory.
These, I suggest, are scarcely words which denote peaceful intentions. I think we have some reason for fearing possible moves by Communist China in the future. On page 29 of his publication Piao wrote:
We want to tell the United States imperialists once again that the vast ocean of several hundred million Chinese people in arms will be more than enough to submerge your few million aggressor troops.
On page 30 he wrote:
We are optimistic about the future of the world. We are confident that the people will bring to an end the epoch of wars in human history. Comrade Mao Tse-tung pointed out long ago that war, this monster, ‘will be finally eliminated by the progress of human society, and in the not too distant future too. But there is only one way to eliminate it and that is to oppose war with war, to oppose counter-revolutionary war with revolutionary war.’
Are these the words of a peace-loving regime? I should like to know. They do not ring that way to me. Piao continued:
All peoples suffering from United States imperialist aggression, oppression and plunder, unite! Hold aloft the just banner of people’s war and fight for the cause of world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and Socialism! Victory will certainly go to the people of the world!
Long live the victory of people’s war!
I hope that the seminar will study this document and have a look at the other side of the coin as well.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The general procedure followed in debate is for Government and Opposition members to speak alternately. By giving the call to the honourable member for Mallee you are permitting two members from the one side to speak consecutively. I believe that the general procedure should be followed and that the honourable member for Reid should be given the call.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Costa)Order! The point is upheld. The name of the honourable member for Reid was not on my list and that is why I did not call him. I now call the honourable member for Reid.
– I thank you for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would not have risen to speak in this debate but for the remarks of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury). He seems to trot out the old bogy about Communist China whenever we get near election time. All honourable members have received a brochure which sets but views that have been expressed by Professor Fitzgerald over a long period. Professor Fitzgerald is probably one of the most advanced thinkers in Australia on ‘ Asian affairs. He is probably one of the advanced thinkers on Asian affairs in this part of the world. We know that there is a great problem through the isolation of almost onequarter of the world’s population. Since 1949 there has been a government in the People’s Republic of China but for some reason or other - because of power politics - that country has been deprived of its rightful place in the United Nations. The Australian Labor Party, since 1955, has stated clearly that mainland China, or the People’s Republic of China, should be admitted to the United Nations. The Government, however, is not prepared to vote for its admission to the United Nations. Yet year after year it has permitted the sale of our surplus wheat to China. In fact, the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), a member of the Liberal Party, has accused the Country Party members of the coalition of having obtained money, stained with the blood of the peasants of Tibet, from their sales of wheat. I have no doubt that some of the wheat that is sold to China finds its way, as food, to the North Vietnamese people.
The Opposition has never objected to trading with the nations of the world. We believe that when there is trade and intercourse between nations it breaks down barriers. However, seemingly because this is an election year, the honourable member for Ryan expresses concern about Communist China. Honourable members will recall that during the last election campaign we heard about this subject on television and we received, in our letter ‘boxes, pamphlets asking: ‘Where do we draw the line to stop the downward thrust of Communism from Red China?’ This was the jingoistic attitude of the Government. In talking of Vietnam it also referred to the Chinese downward thrust. It was trying to build up fear and hysteria in the Australian people.
As Professor Fitzgerald has rightly said, there are no Chinese in Vietnam. The honourable member for Ryan said that
Chinese arms have been found in Vietnam. We are aware of this, but it is worthwhile to study the history of the struggle of the people of Vietnam. I refer to the ‘Washington Post’ of 6th March 1963 in which General Harkins, former CommanderinChief of the American forces in Vietnam, said that the Vietcong - the National Liberation Front - were not receiving arms from China, Russia’ or anywhere else; they had captured Japanese weapons, captured French weapons, captured American weapons and home made weapons. It was only after the war was escalated by the Americans that the National Liberation Front, as did the North Vietnamese, received arms from Russia and China. Yet, during all this time when escalation was taking place, our Government still continued to trade with. China in foodstuffs, particularly wheat. Hypocritically, the honourable member’ rose today and bleated this out.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask -for ; a withdrawal of the word ‘hypocritically*.
-I. am a peaceful man. Mr Deputy Speaker, and I will withdraw my remarks if I offended the honourable member. What we must consider is whether there is any fresh thinking on the Government side. Senator Edward Kennedy, who was recently made the Whip of the Democratic Party - the majority party in the United States Senate - and who therefore occupies the second most senior position in the Party, clearly stated that the United States should recognise China, and should support its admission to its rightful place in the United Nations. Yet we have heard no fresh thought advanced by the Government. The time is long overdue when our Government should support that action, lt must not close its eyes and isolate a quarter of the world’s population, lt is important that we bring the Chinese into the family of nations so that we can have intercourse and discussion with them’ and so that we can sit down and thrash out the various problems that arise. The only way that problems can be solved is at the . conference table.
But what happens? What was the statement that was made over the Australian Broadcasting Commission yesterday morning? It was that the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. General Thieu, whom this Government supports, is prepared to enter into private discussions with the National Liberation Front.
– Order! The extended time for the debate has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may
– Order! The question is-
– I rise to order.
– Order! I am on my feet. 1 put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I call the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I rise to order. You are sitting down now, Sir. May I take my point of order?
– I rise to order.
– Order! I will hear the honourable member for McMillan.
– My point of order hinges on the fact that in the debate on grievances you called the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). When it was pointed out that possibly the Opposition should have the call you reversed your decision and called the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). Would it not now be in order for the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) again to extend the time for the debate so that the honourable member for Mallee may have his say? The honourable member for Reid jumped the claim of the honourable member for Mallee because the honourable member for Reid always stands to support the Communists.
– Order! That is a matter not for the Chair but for the House.
– I rise to order. I think that the honourable member for McMillan should be asked to withdraw his remark about the honourable member for Reid. He said that the honourable member for Reid always supports the Communists.
– I am sorry; I did not hear the remark.
– I ask that the honourable member for McMillan withdraw the remark. He said that the honourable member for Reid always supports the Communists.
– But Mr Deputy Speaker, he always does.
– I ask for a withdrawal of the remark.
– No, Mr Deputy Speaker. Do you ask me to withdraw a statement that the honourable member for Reid always gets up in the House and supports the Communist line? That is a fact.
– The remark is objectionable.
– Under your ruling I will withdraw it.
– Not good enough. On a point of order, I claim that the honourable member for McMillan should give an unreserved apology to the honourable member for Reid as the remark was personally offensive.
– Order! The honourable member for McMillan has withdrawn the remark. I accept that.
– I move:
The purpose of the Proposals, which 1 have just tabled, are to give effect to a recommendation of the Australian Canned Fruits Board that the excise duty imposed under the provisions of the Excise Tariff 1921- 1968 on canned apricots, peaches and pears and mixtures thereof be reduced from 30c per dozen 29 oz cans to 5c per dozen 29 oz cans with equivalent reductions in respect of other can sizes.
The excise was introduced in 1963 on canned deciduous fruits entered for consumption within Australia. The purpose of its introduction was to give the Board additional funds to those derived from its traditional income sources, in order that it could provide the greatest possible promotional assistance to the industry in developing markets for the increasing supplies of fruit then becoming available. The level of excise rate to apply at any particular time is decided after consideration of recommendations in this respect from the Board.
The moneys available from the excise have been used effectively over the last 5 years. As the international marketing situation developed over this period, however, there was increasing use of these funds in the form of market development allowance payments to canners exporting to markets such as West Germany. This led to friction with a’ major competitor- the United States of America - and an agreement was reached with the United States last year that the use of the market development allowance mechanism would be discontinued in 1969 in certain significant markets for the chief variety- canned peaches. Australian industry representatives participated fully in the discussions leading to the agreement. One effect of this agreement is that the Board will require considerably less funds in 1969 than it has needed in the past.
A development since last year’s agreement that may be of interest to. honourable members has been the two meetings which have taken place, one last October and the second in January of this year, between representatives of the industries in Australia, the United States and South Africa. Further similar meetings are to follow The general purpose of such meetings is to explore areas of possible co-operation betweenthe three competitors in the development of export markets.
It is in this general context that the Board has reviewed its need for revenue from the excise- and had reached the conclusion that a significant reduction of the rates from the levels applying in the past 2 years is warranted. The Government accepts the Board’s recommendation and I commend the Proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 March (vide page 949), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the House take note of the following paper: Export of Merino Sheep- Ministerial Statement, 20 March 1969.
– This is a debate on the proposal to ease for a trial period the ban on the export of merina rams, the matter to be reviewed after 1 year. One. of. the few things with any foundation said last night by members of the Opposition was a remark passed by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), who said:
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.
With the greatest respect, I say that that is one of the very few informed remarks made by the Opposition in this debate.
This is a matter that should be considered with reasoned judgment and in the light of. practical . experience - not on a basis of emotion theory or political opportunism - because the wool industry is still the largest single earner of export income. Collectively, mining is rapidly overtaking wool as an export earner. Opposition to the easing of the ban on the export of merino. rams is based, as far as some small growers are concerned, on the very genuine fear that they will have to pay more for rams ifthe ban is lifted. Opposition is based by some people on the fear that our supreme position as a supplier of fine wool will be threatened. Opposition is forthcoming from another group who are endeavouring to gain political advantage out of this matter. “ . “
About 50% of Australia’s top merino rams come from the Riverina. I will not refer to all studsby name, because this might not be fair ; to studs elsewhere. In my electorate are the two biggest Peppin studs - Wanganella and Boonoke. Today 93% of all merino sheep and a good many other crossbred sheep in Australia have Peppin blood in their veins. Between 12 million and 15 million sheep are shorn in the Riverina annually.. Let. me stress that I am not a stud breeder. . I am not a large purchaser of- merino rams. My family breeds its own merino rams. Last night the honourable, , member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) claimed that by lifting the embargo the Government had bowed to the will of stud breeders who had been lobbying on this matter. Not one stud breeder has spoken to me, written to me or even by innuendo sought that I do anything to have the ban eased. I know stud breeders all around Australia, and I know that that is a completely false statement. I am suprised that a man of his calibre should make it. This lifting of the embargo is only for a trial period, and an examination of the Minister’s statement will show that there are no grounds for the fears which are in the minds of some people.
The ban was imposed in 1929, firstly, because of the depression period and the falling price of wool and, secondly because of the fear of competition from South Africa and Russia. The embargo was introduced at a time when the only rivals to wool fibre were the natural fibres, cotton and silk, and a small amount of rayon which was used purely for industrial purposes. The conditions that prevailed at that time were entirely different to those which prevail today. Today cotton accounts- for 57% of the world fibre market, synthetics 34%, wool 8%, and silk 1%. Statistically the position of wool is declining at a fairly rapid rate; it has declined by about 4% in the last. 10 years to 8% as it now is. If the aim of the ban was to eliminate South Africa’s rivalry - that was the country which was producing the greatest amount of fine wool in competition with Australia - then it was imposed too late.
I was in South Africa not long after the. ban was imposed. I worked on one of the best studs there and I saw most of their top studs. At that time their sheep had reached a very high standard, and I am certain that that standard has been maintained. In fact their sheep were of such a standard that they would have been comparable to all our second grade stud sheep, the exception being our parent studs and our very top grade sheep. In some cases, as I have indicated, their studs were equal to some of our best studs. South Africa may have been inconvenienced by our embargo but the advancement of its wool industry certainly was not retarded to any great extent. Today South Africa has more than 30 million sheep and her wool clip per head is only 1 lb less than Australia’s despite the fact that her flock includes a great proportion of lower grade sheep such as crossbreds, Cape sheep and Persian sheep. So South Africa’s return per head is comparable to ours.
The danger to our wool industry is not over-production but under-production. Last night the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) referred to the Zenith sheep - they are very fine sheep - and to the Polwarth sheep. The export of these sheep has been allowed and a lot of them have gone to South America. The honourable member for Angas might have misunderstood what I said when I interjected last night. I said that the wool from these sheep is finer than that of a great many South Australian sheep. I am a great admirer of South Australian sheep. They are a big boned, strong bole sheep which can survive under very difficult conditions; they have thrived in a lot of areas in Australia where other types of sheep might not have done so well.
The easing of the embargo is not a result of Government thinking. This decision was made by the Australian Wool Industry Conference with a vote of 37 to 16. The Labor Party, including the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), says that is not a fair number to make such an important decision. That is utter humbug. Sixty-three people in this House can make decisions that affect 12 million people; so the arguments put forward by those honourable members do not stand up to examination. This decision was recommended, I repeat, by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, in which every wool grower who is a member has the right to have a say. The easing of the ban was recommended by the Australian Wool Board, which is drawn from the constituent bodies of the AWIC. The Board has seven wool growers on it; a financial adviser; a number of buyers and spinners; and only one Government member. The Board unanimously recommended this easing of this embargo. The lifting of the ban was also recommended by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the International Wool Secretariat, of which Australia is the dominating partner.
If I thought that Australia’s merino industry would suffer because of this decision by the Government or that the small men in the industry would be inconvenienced I would oppose it. I am confident that it will make no difference whatsoever to our sheep at all. We will not be jeopardising our welfare by relaxing this ban. There are many examples of the outcome of such action. England sold its Hereford cattle, shorthorn cattle, Angus cattle and thoroughbred horses for generations, yet buyers throughout the world still have to go back to England for them because judicious breeders do not let their their top stock go. Australia is supreme in the production of merino wool, for the very good reason which the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) gave last night and about which the honourable member for Macquarie took him to task. Basically the reason is that Australia has a large area of low altitude country, a temperate climate and moderate rainfall. This is why we will always be supreme in breeding large numbers of good quality sheep. South Africa has reached certain standards, but it has a lot of climatic difficulties because it is a high plateau country.
Added to the basic reason for Australia’s supremacy in wool are the skills, self denial and devotion of our stud breeding people over the generations. This supremacy is gradually being threatened by different factors, probate being one of them. No matter what aid the scientist may give, it is the individual with that indescribable thing called the breeder’s eye who has brought stock, whether it be sheep, cattle or other animals, up to the high standard which is enjoyed throughout the world today. These stud breeders who are sneered at by some members of the Opposition are not great monsters. They operate under great expense and they put most of their profits, if not all, back into the betterment of their flocks and of their land. Such things as fleece weighing and fibre measuring are useful, but this hidden factor which some men have has been the greatest single thing in the lifting of the standards of our sheep apart from the natural adaptation of our land. I was closely associated in my early manhood and late youth with a man who put 2 lb of weight on 80,000 sheep in well under 10 years, but I shall say 10 years to be completely safe. He told me that the best ram be had on that property was purchased by him for 85 guineas, and the greatest failure he had in stud sheep was bought for 1,350 guineas. This talk of selling all our best sheep and sending them away is nonsense. It does not hold water. One of the greatest breeders in the world was Captain de Quincey who lifted the Hereford cattle from an ordinary standard to the most sought after breed in the world today. He once said of the keenness of the breeder’s eye:
They are in the mind’s eye. It is like trying to describe a dream - the substance of it is elusive - it refuses to be pinned down for examination.
A good judge cannot tell you exactly why he picks one sire ahead of another. I am confident that there will be no tremendous rush to buy rams. There are many reasons for this. Many countries that would like them do not have the necessary foreign exchange to do so. In fact, it is only a ram of certain quality that is worth putting on inferior ewes. You do not put a 10,000 guinea ram on inferior ewes. Only 22,511 sheep were exported to twenty-six countries during the 11 years from 1929 to 1940. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) mentioned the shipment of rams last night. They were 4,850 flock ewes. They were not stud ewes; they were flock Boonoke’ ewes. There were 150 rams sent to Russia, and some very informed circles say that most of them were eaten.
The rams that will be exported will come from a limited number of studs only. People will not want to come from overseas and buy just any rams. Overseas buyers will want to buy rams from studs that have a long genetic history. The rams being exported will not pose any competition for Australian flock breeders. This move will tend to increase the quantity of quality wool in the world and it will have some slight indirect beneficial effect on the studs by enabling them to sell more readily flock rams at a lower price.
The Opposition has suggested that there should be a referendum on the question whether the embargo on the export of merino rams should be lifted. What I want to know, firstly, is who would vote in the referendum? Would all wool growers vote? Would people who have never had merino rams or who are cross breeders, as I am very largely, have a say or not? Who would determine this question? Did the Australian Labor Party call for a referendum when it imposed the ban 40 years ago? Let us be consistent. When the ban was imposed wool had approximately one-fifth of the world’s fibre market. Today its share of the market has been reduced to about one-twelfth. Of course, total demand for fibre has increased enormously, particularly for fibre for wearing apparel. Unless the quality wool industry is able to take advantage of this opportunity, more of the market will be captured by some fibres, almost certainly synthetics. As many wool producing countries as possible are needed to assist in the promotion of the wool industry, and this can best be achieved by having these countries as members of the International Wool Secretariat which has by its research and promotion activities proved its value. In an article I wrote I had this to say: lt may seem at firs! sight the scarcity of the commodity would ensure a strong demand and a high price, but there are many instances in commerce where the shortage of a particular commodity has established the use of a substitute and the usage has cemented the position of this substitute.
In the case of wool its scarcity will not be to ils advantage. What is required by the textile trade is a greater quantity of quality wool if wool is to obtain a share of the increased demand for fibres.
Under this proposal sales will be restricted to rams only; they will be sold by public auction; and only 300 rams will bc sold. These conditions are all right, but 1 am concerned about putting 300 rams on the market for anyone to buy, because a rich country might get the lot. I would like to see consideration given to restricting the sales to rams of a standard to be determined by a panel as is done in awarding the Stonehaven Cup, when three different judges pick a ram. 1 support the imposition of an export tax, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). I would not name the rate of tax, because this should be fluid. This idea is important because it would give the necessary advantage to the Australian buyer. He could not say that he was being disadvantaged, because he could compete for the sheep he wanted from an advantageous position economically.
It would also help to ensure that only sheep of a reasonable standard went overseas. I saw some sheep that had been exported to South Africa. They certainly were getting on in age when 1 saw them, but they were inferior sheep when they were exported. Do not let us think that the breeders in South Africa are not astute. There should be an import quota for the recipient countries. Public relations are involved in this matter. The poorer coun tries of the world - I am not being disparaging in saying this - and the countries that are short of foreign exchange should have the opportunity to purchase the rams they need to be able to engage in competition. But the sheep we export should be available only to countries that are members of the International Wool Secretariat. If it is not good enough for them to come in and contribute to the promotion of wool and the research that is being undertaken in relation to wool, we should deny them the right, to buy our sheep. These conditions should be considered, because they would be beneficial.
I agree with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that perhaps we are imposing something that will be difficult to work out practically. The conditions governing the export of merino rams will be reviewed from time to time. If it is not possible to implement the suggestions I have made now, it may be possible to do so at some future date. They will be of great advantage to us. I have been associated with stud sheep since 1 was 12 years of age, and I have had a reasonable amount of intelligence all my adult life. I am thoroughly satisfied that the decision to export merino rams will not in any way create difficulties for the flock ram buyer. It is an attempt to do something in a minor way for the wool market of the world. I reiterate the words of that man 1 regard as a very good Australian. In retrospect, be may be regarded as a great one in the future. I refer to Mr W. J. Vines. He has stared unequivocally that the relaxation of the Australian embargo should contribute to the stability of the world wool growers and hence the stability of world wool production.
