26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have to inform the House that I have this day issued the writ in connection with the by-election for the Bendigo Division. The dates fixed are those announced to the House on 23rd April.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will doubtless have noticed that in an address last week the Attorney-General discounted what hs called the suggestions thrown out that the time has come in Australia to set up a securities and exchange commission on the grounds that the initial reason that existed for setting up such a commission in America does not apply here and that we would probably have to have six or :ever commissions. He also will recall that last October the Treasurer, iri answer to a question by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, stated:
I think it is high time that the various State governments considered the desirability of establishing a securities and exchange commission in each State . . .
The Commonwealth could establish one in regard to the Territories. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether the Treasurer’s statement in the House represents Government policy.
– The Leader of the Opposition will be well aware of the difficulties imposed by a federal system in matters such as this. I am not myself sufficiently seized of legal knowledge to know whether in fact there would need to be a large number of securities and exchange commissions or whether in fact there could already reside in the Commonwealth the power to take this kind of action for the whole of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition referred to an alleged answer by the Treasurer to a question which, as 1 heard the Leader of the Opposition, indicated a point of view and not a pronouncement on Government policy. When pro nouncements on Government policy on this kind of matter are made they will be pronounced as matters of Government policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will make a statement on the Government’s attitude to the Tariff Board’s report that 50%, subject to exemptions, may be acceptable as an upper limit for tarin* protection.
– I do not for a moment think that a further statement on behalf of the Government is necessary on this subject. The matter has been spoken to in the House in my absence by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It has been spoken to by the Prime Minister and I have referred to it. I do not think there is any necessity for a further statement.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. As yesterday’s debate in this House again brought to light the fundamental cleavage in the ranks of the Opposition concerning Australia’s role in global defence against nuclear attack and concerning the future significance of the ANZUS treaty and Australia’s responsibilities as a member of that treaty will the right honourable gentleman see that time is made available after his return from Washington for a full scale debate on the Australian commitment to ANZUS and on the necessarily related question of whether, as some members of the Labor Party would appear to believe, lip service to the treaty, without doing anything to give it life and meaning, is acceptable to the Australian people?
– On my return from the United States a statement will be made to this House on occurrences there and on the results of discussions which take place. I have no doubt that during such a debate in which speakers will have more than merely 10 minutes to express their views, these significant questions will naturally be the subject of discussion since they affect so much our relationship with the United States and the relationship of the United States with us.
– Will the Minister for Health explain the reason for the delay in making an adjustment to the remuneration of chemists for dispensing prescriptions under the national health scheme? The scale of remuneration has remained static since 1st March 1961. Since that time has the remuneration of doctors been reviewed every 2 years, resulting in an increase for them of 54£%? Has the Minister received a report of the joint survey on costs, made at the request of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia? Will he make a prompt announcement of the figure which the Government is prepared to accept so that the gross underpayment suffered by chemists over the past 5 years at least may be corrected?
– The honourable gentleman has asked for reasons for the delay in considering this case. As he has indicated, it was agreed between the Government and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to commission an independent survey into the cost of dispensing under the national health scheme. This has taken place over the last few years. I received on 15th April the final instalment of the Guild’s case in this matter. It is being considered by me and I expect to take it to the Government in the next week or two.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. In view of the Government’s defeat in the Senate last night and the strong opposition of some grazier organisations to the Government’s proposal to lift the ban on the export of merino rams, does the Government intend to adhere to its decision to remove the 40 year old embargo? As the Government’s stated excuse for lifting the embargo was the majority decision of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, what is the true reason why the Conference or the Government is refusing to divulge to this Parliament the names of members of the Conference who voted in favour of lifting the ban?
– I will deal firstly with the latter part of the honourable member’s question. No record is kept by the Australian Wool Industry Conference as to how individual members vote so there is no way of informing the honourable member how individual members of the AWIC voted when this question was put to them. The Government’s position is no different from that which I have already stated. It has accepted the recommendations of the Conference, but the implementation of the decision is still pending. Arrangements between my department and the Austraiian Association of Stud Merino Breeders have still to be worked out. Until that has been done and the whole question has been closely assessed, the embargo still applies.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. In October last he wrote to me in his capacity as Acting Minister for External Affairs following a question I had asked in the House on the wishes of the Government of the United Arab Republic to transfer war cemeteries from Alexandria. At that date, in October, the Minister said that the Australian representative would be commencing discussions immediately. To what point have these discussions proceeded? Will the Minister endeavour to see that no final decision for the removal of war dead from Alexandria is made until the question 1 raised of the dedication of an Australian national cemetery in this country is resolved and the wishes of the Australian public, and particularly any remaining next of kin, are ascertained?
– lt is true that the Government of the United Arab Republic has expressed a wish to remove the war cemetery from Alexandria because of difficulties associated with town planning and the expansion of the city. Several other countries are involved and negotiations have been entered into regarding the principles on the basis of which the removal shall be undertaken, questions of payment and the like and also on the question of a new site. These negotiations are still in progress. I will make some further inquiries to ascertain the exact position of them. I am not aware that there has been any formal submission of the proposal for removal of these graves to a national cemetery in Australia, but T will have that matter examined as soon as possible.
– Mr Speaker, I desire to ask you a question. Did you notice during the ceremony of the swearing in of the Governor-General this morning that probably for the first time in history the Chief Justice defied the Parliament. T would like to know what you propose to do to take up this challenge.
-I did notice the Chief Justice place a tricorn hat at the end of the table in the Senate. I should imagine that, as this occurred in the Senate, it would be improper for me to consider the matter or to comment on what occurred in the other place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. He will recall my earlier representations to him about the concern in my electorate over aircraft noise associated with services flying to and from the Adelaide Airport. I would be very pleased if the Minister could give me an assurance that everything possible is being done and will continue to be done to avoid any community aircraft noise problem in Adelaide, both during the day and during the night.
– 1 appreciate the intense interest that the honourable member has taken in this matter. She has referred it to me on a number of occasions in the past. I am very pleased to be able to give an assurance that everything possible is being done to alleviate the problems at the Adelaide airport, in the same way as it is being done at other airports throughout Australia. The position at the Adelaide airport is of course more fortunate than that at most other airports in Australia and indeed at most other airports of this size overseas. This is because of the location of the airport, which is close to the waterfront, and because of the sparsely built area adjacent to the main approach and take off routes. Almost invariably the route from the south west can be used for approach and take off. Tt is only on rare occasions, due to weather conditions, that an approach over a built up area is used. So both the main approach and take off paths are over sparsely built up areas and over water.
The procedure adopted by an aircraft taking off or landing is for it to approach or take off at a high altitude over the built up area before its final approach or after take off. The noise problem is alleviated considerably by this procedure. Also at night there are no scheduled jet flights between 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., and except under special emergency circumstances when permission has to be given, this policy is adhered to. As regards training, it is interesting to note that training is not permitted from the Adelaide Airport after 9 p.m. or at Parafield Airport after 11 p.m. This avoids substantially the nuisance during those hours. But I can assure the honourable member that from an aviation medicine point of view and from all other angles that are involved, this situation is being very carefully watched. At the same time we are endeavouring to provide the best possible domestic service with the most up to date aircraft in the world. We will keep very much in mind the question that has been raised by the honourable member.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is there continuing international pressure for the revaluation upwards of the West German Deutschemark? In view of the Government’s expanding recourse to borrowing on its own account in this currency, what action has the Treasurer taken to prevent increased Australian liabilities resulting from such a revaluation? Has he taken note of repeated warnings by the honourable members for Melbourne Ports and Cunningham in this regard?
– One has read newspaper reports in which it has been suggested that some months ago pressure was brought by the governments of two of the great nations for an upward revaluation of the Deutschemark. But it was obvious, too, that the German Government was extremely reluctant to permit an upward revaluation on the basis that a country which had handled its internal affairs so well should not be prejudiced by sane, sensible and economic management. It should be equally known to the honourable gentleman that political issues would be of paramount importance because agricultural prices are set in terms of a unit of account equivalent to SUS1, and any upward revaluation of the Deutschemark alone would seriously affect the primary industries of that country. This is the answer which I can give to the best of my ability.
The second factor which the honourable gentleman and the House would like to know is that we have borrowed on a long term basis, and the longer the terms for which one borrows the less difficulty emerges for the borrowing country. Thirdly, we have borrowed at exceptionally good rates of interest for private loans - 6i% to 6i%. The going rates in other continental countries and the United States of America would certainly be well in excess of 7i%. We have had remarkably good deals. We have raised long term loans. 1 say on behalf of the Government that I feel that we have been able to carry out these negotiations successfully.
– Does the Minister for Immigration envisage growing complications in the passage of migrants south bound to Australia in view of the fact that the liner ‘Fairsea’ is now off the run and that more emphasis is being placed on international air transport with resulting baggage difficulties, especially for large families? 1 believe that the figure for migration from the United Kingdom is now 50-50 for air and sea travel. Further, can the Minister advise whether the Department of Immigration will conduct investigations into the migration of large family groups and whether he can recommend further financial assistance to such groups, especially those from Europe, by way of sponsorship or additional aid?