– As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) pointed out, the embargo on the export of merino rams has operated since 1929. lt has operated for 40 years. Therefore I suggest that there could be no reason why we should act hastily now in deciding whether the embargo should or should not be relaxed. It was imposed for a very good reason. It was imposed with a view to protecting our wool industry, and its imposition was supported by all political parties. As far as I know, it has continued to receive the same support right up to this point of time. Despite the long years of its operation and despite the support it has received over the years, the Government at very short notice now proposes to bring about a completely different situation. The Minister claims that it is only a partial relaxation in that only 300 rams will be exported, but this depends on what ‘partial’ refers to. If it simply refers to numbers, I agree that 300 is a very small number in comparison with the number of sheep that we have in Australia. But if we look at it in relation to the effect of the export on other countries, I suggest that we find it is not so partial or insignificant. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) dealt with that aspect of it fairly clearly when he spoke about it last week. He said:
Although only 300 rams will be allowed to be exported this year, because of technical advancements in animal husbandry and genetics, including tile use of artificial insemination, the limitation to 300 rams will be meaningless. Anybody with a basic knowledge of genetics knows that, with the use of artificial insemination, the preservation of semen and the co-ordination of the oestrous cycle so that large numbers of ewes come on heat simultaneously, there could be a tremendous upsurge of merino blood in foreign flocks.
What the honourable member for Dawson said is quite correct. Within 2 or 3 years there con id be and no doubt would be a very significant difference in the quality of sheep and wool in those countries to which the rams are exported.
Therefore, if the Minister relies on the small number of rams to be exported as being a good argument, I suggest he has no argument at all. By the careful use of ram semen, I understand - I have been told this on pretty good authority - that between 500,000 and 1 million ewes can become pregnant. It was rather interesting, I thought, that the Minister in drawing attention to certain reasons why the embargo should be relaxed made no attempt to tell us why it was valid. But when he came to the objections he was careful to try to explain them away. It must be remembered that there is a considerable weight of objection to the Government’s proposal from within the wool industry itself.
As the Minister pointed out, 16 out of 53 delegates at the Wool Industry Conference voted against the resolution to relax the embargo. Sixteen representatives of the wool industry opposed the proposition, and we have not been told how many wool growers those 16 delegates would be representing. I think that it is a fairly important question in this matter. How many wool growers are actually for or against the embargo? Is there actually a majority for relaxation? If so, is that majority of sufficient number to warrant this move to throw overboard an embargo which has stood the test of time for some 40 years? I suggest that, because we do not know for certain what the majority of wool growers think on this question and because there is no need for any haste in coming to a decision, all the wool growers should be given - and, I repeat, all - the opportunity of expressing an opinion by way of the ballot box at a referendum of wool growers.
I am further encouraged in adopting this view in the recent knowledge that the graziers’ organisation in southern Monaro, in the electorate of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) has resolved: That all means both political and industrial would be used to force the Government to hold a referendum’. Those people are not irresponsible. They are not people who normally would suggest or encourage men on the wharves or transport workers not to handle certain goods for export. Yet, apparently, they feel so strongly on this subject that they are prepared to go to any length. Even views from people such as these in a matter such as this should be respected. Certainly they would not be an isolated section. There are certainly thousands of others who have the same views. Of course, it is now clear why the honourable member for Eden-Monaro had a dollar each way. He finds himself in the position that, if he opposes the policy of the Government and if he criticises the Minister he might meet the same fate as the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), while if he opposes a referendum he might be thrown out by his electors. So we have to appreciate his position. We have to be a bit sympathetic towards a man who finds himself in that predicament.
The Minister for Primary Industry on Tuesday, in reply to a question on this subject of a referendum, said that it was not one of the requests from the Wool Industry Conference. No-one has ever suggested that it was. Why should the Conference request this when a majority of the Conference favoured the relaxation of the embargo? But, by the same token, the Conference has never said that it would reject any proposal for a referendum. Certainly I would not expect the Conference to reject such a democatic method of obtaining the views of the wool growers. Certainly the 16 delegates who opposed relaxation would not be opposed to a referendum.
The only other objection raised by the Minister was that he did not see how it would be possible to have a referendum on a decision that there be only a partial lifting of the embargo and that the conditions be reviewed annually. Now, as I see it, there is very strong objection to any relaxation at all. Surely the Minister does . not suggest that there could not be a referendum in that respect? Surely the Minister does not suggest also that irrespective of what a referendum disclosed it would be necessary to hold a further referendum to find out whether there had been a change in thinking during the following 12 months. Personally, I cannot see any weight in the argument by the Minister at all.I can see no reason why a referendum should not be held. But I can see several reasons why a referendum should’ be held.
It seems to me that the Minister is rather doubtful as to whether a referendum would show a majority in favour of relaxation with the result that the decision of the Wool Conference may be reversed. He certainly has not come forward with anything to show that such a result is not unlikely to happen. He has, it would seem, relied completely upon a majority vote of the Conference and this, to my mind, is not good enough particularly when a substantial number of delegates . voted against the proposal. I certainly consider that 16 delegates out of S3 delegates is a very sub stantial number.
From what the Minister said in his statement the other night, it seems to me that the great bulk of wool growers is not overenthusiastic about the proposition. It seems quite clear that there has been no pressure and no great demand for this partial lifting of the embargo.It would seem to me that there has been no outcry from growers generally that the matter should be determined by the Government and that the Government should act quickly upon it. I say that because we are told that in 1 951 the question of lifting the embargo was considered by the Australian Agricultural Council which resolved that the embargo should be relaxed at the discretion of the Commonwealth Government on the understanding that the Commonwealth would not agree to unrestricted export.
That was in 1951. Nothing happened until 1962 because, or so the Minister tells us anyway, of a continuing division of opinion amongst and within the wool growers organisations. In July 1962, however, the Australian Agricultural Council resolved that the question of relaxing the embargo be referred to the industry through the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Nothing happened until June 1967 when the Conference distributed certain materia] to member organisations for consideration. So surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, it could never besaid that there has been any real demand or request from wool growers to bring about a change in the existing situation. There has been no pushing at all for any relaxation and, quite naturally, those who are opposed to any relaxationwould simply sit quiet. There wouldbe no need for them to raise the question and so, in turn, there is . no need for any. haste now.It is 18 years since it was decided that the Government should use its own discretion-. There can be no great objection, except perhaps from those people who want to sell rams, if the embargo is left on for a further . 12 months or until such time as a.referendum can be held.
This is a very important decision with very far reaching effects.It; should not be treated lightly. As farasI am concerned, I would want to see all the wool growers in my electorate given the. opportunity to record their opinion by way of vote. I am certainly surprised that members of the Australian Country Party are not similarly concerned. The Minister also told us that, at various stages since 1 929, : associations of sheep breeders have requested theremoval of the embargo.
If that is an argument for relaxation of the embargo, I suggest that the Government is inconsistent. Over the years, pensioner organisations have been requesting the removal of the means test. But even though the Government,as far back as 1949, promised that it would do so, nothing has happened yet. The reference to sheep breeders or stud breeders of course is quite significant. There we. see a section of the wool industry that would receive a benefit -and, no doubt, a substantial benefit - from a lifting of the embargo although, of course, it may not benefit over a long period.
I was interested to note an article in yesterday’s main Western Australian newspaper which refers to this export of merino rams. It says:
The stud stock manager of the Sydney Farmers and Graziers Co-Op. Ltd, Mr W. Hutchison, said today that 29 South African farmers were booked to attend the Sydney sheep show.
If the export embargo was lifted in time, there was a strong possibility of record prices being paid.
Apparently he is interested only in record prices. The Minister gave us certain reasons in favour of a relaxation of the embargo. He emphasised that a main reason - the really important reason; at least, this is what I understood him to say - was to do something to counteract competition from synthetics. It seemed to me anyway that the argument was that, by exporting merino rams and infusing into other flocks in other countries some of the value of merino wool which would bring about a realisation among people of those countries that merino wool was so much better than synthetic fibre, the value of Australia’s wool would be greatly enhanced in the eyes of the people of those other countries, our wool sales would greatly improve and our export income would increase. If this is the argument, Mr Deputy Speaker, surely we should be willing to ensure that rams are available to those other countries at a reasonable price.
But actually we are going to ensure that we squeeze every possible cent out of overseas buyers, and this just does not tie up, as far as I am concerned, with the reasons given by the Minister for Primary Industry for the relaxation. The Minister also told us that the major consideration in relation to the export of rams was:
Export approvals will be issued only for merino rams that have been sold at public auction sales nominated by the State member association of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders.
This means, of course, that we want to obtain the highest possible price for rams and if the price is not realised the rams are not sold and this very important infusion of merino blood overseas just does not eventuate. It has been suggested to me by a very prominent wool grower that spinners and wool brokers from South
Africa and several other countries have expressed a keen interest in this proposal, but from a very different view from that expressed by Government members. This man is of the very firm opinion that overseas spinners and woolbrokers want to see an infusion of merino blood into flocks of their own country so that the wool from those flocks in future years can successfully compete against Australian wool and bring about a situation where overseas spinners and brokers can operate on a much lower selling market than at present. This is an angle I would certainly like to hear the Minister for Primary Industry speak on because if this is correct the proposal now before us could have just the opposite effect from that which we have been told to expect.
Of course, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) oast aside the idea that stud merino rams will do much for overseas flocks. The Minister for External Territories claimed that merino blood is already in other countries but has not achieved much because of climatic conditions. The honourable member for Angas said a good flock ram would do the job as well as a stud ram, and if either of those gentlemen is right then they also destroy the argument of the Minister for Primary Industry and are interested only in ensuring higher prices for the rams. All I have to say is that if wool men from other countries can see such great value in merino sheep and if they are prepared to come out here and bid against the overseas and local buyers and pay very high, in fact record, prices, then it is obvious that they can see what it will mean towards improvement of their own flocks.
Surely if they realise this then there are also people in those countries who engage in the production and sale of woollen goods who must also realise the value of merino wool, and I can see no reason why they should become more enthusiastic about merino wool from this country simply because the wool producers in their own country have decided to introduce merino blood to improve their flock production. Surely it could, as I said, have an opposite effect, that buyers of wool in those countries would, when the wool of their own countries improves, be more prone to buy, and even pay more for the local product than buy from Australia. This is one of the possibilities which must be kept in mind. This country gains nothing actually for record prices for rams over the short term if in the long term the demand for Australian merino wool should decline. I would imagine that this is one of the facts which many wool growers, and particularly the small growers, would be worried about. The small growers will receive nothing from high ram prices; in fact they could lose. It could well mean that they will be forced to pay more to replenish their stock of rams, and certainly they cannot be happy if there is any possibility that, having paid these higher prices, they find that the wool they produce does not find the same keen market as it does today.
Just recently 1 read an article in some document or paper about the work, the trouble and the expense put into the Peppin property and stock, and it seemed to me that the article was drawing attention to the value of that stud in relation to its impact on Australian wool and certainly not on how it could improve the flocks of people in other countries. Because I feel quite certain that a very large number of woolgrowers are not happy about the relaxation of the embargo I say that in the interests of the industry as a whole and in the interests of Australia as a whole much more detail should be given to this Parliament. Also, and this is even more important, the growers themselves should be given the opportunity of recording their views by way of a referendum. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) admitted that there would be thousands against this proposal. Now, if he knows for certain that this is so, does he also know what the majority would be for or against.Quite obviously he does not, and he went on to say.
It is a policy of my Party . . . that is the Country Party - and the Government to listen to an industry organisation and act on its recommendations.
– Quite right.
– The honourable mem ber says this is quite right. If this is so, I would like to know when that policy was adopted because I remember quite well that there was a very great division in the Government with regard to the referendum On the wool price plan. There was no soli darity on that occasion, but, just the same, it is interesting to know that the Country Party and the Government give no heed to the rank and file in the industry. They are only concerned with the views expressed at a conference, and the fact that a very substantial number of wool growers have made it clear that they oppose the proposition and that others have called for a referendum apparently does not mean a thing to the Government Parties. As I said earlier, the embargo has been imposed for 40 years and another 12 months will not mean a thing, so why deny the woolgrowers a vote on the matter? Of course; the Government may be afraid that its proposal will be rejected.
– I find it rather surprising that ‘we are debating this Ministerial Statement on the Export of Merino Rams because’ the statement was made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) only on Thursday 20th March and the notice concerning the debate on it has already made its way to the top of the notice paper. I admit we have had a most informative debate on the subject if one disregards the contribution made by Opposition members which’ consisted of a chorus of ‘Have a referendum’. No Opposition member suggestedanything else but that we should have a referendum. They said nothing at all about the actual subject before the House. But what surprises me is that there are many; ministerial statements which have been listed for debate on the notice paper for much longer than this statement has been there. I will not go through them, Mr Deputy Speaker because I do not want to trespass on your goodwill.
The subject we are debating is the export of merino rams. I can. recall speaking about this to stud breeders 10 years or more ago. The merino sheep is one ofthe most important single items of rural produce that we have ever had in. Australia. It has built for Australia a reputation that no other commodity has ever. been able to build. We like to claim that we are a leading trading nation, that our secondary industries are growing and that our mining production is increasing all the time. There is a good deal of truth in those claims. We have very large bauxite deposits and iron ore deposits. We have all sorts of things that look very attractive.’ But the merino sheep is one of those exclusive items on the basis of. which Australia can claim to have built a reputation that no other country has ever built.
– Why not keep it exclusive?
– My friend asks: ‘Why not keep it exclusive?’ This is a selfish and completely unimaginative remark because he does not understand what stud breeding and the importance of stock mean to people who undertake this work. For years Australia has, through the efforts of stud masters who have learned from bitter experience what is required - by observation, by practical work and by. caring for their flocks - developed a type of sheep which is not known anywhere else. The honourable member, for Angas (Mr Giles) last night said that we would be exporting atmosphere. Australia, in his view, has a special atmosphere which . has produced these sheep. But there are different merino sheep in different parts of Australia. The merino sheep in South Australia, as the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) has pointed out, are not the fine wool sheep that Mr Macarthur was trying to develop when he first brought merinos to this country. Their atmosphere is entirely different from the atmosphere of the Riverina. But we do have the good fortune to have in Australia stud masters wilh genetic experience and knowledge and who have applied these attributes to the breeding of sheep which are capable of producing the finest wool in the world. People talk about the wool industry losing its share of the market. In the eyes of some people the wool industry seems to be running down. This is nonsense. Wool production is increasing all the time, but the population is increasing a lot faster. The demand for fibres as a whole is increasing at a very much faster rate than this country can possibly increase its production. Therefore production cannot keep up with the demand.
There is not enough emphasis on the different types of wool that are grown. We are speaking at this particular moment of the merino types of wool, the fine wools. At the seminar held in Perth in January of this year Sir William Gunn said that the market for fine wool would expand throughout the world faster than Australia’s ability to produce. We have the will to produce these fine apparel wools which are quite different from the ordinary crossbreds and the carpet wools which are all bulked together when you get down to talking about the quantity of wool that is on the market. When you speak about having a referendum of wool growers you include all those people who grow all the coarser wools for which there is a market. Australia should make every endeavour that it possibly can to eliminate these lower counts. The Australian growers should be doing everything possible to get into the 64s and upwards so that we can maintain our supremacy in this field.
But what do we find when it comes to practical application? Wool is a commodity which, for some reason or other, is sold by auction. You do not go out and sell wool in the way every other commodity in the world is sold. You hold up a bit of it and you say: ‘How much will you give me, for this?’ This is an entirely negative attitude. But that is quite apart from the argument, here at the moment. Here we have a situation where the people who do the buying are the important ones under our system of auction. They have to make up their minds whether they are going to put on their machines a fine, good quality wool fibre, with all the attributes that it has which make it desirable, such as stretch, crimp, warmth, moisture absorption and all the other things that go with a good fibre, or whether they will use synthetics.
I am a bit sick of hearing the people who do all the bellyaching in this whole business saying that they are against synthetics, that the synthetics are biting into their industry and all that sort of thing. What we have to do is to get into the synthetics people. Instead of the wool growers’ wives going around in frocks made of synthetic fibresthey should be wearing frocks made from fine wool, for there is no finer apparel material in the world. I am sorry the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has left the chamber. He talked against this last night, but over in his own State they have some of the highest priced wools in the world which they send over to Italy where the manufacturers appreciate these things.
I mention synthetics only to emphasise that we in Australia have the tool in our hands to meet this competition from synthetics if WC can see to it that the world improves the quality of the top end of the wool industry. I am not very concerned with the bottom end, the carpet wools and so on. The synthetics can go in and have a bit of a go there, although a real connoisseur of carpets will tell you that the only good carpet is one made from wool. I am concerned with the fine apparel wools that are available. It is the duty of the Australian executives of our wool promotion - I do not mean only the Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Council, but all these people who may be behind moves for the promotion of wool throughout the world - to see to it that the mills of the world, the looms to which these things find their way and then go into commerce, have available to them material of such quality as will ensure their choosing wool, which has flexibility. You can do things with wool on machines that you cannot possibly do with synthetics. The synthetics people try hard to compete. They make it very simple for people to buy their product by marketing it in. spools whereas wools are required to be put through various processes in manufacture. But the people who know quality will always pay more for wool because it brings them more comfort, more style and more satisfaction in the final products of their industry.
So I join in this debate today for the purpose of impressing on the people who are buying rams, whether they be stud rams or flock rams, that this move which is being made now, somewhat belatedly - 1 may say very halfheartedly if it is only to be a temporary thing to be tried out for 1 year with a limitation of 300 rams - will not react to their detriment. am not very happy about the fact that this is to be only a temporary move. I cannot see any reason why we should not jay straight out that we are going out for this market, that we are going to improve the wools of the world and that we intend to go ahead with the scheme. Anyone who has been in stud breeding knows that you have got to have encouragement, that you have got to have markets. You have got to have the opportunity to be able to produce better, and better stock all’ the time. That is the whole objective of stud breeding. The fact that stud breeders from the very finest studs in Australia will be able to set themselves out to see that their rams are known to the world so (hat people will Come to this part of the world to buy them will encourage them to aim at producing more and more.
Of course, any man with any stud breeding knowledge knows that you do not get ten good ones out of every ten rams you produce. In fact, you are lucky if you get one good one out of 100. There will be a greater Row-out into the production of stud rams with a consequential overflow into the availability of flock rams so that, far from increasing the price of flock rams, the Australian breeders will be- providing a greater opportunity to buy better animals, and probably at lower’ prices, although 1 would not like to guarantee that. I do think, however, that they will not have to pay any more. . ..
The honourable member for Riverina made another point. He said that it would be open to anyone in. the world to come along and bid at auction for these rams, and he suggested that we might refuse export licences to countries that did not subscribe to the International Wool Secretariat. Although I do hot have very much time to consider the full implications of that it attracts me very much. I believe (hat this is something that, could be given a great deal of thought during the next 12 months, as the honourable member suggested. Over all, I can see nothing but good coming from the lifting, of the ban. I can see the encouragement that it will give to the stud breeders. The stud breeders may make some more money. That is a good thing. I have no objection to these fellows making more money because after all they are the backbone of the Whole wool industry, as we recognise if we get down to examining individual accounts, the number of bales produced and the types of wools that are sold. All this is going to be good.
I want to finish my. remarks, by making a plea to the people ,who. are concerned with supplying the market with wool. I do not mean the people who produce just a few bales of wool and who run a few sheep as a fill-in to “make some income. We have to put up with the fact that (hey come on to the market arid ‘clutter it up very often with unwanted ‘grades. I appeal to the people who’ are : really in the wool industry and are concerned with producing the highest grade wool ‘that they give the greatest thought to the advantages that will accrue to them, and to Australia, by increasing the quality of wool that they produce. They should try to produce the highest grades - in the 64s and upwards. The only way in which they will be able to do this is with good merino stock. They have to give full consideration to buying the best they can. This does not mean that wool growers should necessarily buy the most expensive stock. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) was quite right when he said that- we would often get a flock ram that will do as good as a stud ram. But woo) growers have to see that the ram they get is 100% fine fibre. It is not just a case of buying a merino ram because if he comes from South Australia he is not going to be much good to a grower. I am sorry, I do not mean to run down South Australia as a whole - there may be some in South Australia - but the general run of merinos is too strong in the wool for what I am speaking about.
What we need in Australia is a lot more of the very fine fibred rams that people buy for cross breeding. Unfortunately, we cannot get away from that. The people who buy sheep for this purpose should see that they are line bred to do the job in the most efficient way. From this we will produce so much wanted fibre in the form of wool that the synthetic people will find that they are feeling the pinch from the competition of wool and not the other way around, as it is now.
– I agree with those previous speakers who have emphasised the importance of this debate. I believe that the debate can be summed up by asking the question: ‘Is the relaxing of the embargo on the export of merino sheep likely to affect Australia favourably or adversely?’ I believe there is no shadow of doubt that the whole weight of evidence shows it will affect Australia favourably. One of the arguments used - and many arguments have been put forward in the course of this debate - is that the present proposal for the easing of the embargo has been brought about as a result of pressure brought to bear on. the Government by the Australian stud sheep breeders. It has been argued that they would be the. people who would get the advantage and they were selfish enough to want to obtain that advantage without considering anyone else at all. But even if they were selfish, they are not so foolish as to destroy the industry upon which they depend.
The prosperity of the wool industry is as vital to the Australian stud sheep breeders as it is to anyone else. Indeed, it is more vital to them because the wool industry is the field in which they sell their rams. Why would they, above all people, want to do anything that would adversely affect the prosperity of the Australian wool industry? This seems to me to be a shallow argument and I can expect it to come, as it did, only from those people who have no knowledge of the industry and who get up to oppose the Government only with the objective of thinking they might perhaps catch a few votes. It is a very very poor argument and I repudiate it completely. I repudiate the argument on behalf of our Australian stud sheep breeders; I repudiate it on behalf of the Government. This is a matter that is of great concern to all people who are interested in the welfare of Australia.
Another matter that cropped up concerned the availability of rams. The question was asked whether the availability of rams would be. reduced as a result of the relaxing of the embargo sufficiently to allow some 300 rams to. be exported. It was pointed out previously in the debate that stud merino sheep breeders are having a difficult time. Indeed, it is necessary that the studs should be encouraged so that they can carry on the work they have been doing so splendidly during the years and thereby make available rams for the breeders of sheep generally throughout the Australian sheep industry. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) in the course of his speech gave figures of the falling off in the number of rams that were available for sale over a period of years. Those figures and many other factors should surely encourage us to feel that there must be the need to do what we can to encourage the Australian stud sheep breeders and to give them the opportunity, if we can, to lift the prosperity of that part of the industry to the benefit of the industry generally.
The White Paper prepared by the Australian Wool Board asks the question:
In meeting an export .market, would the Australian stud merino sheep industry also be able to discharge its responsibilities to Australia’s wool growers?
I have just mentioned the advantages that would be gained from increasing the production of rams. The White Paper answers this question by stating:
The merino stud sheep industry is capable of supplying all the rams required . . . The available statistics suggest that, in meeting the national demand for both stud and flock rams, the studs should not have to draw on sheep whose quality is below average.
This is another argument that has been used and it could be so unless something is done to help this industry. This is what the partial lifting of the embargo will in fact do.
The argument has also been used about the effect the market price of wool in other countries will have on Australian wool. It is argued that because of the partial lifting of the embargo more high quality merino wool might became available on the world market. It has been pointed out on a number of occasions that the amount of wool available to the textile industry is a relatively small percentage and is growing less. If necessary we should increase the amount of wool available to the industry so that wool will remain an important factor in the textile industry.
– Good quality wool.
– Good quality wool, as my colleague has just pointed out. The main feature of the merino wool industry is quality. We must have good quality wool. We base the future of the wool industry on being able to provide sufficient of that high quality fabric.
Looking at this from another angle, if it were in fact true that there would be a very big increase in the amount of wool competing with Australian wool as a result of the partial lifting of this embargo, I ask the question: ‘Why has not this happened already?’ Why did not it happen prior to 1929 when sheep were freely available for export and indeed, advantage was taken of the situation then. I would like to quote a few figures in this regard. Between 1919 and 1929 - a period of 10 years - Australia exported 22,511 sheep to twenty-six countries. It is feared, in my view without justification, that an industry could be built up overseas and would be a threat to our Australian industry. This could have been done with the sheep that were exported before, but it was not. At that time the Australian stud sheep breeders had developed their sheep to a very high standard. It is quite clear that other countries have difficulty in maintaining the standard we have here, even though their environment does seem to have some similarity to ours. If it were possible for other countries to maintain our standards they would have done so following the export of the sheep that I mentioned earlier.
I have mentioned the drop off in the use of wool as a fibre compared with manmade fibres and I would like to give a few figures on this aspect. It is necessary to look at the growth rate of human population, because this affects consumption. The growth rate of apparel wool production is slow. It is 0.7% per annum. The growth rate of the world’s human population is 1.8% and the growth rate of the production of man-made fibres is 12.7%. If we want to maintain the position of wool in the world as a fibre we must produce more wool and more wool of a higher quality. Some arguments for the retention of the embargo have been advanced. I have tried to refute those arguments that have been used most frequently, but let me now deal with some of the other arguments I think this will show the wisdom of the Government’s decision to allow a partial lifting of the embargo. I might mention that the arguments that have been brought forward relate to the lifting of the embargo, but the Government has not lifted the embargo. At this stage it has simply agreed to a partial relaxation with an annual review, so that those who want to do so will have an opportunity to put their arguments through their wool organisation from year to year. In this way we will be able to see whether the relaxation of the embargo is having any adverse affect on the industy. So the Government is being quite fair about this.
What should the Government do when it is asked by the Australian Wool Industry Conference to take action of this kind? A majority of about 70% favoured the decision taken by the Conference. The Government asked the industry to make representations to it. Having done that, it should act on the advice received unless it has very good reason for not doing so, and no good reasons have been advanced. No advice that has been given to the Government, and certainly no advice that has been given in- this’ debate, would justify the Government’ not taking the action that it has taken, in partially lifting the embargo.
I will run through a few of the arguments that have been advanced by people in authority; These include the views of the International Wool Secretariat and our own very able Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. We should bear in mind, as I say, that the arguments relate to the lifting of the embargo, but the Government has taken the cautious step at this stage of partially relaxing the embargo and allowing some 300 rams to be exported. The first of the arguments in favour of lifting the embargo is:
The growing competition from synthetics, a factor which did not apply when the embargo was imposed, makes it essential, that, both quality and availability of apparel wool should be improved on a world-wide basis.
I mentioned the competition’ from synthetics earlier. I think this argument is very widely accepted now. The second argument is:
Relaxing the embargo would be likely to help ensure the future stability of the Australian wool industry by increasing world production of apparel wools, thus taking advantage of existing opportunities while restricting the scope of other fibres to exploit available markets.
This is in line, I believe, with the views of the great majority of the growers of Australian wool. We should keep this point constantly in mind. The third argument is:
Removal of the embargo would , create goodwill for Australia in overseas countries and improved trade relations.
I- do not doubt for one moment that this is quite an important point. Indeed, our export of 300 rams will create an interest and will be a good advertisement for our wool. It will show that the people who are now providing wool to the textile industry want to keep on doing so, and that the textile industry wants to use the wool. The fourth argument is:
Income from the export of stud merinos would contribute to foreign exchange earnings.
The amount of foreign exchange earned would depend on the value of the sheep exported. That is a point, though not a very important one in- my opinion. Of. course,, foreign exchange as a whole istremendously important. The fifth argument is:
There is no embargo on the export of Polwarthsheep although, as a breed, they carry a high proportion of merino blood.
Several other arguments are included in thelist.
I want to deal now with the suggestion! that a. referendum should be conducted. Surely we do not need to hold a referendum, on every matter that comes before theParliament. The Government is able todecide whether the weight of evidence is. sufficient to justify it acting in a certain way without holding a referendum. In this instance the Government in its wisdom hasdecided on a partial relaxation of the’ embargo, and I believe it was fully justified in doing so. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that a small body of merino sheep breeders campaigned to have the Government reach thisdecision and that pressure came from the top stud masters. Some of the top stud masters may have been in favour of thisdecision, but so were the people who are represented by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– Not all of them.
– I do not say that all of them were. We always get some division of opinion amongst people. There has been a. division of opinion on this issue down through the years, but never has there been the weight of opinion behind the relaxation of the embargo that there is now. As the value of this decision increases, the number of people opposed to it will decrease. Thehonourable member for Wilmot also said’, that had eleven people voted the other way a different decision would have- been reached: If the Australian Labor Party had! won another twenty-five seats at the last election, it would have been returned togovernment, but it did not; instead, it received the biggest drubbing it has ever had in its history. The figures sound all right when they are given in that way, but they do not carry much weight.
I agree with the point made by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and other honourable members that wool is still our biggest export earner and we want to keep it growing. If other ways of earning export income come along, well and good, but we want our wool industry to play its part as an earner of export income. I should also like to refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). He said the ban has existed for 40 years and we should not act hastily now. Labor has had a ban on State aid for non-government schools for quite a long time, but it will partially lift this ban now, and I do not think it will hold a referendum before it does so. The fact that it has been solidly opposed to State aid over the years does not mean that it will not change its policy, especially if it thinks it can gain a few votes by doing so. The Government is not changing its attitude towards the embargo for that purpose. We will not gain any votes by it although perhaps we should. The embargo is being relaxed in the interests of Australia through the Australian wool industry and I commend the Minister and the Government on the action they have taken.
– Mr Speaker, this has been a worthwhile debate on the statement that I made relating to the partial relaxation of the merino embargo. On the Government side we have seen complete unanimity as to the wisdom of accepting the recommendation put forward by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and on the Opposition side we have seen unanimity against the proposal. However it has been difficult to see any definite line of opposition to the proposal or any firm principle underlying the argument that the embargo should not be relaxed. There was a certain amount of haranguing from a nationalistic point of view, the suggestion being that the merinos are the property of Australia and we should not allow anybody else to have them. It is a pity that the Opposition has taken this attitude on a very moderate proposal - a proposal that has been closely examined by the supreme organisation of the wool industry. The Labor Party has always been proud to claim that it is a progressive party with aggressive policies but today it is taking a rather stringent, rigid and back to the buggy day attitude to a problem that has to be faced. This problem involves the future marketing of Australia’s wool clip, particuarly our finer types of wool.
Let me go quickly over the history of this matter. In 1929 there was a request from the wool industry that an embargo be put on the export of stud merinos and other types of stud sheep.
– Were they rams or ewes?
– The embargo was to cover rams and ewes of all types. Of course, this was rigidly opposed by the stud breeders, who would be penalised as a result. If a government is to accept a recommendation which is going to penalise certain producers and prevent them from being able to sell abroad freely, that government must be able to say that it is in the national interest to do so. That is why the government of the day took the decision in 1929. It believed that it would give Australia not only supremacy in wool production but that it would maintain a monopoly right to certain genetic qualities that Australia had and that other countries did not have. The Government imposed the embargo on stud sheep on all breeds, not only merinos. The embargo applied to Corriedales, Polwarths, Border Leicesters, Leicesters and all other types of sheep. The anomaly was soon realised and the embargo was lifted on all sheep other than stud merinos. In other words the Government permitted the export of Polwarths, which have 75% merino blood; Zeniths, which have 85% merino blood; and Corriedales, which have 50% merino blood. After a few years - by the middle ‘thirities - it was realised that people from other countries were buying flock sheep and belatedly, about 5 years later, the Government put an embargo on all merino sheep leaving the country.
In 1950 a further step was taken and an embargo was placed on the export of semen. At that late stage somebody realised that semen could have been going out of the country to other parts of the world. It is now proposed to impose another embargo that never applied ‘before - an embargo on fertilised ova. This is a scientific development that has taken place, and a complete genetic cell could be taken out of Australia. During this period, however, there has been no embargo on merinos going to New Zealand. New Zealanders have been able to purchase merinos here on the understanding that they would not be re-exported. The Government has also permitted certain sheep to go to South Africa, Canada and the United States of America for scientific purposes.
The question we must now ask is this: Is it right or is it fair to have an embargo if it is not in the national interest to have an embargo? Is it right that this penalty should be imposed on Australian stud breeders? I do not know whether the Government should make a flat decision as a technical expert about what is good for the Australian wool industry. I would not think that it is qualified to do that. I would regard people within the industry to be the most qualified. In 1950 the late Sir Ian Clunies-Ross prepared a paper, with the aid of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and submitted it to the Australian Agricultural Council for consideration. He suggested that there should be a lifting of the embargo on merinos because already there was certain genetic material around the world and it was not to our advantage in maintaining the proportion of wool fibre used in the world as compared with other types of fibre that were coming into use. The Australian Agricultural Council decided unanimously in favour of lifting the embargo but asked the Australian Government, in taking action, to provide for a gradual relaxation of the embargo. The Commonwealth Government received the decision but, knowing that there was much conflict of opinion within the industry and believing that the industry ought to decide whether it was in its interests or against its interests, deferred the matter.
In 1962 it was again brought to the Australian Agricultural Council by the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders. The Agricultural Council again looked at the question and referred it back to the Commonwealth Government for action. It was at that stage that the Australian Wool Industry Conference was being created. Here, for the first time, was one body of people representing the great wool industry organisations of Australia on a State level and a national level. For the first time we had got them together, and so this proposal was presented to them. However because their minds were occupied mainly with wool marketing proposals the matter was not examined until 1967. Then it was examined at great depth. The Conference asked leading geneticists from the
CSIRO to prepare a paper on the question. Unfortunately I have not the names of the geneticists concerned, but they were four of Australia’s leading geneticists. They unanimously agreed that it was in the interests of the Australian wool industry to lift the embargo which was serving no useful purpose in this part of the twentieth century. The International Wool Secretariat was asked to present its point of view and it unanimously came down on the side of easing the embargo. A paper was prepared by the Australian Wool Board incorporating all the information received by the Board and circulated to all wool industry organisations for a critical examination and assessment of the position. The matter was debated by the Wool Industry Conference, which voted 37 to 16 in favour of lifting the embargo, subject to certain conditions which I have already stated. In other words, 70% of members of the Wool Industry Conference were in favour of lifting of the embargo.
The main reason advanced for lifting the embargo is to try to improve the world’s supply of good quality wool. I have heard some people try to distort my statement that it will take a long time in any case to improve the world’s supply of good quality wool. It will probably take about 10 years to lift world wool standards. What will be the position of Australia’s wool industry, facing competition from an increasing supply of synthetics, if manufacturers cannot count on having available a satisfactory supply of wool on which to base investment in new mills and plant. This is the question which the International Wool Secretariat examined in great depth. It said that if wool continues to lose its share of the textile market at the rate at which it is losing it, textile manufacturers will lose interest in wool. This may not happen tomorrow, but what will the position be 10 years hence if sufficient fine wool is not available?
There is a good deal of merino blood around the world today. Australia does not have a monopoly of it. We certainly have some of the finer genes but we do not have a monopoly. In Russia last year I visited some wool growing areas. The Russians are making tremendous strides in improving the quality of their flocks. There are about 60,000,000 merinos in Russia of the Stavropol type. By the use of artificial insemination - it is used 100% in the principal sheep breeding areas - the Russians are rapidly improving the grade and quantity of their fine fleeces. They are selling stock to India, Pakistan and certain African countries. We are losing a market in these places. It is in Australia’s interest to have more fine wool produced in the world. Basically this is what we are trying to do.
Twenty years ago wool held 13.5% of the world textile fibre market. Today it holds barely 8%. The growth rate of apparel wool production in the world has been about 0.7% per annum while that of synthetic fibres has been about 12.7% per annum. Production of man-made fibres in 1967, which amounted to 13,600 million lb, was about four times as great as wool production and more than half the volume of cotton production. These facts clearly indicate that synthetic fibres are filling the gap in demand for wool type fibres which wool itself has been unable to meet. If this trend continues the stage could well be reached where wool will play an insignificant role in the planning, production and investment policies of textile manufacturers. These manufacturers have repeatedly indicated that in the absence of adequate supplies of good quality wool they have no alternative but to turn to synthetic fibres. When facts such as these are given to you in the most direct manner by the International Wool Secretariat, which is an organisation operating for the good of the wool industry, you must pay some credence to them. This is what the Wool Industry Conference has done in making its recommendation to the Government.
I concede that an emotional argument can be developed that to lift the embargo might tend to push up the cost of flock rams in this country. But I think it is stretching the point to say that the export of 300 rams will push up the price of flock rams. Any increase in price as a result of those exports would be only marginal. About 1.5 million rams of all types - stud and flock - are sold in Australia each year. According to the Australian Stud Merino Flock Register, at 31st December 1967 - the latest year for which statistics are available - there were 1,835 registered merino studs in Australia. During 1967 those studs sold 201,909 rams and still had on hand 294,557 rams. Only 40% of the rams available for sale in 1967 were sold. The rams on hand comprised animals of all grades - fine, medium and broad merinos - and included rams for stud purposes and for flock purposes. Clearly there are ample supplies from which rams for export may be drawn without affecting domestic requirements. According to expert opinion the 294,557 rams on hand would include a sizable number of animals of the class likely to be in demand for export. The potential for the further expansion of merino studs, is illustrated by the fact that in 1967 the studs had on hand 1,497,592 breeding ewes. In addition they held 432,789 ram lambs and 483,070 ewe lambs. Nobody can say that there is insufficient genetic material for people in this country.
I am sorry that I do not have more time because I wanted to cover the matter of a referendum, which seems to be the only point raised by the Opposition in the debate today. The Opposition is not prepared to make a decision in this matter. It wants the question to go back to the people. The fact is that the Wool Industry Conference did not ask for a referendum - for good reasons. In the first place, a referendum was not required in order to impose the embargo. If you are to have a referendum, on what issues would you have it? Would you have it on the absolute continuation of the embargo or the absolute lifting of the embargo? If it is to be a referendum on the partial lifting of the embargo what conditions will apply to the partial lifting? Will the situation be reviewed annually? If a referendum is to be held, who shall qualify to vote? Shall they be breeders of all types, breeders of crossbred types, those in the fat lamb business or only those who produce fine types of wool and who were referred to last night by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti)? If the referendum were confined to those who produce merino type wool a problem would arise because it would be almost impossible to obtain details of such people. There is no such record in this country. When the referendum was held on a wool marketing scheme there was a record of all wool producers, but there is no record to show who would qualify as a merino type producer.