– The liner ‘Fairsea’ is off the run at present. It is owned by our major contract carriers, the Sitmar Line. That company is doing all it can to replace the ‘Fairsea’. The Department of Immigration is doing all that it can to make sure (hat those people who were scheduled for sailing can transfer, if they wish, to air transport. I emphasise that it is up to the individual to make the decision. The Government does not encourage people to travel by one form of transport rather than another. Many of the people who were to come on the ‘Fairsea’ have in fact switched to air travel. This has created a difficulty for some in relation to baggage. Discussions have been had with the individuals concerned and the Department has made some arrangements. So far as further assistance is concerned, I think I am bound to say that the level of assistance at present is correct. The contract which the Government negotiated enables it to transport European migrants at a cost to them of £Stg10, or $25. The latter part of the honourable gentleman’s question referred to whether there would be an extension of the areas in which assistance is granted. That is a matter to which 1 am giving close attention at the present moment.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. If the provocative and irresponsible action of the United States Government of stationing a fleet in the Yellow Sea leads the United States into the war, will Australia be committed under the ANZUS Treaty?
– The question of any Australian involvement in the Yellow Sea area would arise under arrangements which were made in relation to the Korean incident and would depend upon the circumstances at the time.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister seen a statement attributed to the General Manager of Ansett Airlines of Australia in which he claims that this Government could change its attitude to allnight operations at Mascot and Tullamarine airports during the next 2 years? Can the Minister formally state to the House that this statement is not based on any suggestion from either himself or officers of the Department of Civil Aviation that such a change in policy is likely when airport extensions into Botany Bay are completed in 1971? Can the Minister say whether the Government’s permission has been given, as claimed by this airline executive, for Ansett Airlines to order two Boeing 727 aircraft with quick change configuration to permit all-night operations? If such permission has not already been given, are members of this House entitled to believe that the domestic airlines, both Ansett Airlines and Trans-Australia Airlines, may be trying to coerce the Government in a most arrogant manner, particularly when such public pressure is made at a time when the Bosman Committee is taking evidence relating to noise problems associated with aircraft operations in Australia?
– Firstly, no further authority has been given to either of the major airlines for the purchase of Boeing 727 quick change aircraft. If this matter comes up for consideration again, the Government will have to consider all aspects of it. I read the Press statement to which the honourable member referred. I understand that it related to some comments made by the General Manager of Ansett Airlines of Australia at a transport convention or conference and that he was expressing the views of the airline operators on their desires for the future. As 1 said in the House last week, this matter has not been formally presented to me. If the matter is presented it will be considered in the light of the facts at the time. The only suggestion that I can make to the gentleman concerned is that if he wants a matter of this nature to be considered he should put it up formally rather than make public statements of this nature when there has not been any formal presentation. Also, it would be useful if a submission were made to the committee that has been set up by this Parliament to deal with aircraft noise. I will certainly make the suggestion that if the airlines have ideas along these lines they should make a formal submission to that committee for its consideration.
– J address a question to the Attorney-General. I understand from a question asked in this Parliament recently that the Law Society of New South Wales and the Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General have had discussions as to whether or not it is desirable to determine that the age of majority should be reduced from 21 years to 18 years. Mention has been made that 18-year-olds should be allowed to marry, sign contracts, vote at elections and so on. My question is: Have these bodies considered whether the adult wage should be paid to 18-year-olds if they are to be given these added responsibilities?
– It is true that the New South Wales Law Reform Commission has considered the question of reducing the age of majority and has made an oral statement that it will recommend a reduction of the minimum age for the making of contracts, for marriage and for the making of wills to 18 years. It has indicated, as I have already told the House, that this recommendation will be reduced to writing and delivered to the New South Wales Attorney-General, who will table it in the New South Wales Parliament when that body meets in August. I think 1 should add that all consequential matters have been under consideration by the Commission, including the question whether the recommended changes would involve the payment of an adult wage at the age of 18 years. There are indeed very many consequential matters. For example, there is the question whether persons should be called up for jury service at 18 years of age or whether the minimum age for jury service should be left at 21 years. To say that the Commission has recommended a reduction of the minimum age for the three purposes I have mentioned is to make only a very bald summary of the situation. However, that is as far as the public announcement has gone. I think we will have to wait and see what is in the Commission’s report before we can say where the Commission stands on the question of the payment of an adult wage at 18 years of age. I think I should also add for the information of the House that within the last 12 months or so we have passed an ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory which permits 18- year-olds to make wills. In December of last year we also passed an ordinance which permits persons of 18 years or more to negotiate mortgages when they are borrowing money to establish a home.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. It is in part supplementary to a question asked by the honourable member for Dawson and relates to the decision of the Government to lift the ban on the export of merino rams. I ask the Minister: As the main reason given by the Government for tha decision to ease this ban has been an alleged need to improve the supply throughout the world of the better type of apparel wool, why has the Government’s decision been to allow the export of a very limited number of rams and to ban completely the export of semen, when the export of semen would increase immeasurably the availability of fine apparel wool in the long term without in any way interrupting the supply of good quality rams to the Australian wool industry, which is already facing economic problems?
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the question.
– This question as to whether there should be a lifting or a partial lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams was submitted to the Australian Wool Industry Conference in 1963. It was not until 1967 that the Conference really dealt with the matter. It referred the question to the Australian Wool Board to correlate all the arguments for and against a partial or complete lifting of the embargo. The Board submitted a paper to the Conference which in turn circulated it to all the industry organisations associated with the Conference.
It was quite clear that there was a division of opinion between people in the Conference as to whether or not there should be any easing of the embargo. I believe that the Conference reached a decision which was partly a compromise between the opinions on both sides. The Conference did not want to ease the embargo too quickly and so induce an increase in the price of stud merinos. It felt that a partial lifting of the embargo would not lead to an increase. Other people hold the strong belief that Australia has a monopoly on certain genetic material and that to ease completely the ban on the exportation of semen from this country would completely discount their argument. I think we have to look at the recommendation which the Conference made to the Government as one that would have a minimal effect either way until the whole situation could be reviewed after being in operation for 12 months.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, when he was in Launceston recently, he inspected and rode in one of the hovercraft built in that city by John Ford and Co., a company which employs seventeen men in a 3-year-old industry. Does the Minister hold out any hope that the Federal Government will place an order with this company for one of these excellent hovercraft for use by his Department on a test trial basis so as to ascertain its future role within Australia’s defence programme?
– I happily acknowledge having made a recent visit to the lovely southern State of Tasmania during which I did seize an opportunity to inspect a hovercraft which I think was turned out by a company called Air Cushion Vehicles. I feel bound to say that I was tremendously impressed with what I saw. What the promoters of this young company have done has been, I think, in the best traditions of Australian enterprise. My colleague the Minister for the Army has a lively interest in the possible military application of hovercraft and I have arranged for my Department to consult with his Department to see whether the present model available - it is only a preliminary model - or some derivation of it might meet a potential military demand. I am bound to say that the work I saw was tremendously impressive. I think this vehicle has great possibilities, not only for a military application, but also for a number of civilian applications as well. 1 assure the honourable gentleman that if there is some way of encouraging this kind of forward production in Australia my Department will be anxious to entertain it.
– 1 preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration, by saying that some migrants, when applying for Australian citizenship, find it offensive when their previous nationality is shown on their citizenship certificates as Yugoslavian when they were in fact born in Croatia. Of course Yugoslavia is a Communist country. Can the Minister take any action to avoid the embarrassment which this description now causes to these loyal Australian citizens?
– The citizenship regulations provide that the former nationality of a person applying for Australian citizenship should be shown on the citizenship certificate. The regulations will now be amended to delete that requirement. There are migrants who have come to Australia from countries which no longer have a separate identity. Alternatively, some migrants were born in places which had a certain nationality at the time of their birth but which now have a different nationality. We must record the information according to the present day situation. Many people object to that very strongly - so strongly in many cases that they have refused to accept citizenship simply because the certificate would describe their former citizenship tn the way that the honourable gentleman set out in his question. On examination I came to the conclusion that the statement of former citizenship did not add anything to or detract anything from the certificate of citizenship and that it served little real purpose. The only purpose it could have served was a statistical purpose. We have made arrangements for information for statistical purposes to be retained in the Department and we have issued an instruction that the statement of prior nationality will cease to be a requirement on the certificate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. The honourable gentleman would be aware of the decision made last night in the Senate to defer the lifting of the ban on the export of merino rams. In view of the mounting criticism within the country would the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country Party state categorically the policy of the Country Party on this important question?
– The policy of the Government and the policy of the Country Party are identical on this matter. There has been an embargo on the export of merino rams, and I did say on occasions when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that the embargo would not be altered unless the wool industry asked for it to be altered. The wool industry, through the Australian Wool Industry Conference, has now asked that the embargo be lifted. The disputation which is going on now is between different sections of the wool industry.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it true that the plebiscite which is to be conducted in West Irian on the future status of that country will involve a system by which a group of Indonesian officials will consult local community leaders one by one? If this is so, will this not create a situation in which it would at least appear that unfair duress of a mental kind or possibly even a physical kind could be exercised? Would this not be an unfair and unreasonable situation, and should we not perhaps be advocating a fairer system, even if this involved different methods of casting votes?
– It is not true that the process of consultation and discussion leading to an eventual act of self-determination in West Irian will involve consultations with representatives of districts one by one. West Irian has been divided into district councils ever since the days of the Dutch administration. Those councils are being enlarged by the Indonesian Government to take in representatives of all groups in their communities. The total number of representatives in all the councils will be something over 1,000, and it was pointed out to me that this represents a greater pro-rata representation of the population of West Irian than that of the Indonesian people in the Parliament of Indonesia itself, where 400 members represent 115 million people. At the moment these district councils are in the process of being enlarged and expanded. The actual discussions and consultations will take place at a later date.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for -Health. Has his attention been drawn to the report entitled ‘Public Relations and the National Health Scheme’ by Mr J. W. C. Wyett? Is he aware that health benefit organisations registered with his Department are contributing $20,000 a year to a public relations fund established on Mr Wyett’s recommendation? Does he regard payments to this fund as a legitimate item of operating expenditure for the organisations registered with his Department under the Act? If not, what action has he taken to see that payments are discontinued and that contributors’ funds improperly appropriated are now recovered?
– I have not seen the document referred to by the honourable gentleman. The practice which he alludes to has not been drawn to my attention, therefore I am not in a position to answer the remaining part of his question. I will investigate the points be has raised and give him a reply.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry inform the House whether the shipper bodies which represent Australian producers and exporters have agreed to the standstill of freights to the United Kingdom and Europe offered by the shipping conference representatives for the 1969-70 season?
– lt is a fact that the Council of the Australia to Europe Shippers Association met yesterday and decided to accept an offer made by the shipping companies. The offer was that there should be a standstill of freights for the next export season on all goods and commodities exported to the United Kingdom and to the Continent of Europe. The standstill will operate until AugustSeptember 1970. Honourable members will recall that in 1968 freights were reduced. This was a direct outcome of the introduction of a rationalisation of shipping services from Australia to the United Kingdom and the Continent. This proposal had been advanced explicitly by the Department of Trade and Industry. Since then, despite increased stevedoring costs and industrial troubles in Britain there has been no increase in freights. I am sure that this is a direct result of the economies of rationalisation as proposed by the Department of Trade and Industry. The implementation of the container service in the year 1969 will introduce new factors into the costs of freight in this trade and I am glad that there is a standstill for this year. 1 hope for better things next year.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it correct that the United Kingdom shippers who previously shipped through ports other than the Port of London are not required to pay any surcharge on containers through the Port of London, which is the single United Kingdom container port in use for the United Kingdom-Australia trade? If the answer is in the affirmative can he say why the container consortium of OCL and ACT has levied a surcharge on containers shipped from Tasmania and some Queensland ports, and what is the reason for treating United Kingdom shippers differently to Australian shippers? Did the consortium at any time state that there would be a uniform freight rate on all containers shipped through Australian ports and, if so, why has it reneged on this early statement? When the Australian National Line enters the container consortium or conference will the surcharge be removed on the Tasmanian and Queensland ports?
– I am not able to answer the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question. I am not aware of what port dues are levied by the Port of London. However, as to that part of the question, 1 will make an investigation and let the honourable gentleman know the result. Concerning the introduction of container shipping into the Australian, United Kingdom and European trade, as the honourable member is aware, at this stage the introduction of the new vessels commenced only some weeks ago and the whole transition from the conventional form of handling cargoes to the new container method of handling cargoes will take some months before it is complete. After that time it will also be necessary to determine to what extent there are cargoes which are not capable of being handled efficiently and adequately in containers and there will no doubt be a need in the future for some residual ships other than container ships to handle these cargoes which are not suitable for packaging in containers. The extent to which these cargoes need to be identified is not yet firmly established.
As to the rates to be charged for the movement of goods from Australian ports to United Kingdom-Continent ports, the position has been explained in this House by both my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry and myself. It is hoped at this stage that there will be a possible retention of the standard freight rate which, it has been agreed, should be charged for the sea leg voyages between Australia and the United Kingdom-Europe. The rate being charged for container movement, on the other hand, involves a total freight levy. This involves movement not only from wharf to wharf but also from terminal to terminal and depot to depot. In the future it is hoped that it might be possible for the ports to which the honourable member referred in both Queensland and Tasmania to be brought within the same freight rate. In the meantime it is necessary that this new form of transportation be implemented, and until that is done and until new forms of coastal shipping are introduced the cost of moving the goods about the Austraiian coast is such that it is not and has not been possible for that rate to be contained within the overall rate to be charged in the overseas trade.
Ministerial Statement Mr ANTHONY (Richmond- Minister for Primary Industry)- by leave - I am glad to be able to inform the house that the proposals put forward by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for quotas to operate on delivery of wheat to the Australian Wheat Board next season now have the full support of the wheat industry in all States, of all State governments, of the Commonwealth Government and of the Reserve Bank. The way is now clear for them to operate for the 1969-70 harvest. Honourable members will know that the wheat industry has encountered serious problems in storing and marketing the unprecedented intake of wheat from the 1968-69 harvest. In drawing the industry’s attention to the implications of this situation, I pointed out that the industry had to face up to the certainty that another big crop in 1969-70 would compound its problems. I also emphasised that it would not be reasonable to expect the Government to guarantee unlimited finance for the industry. The industry has not been slow to respond. It has shown that it is fully alive to the situation and that it is prepared to meet the challenge of production in excess of probable outlets.
Last month the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation formulated a plan intended to bring production to manageable levels. Essential features of the Federation’s proposals are: Firstly, that quotas be imposed on deliveries in each State in the 1969-70 season. The basic State quotas would total 344 million bushels, with provision for a further 13 million bushels of prime hard wheat if such wheat were avail able. Thus, the maximum quota for all States would be 357 million bushels. Secondly, that a first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel be made on all wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board within the quotas. I have had some discussion with the Federation to seek clarification of aspects of the proposals and to test industry reactions. I am now assured that the proposals have been ratified by affiliated industry organisations in all States. I have also consulted with State Ministers for Agriculture. Each of them has now informed me of his government’s acceptance of the Federation’s proposals and of its intention to ensure that the delivery quota plan operates successfully. A condition of this acceptance was that the Commonwealth should undertake to arrange finance for a first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel on quota wheat delivered to the Board. in these discussions with State Ministers and with the Federation there was general recognition of the fiscal implications and legal problems which needed to be considered before finality was reached. An early meeting of Commonwealth and State legal advisers is being arranged to discuss aspects of implementation of the proposals. Arising out of these discussions certain supporting legislation might be necessary.
The Government has considered the whole problem facing the industry and the major features of the Federation’s proposals. It regards these proposals as a constructive approach, and has decided that it will support them. This support, translated into practical terms, will be to guarantee finance to the Australian Wheat Board to enable it to pay a first advance of $1.10 per bushel on wheat of the 1969-70 season delivered within the quotas established, not exceeding in aggregate 357 million bushels. To enable the Wheat Board to meet expenses such as storage and handling and administration, a further sum will be made available, but the Board’s drawing limit with the Reserve Bank will be $440m. The Board of Governors of the Reserve Bank has today agreed to make the necessary funds available. The basis of the first advance will be $1.10 per bushel for fair average quality wheat, f.o.r. ports. That is, freight will, as usual, be deducted from payments to growers. This limit of $440m must be observed. The amount is a large one. As honourable members know. the industry, through the Wheat Board, is now heavily indebted to the Reserve Bank and is likely to have an overdraft of as much as $200m at the time when advances on the next crop will be around their peak. In other words, there may be as much as $640m advanced to the industry in the early months of 1970. Let me make it clear that the sums I have mentioned will not be exceeded. If quotas are not implemented and if the quantity delivered to the Wheat Board exceeds 357 million bushels, then the first advance will have to be something less than $1.10 per bushel.
The question has been raised in some quarters as to the effectiveness of the plan as far as the 1969-70 crop is concerned, and it has been pointed out that some growers have already planted their land for the coming season. I think I should remind those concerned that it should have been well known to them that the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation decided on 12th March to recommend that delivery quotas be introduced, and that since then the industry and governments have been discussing the matter, and that strenuous efforts have been made by all parties to work out a solution to the problem. Growers who have planted their land for the coming season have done so in the full knowledge that such a plan as is now proposed was likely to be implemented.
When the next harvest is completed there will be an urgent need for a review of quotas for the following year. The industry’s stocks, financial position and marketing prospects also will have to be examined closely by the industry and each of the governments concerned. I have offered to do what I can to co-ordinate action by the States if they wish me to do so. That offer still stands, but the decision to implement the State quotas and all the decisions as to how they are to be allocated between farms or growers are constitutionally matters for the States.
The plan for delivery quotas poses problems and difficulties. As I have said, there is a willingness on the part of all governments - Commonwealth and State - to ensure that the plan is successfully implemented. The legal advisers will be expected soon to indicate the nature of whatever new legislation will be necessary if the plan is to work successfully. The other requirement is acceptance by the industry of a degree of self-discipline. Having demonstrated its capacity to devise this plan, I am confident it will now demonstrate the determination to make it work. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of recent events at Wutung, a small village on the New Guinea coast and within a few hundred yards of the border between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and West Irian. I am now able to give the House more details than 1 had when I issued a statement to the Press last Sunday. The village of Wutung lies approximately 30 miles from the West Irian capital Djajapura and approximately 20 miles from Vanimo, the District Headquarters of the West Sepik District of Papua and New Guinea.
For some years many West Irianese have entered the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at Wutung. Ties of kinship and tradition extend along the coast on either side of the border and at various times small and large groups of people have called at Wutung by boat or on foot. Most have called to visit relatives. They are traditional inhabitants of the border region. Some, dissatisfied with their lot in West Irian, have come to seek greater employment opportunities. A small number have sought permission to remain in Papua and New Guinea for humanitarian reasons. Those granted permission have settled in the Territory. The remainder have returned to West Irian. Late last year, a group of West Irianese established themselves illegally near Wutung and just on the New Guinea side of the border. Once it was known that these people were living within Papua and New Guinea they were asked to return and did so. It is understood that they established themselves in the bush across the border from Wutung.