The proposal to ease the embargo is a progressive step forward. The situation will be watched closely but I am convinced that at this stage the partial lifting of the embargo is in the interests of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fox) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate: Without amendment -
Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill 1969. Spirits Bill 1969. Currency Bill 1969.
Loan (Supplementary Borrowing) Bill 1969.
Without requests - Excise Tariff Bill 1969.
– I present the seventh report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 657), on motion by Mr Anthony: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1969 is to phase out the Federal bounty on the production of raw cotton in Australia during the next 3 years. The bounty is to be phased out during this period with annual financial ceilings of $4m for the 1969 crop, $3m for the 1970 crop and $2m for the 197.1 crop. The decision of the Government is that after 1971 the bounty will cease.
Some very important principles are involved in this Bill. The Opposition finds it extremely difficult to understand why the Government, particularly as it has a Country Party element, should take this drastic step. I do not know of any other comparable decision to remove a bounty or financial assistance from a major industry. In the debate on the partial lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) criticised the Australian Labor Party for going back to the buggy days, as he described them. This decision of the Government completely to eliminate financial assistance to a major primary industry represents a return to the buggy iays. This decision is negative, retrograde, detrimental, and damaging.
I have given a lot of thought to this Bill and I am unable to understand why the Government has taken this action, which will have the effect after 3 years of reducing the bounty to zero. What the Government has done has been to say to the cotton farmers of Australia: ‘From now on you will get no more financial help from this Government by way of a bounty or subsidy. Any surplus you produce will have to be sold on the world market at world prices.’ In other words, the Government expects the primary producers of Australia to produce a product and to sell that product on the world market without any financial assistance in the form of a subsidy or bounty.
– Why should it?
– I will tell you why. Farmers, particularly from Western Australia and Queensland, have come to me in the last few months in respect to this bounty and have asked: ‘Why can we not buy our tractors, our fertilizers, our chemicals and our insecticides from Japan at the world import parity price? If we are expected to sell our cotton at world market prices why do we have to buy Australian tractors? Why do we have to pay a high price for fuel?’
– There is no duty on tractors.
– A bounty is paid in respect of tractors. It means, in effect, that there is a higher return to tractor producers. The Minister for Primary Industry knows what I mean. I cannot understand why he expects Australian farmers to sell their products at world prices when they themselves are unable to buy their materials for production at world prices. Why can they not buy their fertilisers and their chemicals, which are two items of very high cost in the production of cotton, at the world prices? Although only relatively few farmers are involved in the cotton industry, as I said before some very important principles are involved in this decision to phase out and eventually after 3 years to eliminate the bounty.
The largest exporter of raw cotton in the world is the United States of America. Another reason why I believe this decision of the Government to be quite unfair is that the US is dumping cotton under the articles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and “Trade. There was a payment of about 9c per lb export subsidy for cotton. If honourable members want any proof of this, I shall provide it. The domestic price of cotton in America is higher than the price which the US sells that cotton for overseas. If one looks at papers written on the export subsidies one will find that the export subsidy paid by the American Government has a significant effect on the world import parity price. The effect is estimated to be between 2c and 3c per lb. This Government expects the primary producers in the cotton industry to sell their products at the cutthroat, world market price, and it does not take into account the effect that the American policy of dumping has on the world import parity price.
If my memory serves me correctly, the Department of Trade and Industry itself pointed out in publications some years ago that dumping on the world market by America has .had the effect of increasing the world parity price by 2c or 3c per lb. Surely the Australian cotton producer is entitled to a bounty or subsidy of at least 2c or 3 c per lb to counter the American policy of dumping. Because of the points which I enumerated and because the Australian cotton farmer has little control over his total cost of production or the rate at which he buys most of his materials, I thought that the Government would have argued in favour of a continuation of at least part of the bounty. Award wages are really beyond the capacity of the farmer to determine and he has to abide by the awards under which particular workers operate. He has no alternative but to pay the domestic price for chemicals, which are a very important aspect of cotton production. Although as yet I have not dealt with the bounty, I wanted to dwell on this subject, because I believe very much that there are some important principles in this decision by the Government. It expects a major primary industry to export its product on the world market without financial assistance. Why does it not, for example, ask secondary industry to compete without any financial assistance either in terms of research or hidden subsidies?
Having said those introductory words, I would like to state the position in regard to the bounty. The history of the cotton industry in Australia has not been a very happy one. I suppose we could say that very few industries have had a worse record. This is not being said in a way that is derogatory of individual cotton producers. I became interested in cotton some 8 or 9 years ago whilst I was in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I did not know that cotton had been growing in Australia for as long as it has. The great stimulus for cotton production in Australia was given by the American Civil War. In 1871 Queensland, which produced all of Australia’s cotton at that time, produced 7.7 million lb of seed cotton. This is a large amount of cotton when one considers it. By 1887 the world price had dropped to bedrock and very little cotton was then grown in Australia. It has always been recognised by agricultural scientists and practical farmers that Australia has a definite potential for growing cotton.
Since 1871 or prior to that time there has always been some cotton grown in Australia, particularly in Queensland, under rain fed conditions. But the yields have been such that cotton quality has not reached world standards. The quality has been such that very little encouragement has been given to spinners to concentrate on Australian cotton. This was the rather sorry spectacle up to the early 1960s, when the Government decided that agriculturally there was definitely no reason why this country should not grow good cotton. It therefore commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to undertake a joint scientific and economic survey of the main potential cotton areas in Australia to determine whether in fact a viable cotton industry could be established. Up to that time the quality of Australian cotton was such that unless it could be improved there was no point in fostering the industry.
The joint Bureau of Agricultural Economics and CSIRO survey was conducted by two well qualified and highly respect officers. I refer to Mr Basinsky of the CSIRO and Mr Allan of the BAE. They concluded that there were areas in Australia which could produce cotton that would be very good in terms of both quality and yield. The areas that they specifically named as those with a great future for cotton growing were the Namoi area in northern New
South Wales, the areas in the vinicity of the Macquarie River and the lower Darling River, the Nogoa area in central Queensland and parts of the Dawson-Callide Valley and later, when more results became available, the Ord River area of northern Australia. One very important decision made by the CSIRO and the BAE was that it was virtually useless to attempt to establish a viable economic unit based on rain fed cotton because of the great variation in production, in yields per acre, in the conversion of seed cotton to lint and, of course, in the quality of the cotton itself.
Up to this time Australia was notorious, one might say, for the poor quality of its cotton. The criticism of spinners was well known - the staple length was short; the degree of discolouration was high; and there was a lack of uniformity within the grades of cotton. What the trade wanted was cotton with a micronaire reading of between 3.6 and 4.5 and a Pressley reading of about 80,000. But, according to the joint survey, there was no hope of such cotton being produced in Australia in large quantities unless it were grown under full-scale irrigation. I think that all members of the Parliament will have seen that it has been possible to produce high-grade cotton. The Namoi area has shown that it can produce cotton in as efficient and competitive a way as any country in the world, in terms of yield per acre and quality. I do not think that anyone doubts that. The results are there for all to see.
Before I deal with the various areas - the Namoi, the Queensland areas and the Ord - let me take one step further. The Government, after considering the reports of the BAE and the CSIRO decided to submit the question to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, which consists of the permanent head of the Department of Primary Industry and the Directors of Agriculture in the States, and also to the Australian Agricultural Council, which consists of the Ministers for Agriculture from the States of Australia and the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry, to get their views on whether Australia should establish a viable cotton industry. It was the unanimous decision of the Agricultural Council that a viable economic industry should be established in Australia. It was pointed out, and pointed out very forcibly, that the bounty at that time was not conducive to achieving economic viability. The bounty paid gave an average final return of something like 14d per lb of seed cotton to all growers irrespective of quality. One quite obvious result was that Australia was producing very large proportions of low quality cotton. It was important, therefore, that there be a change in the method of bounty.
In 1963 the Government introduced a change in the bounty to allow for a differential payment with respect to quality. This, of course, was a step in the right direction. The bounty had three objectives at that time. One of the objectives, which is of great importance, was to induce growers to make the very heavy initial investment required in the more favourable areas mentioned - the Namoi, Queensland and the Ord. The second objective was to enable the currently less favoured areas in Queensland to adapt to the new conditions. This is a very important objective, as I will outline later. The third objective was to promote a self contained and economic industry. Those were the three objectives of this differential bounty. The bounty was based on a grade of 1 inch middling white and was exactly 50% of the selling price. It was fixed at 13.4375c per lb of middling 1 inch white raw cotton, based on the then selling price - this was about 1963 - of 26.875c per lb. In other words, it was 50% of the selling price.
Then the Government made allowance for the fact that if production increased to such a degree and there was a ceiling of $4m available it was obvious that the rate per Lb would decrease correspondingly. In other words, there was no question that the new principles behind the subsidy were very sound. The man who produced the highest quality cotton received the highest gross returns per lb. This is, as I believe, most subsidies should be if they can be implemented in such a way to be practical. It did not take long before some people realised the profits that could be made through growing cotton under irrigation.
One such gentleman - I think I am right in saying this - was a trade commissioner at the time. His name was Mr Ben Dawson. If my memory serves me correctly, he was in San Francisco or in the State of California. It did not take him long to work out with some Americans the bonanza that could be made from growing cotton in Australia under this bounty particularly when Australian land comparable with land in San Joaquin Valley and the Kings County - two of the highest quality cotton producing areas in the world - was available and could be bought in the northern part of New South Wales for approximately $40 or $50 per acre at that time. This was favoured also by the fact that there was water from the Keepit Dam. Never at the time when the Keepit Dam was constructed was it thought that it would be the centre of a major cotton growing area. It was constructed principally for the regulation of the river and to make available stock water. Then we saw the movement of capital into this area. I am not like the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) who continually criticises the Ord River and Queensland compared with the Namoi.
– That is not right.
– I give the Namoi growers full marks for the efficiency and the quickness with which the efficiency has been achieved. One could not say otherwise that that the growers in the Namoi area have fared very, very well in terms of income received over the years of the operation of the bounty. Let us not forget that a very high degree of capital had to be invested in the industry at this time or over the period of the bounty. The thing that I am concerned with, however, is that one of the objectives of the bounty was to establish a viable industry. One of the specific objectives of the bounty was to allow efficient or viable cotton production to become established in Queensland. But it was not until last year that the effective decision was made by this Government to establish the Nogoa irrigation scheme or the Emerald irrigation scheme which was to be based to a large degree on cotton and, at the same time, an effective decision was made to grant the go-ahead for the second stage of the Ord River project.
I do not want to give the impression that I am arguing partially, but it would seem to me that if the objective of the Government is to establish a viable cotton industry in Australia, specifically as it says in Queensland, it should not adopt a policy of discontinuing this subsidy in 3 years time because I doubt whether cotton growing will have started in the Emerald area in 3 years time. The irrigation and reticulation schemes will not be in operation then. As far as stage 2 of the Ord River project is concerned, this again will not have any material effect on the acreage of cotton in Australia at that time. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition will move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill along the lines that there should be no fiddling with the bounty next year - in other words, it should be $4m - and that those areas and those farmers that produce the cotton will get the full benefit of the bounty.
I might add that practically all of the bounty will go to northern New South Wales which, up to the present time, has received about 80% of the money that has been made available by the Commonwealth. The best estimate that I can get - I received these figures last week - shows that of the $4m available the Namoi will receive $3.1m which means that the other $900,000 has to be divided between all other cotton producing areas in Australia. There is nothing wrong with that in principle except that the other areas of Australia were not fortunate enough, as the Namoi growers were, to have available a large dam with which they could get immediately into large scale irrigation.
We do not suggest that the bounty should be taken off the Namoi area. As I said in the first 10 minutes of my speech, I cannot understand how any member of the Country Party can expect any farmer in Australia, or force him, to sell his product on the export market without financial assistance by way of bounty or subsidy and expect him to buy all of his materials - his insecticides, his fertilisers, his cement and so on - at the domestic price which is influenced by tariffs and also pay high level award wages. Therefore, I am not going to argue that the bounty should be taken off the Namoi farmers. They have shown to the world that they are highly efficient. But if they have to produce to sell a certain proportion of their product on the export market - as I have mentioned before, the American policy of dumping has affected the world price - those Australian fanners also should get some help from the Government. Of this year’s bounty of $4m, about $3.1m will go to the Namoi. It cannot be denied that the Namoi area as compared with Queensland and Western Australia has had a pretty good share of the bounty. As I said before it is approximately 80% of the total bounty.
The point that I have made is that I do not believe that the Namoi should receive no bounty. I have explained why I believe that. Also there is the fact that I am informed that world prices are dropping drastically. I am basing my argument as best I can on this import parity concept and having to sell our products at the import parity price. But I do believe - and this is what I find difficult to understand - that the Government has not honoured the objective that was agreed upon by the Agricultural Council in 1963, to establish a viable cotton industry, and to give the less favoured areas a chance to become viable. How can they become viable if they do not have water? These areas will not have adequate amounts of water until the Nogoa Dam and the second stage of the Ord project have been completed. The proposition which the Opposition will put up to the Government by way of an amendment will be not to interfere with the bounty of $4m for the first year but to have an immediate review made of the raw cotton situation so that special grants, if necessary, can be made to the developing areas of Australia, more specifically the Emerald, the Ord and the Murumbidgee Irrigation Area, to allow them at least to get some benefit from the bounty in order to become fully established. Time and time again in this Parliament people have stood up and said that the Ord farmers cannot grow cotton economically. But why not give them a chance to grow it economically? Those who have been in the Kimberleys know full well what the costs are of bringing materials from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The basic goods which come from Perth usually originate in Sydney and Melbourne anyway. As I said before, if these same farmers could import their basic materials from Japan, which is fairly close, in terms of shipping freights, to Wyndham there would be a significant difference in the cost of production at the Ord. But there is a more important element. Until the Ord River project and the Emerald project are able to reap the benefits of economics of scale - bulk fertiliser, bulk insecticides and bulk spraying by cut-throat competi tion, if you like, in aerial spraying - then it is not fair for anybody to compare the Wee Waa or the ‘Narrabri area with any other area yet because the Narrabri area is established. This is the issue I took up with the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan). If I misrepresented him it was onlybecause I misunderstood what he said in previous debates.
If we can get more water in northern New South Wales, and bearing in mind the economies of scale, especially in the Narrabri area, the cost of production will be reduced further - and this surely is to be an objective. But as regards the Ord and the Nogoa, it is not fair to judge those areas as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has done in this economic survey on the actual cost of production at this point of time. Why not include an inbuilt factor for potential economy of scale? For example, what would be the effect of large-scale production? We know, for example, of the problems of cotton production in remote and isolated areas. I do not know of any large scale primary product in Australia which is more difficult to grow than cotton. It is regarded by agricultural scientists as a precision crop. A farmer needs to be able to grow the exact grade - the better grades, the inch middling whites or above - and we all know the great damage that can be done from parasites and diseases such as heliothis, pink and rough boll worm, and the problems of prppdenia lituria, all problems which are common to cotton production. Cotton is a very difficult crop to grow and has a very high cost of production per acre. If one looks at the cost of production as shown by the Ord survey and the Namoi survey one realises this. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Ministerial Statement Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister assisting the Treasurer)- by leave - I wish to inform the House of certain action which the Government has taken in regard to Australia’s participation in the second exercise to replenish the resources of the International Development Association, or IDA as it is commonly called. Honourable members will recall that in June of last year Parliament approved legislation authorising Australia to contribute a further sum to IDA not exceeding the equivalent of $US24m payable over 3 years. The first instalment of $US8m, which was originally expected to be paid in November 1968, and for which suitable provision was made in the 1968-69 Budget, has not yet been paid. The reason for this is that, as the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) mentioned when introducing the relevant legislation in this House last year, the agreement covering the second replenishment exercise is subject to the condition that it will not enter into effect unless and until at least twelve countries with contributions totalling not less than $US950m have notified the management of IDA that they have taken all the necessary legislative steps to authorise payment of their respective contributions.
For a variety of reasons, the United States has not yet been able to do this, and as that country is expected to contribute $US480m of the agreed total of $US1,200M for this replenishment exercise, the Agreement cannot become effective until it does. Rapid, depletion, of the resources available to IDA in the absence of the second replenishment exercise coming into effect threatened to bring its operations to an end. Accordingly, towards the end of last year the President of IDA, Mr McNamara, requested all of the Part I or donor member countries, including Australia, to make voluntary contributions to IDA in advance of the second replenishment formally entering into effect. Several member countries - the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland - have already complied with this request.
As the Treasurer has previously stated in this House, there are good reasons why Australia should do all it can to see that IDA’s resources are replenished at the earliest possible date. We in Australia have always held IDA in very high regard as an efficient and effective aid institution with long experience in helping the poorer countries cope with the complex problems of economic growth and development. In the past, more than two-thirds of total IDA lending has gone to countries of interest to Australia in the Asian region. India and Pakistan, for example, have both received substantial assistance from IDA in recent years. Development credits for two projects have recently been extended to Indonesia and, as soon as its resources are replenished, IDA should be in a position to provide more substantial assistance to help that country to rehabilitate and develop its economy.
Moreover, the World Bank has accepted that Papua and New Guinea is an ‘IDA type country’ eligible to borrow on soft terms from the Association. Indeed, a small development credit of $US1.3m for an agricultural project in the Territory was approved earlier this year. We would hope that more assistance of this type will be forthcoming for the Territory after IDA’s resources are augmented.
With all these considerations in mind, the Government decided that Australia should join the other countries I have mentioned in making a voluntary contribution to IDA in advance of the second replenishment formally entering into effect, thereby reaffirming our support for IDA and confirming that when we said that Australia would contribute an additional $US24m to IDA, we meant it; also, that we did not regard the difficulties other countries for the time being might be facing in obtaining legislative approval for their contributions as a reason for our not going ahead to do our part in helping maintain IDA in existence to assist poorer countries.
Accordingly, the Treasurer has notified Mr McNamara that Australia is prepared to make a voluntary contribution to IDA equal to the full amount of its commitment under the second replenishment exercise, payable over three years as originally agreed and subject to the explicit understanding that this voluntary contribution would be deemed to discharge Australia’s obligations under the Second Replenishment Agreement if and when it becomes effective. Steps are in fact now being taken in Washington to give effect to our offer and the Executive Directors of IDA are expected to adopt an appropriate resolution on this matter in the near future.
The International Development Association (Additional Contribution) Act 1968 which was passed last year is deemed to provide sufficient legislative authority for Australia to make such a voluntary contribution to IDA without further recourse to Parliament, but the Government thought it only right and proper to inform Parliament of its decision and give some account of the considerations which lay behind it.