From reports that have been received from the Administration of Papua and New Guinea it is clear that on Saturday, 26th April 1969, a small group of armed, uniformed Indonesians entered Papua and New Guinea at Wutung in search of a number of West Irianese who had crossed the border from their bush camp on the West Irian side of the border. During this incursion, the Indonesian party fired shots at the Officer-in-Charge of Wutung Patrol Post, Mr A. Try, two native constables and the station interpreter, none of whom was armed. It also appeared that the party conducted a house to house search of a Wutung hamlet. After a prolonged discussion with the Officer-in-Charge, during which a man who had been held by the party was released, the Indonesian party returned to West Irian. No one was hurt as a result of the incident. I wish to mention the highly commendable behaviour of Mr Try, the Officer-in-Charge, Wutung, and the police who acted with great firmness in the face of this armed group.
The situation at Wutung has now returned to normal. The seventy-nine West Irianese who crossed the border are being accommodated at the Yako Quarantine Station near Vanimo. They are being cared for by the Administration and in accordance with normal procedures relating to border crossings, any claims they have to remain in the Territory are being investigated. Additional Administration staff has been sent to the West Sepik district and the police strength at border stations has been increased to ensure adequate protection for the Papuans and New Guineans in areas near the border and for the Administration’s officers.
The Government’s policy in relation to the border has always been premised on the principle that international boundaries must be respected and this is the basis of its policy regarding West Irianese border crossers. On this occasion the border has been breached by armed officials of the neighbouring government. The Indonesian Government, with which our relations in many fields, but particularly in regard to the border, have been close and cooperative, has been fully informed of this incident. Strong representations have been made to the Government of Indonesia to avoid any recurrence of such incidents and that Government has given assurances to this effect.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, the statement which the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) has made is a careful and helpful one. The action he has to report is appropriate.
– 1 move:
That the paper be printed and the debate be adjourned.
-Order! The motion is out of order.
– Why cannot we debate the statement?
– Because it is the Minister’s privilege in the House to move in relation to the debating of the paper.
– Does that mean we are excluded?
– It means that next time the Minister asks for leave he will not get it.
– -Order! I have ruled that it is the Minister’s prerogative to move for the noting of the paper.
– May I ask for leave to make a statement?
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– by leave - I believe that the situation on the border between West Irian and Papua and New Guinea cannot be resolved by a statement by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and then an acceptance by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that it is a satisfactory statement. I think that we must consider who these people are. They are all one people. We divided them. I have been to Vanimo, and I know that over the centuries, from what I have heard, the people in these areas are interrelated and they come together for marriage feasts and social functions. They resent the attitude of anybody - whether that person be an Indonesian or one of ourselves - who tries to keep them apart. They are of one blood. They differ from the Indonesians in every respect - linguistically, historically, religiously and traditionally. If they are not one people, they are certainly not of the same blood as the Indonesians. The Indonesians are there as the conquerors. They are there because of the Bunker plan which was forced onto the Australian Government, whereby these people were handed over willy-nilly to the Indonesians, Bunker was the American who said that these people had to be handed over to Sukarno.
– That is a gross misrepresentation. It is not true.
– Of course it is completely true. If the honourable gentleman will come round to my office I will give him a lesson in the facts. I will convince him that the Bunker plan was put into operation in 1962 and the Australian Government was forced to agree to the plans of Sukarno who was raining bombs on what was then Dutch New Guinea. At the time we were still negotiating with Sukarno. It was a craven attitude on our part. The Australian Press was combining to sell out these unfortunate Papuan people. I referred to Sir Garfield Barwick, who was then Minister for External Affairs, as Sir Neville Barwick. He reminded me of Neville Chamberlain. It was another Munich for these unfortunate people.
I believe that we should not let the Indonesians pursue these people into our Territory. Also, if people want to come from that area to live with people of their own blood, to whom they have been tied in various degrees of consanguinity over hundreds and hundreds of years, they ought to be allowed to do so. They should not be pushed back across the border. I have always resented what was done previously, and I still resent it. I hope that some day there will be a Melanesian federation; that all the people of New Guinea, whether they be Micronesians, Melanesians or Polynesians, will unite. There are many tribes, and about 170 different dialects and languages are spoken. They have matriarchal provinces and tribal areas and they have patriarchal provinces and tribal areas. They have to come together in unity some day. We should not allow them to be divided by an artificial barrier which has been erected by white men - especially by the British Foreign Office which gave half the Territory of New Guinea to the Dutch and which proposed to give the other half to the Germans until the Queensland Government stepped in and said: ‘We want a part of the other half.’ That is how we got Papua and New Guinea. That area became attached to the colony of Queensland, and later it became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia. I think that we have to keep all these things in perspective when we talk about the future of these unfortunate people. They are human beings. They are not cattle to be traded at the whims of the Indonesian Government or any other Government.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to give reasons for refusing entry to New Guinea to Mr Semenov, who hail an Australian visa, and to consult members of the House of Assembly in such matters.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– 1 want to bring before the House the rejection by the Government of an application by the Russian author, Mr Ioulian Semenov, to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. While the Opposition is prepared to concede that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) must have some responsibility in this matter as the ministerial head of the Department of External Territories, this certainly does not give to him the prerogative to make this kind of decision without indicating to this House the reason why he has decided personally to reject an application by a citizen from another country to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This is particularly so in this case because Mr Semenov had sought a visa in Japan to come to Australia and he had been given an assurance by the Australian Embassy in Japan that it would be possible for him to journey to Papua and New Guinea. But the attitude of the Minister for External Territories is that no explanation for refusing entry is required, and no explanation was given. Since the Minister has adopted this attitude, the Opposition believes that this matter ought to be determined in this House.
Mr Semenov is a Russian author of some distinction. He is a man of 38 years of age, widely travelled and respected in the Soviet Union as a novelist and playwright. In the past few months Mr Semenov has been making a particular study of the international work of Russian scientists. His researches have taken him to many countries, including Japan. He was particularly keen to visit Papua and New Guinea because Russian scientists had done scientific work in New Guinea in the last century. As I said earlier, Mr Semenov approached Australian Embassy officials in japan and was assured that there would be no obstacles to him visiting the Territory. He made the final arrangements for his visit to Australia in Singapore and reached here with a clear impression that he could go to the Territory. But when Mr Semenov sought an entry permit to the Territory his application was rejected by the Minister. Mr Semenov subsequently saw representatives of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and put his case to them. Together with an official of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, he saw me in Parliament House.
– Oh! He knew where to go.
– That is the kind of inane interjection that one expects from the honourable member. There is nothing wrong with that. Have Russian officials not seen other members of this Parliament in Parliament House? I was impressed with Mr Semenov’s character and ability and 1 thought he put forward an excellent case for visiting the Territory. I then sent a telegram to the Minister and urged him to reconsider his refusal to permit entry to Mr Semenov. f pointed out that several scholars and journalists of international repute had been refused permission to visit Papua and New Guinea. I said that this repeated pattern of denying access to these people could only tarnish Australia’s image at a lime when there is an increasing volume of criticism of our role in the Territory. In a terse reply the Minister reaffirmed the exclusion of Mr Semenov. Again, he did not give the slightest justification for his repeated refusals. I understand that Mr Semenov has since left Australia.
The whole incident is regrettable and one of which the Government should be deeply ashamed. Mr Semenov’s exclusion follows an earlier refusal of the Minister to allow the former ‘Pravda’ correspondent in Australia, Mr Yuri Yassnev, to visit New Guinea. During his time in Australia, Mr Yassnev had full access to the Parliament and its members and the Parliamentary Press Gallery. He was able to travel freely within Australia and visited Norfolk Island. However, despite repeated applications, he was not allowed to visit Papua and New Guinea. I am completely unable to comprehend the attitude of the Government in both instances. It is impossible to see what useful purpose is served by bans of this sort. The only explanation 1 can think of is that this is a narrow minded and petty reprisal for Russian criticism of Australia’s role in the Territory in the Councils of the United Nations. Certainly, there has been criticism of Australia in the United Nations, but on some occasions it has been completely unjustified. This criticism has emanated not only from the Russian bloc but also from the African bloc, and the Minister is aware of this. If the Minister is refusing permission only to persons from countries that have been critical of Australia’s role in Papua and New Guinea he is refusing on false premises. The Minister is aware of this. lt is quite remarkable that this decision was taken without any consultation with members of the House of Assembly in the Territory. I wish to refer to a report by the correspondent Douglas Lockwood, which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 24th April. According to Mr Lockwood, Papuans and New Guineans, black and white, were astonished by the Minister’s decision to reject Mr Semenov’s application. Mr Lockwood quoted the Assistant Ministerial Member for the Treasury, Mr Oala-Rarua, as saying that the ban could only increase Soviet suspicion of Australia’s administration of the Territory. Mr Rarua is quoted as also saying:
In any case, we don’t want decisions of this kind being made for us in Canberra. This is supposed to be a free country. As far as 1 am concerned, (here should be freedom of access today.
Another member of the House of Assembly, the Reverend Percy Chatterton, said that it was an insult to the people that a decision was made without consulting them. He is quoted e» also saying:
The Russians have been blowing their tops about the administration of this country at the United Nations. Who can blame them if they continue to do so when their writers are denied the facilities te become informed? This is just another instance of the stranglehold that Canberra has on this country.