In view of the widespread interest which I know many of my colleagues have in the subject of economic assistance to developing countries, I am pleased to state further that the House of Representatives in the United States has recently passed an Act authorising participation by that country in the second replenishment exercise on the same terms and conditions as originally proposed. The United States Senate is expected to consider this matter shortly after Easter. It therefore seems that the Agreement to replenish IDA’s resources a second time will be made effective without much more delay. I present the following paper:
International Development Association - Voluntary Contribution by Australia - Ministerial Statement, 27th March 1969- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1018).
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was propounding the idea that it was quite wrong for the Government, because of the peculiar position of the cotton growers of Australia, to take this rather drastic step of reducing, to virtually what is called zero - that is, nothing - the bounty payment to Australian cotton growers. In the time remaining at my disposal I should like to expound those views further on behalf of the Opposition.
We consider it is quite wrong for the Government to treat this section of primary producers in this manner. There are several reasons why we believe that the bounty on cotton should continue to be paid. Firstly, one of the objects of the bounty was to create viable economic units in Australia. We now have one - the Namoi area - and if more water were made available to the Namoi area I would suggest that the Namoi area would become even more viable, even more economic and an even greater asset to Australia than it is today. The second reason is that we feet that it is not yet time for such schemes as the projected Emerald irrigation scheme, the Dawson-Callide scheme, the Theodore area and schemes in other areas west of Rockhampton, or the Kimberleys project, or the Ord River scheme in Western Australia to become viable, because they have not yet got the benefit of large scale irrigation. The Government has in fact made a decision to establish major water facilities - stage 2 of the Ord River project and the new Emerald project - only within the last 2 years. Therefore the bounty should be continued. I have not suggested that the bounty should be taken off the Namoi growers because of the conditions I elaborated before the dinner adjournment. Why should Namoi farmers or any other farmers in Australia be forced to sell their products on world market prices without assistance when they have to buy their materials at prices highly protected or their cost of production is affected by tariff. I think it is completely unfair for the Government to ask the cotton producer or any other primary producer in Australia to sell his product on the world market without financial assistance if necessary, yet have to pay a high internal price for fuel, fertilisers, chemicals and so on. He is entitled to protection irrespective of whether it is suggested he can produce commodities for- sale on the world market without a subsidy.
The next point I wish to make is this: Perhaps the principal argument advanced by the Government for the discontinuation of this subsidy is that there is over supply. There is no over supply in Australia. Although it is hard to define, there is still something like $80m worth of cotton textile goods being imported into Australia. Surely if this country wishes to establish a viable cotton industry - ‘and the industry is made up of the cotton grower, the cotton spinner and the manufacturer of piece goods - the objective should be, as this Government makes it quite clear with other forms of secondary industry, to protect, <encourage and create viable sectors of the secondary industry in the form of cotton piece goods.
The next point 1 wish to make is that on Australia’s doorstep is the largest importer of raw cotton in the world. This is Japan. According to the latest estimates I can get, Japan imports the equivalent of 2.5 million acres of raw cotton per year. When we consider that Australia at present produces less Shan 100,000 acres of irrigated cotton a year we can see the tremendous scope that is available to supply Japan. Several years :ago when I was closely associated with the Ord River project development I was amazed at the interest that was shown by the Japanese people in it. This project is closely associated with Japan and South Cast Asia “because of its geographical position in relation to those countries. This association is particularly more so as there is a close affinity between Japan and Western Australia with respect to minerals. I expressed the opinion at the ANZAAS ^conference in 1964 that in time the Ord River would become closely integrated with Japan. I pointed out that it would not pay the Ord River to send its cotton to the major -spinners in Australia in Sydney or Melbourne; rather, it would pay the Ord River, :if the bounty were ever removed, to send its cotton to Japan. This is happening.
The argument that we cannot compete with the United States is just as fallacious as the arguments that were put forward before the war that we could not compete with the United States in beef or grains. In terms of water and soil we have some of the most productive and cheapest land in the world. We have the technical knowhow and given time we will be able to produce cheaply to the degree that we will be able to compete with Japan. If the Minister for Primary Industry were able to give me more time I could show from the latest figures I have from Berkeley University that Australia can compete with the United States on cotton production. The most important attributes that Australia has are cheap land and cheap water. Let us compare the price of land in Australia with the price of land in the San Joaquin Valley.
In the San Joaquin Valley at present land with comparable yields of 2,500 lb of seed cotton per acre is bringing about $US 1,000 per acre. But the problem, while we cannot compete to some degree with the United States, arises because of the export subsidy, or one might say dumping subsidy, that the Americans are using to foster the American market with respect to exports to Japan. I did not have time to get the precise figures but I understand that because of the operation of the import duties legislation, Australia is earning, in terms of domestic revenue, very large sums of money from duties placed on the import of cotton piece goods. In other words, there is a revenue earning import duty. This money could be used, for example, to finance a subsidy or finance the continuation of the subsidy with respect to a continuation of the tariff. I have pointed out that I consider it is quite wrong for the Government to take away this bounty. Therefore, I move:
Mr Speaker, I have emphasised throughout this debate that what I am concerned with most of all is the principle behind the removal of this bounty. I am surprised that members of the Australian Country Party here believe that any group of Australian farmers should be forced to sell their products on the export market yet receive no bounty or subsidy from this Government when they are forced to pay award wages which are based, of course, on the internal economic structure, or when they are forced to buy their chemicals and fertilisers and other main means of production at domestic prices affected by tariff.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) when he introduced the Bill that is before the House. It is called the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1969. My interest stems from the fact that we debated a similar Bill last year. It was presented to the House in October and debated in November. That Bill provided that all raw cotton produced in Australia would qualify for the bounty. The original legislation introduced in 1963 specified that the bounty would apply only to raw cotton that was used in Australia by Australian spinners. In effect what we did last year was to maintain the bounty on raw cotton used by Australian spinners and to introduce a subsidy content in the raw cotton produced for export.
I believe that bounties have two particular functions. The first is to encourage local industry to increase production on a more economical basis or to maintain production, if it is an industry of long standing, in line with Australia’s needs. The second function is to stabilise prices within the country. Bounties are very useful internally, within Australia or within any country, to ensure that the consumer of the product pays very little, if any, more for the raw material concerned. The Government was wise to introduce a bounty system for raw cotton in 1963 and to continue it in 1968, but I do not totally agree with the practice that we should pay a subsidy on the raw cotton produced for export.
It seems to me that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has covered the whole gamut of cotton production and sales throughout the world and he gives me the impression that we as new producers of the raw cotton can compete with the traditional cotton producers, such as America, which is the largest producer of cotton in the world. It is true that the American Congress subsidises cotton sales and it is true that it subsidises cotton exports to the extent of 9c a lb. But I am a great believer in the possibility that, when a new supplier of goods, raw cotton or any other product, comes on the scene and starts to cut prices or introduces subsidising arrangements, the original supplier of the goods will take the next step. In other words, in this instance Australia takes the first step by introducing subsidies and the United States obviously will have to take the second step. The Congress in America has much the same problem as this Parliament has in Australia. It has farmers producing cotton and it will look after them because they have for decades traditionally produced cotton not only for the American market but for export as well.
The original legislation introduced in 1963 and effective from 1964 set out that the cotton producers in Australia would receive a maximum bounty of $4m for the raw cotton produced under certain conditions. The obvious intent of the Government was to ensure that the new producers in Australia - in New South Wales in particular and perhaps other producers in other States - would increase their output of cotton. Looking at the figures of acreage since that time, it is quite evident that the bounty has had the desired effect. The area of crop in 1963-64 was 41,000 acres. Due to drought conditions in New South Wales, this was reduced to 38,000 acres in 1964-65. But it increased during 1965-66 to 55,000 acres and was maintained at much the same level in 1966-67, when it was 53,000 acres.
But another factor has intruded into the production of raw cotton and that is the factor mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson. Cotton production can be increased tremendously by the use of irrigable land. This was first found in the Namoi area in New South Wales and was taken up by the Government because it wanted to do something positive- in the Ord River area. The intention in 1963 was to increase and to encourage cotton production in Western Australia and apparently in Queensland as well. We have all heard the honourable member for Dawson say that in Queensland the dam at Nogoa will not be completed for 3 or 4 years and the bounty will be eliminated by that time. The Minister has forecast that the bounty will be reduced by $lm a year from this year. In other words, the bounty will be $4m this year, $3m next year and $2m the following year. It is fairly apparent that whatever cotton is produced now in Queensland, when it conforms to the quality standards, it will attract the bounty, but the big production that is envisaged by the honourable member for Dawson will not be available before the bounty is reduced to oil.
I believe that this bounty is another arrangement which shows that intervention by governments is not always good, unless the advice given to the governments is the best practical advice available. We have seen, as I have pointed out, that the acreage under production has increased quite considerably since the initiation of the bounty in the original legislation, but the production of raw cotton since those days has been quite phenomenal. The Minister mentioned this in a Press release he made quite recently. He said that in 1963 the annual production of raw cotton was some 12,000 bales whereas in 1969 the anticipated raw cotton production is 168,000 bales. This is almost a twelve-fold increase of production in a few short years. Obviously the increase has been caused by the introduction by the Government of a bounty scheme and the encouragement it has given to the raw cotton industry.
Because the honourable member for Dawson mentioned this, because the bounty is being paid and because of the belief instilled into the minds of producers from 1963, it is interesting to look at the profitability of farms, especially in the Namoi area. The figures I have before me show that, after the farmers have paid for their equipment, after they have paid for their pest control measures and after they have done all the things they must do, the net farm income in 1966-67 at Namoi was $92,070. That is not a bad return when the ordinary taxpayer is paying for it. This income does not continue for each year. This sort of industry is an indecisive one. Sometimes the farmers have good seasons and sometimes they have bad seasons. The net farm income in the following year was only $46,151, but I still say that even with the tremendous investment that is involved in cotton production in these areas - harvesters, equipment and labour - this net income is not too bad for a new farmer. The bounty scheme was initiated in 1963 and became effective from 1st January 1964.
I do not believe that governments are finally to blame for building up production from 12,000 bales in 1963 to 168,000 bales. Governments or parliaments are not to blame entirely. This type of increase in production in an industry is phenomenal. Any manufacturer - most people know that I come from the manufacturing side of industry - would regard the doubling of output in 5 years as very good business, but to increase cotton production twelvefold indicates to me that something has been done that should not have been done. The only factor introduced into raw cotton production that is different to ordinary production, which would be covered by free enterprise, was the introduction of the bounty in 1963. 1 concede that any industry of this nature, where we need to be self sufficient if possible, should be encouraged by the Government. I concede that the form of encouragement given on this occasion was the right form of encouragement. In other words a bounty should have been instituted and was instituted, but I say that the bounty was too high at that time. We all know that production was low in the early years and the bounty amounted, as the honourable member for Dawson said, to 13.4375c a lb. This bounty, of course, was reduced when the production of cotton was increased. It is because of this reduction in the bounty that the honourable member for Dawson has proposed his amendment. The cost of cotton to the Australian spinners approximates 26c a lb today and the return to the farmers on the amount of cotton that is used by Australia - the bounty - would approximate 6c to 7c a lb. In other words the ordinary taxpayers - the people from whom we collect money that we pay into Consolidated Revenue - contribute 25% of the cost of production to these farmers. Yet we find that in 1964-65 the farmers on the Namoi made a net farm income of $92,000 and in the following year $46,000.
I cannot go to my electorate of Balaclava and say to the people: ‘Keep up paying your taxes, fellows, because we need the money to pay the bounty to raw cotton producers on the Ord River, the Namoi River, and the Nogoa when it comes into production.’ They will ask me: ‘Where does this cotton go?’ According to the Minister’s Press releases Australian consumption of cotton is about 130,000 bales a year. Last year the production was 168,000 bales. This tells me and the honourable member for Dawson that we have to export many thousands of bales of our cotton. So from here on, if we take into account and accept the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Dawson, the people in Balaclava and in other electorates will be contributing to the raw cotton production through the bounty that has been established. Therefore no matter what the Minister does, I will reject the amendment.
I do not blame governments or Ministers for the extent of the bounty. The advisers from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and, no doubt, from the Department of Primary Industry obviously gave the Government incorrect information. Even before the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill’ was introduced into the Parliament we could see - and Mr Dawson, who is now in production on the Namoi River and who gave up a very good job in the Department of Trade and Industry also could see - that the bounty would have a tremendous effect on cotton production, that it would make production very profitable. Mr Dawson is now established on the Namoi, as most of us know, and his name was mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson.
Where does the advice that is given to the Minister and to the governments come from? I said that it came from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It came also from the Department of National Development and, no doubt, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and elsewhere. I have had a look at a report that was delivered to the 38th Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. The Fellow who submitted the report was a Dr R. A. Patterson. He was talking about cotton in his submission and, at page 57 of it, he said:
Under known technical and financial information, based on the current data available from the Ord River area, the growing of cotton is a sound financial proposition at the present.
He went on to say:
At the current average yield of 1,950 lb seed cotton per acre, Ord farmers will be able to profitably grow cotton even if the cotton bounty were removed and the export price prevailed.
This information, no doubt, was given to the Department by this Dr R. A. Patterson. I cannot blame the Minister or the Department when this sort of advice is given to a Minister or to a government because they have to accept the information given to them by their advisers. In this case, of course, they got this information from a Dr R. A. Patterson. He was Dr R. A. Patterson in 1965. These advisers to the Government should be more careful in the selection of their words in cases such as this. I also have some information that was given to the Government Members National Development Committee by Dr R. A. Patterson on 15th April1 1964. He suggested not only that cotton might be very usefully grown on the Ord River but under the heading ‘Sugar’ he said:
Experimental evidence suggests that sugar is the best crop for the Ord despite the fact that trials were suspended in 1958 because of poor market prospects.
In other words it seems that anything can be grown on the Ord River. Dr Patterson went on to say that sugar could be grown on the Ord River equally as well as in northern Queensland. I am wondering what the people in Mackay would think if I sent them this report.
– Why do you not read the full report?
-Order! The honourable member has spoken in the debate.
– Why does not the honourable member tell the truth?
– Would the honourable member like me to read it again? I have the report here.
– Yes, read the lot.
– I have been referring to the advice given by senior members of government departments and I do not level any criticism at the Minister or the Department. I level it at the advisers.
– Why do you not read the full report?
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Dawson that he has already spoken in the debate and that interjections are out of order.
– It is interesting to have a look at the last clause of the Bill. It refers to the length of the cotton staple. In the original legislation, as the honourable member for Dawson pointed out, the bounty was paid on cotton that had a 1- inch staple. The length could have been a little more, but it was approximately 1 inch, and the cotton had to be of white quality.
According to clause 5 of the Bill the bounty will be paid in respect of cotton that has a staple length of not less than seven-eights of an inch. I am wondering why this is proposed, because I have an inquiring mind. The first thing I look at, of course, is the Raw Cotton Marketing Advisory Committee Report of 1967, which indicates that Australia’s requirements of cotton in terms of staple length are as follows: Seven-eights of an inch staple length, 700 bales; fifteensixteenths of an inch staple, a total of 28,000 bales. Cotton of a staple length of 1 inch - this is the length on which the original legislation was centred - accounts for the largest number of bales, namely 25,000, most of which is in what is called grade M. So the original legislation took Australian requirements into account, and that is why the bounty was introduced at that time. But we learn from newspaper reports that farmers in Western Australia have, under certain conditions, not ‘been able to maintain the staple length originally required - 1 inch or more. I am not a specialist in the field of cotton growing, but I believe that when the cotton spinners say that they want a staple length of 1 inch, they want a staple length of only 1 inch.
It is evident from the reports I have read that a good deal of the cotton produced in Western Australia is unusable. The local spinners cannot use it in their production. Late last year I read reports that much of the cotton in one State had to be mixed with cotton produced in another State to ensure that the cotton was used because the bounty had been paid on it. If cotton spinners in Australia have difficulty using cotton with a staple length of less than 1 inch I wonder what the Japanese will do with it. This legislation insists that the bounty is payable on raw cotton produced in Australia having a staple length of i inch. I wonder what we will do with that cotton. In Western Australia the potential cotton growing area under cultivation is about 30,000 acres, although last year’s figures indicate that only 11,000 acres were used for cotton production. What will happen in the northern part of Western Australia when the big dam, which by and large is being built with taxpayers’ money, brings into production 150,000 acres? Will that land be used for growing cotton, sugar or sorghum? I ask the honour- able member for Dawson what the land will be used for, because the Government has already decided to spend $42m on a dam. This is quite apart from money spent on the diversion dam, on roads and on internal arrangements associated with the project at Kununurra.
I ask these questions because I come from a metropolitan area. It is a reasonably affluent area. My constituents say that taxes have not been reduced in years; that the only movement in taxes has been upwards. They say that sales tax is increasing, as is payroll tax because they are employing more men. Income tax is increasing because workers are being paid more, due to decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. My constituents want to know how all this revenue is being spent. If I tell them the story that I have here about the production of raw cotton they will probably kick me out of Parliament because they will say that I have not been doing my job.
It is very nice for this Parliament to say that we must encourage industry. I believe in the encouragement of industry, but we must do it in a rational way. An increase in raw cotton production from 12,000 bales in 1963 to 168,000 bales in 1968 is a very great increase. There seems to me to be no justification for the people of my electorate to pay more tax in order to provide a bounty on the production of cotton. When I tell my constituents that farms started in New South Wales just prior to the introduction of the bounty system were netting, after all expenses, $92,000 in 1 year and $46,000 in another they will tell me that something must be done or else. So I look forward to the time when the Minister for Primary Industry will introduce legislation to reduce the raw cotton bounty from $4m to $3m and then $2m. I say right now that I will not support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson but I do support the legislation because I supported this form of legislation in 1963. In November last year I was a little doubtful about the need for a bounty of $4m on the production of raw cotton. I will support the legislation under protest on this occasion.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Balacalava (Mr Whittorn) referred to a statement made by a Dr Patterson to a committee of which the honourable member was, I assume, secretary. Dr Patterson is alleged to have said that sugar cane should be grown on the Ord. If the honourable member reads the document from which he was quoting, entitled ‘Economic Justification of the Ord River Project’, he will find the qualification that sugar cane can be grown on the Ord agronomically but that economically it cannot compete with cane grown in Queensland. He will see-
-Order! The honourable member cannot proceed to debate the matter. I suggest that he make his personal explanation.
– I do not wish to transgress upon your decision, Mr Speaker, but this is a very serious matter. I attended the committee in question as a senior public servant. I attended at the invitation of the committee. If in the future senior public servants who later enter the Parliament are to be subjected to this treatment, what is to stop me from giving in this Parliament-
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the subject. I think he has made his position quite clear. He is now beginning to debate the subject, and that is not in order.
– I finish with this comment: If the honourable member wants to play the game, I can give Cabinet decisions-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I have listened in the House on several occasions to the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) speaking on subjects related to the Ord River or national development but I have never heard him say a good word for the Ord River project or for any developmental project outside his electorate. His only concern is for the taxpayers in the electorate of Balaclava. If he were to support the Labor Party in its campaign for such things as prices control he would be doing more for his constituents than he has done by his arguments tonight. It also struck me as surprisingly strange that when the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was Dr R. Patterson, a senior officer in the Department of National Development, his views were accepted by the Government and such people as the honourable member for Balaclava. His views were thought to be good and worthy of being put into practice. But when he started to campaign as the Labor Party candidate for the seat of Dawson, almost overnight he was alleged to know nothing about northern development or, for that matter, any other subject.
Most, if not all, cotton growers in Australia, and quite a number of people dependent directly or indirectly on the cotton industry, were completely staggered when, on 25th September last year, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) told the Parliament that his Government intended, over the ensuing 3 years, to phase out completely the bounty presently paid on cotton. The shock of that announcement has spread to other people in other fields of primary production who now wonder whether they may be next in line for similar treatment. This Bill proposes to amend the Raw Cotton Bounty Act in the manner described by the Minister last year. If this Bill is passed it will mean that the present maximum permissible bounty of $4m will be paid on this year’s crop but next year the amount of bounty will be reduced to $3m and in 1971 it will be reduced still further to $2m. From that time no bounty will be paid.
We on this side of the House know, as Government supporters must know, that any reduction in the bounty over the next few years without the provision of some other form of assistance must have a very serious adverse effect on growers and many other people in certain cotton growing areas. It may be that in some areas the growers can get along without the bounty even though their income will be reduced very considerably, but in most areas the growers will be in serious trouble. If there are area* which are now well established and in which farmers can enjoy a reasonable return without the bounty I would not argue against its retention, but certainly I would have to be convinced that they were safely established. I could never agree to the complete removal of assistance to cotton growers in new, established or underdeveloped areas. For a few years cotton growers in some parts of Australia such as on the Ord are not likely to obtain a reasonable living return without the bounty or some other form of assistance.
The Commonwealth Constitution does not permit the simple payment of a bounty in one area and not in another. If it were paid in the Ord area it would have to be paid elsewhere, even if the farmers were able to do quite well without the bounty. I do not suggest that this is so in every instance. The Constitution allows the Commonwealth to make specific grants to States for specific purposes. Therefore if it is thought that an overall bounty is not warranted the Government could give assistance in other areas where it is required and warranted by making a specific grant. However, at no time has the Minister for Primary Industry given any indication that the Government would consider such a proposal. The shock to many of the growers following his announcement last year did not result entirely from the knowledge that the bounty was to be removed, but the reaction was considerably aggravated by the fact that the Minister made no suggestion whatsoever of any intention by the Government to offer any form of assistance where it might be genuinely required. Unfortunately the forms of the House do not permit the Opposition to move any amendment of the Bill which would have the effect of increasing expenditure. Any such amendment would be ruled out of order. Therefore we cannot move an amendment to write into this Bill a provision for a higher rate of bounty to be paid. Neither can we move for the existing rate of bounty of $4m, which is now provided under the Act, to be continued beyond next year. We are prevented also from amending this particular Bill to provide that specific grants be made available to all or any particular State.
There is nothing to prevent the Parliament agreeing to the withdrawal of this Bill so that it can be redrafted on lines that are acceptable to the Parliament. Therefore, believing that the implementation of this Bill will seriously and adversely affect cotton growers in most cotton growing areas, we are taking the only step that is available to us to bring about results which would be acceptable, lt is for that reason that I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson, which is in the following terms:
Thai all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide -
for the payment of a bounty of four million dollars on total production of raw cotton for the year commencing on the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine;
for an immediate review of the economic position of the raw cotton industry with the object of providing adequate financial assistance to those areas which are still in need of a bounty, and which have not yet had time to become established viable economic units, such . as the Ord River and the Queensland irrigation areas; and
that special financial payments to assist the developing areas to become established viable economic units be implemented within section 96 of the Constitution’.
Before introducing this Bill the Government had the opportunity of examining the report of a survey carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which was a survey into the cotton growing industry over a 3-year period from 1964-65 to 1966-67 inclusive. That report showed very clearly how the farmers in different cotton growing areas fared while in receipt of a bounty and how they would have fared had there been no bounty at all. The report showed that farmers in some areas would have been in an impossible situation if there had been no bounty, and it is hard to understand that the Government with this knowledge was still prepared to eliminate the bounty completely over the short term of 3 years without giving any definite assurance on the availability of any other form of assistance.
The average net farm income per year on the Ord was S 19,398 including the bounty, but without the bounty there would have been a loss of $6,300. The rate of return to capital and management was 18.3% including the bounty; it would have been minus 9.8% if the bounty had not been received. Without going any further, those figures clearly show that if the bounty is removed and no other form of assistance is forthcoming the Ord farmers will not be able to continue to grow cotton unless they can increase production by about 150 lb of lint per acre. On present prices 150 lb of lint colton over a 400-acre crop would return, provided an equal share of the local market was obtained, about $20,000 less extra ginning and transport costs. I am convinced that they can and will do this. They will increase production and increase it quite considerably. But they need more time than this Bill will give them and we cannot expect them to reach such a figure next year or in the following year. It is absolutely unreasonable to expect them to do that.
The Ord River farmers are in a completely different situation to that of the Namoi farmers, for instance. They are actually pioneering an industry in an area where neither cotton nor anything else has ever previously been grown in large amounts. They are pioneering under conditions never previously encountered, and as a result each year they have been and for a few years ahead they will be carrying out experimental exercises to determine the varieties of cotton most suitable for that area. In those past exercises they have not only been faced with the problem of determining what is the best variety of cotton, what is the correct amount and type of fertiliser, how much water and when to use it to best advantage, and how best to control the pests, but also they have met with weather pattern changes quite extraordinary for that part of Australia. The Ord River project, which is at present relying on assistance to exist, is a breakthrough in the north. It affords an opportunity to prove how water and irrigation can best be used for developing agricultural pursuits in that part of Australia, and the farmers and others who have been courageous enough to go there and play such an important part in the breakthrough are deserving of all the encouragement and assistance which this Government and the Government of Western Australia can provide. 1 want to go further into what the survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics snowed, because the Government had the opportunity to study its report and come to a decision before introducing this Bill. As I said, that survey showed very clearly that, based on the present amount of Australian cotton production and the present production at the Ord, the farmers in that area will be in very serious trouble after this year. Using the Minister’s figure of 170,000 bales of cotton this year, it will mean that the $4m in bounty which is the maximum for this year will have to be spread over approximately 85 million lb of lint which in turn means an average bounty payment of 4.7c. Honourable members should not forget that when the Federal Government and the Government of Western Australia were encouraging people to go to the Ord area to commence cotton farming, the bounty was about 13c, which is very much different from the present bounty of 4.7c. The average production of lint cotton in the Ord area over the 3-year period of the survey was 762 lb per acre, but for quick calculation I will use 760 lb. This means that on the same production this year the bounty return will be about $35.72 per acre and that on a 400-acre crop, which is about right for the Ord farmers, the total bounty would be $14,288. That would return a net farm income of only $8,988. Surely no-one in this House will suggest that that amount is more than reasonable.
Let me point out that during the 3-year survey period the amount of bounty per pound of lint was much higher than it is today because of the lower production during those years. For the next year the bounty will be reduced to a ceiling of $3m. As a result, the bounty per pound of lint on the same production of 70,000 bates will be only 3.4c, which in turn means that farmers on the Ord, with the same production result, will receive approximately $23.10 an acre or a total of $9,240 for 400 acres, or a net farm income of about $2,940. Is there anyone in the House, particularly in the Country Party corner, who would consider that a fair return to a farmer having regard to the capital outlay on the Ord?
In 1971 the position will be still worse. The bounty will be reduced to a ceiling of $2m, which will represent 2.3c per pound of lint. The Ord farmer, therefore, will receive $1,534 an acre on a 760 lb crop or a total of $6,172 for 400 acres. According to the survey carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics this would give the farmers a net farm income toss of $128. For the following year and thereafter there will be no bounty at all if the Government has its way. The farmers will then show a loss each year of $6,300, but of course they would not be there. They could not carry on. I have used the Ord to illustrate the position, because 1 know it better than elsewhere. But the survey also shows that in the rain grown cotton areas of Queensland the rate of return on capital and management if there is no bounty wiN be about 5.7%. in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area it will be only 2.3% and it will be only 6% in the south of Queensland. So it is not only the Ord that will be in trouble if this Bill is carried, although it would appear that it will be the place most seriously affected.
The Government has completely disregarded the circumstances of the Ord and those in other areas similarly situated, lt has ignored the difficulties that this Bill must create. The Government knows that the cotton growers in these areas cannot, until they become properly established, gain a reasonable return from their efforts if they have to rely solely on the market price. Yet knowing that and knowing also that farmers, at least those on the Ord. were encouraged by both the Federal Government and the State Government to settle on the Ord and to go in for cotton production, the Government is now satisfied to toss them aside. As X have said, producers in certain other fields of primary industry are wondering what it all means and are saying that if it can happen to cotton growers it can happen to them. Of course, there is good reason for them to be concerned. Why has the Government decided to discontinue the bounty on cotton and to offer nothing in its place? Is it because of the amount of bounty involved, a mere $4m a year? Is it simply because in some areas of production the growers, or at least some of them, can show a reasonable profit without it? Or is it because production has now reached a stage where it is more than sufficient to meet current Australian market requirements and that any production in excess of that could cause a problem in relation to overseas markets?
If the first is the correct reason, what is to bc the position with industries where the bounty or subsidy is so much greater? If the Government’s action stems from either the second or third question raised, of course there is a similar situation with practically every other industry. If the cotton producer is to be denied assistance because of any of those reasons, is it un reasonable to fear that the Government may at any time take similar action against other industries which are presently attracting some form of Commonwealth assistance? There are certain indications that this could happen. For instance, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) late last year, in response to a request for further assistance to the gold mining industry, told the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines that the Government did not see any need for stimulation of that industry. Of course, everyone, including the Government, knows that it does require some further consideration. It also appears fairly obvious that the Government would like to cut down the assistance that is being provided to the dairy industry by freezing out the small producer.
Many cotton growers in Australia are wondering whether the elimination of the cotton bounty is a move in the same direction, a move to force out the small farmer and to allow big interests to buy up large areas of land. So it is no wonder that the cotton growers and other primary producers are expressing some concern in relation to this legislation. The elimination of the bounty will have an adverse effect on areas such as the Ord. The Government, by its action in eliminating the bounty, is not only doing a disservice to the people in those areas and to the cotton industry, but worse still is doing a great disservice to and placing a very definite question mark against any future agricultural pursuits in the interests of northern development.
I say that because in any area in the north of Western Australia and in any area in the north of Australia generally where future water conservation projects are to be carried out, where rivers are to be dammed for irrigation purposes so that crops may be grown, it will be to a very large extent, if not entirely in some places, a first attempt. It will be an experiment in growing produce on a large scale in those areas under the prevailing conditions. Therefore, just as it was with the Ord, the chances of success will largely depend upon and be subject to an assurance of financial and other forms of assistance until the project is properly and solidly established. This, of course, is what happened with regard to cotton growing on the Ord. The farmers thought that they had that assurance as pioneers of a new industry. But the attitude now shown by the Government in relation to assistance to the cotton growers is completely the reverse of what the early settlers were led to believe. The effect that the Government somersault will have on the pioneer settlers and business people in the north will not be quickly forgotten. Promises by this Government in the future like those that it has made in the past and has since broken will be suspect. The pity of it is that the Government’s attitude could well discourage and act against future endeavours to interest more people in agricultural pursuits in the north.
There can be no doubt that farmers at the Ord were encouraged to look upon cotton as a major crop. In fact, they were expected to grow cotton, but now we hear the cry from the same people who said 3 or 4 years ago that cotton was the answer, that the farmers should turn to something else. Of course, it sounds quite easy just to say: Change from one crop to another. With some crops it may not be so difficult to change, but it is certainly not so with cotton. How does a farmer decide to toss aside a cotton gin that costs thousands and thousands of dollars? How can he just cast aside a cotton picker, which cost something like $25,000? It is not just a matter of quitting equipment already held. The farmer would also be faced with the cost of buying the equipment necessary for whatever crop he turned to. So it is not a simple matter for farmers to turn from cotton to something else. Actually, as I said earlier, I do not think they need to turn to something else. If they are given a little more time they will be able to produce on the Ord an amount of cotton that will be sufficient to allow them to carry on without assistance.
Referring to broken promises, 1 have an article here which appeared in the ‘West Australian’ newspaper on Tuesday, 23rd July 1963. No doubt it also appeared in papers in the eastern States, because at that time the Ord River project was a major item of news. This article sets out the views and promises of the Government as expressed by the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen). These remarks of the Minister convey a vastly different attitude from that which the Government is taking now by eliminating the cotton bounty. It was statements such as these in 1963 and there abouts that finally convinced a number of people interested in the north and in cotton growing, or in setting up a business in the north, that they should move to the Ord River. The article is headed ‘Government Gives Pledge on Ord Markets’, and it reads:
Finding markets for production from the Ord River farms was a responsibility which the Government had accepted, Trade Minister McEwen said on TVW7’s ‘Focal Point’ last night.
In the remote regions of the Ord, transport costs would be a problem. Governments would have to stand by the farmers and help wilh their problems.
But apparently today the Government’s idea of helping cotton farmers with their problems is to reduce their income, to take away any encouragement to grow cotton, to remove the bounty and to stop production. Then there is no problem to solve. That apparently seems to be the idea. The article goes on:
To discover new markets and penetrate them was the real responsibility of government.
The concept of agriculture in this remove area is sound,’ Mr McEwen said. ‘If some difficulties in production and marketing arise, having put our hand to the plough, we must never let it be the settler who suffers.’
Surely no-one will suggest that the settlers will not suffer following the elimination of the bounty as a result of the Bill that is now before the House? Surely no-one will suggest there will not be any suffering in these areas where the farmers will show a loss instead of any profit at all? They must suffer. They cannot help but suffer. The article goes on:
Costs of production and opportunities to sell, as the farmers’ skills, were factors in economic farming. These prospects on the Ord were not easy.
He admired the courage of the farmers and their wives for their enterprise in going on the Ord land.
The Commonweatlh Government was glad to support the State Government in its venture.
– Is this just before the 1963 Federal election?
– It is shortly . before the 1963 election.
– It is quite a coincidence.
– Yes, it is quite a coincidence. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker: How else could those remarks of the Minister for Trade and Industry be taken other than as a promise from the Government that no matter what happened farmers on the Ord. being pioneers in a new venture, need never worry about any difficulties or problems which may arise because those problems and those difficulties - economic or otherwise - would be the responsibility of, and be attended to by, the Government? Surely no-one could read anything else into the remarks of the Minister in 1963?
But how different are those remarks from what we have heard recently and still hear from the Minister for Primary Industry, who is sitting at the table and who is the man who is tipped to take over from the Minister for Trade and Industry as Leader of the Country Party. For instance, bow different the attitude of the Government is is reflected in an article appearing in the ‘Canberra Times* of Friday, 22nd November last year, which reports a speech made by the Minister for Primary Industry at an annual meeting convened by the Department of Primary Industry on the subject of the cotton industry. The Minister said: . . the Government expected the industry to work out a voluntary rational approach to marketing, but warned that it would not look favourably upon marketing practices which were against the interests of the industry as a whole. . . .
He told the gathering that if they did not tackle the problem of a voluntary basis, some cottongrowing areas would find themselves seriously disadvantaged by lack of an orderly approach to marketing.
So, the approach of the Government to the problems of the industry as outlined by the Minister for Primary Industry is vastly different today from what it was in 1963. The Government now tells the farmers to solve their own problems or to suffer the consequences. So, I suggest that the words of the Minister for Trade and Industry in 1963 with regard to the Ord River producers that ‘the hand of the Government must be put to the . plough to prevent any suffering’ are no longer worth the paper, that they are written on.
What has happened with regard to this voluntary equalisation marketing scheme which the Minister referred to in November? In fact, he referred to it also in a speech to the House on 25th September of last year. He told us then that the industry was considering such a plan. But I ask: What has happened since then? The Minister told us in his second reading speech to this Bill:
In an effort to ensure that no particular region is disadvantaged by having to sell a disproportionate amount on export markets the industry is currently endeavouring to reach agreement on an orderly marketing plan acceptable to both growers and local spinners.
So. here we have a situation where apparently the cotton producers and the spinners for some 7 months at least, if not longer, have failed to reach agreement for an equalising plan. If agreement is not reached within another few weeks, it will mean that Australian spinners again will satisfy their demands from early harvest areas which in turn mean that growers in those areas will enjoy the local price whereas growers in later areas will have to quit the majority of their crop on the export market. Of course, the people who will have to quit their cotton on the export market at some lower price are those people who are in severe circumstances at the moment and who will be worse off after this Bill is passed.
Admittedly, as a result of last year’s amendment, they will receive their share of the bounty. But if one area of production through no fault of its own is obliged - in fact, forced - to sell on the export market at a rate lower than the local market, the Government because of certain particular circumstances relating to cotton should step in and ensure that any loss of income resulting from the export market price is overcome. Neither farmers at the Ord nor farmers anywhere else for that matter are. happy about having to ask for assistance to make their farms profitable or to pay their way. They would all be much more satisfied if the whole of the cotton industry was in a sound position whereby it could return a reasonable profit without any outside help. But unfortunately, in some areas of production, as I said earlier, this just is not possible at the moment. It does not look as though it is likely to be possible for some time to come.
I want to refer to this matter also. Last November, when we were debating another Bill in relation to the cotton bounty, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) who, as I understand it, will be following me in this debate, suggested that because the farmers at Namoi went ahead wilh cotton production in thai area against the technical advice of the Government and made a success of the project they should be assisted in preference to farmers in other areas such as the Ord. I just want to say that I could not agree with him. Whilst I have no argument against farmers at. Namoi receiving assistance as it is warranted - they have a right the same as anyone else - I would suggest to the honourable member for Gwyder that where farmers or others go into an area or into an industry where the Government of the day has said that it is in their interest and in the interest of Australia to do so, where in fact they have been encouraged by a government to do so, surely those people are more entitled to Government assistance if they require it than are people who have gone ahead against the advice of the Government.
In conclusion, Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 hope that Government members will appreciate the difficult situation that this Bill, if it is passed, will place many farmers in. I ask them to support our amendment which, if carried, will be of considerable benefit to cotton production generally. I will be very interested to see how members on the Government side vote on this issue. I know very well that Liberal Party members from Western Australia were instructed by their Party in Perth before the last election that they had to support the Ord River project. 1 am wondering tonight just how far that support will go in relation to this Bill. It certainly will be interesting.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who has just spoken showed himself to be as reckless with public money as did his predecessor on the Labor side. As I understand his argument, he wants to raise the level1 of the bounty paid to cotton growers to such an extent that it would make cotton growing operations on the Ord an economic proposition. As 80% of the bounty goes to growers in the Namoi area now and as production is increasing in that area very largely - in that regard we take in the Macquarie Valley, too, which is usually included with Namoi for statistical purposes - the bounty would need to be increased very substantially indeed to yield any considerable benefit to the growers on the Ord. This is not a reasonable proposition at all.