I repeat that I am quoting from the report of a respected Australian journalist with many years experience in the Northern Territory and in Papua and New Guinea. His report points out the bitter reaction of members of the House of Assembly to the Minister’s decision. This sort of lofty paternalism has been the Minister’s major contribution to his administration of Papua and New Guinea. This is not only my opinion and the opinion of honourable members on this side of the House, but also the opinion of others. I make this statement at a time when comments are appearing in the Press of this country regarding the Minister’s administration of the portfolio. Two prominent newspapers have called for his resignation. The Minister’s reactionary attitude to Papua and New Guinea and his contempt for the opinions of its elected representatives would not be inappropriate in General de Gaulle.
This sort of decision must expose the country to ridicule in the enlightened councils of the world. It is the latest incident in a chain of bans on entry which go back to the exclusion of the scholars Peter Worsley and Max Gluckman in 1954 and 1956. Both are now professors at Manchester University, which is surely proof of the absurdity of their exclusion. These restrictions stand in marked contrast to the facilities made available to the South African Ambassador last year so that he could visit Papua and New Guinea. It must be inexplicable to people in the Territory that a representative of a flagrantly racist government is given access to the Territory while Russians and others are barred. Australia is supposed to be guiding the Territory to independence. Any inconsistency of this sort can only hinder this process, which is already beset by many complexities. The action applied to Russian writers can only be interpreted as retaliation for Russian criticism in the
United Nations of the Government’s handling of New Guinea affairs. On this ground it should be remembered that Australia administers New Guinea for the United Nations. Therefore, Australia must expect criticism in the United Nations. Indeed, members of the United Nations are entitled to make these criticisms.
When I first commenced to speak in this debate I pointed out to the House that I personally believe, .is do some if not all honourable members on this side of the chamber, that same of the criticism is unjust and probably unnecessary. But if we are to accept the responsibility of ensuring that the people of Papua and New Guinea are led to independence we must expect some criticism in the United Nations from those who feel that we are moving too slowly towards this objective. Can anyone place any other interpretation upon the kind of criticism made? We must also expect criticism as a result of some of the statements that have been made in recent months by the Minister - criticism emanating not only from the United Nations but also from sections of the Australian Press as well as from honourable members on this side of the House? As I have said, much of this criticism may be unfair and based on an inaccurate assessment on what is happening in the Territory, but is the situation improved by a blanket prohibition on representatives of a major critic? This is not the sort of lesson in freedom of speech and association which Australia should be giving to this fledgling democracy. Exclusion of writers such as Mr Semenov can only intensify suspicion and criticism among African and Asian nations already dubious about Australia’s action and motives in Papua and New Guinea. The growth of this feeling will be reflected in steadily mounting criticism in the United Nations, and in particular, in the Trusteeship Council. This would be an immeasurably worse result than any harm that might be brought as a result of unfavourable writings of authors from the Communist bloc who visit the Territory.
Another most objectionable feature of this incident has been the Minister’s refusal to give bis reasons for barring Mr Semenov. According to Mr Semenov, the Minister told him that the Government did not give its reasons for such exclusion. The Opposition’s concern at this brusque and arrogant dismissal of a reasonable case for admission to Papua and New Guinea is shared by the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists. I understand that this section has written to the Minister protesting about Mr Semenov’s exclusion. The Commission has pointed out the decision of an international conference of lawyers held during Human Rights Vear on the freedom of movement of the individual. This conference concluded that foreigners should be accorded a right to visit a state for a limited period as jurists, for business or professional purposes or for study. This right should be subject to clearly defined grounds on which it could be refused in specific cases.
The Opposition agrees with the International Commission of Jurists that a fundamental right of freedom of movement of the individual has been denied in this case. Furthermore, the Minister has never defined the grounds on which this right may be refused. He has exercised his powers to waive this right purely as a prerogative right without explanation or justification. There is not the slightest threat to the development of Papua and New Guinea in the visit to that Territory of an author wanting to undertake historical research. The exclusion of Mr Semenov is an arbitrary and dictatorial denial of a basic human right. It must serve to further provoke international suspicion and misgivings about what Australia is doing in the Territory. Above all, it is a most unfortunate example of unwarranted administrative action to give to a territory we are supposed to be guiding towards democratic government. The Minister has told us on numerous occasions what his opinions about democracy in Papua and New Guinea are. He has told us how long it will take these people to reach a situation where they can claim to be independent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I suppose all countries would have legislative or other measures by which they can control the entry into those countries of individuals from other places and so protect their own integrity and serve various other purposes. This country is no exception. Why should
Papua and New Guinea be excluded from this kind of protective device? To me, the attitude of the Opposition is quite extraordinary when it is realised that we are setting out to make Papua and New Guinea an independent nation, if it wishes to become one, based on a democratic system of government. We in Australia have our system well established. It is based on the system that has been developed over centuries in Britain. Many forces in other parts of the world are directing their efforts towards undermining our democratic system of government. Many other countries do not enjoy such a system under which the individual has a say in his own government. The system has been successful for us and we are endeavouring to promote it in New Guinea and encourage the people there to make their own decisions in a democratic way. They have at the moment a progressing form of government. It is a flexible system under which the people there are obtaining more and more of the power to control their own affairs. But if we do what the Opposition is suggesting we will make it more difficult for those people. The Opposition would leave us no control over the people going into the Territory. This is not surprising when we remember that in the debate in this House yesterday it was obvious that the Opposition is not interested in the security even of Australia itself.
– All the Minister is interested in is selling wool to China.
-Order! The right honourable member is listed to speak later in the debate and he will then have an opportunity to reply to the Minister.
– As I say, we heard yesterday the views of the Opposition on the security of this country. Even the Opposition’s attitude towards the defence of this country would seem very doubtful, because we heard the views of honourable members opposite on the North-West Cape installation when it was being debated in this House. They would adopt the same attitude in respect of Papua and New Guinea.
The Opposition has suggested that I should have consulted the House of Assembly. Let me inform honourable members opposite that the Australian Government is responsible for the defence and security of Papua and New Guinea. In any case, from practical considerations it would be extraordinarily difficult to consult the House of Assembly. It meets only four times a year.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must cease interjecting. He has already spoken in the debate. The cross talk coming from the Opposition benches and from the table must cease.
– 1 was speaking of the practicalities of consulting the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is consulted on matters that concern the internal affairs of the country. We listen to the House of Assembly on such matters. It has select committees on constitutional development and so on. We accept their views on such matters. We prepare legislation on these subjects for presentation to this House. But, as. 1 said earlier, the Australian Government is responsible for the security and defence of Papua and New Guinea.
The immigration policy that is relevant to the present situation is basically not to permit the entry of visitors and immigrants into Papua and New Guinea who might imperil in some way the economic, social and political well-being of the indigenous people of that Territory until they are able to decide their own immigration policy. Entry into Papua and New Guinea is controlled by a system of application on a form provided, and if entry is to be permitted, the issue of a document to that effect on a form laid down by the Administrator or in a visa written into the entrance passport or other acceptable travel document is required. Thousands of people go to Papua and New Guinea each year. I think 21,000 people visited the Territory last year. The House might be interested in the sort of conditions that are required of a visitor to the Territory. Let me list them, (a) A visitor is required to have either a valid national passport or some other suitable travel document, which, by itself or in conjunction with other documents held, ensures that the entrant would be admissible to some other country or residence after termination of his visit to the Territory; (b) it is required that a visitor satisfy the permit issuing officer - this might require a personal interview - that a visit only is intended - not a long term stay as an immigrant - and that he will not engage in remunerative employment other than the business negotiations and transactions which are the object of the visit; (c) he is not adversely recorded from a security viewpoint; (d) he is of good character; (e) he has ample funds for his stay in the Territory and for his return or onward journey to the other country for which he holds permission to enter for residence; (f) he is not suffering from any obvious health impairment (the permit issuing officer may require the applicant to be checked by a medical officer). The honourable member said that Mr Semenov was given to understand that he could enter Papua and New Guinea and that this was featured in the Press.
– Are you referring to me?
– Yes. I gather that the honourable member made the statement that Mr Semenov had the impression that he had permission from the Tokyo embassy to enter Papua and New Guinea.
– I did not.
– Well, from an embassy. The following is an extract from a cable which we received from Tokyo:
Semenov was introduced in first instance to one of Embassy diplomatic staff by Third Secretary of Soviet Embassy who said that Semenov wished to go to Australia.
In conversation with Semenov diplomatic officer told him that he should make application to our Consular section.
Officer concerned recalls that during this conversation Semenov mentioned interest in Papua and New Guinea but only very casually.
This seems to have been only occasion Papua and New Guinea mentioned and Consular section was completely unaware he had in mind going beyond Australia.
Semenov arrived in Canberra on 17th April, and from the various contacts he made here he must have been fully aware of the requirements for entry to Papua and New Guinea. However, it was not until the 22nd April that he approached the Department of External Territories to apply for entry stating that he intended to travel to Papua and New Guinea the following day. On the previous evening he conveyed the impression in an Australian Broadcasting Commission news item that he had already been given permission to enter Papua and New Guinea.
Semenov informed the Department of External Territories at an interview that as well as being a novelist he was a contributor to ‘Pravda’ from time to time. This is completely contrary to the impression conveyed by Mr Semenov in his television interview and in his interviews with the Press. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claims that Semenov is a writer and he should be allowed to enter Papua and New Guinea to form an impartial view of what is happening there. I wonder whether there are any impartial writers of Russian origin. 1 saw a Press report which suggested that Mr Semenov was a freelance journalist from Russia. Are there any freelance journalists from Russia, in the sense that we know a freelance journalist? If one looks back over recent years one finds that most freelance journalists in Russia are in gaol. A writer or a novelist in Russia is in quite a difficult situation; if he transgresses by doing something which the authorities do not like he is in serious trouble. I remind the House of Mr Pasternak who received the Nobel Prize for hiv very famous novel but who was not permitted to accept the Prize. This is the sort of situation with these so-called freelance journalists that we are supposed to accept. I cannot accept this at all. As I said before, Australia has the responsibility for the security and defence of Papua and New Guinea, and this is the authority which we exercise. I believe that, if these people are allowed to develop gradually in their own way, they will have every opportunity of making a success of their way of life in the Territory. [Quorum formed.]