The review by the Bureau of Agricultual Economics last year showed, as a previous speaker has pointed out, that quite satisfactory returns are being achieved by the pioneer growers in the Namoi Valley. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) pointed out when introducing this Bill, the rate of expansion of the industry is very considerable indeed. Production has expanded from an output of 12,000 bales in 1964 to 150,000 bales in 1968. The figure is still rising. Given good seasons, it will go very much higher than that.
I believe that the Government has acted most generously in continuing the bounty at the present level for this year and in tapering it off over the next couple of years. No assurance was given that this would be done when the scheme was introduced 5 years ago. Growers who came into the industry without the guarantee that there would be a bounty were very foolish indeed if they were working in marginal country. They had no assurance from this Government or from any government at all that the benefit would continue beyond a set stated period. It was due to terminate last year and it terminated last year. Now the Government quite generously is allowing it to wind itself up over a period of 3 years. This will allow those growers who are in difficulty in the marginal country to make appropriate arrangements. lt is not a nice thing, I agree, to say that some people cannot make a success of growing cotton in certain areas. But it is a fact, a recognisable fact. It is unfortunate that we cannot have ideal conditions ali over this continent, ideal soil, ideal hours of sunlight in the growing period and so on. We do not have ideal’ conditions for cotton in Australia, and so, unfortunately, some growers have been misguided enough - have been misled enough in some instances - to invest very heavily in cotton growing in areas which are quite unsuitable for the growing of cotton. It would be most unwise of those growers to proceed in such enterprises in those areas and it would be even more foolish for this Government to encourage them to proceed by extending the bounty at the level it has been set for the last few years.
– What areas is the honourable member referring to?
– I am being asked by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) what areas I am referring to. I would suggest to him that he refer to the review which was conducted last year by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and which gives chapter and verse. If he will look at the results of that review he will find all the answers he needs. The cotton industry in Australia has always been supported in various ways by the Government. It has been protected by tariff, subsidised or given the benefit of a bounty ‘ since 1902 when we imposed our first tariff on cotton seed, cotton meal and so on. But we did not have a substantial industry at all until water from the Keepit Dam on the Namoi River became available in 1960, and then the industry skyrocketed. It moved and it is still moving very fast in that area and in like suurrounding districts where there is adequate water, similar soil conditions and similar growing conditions. That is the prime cotton area in Australia, and very fortunately for the Government and for the industry generally the pioneer growers in the Namoi have co-operated very closely, very sensibly and very fruitfully with the spinners in Australia and with the officers advising this Government.
It was as a result of the success of the first growers on the Namoi that we had the Raw Cotton Bounty Act introduced in 1963 to pay a bounty according to the quality of cotton rather than the quantity of cotton. That bounty arrangement was amended last year, as has been mentioned, and now it is to terminate over a period of 3 years. This has all been done in close association with the growers and with the spinners. There has been complete harmony between all these groups representing different sections of the industry and the Government, and I believe there will continue to be this close association between them for the benefit of the Australian public generally and for the industry. 1 would think it most likely that the arrangement will be constantly under review over the next 3 years while it still runs and that the Government will be most conscious of and will be watching most closely the trend of costs and prices to see whether or not it is working satisfactorily to all concerned, and whether or not some amendment should be made to the legisla tion. We certainly cannot gear this legislation to anything other than the successful section of the cotton growing industry, and that is what has been done. That is why we have such close liaison and such a beneficial arrangement with the cotton growers. The district that I have referred to as the Namoi is known to some honourable members here and I have spoken of it quite extensively in this House because it is the same district that is covered by the Gwydir River from which my electorate takes its name. It comprises the black soil plains of the Upper Darling system which stretches from the Macquarie River well up into Queensland.
This tract of country is highly productive, as has been proved by the establishment of this industry, and there is no doubt at all that it can grow many other row crops under irrigation. I trust that within a short time we will see the accelerated construction of a dam on the Gwydir which will make an additional area of about 100,000 acres available for the extension of the cotton industry or for the growing of other row crops in that area. It is a proven area and is potentially enormously wealthy. I believe it is quite foolish of us to compare this area with areas such as the Ord which have totally different characteristics. But I can say with some certainty that our problem in that area is not so much the extension of the cotton industry, or difficulties directly associated with the cotton industry, as the finding of alternative crops.
So I ask the Government to consider diverting some of the funds which are now being used to provide the bounty or are otherwise spent on cotton towards the encouragement, as this bounty scheme tapers off, of research directly into the problems of cotton and indirectly into the study of alternative crops in areas such as the one 1 have been speaking of. If we are cutting this expenditure down from $4m in the first year to nothing after 3 years, it is not too much to ask that some of the money that would otherwise be spent in this way be diverted to research into cotton and associated crops. In this way we would offset to a very large extent the effects of the curtailing of the bounty because we would provide growers with alternative paying crops and also help to increase yields of cotton and so make the operation more profitable for the growers.
I urge the Government to pay some attention to this problem of encouraging research into the cotton industry and alternative crops because there is no doubt at all that the amount we have been spending, through both the Commonwealth and the States, since the cotton industry was established - that is 8 years ago - has not expanded at a rate anything like the rate of expansion of the industry. It has lagged very far behind. In fact, I doubt whether it has expanded at all since 1961. It would be spending money in a useful direction if we were to devote the money which we now spend on a bounty towards this end of developing alternative crops and of studying the methods of increasing the yield of cotton.
The problem of the Ord River, which was dealt with by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr- Collard) is, as 1 have said, a big one. I am not opposed to the Ord scheme but, as I have said before in this House, it is enormously costly. I think I worked out that, if capitalised completely, taking in the cost of roads and all services, the farms would cost somewhere near $500,000 each. That is an enormous cost and I think it is absolutely absurd for the Opposition to suggest that we should increase or maintain a cotton bounty as further encouragement to the growers on the Ord. They are being assisted in very many ways now and it would be more in their interests and more in the nation’s interest if they were to be given assistance through their State Government for a direct and specific purpose. But certainly assistance of that kind should not be tied in with this Bill, because the situation on the Ord is unique and it should’ be treated in an entirely different way. I support the Bill and trust that the cotton industry will go on from strength to strength in the future. I also hope that the Government will do as 1 say and pay some attention to the need for research and the finding of alternative crops.
– I have listened with interest to speakers on both sides of the House tonight. It is a pity there is such a difference of opinion about-what is really a very fair and considerate proposal - this proposal to continue bounty assistance to the cotton industry for the next 3 years, but phasing it out during that period. We have heard the Opposition rave on and prattle away about what ought to be given to this industry. It is very easy to be generous when you are in Opposition, but I suppose we must allow a degree of [‘ice nee to those who want the world.
This industry has been treated in a reasonable and fair manner. We have provided a bounty to encourage the production of cotton in this country to meet our domestic needs. We have reached that ceiling now. In fact, we are producing more than our own needs and are exporting cotton. But to say that a bounty should go on ad infinitum is not a responsible way of looking at any industry. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) would argue that merely because an industry is an exporting one it is entitled to some sort of subsidy or assistance. Is this the sort of philosophy we ought to have? I have not heard the honourable member for Dawson say that our greatest rural industry, the wool’ industry, ought to be subsidised or to what extent it ought to be subsidised. To what degree should assistance be given to it? Where do you finish if this is your policy? Surely we have industries in this country that arc sufficiently efficient and economic to be able to stand on their own two feet and sell on the world’s market. If we have not, then the economy is in a sorry state. Fortunately, the cotton industry has made magnificent strides forward. I think what has been achieved in this industry over a short period of time is quite remarkable. Nowhere do we see this better, illustrated than in the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) - in the Namoi area. Here, 6 years ago, the production of cotton was in its infancy. It was in .an. experimental stage.’ People were testing it. They were putting in pilot plots to see whether cotton could be grown. Americans who thought that this was a suitable area came out and were prepared to risk their capital, using their know-how. They had little or no government aid. It is true that the Keepit Dam was built to provide water, but they had to pump the water out of the river, and they had to build the canals and the channels and level1 the land and make it available for irrigation purposes. They have been so successful as a result of their initiative and enterprise that today they are producing something like 70% or 80% of Australia’s total production of cotton. This is to their credit and we must admire them for what they have done. They were helped in the initial stages by the bounty that was given.
I think I should reiterate the statement that I made in the House last September when I stated that the Commonwealth had decided that it would continue the bounty for the 1969 season at S4m but would then phase it out over the following 2 years at the rate of $3m and $2m. This is what 1 said: lt was indicated by the Government in 1963 that in considering the future of assistance to the cotton industry at the end of the 3-year bounty period the Government would take into account the economic situation of the industry as shown by an economic survey of the industry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The. BAE has carried out this survey of the industry covering the 3 years from 1964-65 to 1966-67. In brief, the survey has shown that the objectives of the Government’s policy on cotton have been substantially achieved. A prosperous industry capable of meeting most of Australia’s requirements has been developed in the past 5 years. While there are differences in the performance of the various regions of the industry, in general terms the industry is a prosperous one with high levels of farm income and rates of return to capital and management, particularly in the Namoi area and in New South Wales and in central Queensland. 1 propose to release to the Press today the main results of the economic survey of the industry. In broad terms these indicate that the bounty has made a substantial contribution to the income levels achieved in the industry. Nevertheless, these results have shown that a major part of the industry would be able to operate quite profitably without the bounty.
Let us look at some of the figures. I think the Australian public should know them. What I am saying is not being said to be in any way derogatory of other areas of Australia where they have not been as efficient as the Namoi area.
– They have not been given a chance yet.
– What area?
– The Namoi area, or the areas of central Queensland. The honourable member for Dawson says they have not been given a chance. They have been growing cotton for many years down in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. They have been growing cotton on the Ord River for longer than they have been growing it in the Namoi area or the areas of central Queensland. These other areas have shown performance, and they are doing remarkably well. Let us be fair and reasonable and look at some of the facts. A survey was carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which disclosed a certain net farm income for the farmers of the Namoi area where from 70% to 80% of Australia’s total production of cotton is grown. The physical and financial data were obtained from a total of 154 cotton producers and the sample I have been given represents some 75% of growers who planted more than 20 acres of cotton in 1966-67. The largest individual raw cotton producer in New South Wales was omitted from the survey results as being atypical. This was the Austcott organisation which is a very big producer in the Namoi. If we look at the figures we see that the net farm income for the 3-year period was $69,767. The bounty content was $41,340. Therefore, the taxpayer is paying a bounty of $41,000 to these producers. Is it right and proper that he should be paying that much?
Why do we pay bounties? We pay bounties to help develop an industry if it is in the national need. We also pay a bounty to see an industry through a difficult period or to develop markets overseas where there are market opportunities. But do we continue to pay a bounty to ensure that certain producers gel a very high income? That is what we would do if we continued to pay a bounty under the existing arrangements. Of course, not all cotton producers would receive this sort of income. The income of some of the producers is nol very attractive. But this is one of the anomalies that is created in this situation. Unfortunately, when the Commonwealth pays a bounty, under our Constitution the money has to be distributed in relation to the quantity of production irrespective of where the growers produce in the Commonwealth. There is no discrimination against them whether they be in the Ord River region, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area or in some other part of Australia. The subsidy must be uniformly applied across the nation. This is one of the difficulties with which the Commonwealth is faced.
The rale of return to capital and management, excluding the bounty during this period, would give a return of 9.1%.
In other words cotton producers in the Namoi area of New South Wales can get a return on their capital of 9.1% without any bounty. That is not a bad return and it certainly does not justify the payment of a bounty by the taxpayers of Australia. Of course, the Ord River farmers, for whom I feel sorry, are not in such a fortunate position. Their net income, including the bounty for the 3-year period, was $19,398. If we deduct the bounty - which was $25,698 - we find they finish up with a net loss of $6,300. But is it the Commonwealth’s responsibility to look after individual circumstances? Let us look at the Ord River situation. The Commonwealth agreed initially to provide money to carry out a commercial pilot operation. It provided about $14m, or whatever it was, to build the Bandicoot diversion dam, to put in the channels and to help with some housing in the area. At this time, I might say, the Namoi area was not even thought of. lt looked as if the Ord could be one of the great cotton growing areas of Australia. Reasonably good cotton has been grown in this area. But before we went on with stage 2, which was to cost about $70m by the time the dam was put in together with all the other facilities, we said to the Western Australian Government that we were not sure it would be an economic proposition. We were lampooned right and left for delaying making a decision. We said we wanted more information as to the economic cost benefits of any future project. We waited, and the results did show an improvement. When we did eventually come to a decision we laid down quite clearly to the Western Australian Government that if the problem was one for the State and not an overall Australian cotton problem, it was the responsibility of the State and not of the Commonwealth. 1 think I should read to the House a letter which was written by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to the Premier of Western Australia on 6th February this year. The letter concerned a request by the Premier for special assistance to help the Ord River cotton farmers this year. The letter stated:
I refer again to your letter of 27 September 1968 seeking special Commonwealth financial assistance to the amount of $750,000 for the cotton growers in the Ord River area over the next three years. The recent extension of the cotton bounty for three years on the basis of production was made after an economic survey of the cotton growing industry had been completed and the decision represented my Government’s considered assessment of the Australian industry’s needs.
Commonwealth financial commitments to the Ord scheme by way of grants for Stages 1 and 2, loans for irrigation works, cotton bounty payments and expenditure on the Kimberley Research Station amount in total to over $70 million. In view of this, my colleagues and 1 believe that any Government responsibility for crop failures or other temporary setbacks should be undertaken by the State and I am informed that at discussions in August 1966 with Commonwealth Ministers about Stage 2 you gave an undertaking to my colleague the Treasurer, who was Chairman of the meeting, that the State would accept responsibility for economic setbacks in the scheme.
I think this makes the position quite clear and it should answer the amendment that the Labor Party has brought forward tonight seeking special grants under section 96 of the Constitution to help sections of the industry. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson reads: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide -
That is really a generous amendment because that is what we are already doing. The amendment further states:
This comes back to the question: is it the Commonwealth’s responsibility to look after difficult areas from State to State? I wonder what the honourable member for Dawson would say if I said that the cane growers in New South Wales who are in difficulty should receive assistance because they do not get the same sugar content as, for instance, the cane growers around Mackay? Does the honourable member think that the Commonwealth ought to come in and give special assistance to these cane growers? I would be pleased to hear him say so. I hope that if he is ever in government he might implement such assistance. But I do not think with true sincerity he could really believe in that. Another example is the tobacco growers in New South Wales who are not as fortunate as those in the Mareeba area in north Queensland. Should these New South Wales growers receive special assistance to help them while they are in the development stage? No. It is really all very nice if a party is in Opposition to make these generous proposals. They might appear attractive to the naive and innocent but those who understand the realities of financing government and the frailty of political promises, would be aware that these gestures have to be taken rather lightheartedly.
The honourable member for Dawson commented that world prices have declined and that consequently the situation should be reviewed. This is a statement of fact and I would like to reply to it. It is true that the world price of strict middling l& inch cotton on the Liverpool market has declined from 30.21c a lb in March 1968 to 26.38c a lb in March 1969. The reason for the price decline has been the increased world production of short and medium stapled cottons. They are the types produced in Australia. World production has increased from 47.6 million bales to 52.3 million bales over the past 12 months, while trading conditions remain sluggish and consumption levels are running a little below those of a year earlier.
Whilst prices have declined, they have declined to the normal level that existed in 1966-67 and 1965-66, which is the period over which the survey was conducted. So the argument that special consideration ought now to be given and a new survey conducted because of the world prices cannot be substantiated; the world prices now are those that applied while the survey was being undertaken. As to the expectation of future world prices, in the long term there seems to be little likelihood of a price advantage for cotton, as man-made fibres set a ceiling to the level of price above which substitution away from cotton takes place. There will, of course, still be erratic seasonal fluctuations in response to variations in consumption and production.
The honourable member for Dawson said that if we propose to sell on the world market we ought to give a bounty. If we do that, we leave ourselves a little exposed, but I think we can meet a challenge if we . give a bounty on exports during the present 3-year period. Under GATT we are not allowed to initiate exports by the use of bounties. If we were subsidising exports at the time we became a signatory to GATT, it is permissible to continue to make export sales of goods that have some sort of bounty content. We do this with sugar and dairy products. We have a flexibility that enables us to do it with wheat and with a few other products. But if at this time we commenced to subsidise the export of cotton we would immediately receive a challenge from other countries, particularly from many of the developing countries that depend heavily on the export sales of cotton. It is not in our long term interest to be challenged in this way. We have in this country great industries that have been receiving assistance, and part of this assistance ‘ goes in aiding our exports of primary products to other countries. We do not want to damage this trade and we want to be able to challenge other countries and face them eye to eye if they start to subsidise their export products. If it came to competition with, to use an example, the United States of America on the subsidising of agricultural products, I would hate to think who would win in the long run. 1 doubt very much whether we would.
I want to make this point: We have recognised that the Ord River farmers in particular have had difficulties and we have altered the Act so that the bounty now covers total production. If these farmers are compelled to export a part of their production, for the time being they will receive the bounty. The old Act, before it was amended, allowed for the bounty to be paid only on sales of cotton on the domestic market. I have stressed to the industry, mainly for the benefit of the Ord River farmers, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), that I and the Government want the industry to form some sort of equalisation or pooling scheme so that it can as a whole share the bounties on the domestic market. I do not want to see those who are fortunate enough to be able to harvest early and so have their crop available for sale get the advantage of the domestic market while those who harvest late are forced to sell on the export market. If I interpret the remarks of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie correctly, he gives the Government a little bit of credit at least for saying this.I inform the honourable member that reportsI have seen and heard - they are unofficial - show that the industry is getting together and is working out some form of voluntary equalisation scheme. If we do not get a voluntary equalisation scheme we may have to impose a compulsory scheme on the industry to ensure that this works.
This is a phasing out scheme. Some people looking at the survey figures that I mentioned, may throw up their hands in horror and say: ‘Why do you not cut it out immediately?’ The Government does not intend to do that. It took into consideration the very high capital investment that had been made by people in the industry, not only on their farms but also on their ginneries. This money will have to be paid back over a period of years. The economic survey shows that the capital investment per farmer is quite astronomical. In the Namoi area, for instance, the survey shows that the value of land for the average farmer is $180,000 and that his other capital investments are $106,000. This is a very large amount of money. Many of these people must have had to borrow substantially to set themselves up. We have adopted a policy of phasing out so that these people may have the capacity to meet their commitments either on the farm or in capital investments in their gin. We have a good many gins in Australia now. There were only two or three of them 5 years ago. Today 1 think we have around thirteen. Each gin costs at least $500,000, a very big capital expenditure. That is why the Government has taken a very lenient attitude and has decided to phase out the bounty during the next 3-year period. If circumstances in the industry become intolerable, it is only natural that the Government will have to review its policy. It may require the giving of further assistance to the industry, but as the figures present themselves at the moment nobody in the House can honestly claim that the Government has not made a fair and just contribution to assist the production of cotton in Australia.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 22
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I appreciate the point of order raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong. In this particular division the presence of the honourable member for
Yarra would make no difference whatsoever to the result. However, I feel that the honourable member for Yarra should retire outside the voting precincts of the chamber. If he does not do so a precedent could be established which may place some future Speaker or Deputy Speaker in an awkward position, l ask the honourable member for Yarra to withdraw.