– I too have met Ioulian Semenov. I met him at the Russian Embassy a fortnight ago. It was at a social function held to welcome some other Russian writer. I had a long talk with Semenov. Me told me he had authority to go into New Guinea, and I wished him well. Then I got him to sit with me on a sofa and I lectured him in regard to what Australia had done in respect of Papua and New Guinea. I told him that we were spending $87m this year to help the people of the Territory. I told him that we were not a colonial power, that we never had been, and we never got back a cent of what we spent over the years.
I told him that we give the people of Papua and New Guinea exclusive rights to the importation into this country of their rubber, and that we give them qualified rights in regard to coffee and cocoa. I informed him that I disagreed entirely with the Russian attitude at the United Nations. I urged him, if he did get to Papua and New Guinea - I thought he would be going there - to write his story objectively. I told him that we had nothing to be ashamed of in regard to what we had done for these people. I also told him that if the people of Papua and New Guinea wanted their independence at any time they only had to say so, but that nobody had the right to impose independence upon them. I remember that old fossilised colonial poohbah Lord Caradon, formerly Sir Hugh Foot, who came out here and told us what we ought to do in respect of declaring an independence date for the people of Papua and New Guinea.
Having told Semenov a lot of other facts about life in Papua and New Guinea I took him across to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of External Territories, Mr J. R. Rowland, who was a former Australian Ambassador to Moscow, and I repeated the story which I had told. I believe that Semenov did want to go to Papua and New Guinea to find out the facts. I told him that if anything which was hostile to Australia appeared in ‘Pravda’ - there is a permanent representative of ‘Pravda’ in this country - then I would criticise it. I could not do more than that. T believe that you must mix with these people and talk with them.
– Do you know what happened to Pasternak?
– I know what happened to Pasternak and I know what happens in this country. The Minister for External Territories talks about freelance journalists in Australia. I think that 90% of them are anti-Labor. They are just stooges of the capitalist system. They are determined to try to keep the Labor Party out of office. In some respects there is no difference between the treatment of Pasternak in Russia and the treatment of journalists in Australia who defy their capitalist bosses. They also get the sack. I told Semenov he ought to go to Melbourne and that 1 would introduce him to a number of people there because I wanted him to meet people. In international affairs, as in love, propinquity is everything, so if you want to influence people you have to meet them. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) is a decent man, but he has a lot of blind spots. He is out of date in many respects. What he forgets is that the Russians did not refuse to accept the Leader of his Party, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), when he went to Moscow to talk about trade. They did not refuse to accept another member of his Party, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), when he went to Russia to talk about trade. Semenov told me that he was part Jewish and part Russian, and that leads me back to this passage from the Old Testament:
Tell it not in Geth, publish it not in the streets of Ascalon: . . . lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
The Governor-General visited Moscow and was received with honour. Why do we not invite leading political people from Russia here? We bring in their scientists - they have very great scientists - and our scientists go to Moscow, and there is a continuous stream of information passing between them which is of benefit to mankind. The Americans and the Russians are the only two giants in the world today that matter, and they are exchanging scientific and technological information.
– We could bring Alexander Dubcek here. Does the right honourable member support that?
– Yes. I would exchange the honourable member for Dubcek any day, because I believe Dubcek thinks more objectively. There are greater dangers in Papua and New Guinea today than any that could be caused by Semenov or any other itinerant writer from Russia, Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia, Rumania or any other Communist country. We have Jehovah’s Witnesses there who tell the natives not to submit to blood transfusions and not to pay taxes. They are undermining our democratic system, about which the Minister spoke so eloquently. We also have Australian exploiters who are trying to stir up a separatist movement amongst the Tolai people in New Britain in order to fragment the country. We have them in other places. We take no action against those people. What harm could Semenov do, even if he gave a completely biased story? If he had done that - I do not think he would have done it - we would have been able to point out to the world through our representatives at the United Nations that at least some members of the Australian Parliament briefed him properly before he went to New Guinea. We cannot just pull down an iron curtain on New Guinea. The local people should have some say in the management of their own country. If the whites and the natives, people like John Guise and Oala Oala-Rarua, do not mind somebody coming amongst them to see for themselves, why should we get so excited and upset about it all?
– I would not let the Tolais in amongst these visitors too quickly if I were you.
– About two generations ago they were cannibals, so the honourable member had better not go near them. They would eat him - and without claret too. A couple of dozen people from all parties of the Australian Parliament have been to Moscow. I have seen representatives of the Liberal Party and the Country Party fraternising with members of the Australian Labor Party and Russian diplomats at the Russian Embassy, and I see nothing wrong with it. I would like to see as many go to the Russian Embassy as go to the United States Embassy or some other of these institutions.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry was enjoying himself the last time I was there.
– You have not been to Russia yet. The Government ought to take another look at this situation. We ought to be tolerant. If somebody does abuse the trust we repose in him and does the wrong thing, we are entitled to tell the ambassador for his country not to send anybody else, but to give a blank refusal to a man who happens to be a Russian and to say to him that he cannot go creates the impression internationally that we have something to hide, something that we do not want anybody to come and see. We should try to persuade the United Nations to get off our backs - and it ought to get off our backs - in regard to Papua and New Guinea. If we want the United Nations off our back we ought to let anybody in who wants to come in. If the United Nations appointed another trustee group to visit Papua and New Guinea and one of the members was a Russian, would we say that anybody from Asia, Africa, Europe or any part of the world except Russia could go in? We are only creating trouble for ourselves. The Minister gave no reason whatever for the exclusion of this man. He just said that the Government had decided that he was not going in and that the Parliament could take it or leave it. I am not satisfied with that.
– I think everyone would have to agree that the requirement to obtain a permit to enter a country is common in these days. All honourable members who have been to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea know that they have to get a permit before they can go there. I would like to deal with the second part of this proposition which is being debated. There has been a suggestion that the Government ought to consult the members of the House of Assembly in matters of entry to Papua and New Guinea. I suggest that this shows a lack of appreciation of the way in which these permits are given in this country and in other countries. During the year 1967-68 three-quarters of a million people came into Australia. Of these about half a million, by the terms of the Immigration Act, would have been required to obtain a permit. Can we imagine this Parliament or this House being required to consider half a million applications? In the case of the Territory, over 20,000 people obtained permits. Does the Opposition suggest that the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea should consider during the course of the year 20,000 applications for entry into the Territory? The House of Assembly does not sit all the year, and it is not in session at the moment. The whole proposition is misconceived.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
– He has had his say, but he wants to have another say. The forms of this House permit particular cases to be raised, but it is ridiculous to suggest that there should be an obligation to consult in connection with all cases of entry. Obviously matters such as this would be dealt with in all countries by the executive side of the government. As I say, when a particular case arises the forms of the House permit the matter to be raised, as has been done in this case. I have no doubt that the forms of the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea would permit a matter to be raised if the members of that body wanted to raise it. But the suggestion implicit in the Opposition’s proposal is that we should dictate to the members of the House of Assembly and tell them that they should use the forms of their House to raise this matter and deal with it. I do not accept that proposition at all.
Coming to the earlier part of the proposition, which is really the substance of it, the Opposition asks why the reasons for refusing entry were not given. It suggests that there has been a failure on the part of the Government in that it did not give reasons, in cases such as this, as the Opposition well knows, reasons are never given. It is not the practice either in this country or elsewhere to give reasons. There are many basic reasons for this practice. In many cases the reasons for refusing entry are of the most delicate character. Sometimes there are reasons which it would not be in the interests of the particular individual to disclose or publish. In other cases it would not be in the interests of a particular country, say of Australia or Papua and New Guinea, to disclose or publish the reasons.
– We are not asking for the reasons.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had his say. The Opposition, of course, knows that it is not the practice to give these reasons. When they are not given the Opposition thinks this is a good opportunity to seize on it as a particular case and attempt to embarrass the Government by saying it should have given the reasons, knowing that they are never given. Of course special cases do occur, but the majority of people are permitted free entry. I have given the figures. They are large and impressive figures not only in respect of Australia but in relation to those seeking entry to Papua and New Guinea. Obviously there is great freedom of movement. But as J say, occasionally cases do arise where there are reasons that have to be considered by the Minister when he decides whether or not permission will be given. In this instance the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), in the exercise of his discretion, decided that this permit should not be granted.
I do not propose, in open debate, to go into the question of whether Mr Semenov, as he suggests, is a novelist pure and simple or one who perhaps - and 1 think he is reported to have said this in one newspaper - occasionally contributes to ‘Pravda’, or whether in fact he is more than this. I do not propose to canvass any of the reasons which the Minister may have examined but I think that there are certain things that would be obvious to any Australian who takes any interest at all in public affairs. We know that in the past the Australian administration of the Territory and possibly future moves towards independence have been harassed and hampered by the kind of attacks that have been made on the Australian administration, particularly by Soviet Russia. These attacks have been launched on a number of bases, perhaps the principal ones being allegations of racial discrimination there, allegations of robbery and exploitation of resources and allegations that we were impeding the Territory’s progress to independence. These attacks have been made and pressed almost without regard to the true facts of the case. We have seen this happening in the United Nations and elsewhere. Certainly these attacks are not helpful to the stability or the progress towards independence of the people in the Territory.