-In the circumstances, provided it is thoroughly understood that this does not establish any precedent or place an obligation on any other occupant of this chair at any stage, we will proceed with the division.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
All) TO INDONESIA
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that the Government has decided to increase its aid to Indonesia from the $ 12.7m which is provided this financial year to $15m in 1969- 70. In addition it has been decided to commit in advance a total of $4m to finance economic development projects up to an expenditure of $2m in each of the years 1970- 71 and 1971-72. The Government has made this decision at this time in advance of the Budget for 1969-70 because Indonesia is still faced with . very serious and highly complicated problems in its efforts to regain economic stability. The decision will serve to emphasise once again the great importance the Government attaches to helping its closest and largest neighbours to achieve a proper and adequate rate of economic growth.
The $15m will be used largely to continue an aid programme of the same kind as has been established in 1967-68 and 1968-69. Although I am not able to give specific details of the programme for 1969-70 until further discussions have been held with the Indonesian Government I can say that the funds are intended to be used for programmes basically the same as those undertaken in the last 2 years - that is, for balance of payments support, imports of commodities, economic development projects . and technical assistance including offers of training awards in Australia. I might add that other donor countries are also making special efforts to assist the continued rehabilitation and development of the Indonesian economy. The United States of America, the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium have between them so far pledged approximately $US]81m as aid to Indonesia in 1969. These pledges are being made towards meeting Indonesia’s requirement for foreign aid in 1969, which has been estimated at $US500m. I present the following paper:
Aid lo Indonesia - Ministerial statement, 27 March 1969 and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I welcome the announcement which I he Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made. I would have appreciated an opportunity to see the text of the statement before he made it. I was handed a copy of the statement as the right honourable gentleman rose to speak. Nevertheless it is gratifying to have this announcement following so soon the speeches which were made on this subject yesterday. In the debate on a matter of public importance yesterday I pointed to the delay on Australia’s part in making aid- -
– The honourable member does not believe that, does he?
– Yesterday in the debate I pointed out that Australia had been slow and niggardly in making aid available to Indonesia. I mentioned this in the particular context that the Prime Minister was to visit the President of the United States and should make it plain that Australia should promptly and fully support the initiatives that America had sought in aid to Indonesia. I pointed out that last year, when America’s aid to all other countries had been reduced, her aid to Indonesia in fact had been increased and that this year America’s aid to Indonesia was being increased still further. I pointed out that Australia had still made no commitments to Indonesia for the present year, although the United States had made some commitments for this year as far back as last September.
To give a picture of the comparative assistance which was made last year I point out that Japan afforded $US80m; the United States afforded $US110m; Australia afforded $US14.3m. Despite their distance from this region, Germany, with aid of $US22.5m, and the Netherlands, with aid of SUS31.8m, were far more generous than was Australia in helping Indonesia. It is months since Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States and Britain announced their pledges to Indonesia for the present financial year. Australia is now making its announcement. I took the opportunity to mention this in the debate yesterday. The Prime Minister referred in very general terms to his interest in Indonesia over the years. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), who was the last speaker in the debate from the Government side, tried to cover over the position in general terms. He misrepresented me. I was therefore allowed to point out the correct position. I quoted from answers which the Minister had- given to me. One of those answers was given on 4th March, from which I have quoted further still. 1 believe that the Government has now acted with speed since yesterday’s debate. I am gratified.
– Do not be so silly.
– The Prime Minister knew nothing about it yesterday. He was floundering when he followed me in the debate, and the Minister for External Affair floundered likewise. The correct thing has been done. The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs have now looked at the position in the light of the answer which the Minister for External Affairs provided to me on 4th March and about which I reminded them yesterday. They are now belatedly and with poor grace doing the right thing.
– Are you taking credit for this?
– Yes. The Prime Minister knew nothing about it yesterday. His Minister for External Affairs knew nothing about it yesterday. The Prime Minister has now made an announcement. Typically, he read a statement without first giving me an inkling of its nature or the text of it. It is well to recall to honourable gentlemen that Sir Robert Menzies and Mr Harold Holt never sought leave to make a statement on any matter of external affairs without letting the Leader of the Opposition know 2 hours beforehand. The Prime Minister has never given me the text of a statement which he proposed to make by leave before rising to make it. On only one occasion before tonight has he given me the text as he rose, and that was when he spoke on Australia’s participation in overseas shipping. On this occasion there was no indication of the text of the subject matter of this statement and still less was there any text of the statement itself. Mr Speaker, you might not be aware that in Committee a little earlier there was some altercation as to who was here in time for a division. The altercation turned on the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) had just been informed by the Leader of the House that the Prime Minister was proposing to make a statement, and my Deputy was coming out to tell me this was so. Because of yesterday’s altercation I was well briefed on the statement. The Prime Minister, at least on this matter, is doing the right thing as he sets out to meet the President of the United States of America. We will know that at least in this matter the Gorton Government is at last co-operating with the United States Government in regional development - a matter which the United States places very highly in its aid programme. We are supporting it in respect of our largest neighbour. I welcome this statement despite the delay in making it and despite the quite modest increase over last year’s commitment.
– May I make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker?
– Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do not know whether I can genuinely claim to have been misrepresented. lt is rather a personal explanation of events. If leave is refused, then that is that.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This is the last day on which this Parliament is sitting for some time. This decision was made today obviously as a result of-
– Yesterday’s debate.
– It was obviously as a result of studying papers which had been prepared long before yesterday’s debate but which were studied carefully today. The decision having been made today I thought it proper to make it in the House on the last day of this sitting rather than make it in some other sphere. This therefore is why it was done tonight and he must indeed be rather silly who could think that the studies of this, that the considerations of this, could have had anything to do with a debate yesterday. Indeed, Mr Speaker, there is no-one in this House who thinks it did.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed (vide page 1039).
-] want to refer to clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill, which contain the substance of the main amendment to the Act. The Opposition accepts the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that under the Constitution it is impossible to make differential bounty payments to individual producers of cotton irrespective of whether one group of producers or one area happens to have some disadvantages as compared to others. That, of course, was the objective of our amendment earlier. The Government has set many precedents with respect to special circumstances, particularly in recent years in relation to drought. In this case the special circumstances are that the objective of the bounty was to establish viable areas following reports from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics but that those viable areas have not yet been established other than at Narrabri. Although it is not thought possible to make a differential bounty in terms of a person or an acre of cotton, it is possible to provide assistance under section 96 of the Constitution. This was the principle reason why we did not move our amendment at the Committee stage.
I had intended to comment on what the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) said earlier but I do not think it worthwhile to do so now and 1 fear that if I did I would be ruled out of order. I will refer to it at some other time. The main comment I wanted to make was with respect to differential bounty payments. Although the Government did not see fit to accept the Opposition’s amendment, we at least have the assurance of the Minister for Primary Industry that, if during the next 3 years some adversities or special circumstances do occur, the Government will make a review of the position and if necessary - 1 think this was implicit in the Minister’s statement - give consideration to those special circumstances, to particular areas or to particular farmers.
– I think f should clarify the statement made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). What I did say was that if during the course of the phasing out period it should be seen that difficulties are presented to the Australian cotton industry then naturally the Government would review the situation and take appropriate action. I did not qualify my remarks to the extent of saying that we would look at specific areas. We would look at the Australian industry as a whole. If there are difficulties in regional areas then the Commonwealth does not accept that this is its area of responsibility; it is the responsibility of the State governments. The Commonwealth has provided money to assist the States in the development of agricultural schemes such as on the Nogoa River, the Ord River and in some parts of New South Wales, but having provided the money to assist those projects it does nol accept responsibility for individual industries in those areas that have problems.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 March (vide page 877).
– Late in the evening as it is, 1 thank the House for the opportunity to make some comments on the debate that began a week or so ago concerning the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on defence. This statement was the result of negotiations that have been carried out over the last 12 months, of assessments of Australia’s defence capacities and of the significance to Australia and the South East Asian region of the announced withdrawal of the forces of the United Kingdom from that region. We have heard in this place the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, a number of distinguished members of the Cabinet and the leading members of the Opposition speaking on this matter. ft is my intention this evening to talk to the House about the consistency of the Opposition’s policy in relation to this matter, to indicate to the House and to place on the record my own conviction that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and his colleagues speak on these matters of defence not guided by their consciences and their decisions about what is best for Australia but, significantly, influenced by policies that are controlled for them from outside this Parliament. This has been the case with the Australian Labor Party for a long time. There is a great deal of evidence to show that throughout the last 30 years this has been the case. The Leader of the Opposition, when he spoke about the significance of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, made a number of important statements. He said he felt that the governments of Malayasia and Singapore could handle internal subversion them selves, that they took the view that the economic development and political stability within their countries and within the region was so vital to them that they would prefer to have control of this development themselves and to have Australian forces outside their countries.
We were given to believe by the Leader of the Opposition that in his discussions in recent times with the Prime Minister of Singapore and with the Prime Minister of Malaysia he was Icd to this conclusion. We understand from what the Leader of the Opposition said that this was the expected result of the announced British withdrawal. I feel that the House ought to study these matters from the point of view of the Australian Labor Party and the future of Australia,, if one considers the alternative of a government led by the Leader of the Opposition. In saying this, I am aware of the fact that the platform and the policy of the Australian Labor Party as laid down within that Party, not necessarily by the members of the parliamentary party within this House, would in that event be the governing defence policy for Australia, lt is quite clear that in 1969. as it was in 1939 and 1949, the Australian Labor Party is a party which believes in getting the maximum concentration of defence capacity within this country, lt believes above all other things in avoiding confrontation with political decisions which may prove to be unpopular in certain quarters, lt believes in a policy which will rely entirely on volunteers and which will enable those in the community who may seek to avoid their national responsibility to avoid it. This it has done over a long period of time. This consistent strain can be found in all Opposition speeches.
As has been said by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), the Opposition believes in a Fortress Australia concept. However, as a party, it docs not believe in this concept because it would be an effective policy: it believes in it because it is less likely to have political unpopularity within Australia and is less likely to present a problem for the party at election lime if it adopts such a policy. Reading through the history of this Parliament. I have seen that within 4 days of the commencement of the Second World War the Australian Labor Party made its position clear. At that time the international situation was completely different from that of today, and the threat to Australia was clear beyond all reasonable doubt. Within 4 or 5 days of the decision being made that took Australia into the Second World War, the then Leader of the Australian Labor Party announced in this chamber that his Party was prepared to support the Government and to support plans to prevent war profiteering, as he described it. At least the Australian Labor Party consistently argued at the time that under no circumstances would people be forced to accept a national responsibility if they did not volunteer for it. This fact can be checked, and it is an illustration of the Opposition’s approach to these very important defence matters. As I have said, this has been its consistent approach over a long time. .
When the Leader of the Opposition speaks in this Parliament and indicates that having travelled throughout Malaysia and Singapore he has come to the conclusion that Australia is doing the wrong thing in maintaining forces in those countries, he appears to mislead the House and to misrepresent the opinions of the leaders of those countries as expressed by them in public and as reflected in their actions. We in this Parliament can all remember the reaction of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. the Prime Minister of Singapore, at the time when the British withdrawal was announced and at the time when the British Government indicated that there was to be an increase in the speed of the withdrawal. At that time Mr Lee Kuan Yew invited the Prime Minister of Australia to accompany him to London to plead with the British Government not to hasten the withdrawal. If that is true - and we all know that it is true - how is it consistent with the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that the people in Singapore in fact do not want Australian support manifested in military terms by the people who will be there over the next few years.
When he says that the subversion, which according to him is always internal, can be controlled by the government in Malaysia, it seems to me that he ignores what we know to be the historical truth, which is that the subversion in Malaya, which started in the period after the Second World War and went on throughout the 1950s, was in fact an external subversion and was controlled and operated from outside Malaya by Chin Peng and the forces of Communist terrorists based across the border in the southern area of Thailand. lt was from these camps that these people were able to penetrate into Malaya and to carry out their terrorist activities at that time.
The Leader of the Opposition knows that these are facts. He has made visits with his colleagues into these areas, yet he returns and says to us here in the Parliament; ‘Notwithstanding what you know to be the facts and notwithstanding the announcements that are made, we believe as a political party that our people should be withdrawn and brought home to Australia so that there will be no burden upon Australians to serve overseas’. We have said that we as the Government have accepted the responsibility to maintain the liaison and the friendship that Australians have maintained with these countries in South East Asia over such a long period. This means that we. in 1969, must accept the fact that a manifestation must be in existence in these places. My friend, the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope), who is trying to interject, can remember well the year 1937. At that time, if the then Australian Government had been told that within 5 years it would be maintaining a great, powerful battle division, air forces and naval forces inside or off Malaya, the reply would have been that this was an impossibility. But the truth of the matter is that in those 5 years the effort of Australia in terms of national defence and the commitment of Australia changed enormously and we as a country were able to meet that commitment.
At the present time, we are preparing our capacity to meet a deterioration in international circumstances. We believe that the presence of our forces requested, as is that presence, by the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore will contribute in a substantial sense to the support of those governments to regional defence within the area and will give us at least the opportunity to indicate to those governments that our place is with them on this occasion as it has been on the other occasions to which 1 have referred in the past.
I cannot believe that the Labor Party deliberately seeks to destroy the concept of regional defence as a result of considerations within the group which governs the Parliamentary Labor Party. But 1 might be permitted to ponder what it is that motivates those from outside the Parliament consistently to force honourable members of this Parliament to adhere to a policy with which, it is common knowledge in this place, so many of them are not in agreement. In fact, to many of them it is to be abhorred. By virtue of their own activities earlier in their lives they have shown that they are prepared to accept their responsibilities in terms of defence and that they are prepared to fight for their country. When one does consider the basis of the defence policy of the Labor Party, it is apparent that it boils down to a stay at home, put the head in the sand attitude and, above all things, to do nothing that will offset the great advantages of living in Australia with the great responsibilities of living in the South East Asian region.
The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, spoke in this debate. They made it clear that the essence of their criticism was the shortness of time that they had to consider this Government’s policy and the long period that the Government had taken in announcing that policy. Even though the Prime Minister in precise terms set out what the policy was and how it was to be defined, they continually, by repetition within the debate, denied that this was what he had done. The Prime Minister made it clear. He said that our policy in relation to South East Asia and the region around us is to develop policies that will promote political stability and internal economic growth and to develop the defence potential in association with Australian forces and those of our allies and to promote regional co-operation.
I notice also that when the honourable member for Yarra spoke about various other countries and their reaction to this policy he allowed himself the luxury of slating that within a short period Australians would be the last white soldiers to be found in the region. He also talked about the colonial aspects of this fact. We have seen it as a clear development in the last 12 months - we will see it much more clearly over the 2 years or 3 years ahead of us - that there will be developed in the South East Asian area an awareness that Australian friendship is worth something and that Australia’s contribution can be relied upon as it has been proved in the past. It may be that it will be proved in the future that the Australian development capacity to increase the defence effort can be brought in a moment of crisis to assist these people.
When reference was made by the Labor Party to the withdrawal of Great Britain, this withdrawal was referred to as complete. I believe that the United Kingdom Government stated that it was quite untrue to infer that it had lost all interest in the area and that it was quite untrue that in the event of there being major developments in terms of an international war it would not be able to bring forces to assist in the area. Irrespective of these statements, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have ignored what has been said. I believe it to be worth while repeating. The fact of the matter is that if there were a global threat against the South East Asian area, the United Kingdom would still be able to dispose forces that would play a significant part in the meeting of that threat. Its naval forces would operate in the Indian Ocean. Its air force could operate from Lincolnshire. Our own air force will be greatly augmented by the Fill which will be in Australia and operationally committed to the defence of Australia in a relatively short period and will add enormously to our capacity. This will mean that these people, particularly those who are in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, may look down to Australia and see in reality the assistance and the friendship of 1969 which is in practical terms a regeneration of the feeling and the friendship of 1942.
Having said that, I will conclude my speech. I hope that those who may answer from the Opposition side will be able to show that, if I have misunderstood or misinterpreted their policies, I have done so without malice but with history throughout a long period of almost 40 years backing me.
Debate (on motion by Mr Minogue) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Wide publicity has been given to the losses sustained by the dried vine fruit growers in north western Victoria and neighbouring growers in New South Wales, and this is appropriate, for these primary producers have lost heavily as a result of a series of rainstorms, culminating in last week-end’s torrential downpour. The losses in many cases are akin to those of other primary producers through fire, flood and drought, and in answer to a question on Wednesday, the right honourable the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that if the governments concerned presented a case for aid to assist these growers, equivalent to the case for bush fire damage, drought damage or something the Government was prepared to accept in the past, it would be ready to enter into discussions. I am very pleased with that reply, for the simple reason, that I believe that the Victorian Government is at the present time making a survey of the extent and severity of the losses. I stated in the question I asked of the Prime Minister that it was highly probable that the State of Victoria would ask the Commonwealth Government for aid in giving these primary producers who have lost so much the assistance needed. The dried fruits industry is well in the news this week. 1 asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) this question:
The dried vine fruits industry having suffered severe loss as a result of recent torrential rain, it has become urgently necessary that the payment to the industry of devaluation compensation should be made. What is the prospect of the amount allocated being made available?
I represent in the Mallee electorate about 80% of the total dried fruit pack in the whole of Australia so the Minister for Primary Industry gave me the privilege of making the announcement that payment of an amount of $203,655 is being made today to the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for disbursement to the dried vine fruits industry for devaluation compensation. This is a first payment only. The payment is for loss incurred on exports to the United Kingdom for the 1967 crop of sultanas and raisins. The Board is the authority handling the disbursement o’ the money. The money will be paid to exporters of the 1967 sultana and raisin crop who will credit the amount to the pool accounts in respect of that season’s realisation. The old saying ‘Any port in a storm’ is well known and true. Equally true is ‘Any payment to the dried fruits industry that will assist it to weather the storms it has encountered is most welcome’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m. until Tuesday, 15 April, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable, member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has provided the following table giving the estimated population as at the Census of 30 June 1966, for each of the Commonwealth Electoral Divisions as revised by the 1968 redistribution. As the electoral boundaries do not correspond exactly with Census collection boundaries, the population figures shown in the following tables have been based on the nearest complete collectors’ districts and must therefore be regarded as estimates only. The figures arc based on final results of the Census but are exclusive of full-blood Aborigines and of migratory’ population.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1: No, but an estimate has been made of the anticipated cumulative expenditure over the 5-year period from the lime a commencement date is announced, lt has necessarily been based on a number of assumptions and cannot, therefore, be construed as being, in any way, a firm figure.
! asked the Minister for lnc Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ns asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1, 2 and 3. AH that is under consideration at present in regard to the Cape Keraudren project is the conduct of a study of the economic and technical feasibility of the use of nuclear explosives to develop a harbour. This study would be a prerequisite to examination of, among other things, the international legal aspects of the project.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of Australia-based and locally engaged employees, numbers of inquiries and arrivals of new settlers from each of the Department’s overseas posts for the years 1967-68 and 1963-64 appear on the attached schedule.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690327_reps_26_hor62/>.