I would say further that any Australian who thinks on these public matters would realise that if Mr Semenov were permitted to enter the Territory this would be regarded as a precedent to be used for the channelling of or sending of further people to the Territory. There would be one certainty, and that is that these attacks in one form or another would continue. They have continued over a long period. There would be no certainty that they would not attempt to be given an air of verisimilitude by being claimed to be based on observations made on the ground. Any Australian thinking of the matter would see this as one of the harvests that would be likely to flow. The
Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that in some way the denial of entry was a denial of some basic human rights.
– The Attorney-General was at the conference.
– Yes, I was at the conference on human rights, and as late as today J have read the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this point. The provisions are very limited on this point regarding entry to or leaving a particular country. True, there is a basic human right in Article XIII for movement within a State, but it simply is not true to say that there is a basic right of entry into a country given by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lt is silent on the point and it does not recognise any such right. Indeed, on the contrary its silence suggests that this is in the nature of a privilege in the case of a country. We could withhold a permit of entry if we did not want someone to come into our country. So could Great Britain; so could Soviet Russia; so, no doubt, in some circumstances, might Czechoslovakia.
Of course, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) explained that Mr Semenov, in the course of a conversation which he had with him, had told him that he had permission to go to the Territory. This seems to have been recorded as a statement of Mr Semenov’s in the Press and it was at least implied in an Australian Broadcasting Commission television interview. We know, in fact, that this is not true. On 22nd April which, I think, was the morning of the day on which he had the ABC television interview he lodged his application for permission to enter the Territory. No comment was made at the time it was lodged and he knew that it was under consideration. I think it is a matter for comment that he should have been asserting to the right honourable member for Melbourne and others that he had such permission.
I suggest that the practice in this kind of situation is a wise one. No-one likes to be accused of intolerance or’ something of that kind. But this, in the practical affairs of human beings, is the kind of necessary action that has to be taken when one is dealing with the question of entry into a country. It is common practice which the Opposition itself, if it were in the same position, would have to follow.
Mr CROSS (Brisbane) [4.271- In following the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), the first matter that I wish to raise is the question that he posed to the Parliament in reply io the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). He suggested that we were, in effect, saying that the Parliament should make individual decisions on something of the order of 20,000 cases of people who sought entry to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He referred to the Parliament having to make individual decisions in respect of persons who might wish to come to the Commonwealth of Australia. Of course, this was a purely specious proposition. No member of the Parliament would imagine thai the Parliament would be called upon to make decisions in respect of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of individual cases. But the Parliament does exist as a means of developing and criticising guide lines within which the Executive should operate. We all recognise that decisions of this kind are made by Ministers in this Parliament. We are suggesting that the ministerial members of the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea who. while The House itself may only meet four times a year have a continuous and continuing responsibility in their particular departments should be asked to comment on and spell out some of the guide lines which might operate in their Territory. So I refute the point made by the AttorneyGeneral. It is a specious point, because I cannot imagine how he could think that any member would suggest that all individual cases should be referred to the Parliament for decision.
Our proposition is that the guide lines which the Minister has set down should be altered so as not to make a blanket embargo on the entry of people from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Indeed, there should be some flexibility in this situation for the reasons that have been given by both of my colleagues who have spoken earlier. T should like to pose questions to the Attorney-General. I ask him: Arc all Soviet citizens prevented from entering the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or other Australian territories irrespective of what they might do for a living; irrespective of what their past record has been; irrespective of whether they might, for example, be diplomats; or irrespective of whether or not they are members of the Communist Party? Are all Soviet citizens covered by a blanket embargo against entry to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Does this apply to citizens of all Communist countries? Are all of these people to be denied entry to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
The Minister, when he spoke, raised a number of side issues. He mentioned the Australian Labor Party and referred to the debate that took place yesterday. He suggested that we were not interested in the security or defence of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or, for that matter, of the Commonwealth of Australia. Somebody - and I happen to be that person at the moment - should refute this suggestion of the Minister because the Labor Party in the Second World War and since has been very vitally concerned with the security of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We all know that many of the reforms which have continued in Papua and New Guinea were commenced under the late member for East Sydney, Mr Ward, when he was the first Minister for External Territories at the end of the Second World War.
The Labor Party is just as concerned as is this Government, and perhaps even more so, that the people of Papua and New Guinea should be well cared for and that they should be able to develop towards whatever system of Government they might choose in the future and that the relationship between this country and theirs should be a firm and friendly relationship. A Labor government would not take second place to anyone in caring for and taking an interest in the security and defence of Papua and New Guinea. My principal criticism of the Minister is that his decision is a reflection on the Administration of Papua and New Guinea and a reflection on the many thousands of dedicated Australians who have served- there over a long period of time and are serving now and who are bringing the many peoples of the Territory from the Stone Age into the twentieth century. I am not singling the Minister out for particular criticism because this has been the established practice of his Government over a great number of years, but the attitude and the decision of the Government and the Minister are such that we can give the impression that we have something to hide in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
My colleague the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has already correctly made the point that all Australians would take pride in the very fine work that is being done in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I pay a tribute to the Minister and to the dedicated people who work in his Department for what has been done. That is not to say that we on this side of the House believe that everything that they have done has been done as well as it might have been. But certainly if one looks at the situation in the broad, Australia cannot be condemned as a colonial power for what has happened in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, in terms of the very small extent to which we have alienated land for our own purposes - and then only with compensation - and to the extent that the profits made by Australian firms have been very modest compared with other colonies. Also taking into account that we are pouring enormous amounts of money into the Territory for development purposes the Australian record there is very good indeed.
At this stage I would also like to express my disappointment at the criticism which the Soviet Union has made of the Australian role in the Territory in the United Nation and in its committees over many years. While I have expressed my disappointment to Russian diplomats in Canberra at things that have been said I feel that having said that to these people and having said that we are doing a good job up there we should be consistent and realise that we should allow bona fide Soviet research people into the Territory. The Labor Party would support completely the idea that no person who was going to engage in subversive activities should be allowed into the Territory, but we should not just say that anyone who comes from the Soviet Union is out. I think the Minister should be prepared to judge each individual case on its merits, and the Opposition has raised this matter today because we do not believe that that situation applies. We believe that any person who comes from the Soviet Union is automatically excluded.
– This is not so.
– I am happy to receive the Minister’s assurance on that because it is the matter which is of greatest concern to me. 1 support a policy of restricted immigration to the Territory - quite apart from people going there on visits - because I believe that the present policy of this Government and of the preceding Government is that in the long term the people of the Territory should be able to choose their own racial composition and to decide who goes there, and that it should not be predetermined for them by our allowing massive immigration. I think this is a very wise policy indeed. I would like to make the point that science and learning are international persuasions and that the Soviet Union has made many great contributions in such fields as international health and the like. In the physical sciences the standard in the Soviet Union is very high indeed. I have a particular interest in geology, and I know that people from the University of Queensland, for example, have gone to the Soviet Union to study and have informed me that the standard of scientific knowledge there is very high indeed.
Mr Semenov has stated that he wishes to go to the Territory to write and study something of the history of Mr Mikulo Maclay, a Russian who settled there in the last century. Those of us who are interested in the history of Australia and its Territories in the Pacific know that the story of Russian settlement in the Pacific has not been well written. If we look at the Pacific we see places such as Vostok Island and we know that von Bellings-Hausen and other people - many Russian sealers - were in the Pacific. We know that their history is not well written. We also know that the history of the German occupation of New Guinea is not well written. If this man could convince the Minister that he was a bona fide research writer, that he was seriously interested in writing some part of the history of the Territory, his application for entry should have been given sympathetic consideration. He should not have been denied entry simply because he was a Soviet citizen.
– The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) brought a tone of restraint into the debate which is welcome, and he revealed a far greater understanding of the question of entry into Papua and New Guinea, the manner iri which we are pursuing our policy and the manner in which we approach applications for entry into the Territory than did (he Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). It is regrettable that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition relied entirely on newspaper commentaries on this matter for the basis of his submission. He did not even show the understanding of operations within the United Nations that the honourable member for Brisbane did, and to move a resolution in these terms and to support it in the manner in which he did is indeed a matter for regret. 1 would like to mention a particular point that the honourable member for Brisbane raised. He asked: Is there a blanket policy on persons from other countries wishing to enter New Guinea. I was unable to hear the reply of the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), but I imagine that he indicated that this was not so. But as I understand the case every application is treated as an individual application and is judged on its merits. Fortunately, later on the honourable member for Brisbane agreed that this should be the policy. In other words, he said that what should be done is that each case should be treated on its merits and that is in fact what is occurring at the moment. Without wanting to become involved in pedantic matters of debate, it is stated in the motion moved by the Opposition that the Government should have consulted with the members of the House of Assembly. I was interested to hear that the honourable member for Brisbane conceded that it would have been impossible to consult with the members of the House of Assembly, not only because it was not sitting at the time that the application was heard but that it would be a sheer impossibility to have contacted all members. Yet it is implicit in the motion moved by the Opposition that we should have consulted members of the House of Assembly.
The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) gave an interesting twist to the debate. He, of course, was well geared to speak. He had had an altercation with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) earlier over another matter relating to Papua and New Guinea and I darc say this spurred him on to greater things in dealing with the matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition copped the bullet.
– That is so. The right honourable member for Melbourne said that we cannot put down an iron curtain on New Guinea. Of course we are not doing so. As I understand the matter 21,000 permits have been issued during the past year to people who wished to visit Papua and New Guinea, and excluding applications by persons from West Irian only two applications for entry were refused. One of these was refused on character grounds and the other on account of mental health. Now, this Ls not a blanket prohibition on those who would wish to enter Papua and New Guinea. I recall that the only two cases of a refusal by the present Minister during his term of office as Minister for External Territories were the cases of Yassnev. a ‘Pravda’ journalist, and this present individual Semenov, a Soviet writer who is also, of course, a part time correspondent for “Pravda”. The whole question of human rights has been raised on a number of occasions during the debate this afternoon. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) quite properly referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which does not specify freedom of movement to all countries. The Declaration does not cover this point at all. It is silent. It refers to movement within countries. The AttorneyGeneral and I attended a conference on human rights at this time last year in Teheran, held under the auspices of the United Nations. The conference celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This very point was made in discussions with delegates from various countries - that the Declaration did not say the things which honourable members opposite allege that it says.
What we have to determine is whether there are grounds for refusal of permission to enter the Territory. I have already said that applications must be treated on an individual basis. I do not know all the reasons behind the refusal in the case of Mr Semenov but I think it is fair to consider the sorts of factors that come to mind. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said that we should permit this man to enter the Territory because Australia is being criticised within the United Nations and Mr Semenov might show what a just case ve have in relation to the Territory. Who is behind the criticism in the United Nations of our handling of the Territory? h it not the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and those who follow it within the groups, divisions and blocs that operate within the United Nations? The United Arab Republic, though separate from the USSR, follows consistently the line of the USSR in the United Nations. In the Committee of Twenty-four last year, shortly after the United Nations observer from Liberia had visited the Territory and had commented most favourably on Australia’s administration of the Territory, the delegate of the United Arab Republic, in what must obviously have been a prepared address, completely ignored the facts earlier enunciated by the delegate from Liberia and scathingly attacked our, administration with the usual histrionics, cliches and platitudes that are used to denigrate our administration of the Territory, making no reference to the current observations made by the delegate from Liberia. That is the sort of treatment we get in the United Nations, lt is the sort of treatment we get from Soviet delegates to the United Nations.
Mr Semenov is a Russian author. He is said to be a good writer. He is also a parttime journalist for ‘Pravda’. Nobody writes for ‘Pravda’ unless he accepts the party line. Authors who do not accept the party line are gaoled. We all know the cases of Russian authors who have been gaoled for writing on matters that are the antithesis of the party line. Having regard to those facts do honourable members think that this particular individual would take an objective view, recognising the consistent line taken - unfortunately so - by the Soviet Union?
– Why do you not take an objective view?
– I have taken an objective view about the honourable member for Wills for a long time and what a dismal conclusion I. come to. Each country has the right to determine applications made to it. This point has been stressed. We view these applications as they come before us. When one considers the factors that I have put forward, in endeavouring to determine whether an objective approach could be made one cannot help but be persuaded that the Minister is correct in his decision on this matter.
I want a detente, a discussion and a relationship developing with other countries. I have said so in this place and elsewhere. I have written of the need for it. Because in one case or two cases out of 20,000-odd an application has been rejected does not mean that I am against the admission of people and in favour of a blanket prohibition. We live together in one world. We have to try to break down the barriers that exist. But this does not mean that we throw aside the generally accepted concepts of international law. We have a right to determine who shall enter upon our own Territory and in relation to the trusteeship administered under the auspices of the United Nations the duty to vet those who are to enter the Territory is even greater. We are accountable within the United Nations for our actions and we have seen in the past how our actions are misinterpreted. I think that the Minister has not only the right but the duty to take the type of attitude towards applications that he has taken in the past. la the last year 21,000 permits to enter the Territory have been granted; two applications have been rejected. In the case of Mr Semenov the Minister has given an indication of what transpired. It was said that Mr Semenov sought entry to the Territory while overseas. The record shows that he arrived in Canberra on 17th April and did not apply to visit Papua and New Guinea until 22nd April, and he said that he wanted to visit the Territory on 23rd April. From the contacts he made in Australia he must have known that applications of this kind take time to be processed. There is too much evidence that leads to the conclusion that I should support the Minister’s attitude in this case. I believe that he has shown a great deal of understanding in relation to entry permits. 1 believe that he has been wrongfully criticised on many occasions regarding our handling of Papua and New Guinea. 1 think that this is again the case in this matter.
– It is not my intention to discuss the situation in Papua and New Guinea. 1 believe that to be a matter for another debate. I might say that I have considerable sympathy for the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and an understanding of the problems of administration of Papua and New Guinea. The problems are difficult and unusual and require as much patience as ability. 1 believe also that in the Territory Australia has a splendid record. I do not join those critics in the United Nations or elsewhere who criticise Australia’s handling of Papua and New Guinea. But in this case about which we are speaking today I believe that the Minister is an instrument of Government policy. All Ministers are instruments of Government policy but the position is more apparent in this case. We believe that the Government’s policy in this case requires explanation to the Parliament and the nation.
What are we discussing? We are discussing the refusal by the Minister, acting on behalf of the Government, to grant a permit to a Soviet writer to visit Papua and New Guinea. No reasons are given for the refusal. 1 always listen with interest to the speeches of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) but this afternoon 1 could not help wondering how he arrived at the conclusion that the Minister was right in refusing a permit to Mr Semenov, because the honourable member knows no more about the subject than any of us. At no stage did the honourable member say that he was aware of the facts or that he knew the situation. Nevertheless, he said that on the available evidence the Minister is right. We doubt it. So, although the honourable member is normally a very logical speaker, on this occasion he has arrived at a very illogical conclusion.
One of the fundamental freedoms of individuals is freedom of movement. This has been mentioned by honourable members on this side of the House and by other honourable members. Restriction of movement is something to be avoided at all times. When all is said and done, why do we criticise Communist countries? Do we not say that Communist regimes will not allow us to travel through their countries? We criticise these countries because our movements in them are restricted; we are not allowed to be there. We say to them: ‘Come to our nation. You will be welcome. We welcome all people and we provide the facilities for people to see and to understand our way of life’. When a person enters this country not as a Communist but as a writer, in typical Communist fashion we apply the most rigid restrictions to his movements. Mr Semenov’s application to enter Papua and New Guinea has been refused and no reasons for refusal have been given.
I congratulate the Minister: His speech was one of the most masterly evasive we have heard. 1 support the sentiments he expressed. He said that Mr Semenov from time to time contributes to ‘Pravda’. The Minister read out the conditions of entry to the Territory. He mentioned that a journalist was not allowed to write as he wished. As the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) pointed out, this applies not only to Communist journalists or journalists from the Soviet. Very few journalists can write what they want to write. The honourable member for Kooyong said that to write for ‘Pravda’ you must follow the party line. Anybody who writes for the ‘Daily Telegraph’, the Sydney Morning Herald’ or the Melbourne Sun’ must follow the party line. The only difference between those who write for Pravda’ and those who write for the Australian newspapers is a difference of location.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Minister, but the fundamental question we ask is: Why has this man been refused the right of entry? Are the reasons such that they cannot be revealed? I understand that the gentleman concerned said: ‘Reveal to the people why I am not being admitted.’ If a person who has been refused an entry permit makes such a request, I see no reason why it should not be granted. The onus is then on him. I see no reason why the Government should not say to every person who has been refused entry to Papua and New Guinea and other places: ‘If you so desire, we will make the reasons public’ The onus is then on the person concerned to prove that the Government is completely wrong. A person who had nothing to fear would not refuse to allow the reasons to be made public.
Only where it has been proved that the person concerned has broken the criminal law or there are other special circumstances should an entry permit be refused.
Would the Minister refuse the Soviet Ambassador the right to enter Papua and New Guinea? Would he be entitled to a permit? Even Marshal Ky took a Communist journalist to South Vietnam when he returned there after his visit to Australia. The journalist was a known member and supporter of the Communist Party in Australia. I believe that criticism of Australia in the United Nations will be increased because the Government has refused to allow this Soviet journalist to go to Papua and New Guinea. People would not be human if they did not think that we must have something to hide there. Is it not better to have articles written on the basis of first hand information rather than on the basis of second hand information, as will be done in this instance? I see no reason, on the substance of the material before us now, why permission to enter the Territory should not have been given in this instance.
The Minister said that he cannot reveal the reasons for refusing permission for this journalist to enter the Territory. It is all very well for him to keep saying that, but why can the reasons not be revealed? Is the person a Communist? Will the Government refuse permission to all Communists? After all. Mr Dowling, a former Communist Secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall, was given a send off by Liberals, clergymen, Labor supporters and others. Would he be denied the right to go to Papua and New Guinea? All Communists cannot be placed in the same category. The suggestion is that all Soviet people are denied the right of entry to Papua and New Guinea. The Minister says that this is not right, and I accept his assurance. But I ask him to say why reasons for the refusal to grant a permit cannot be given, especially when a request has been made for them to be revealed. I think the Government is only fostering the campaign in the United Nations to criticise Australia’s administration of the Territory by refusing to say why this journalist was not granted permission to go there and by not advancing any reasons in this Parliament in support of its action. Does the Minister disagree with the reasons advanced by the gentleman Semenov for wanting to go there? Does he say that they were not sound and reasonable?
Semenov said that he wanted to do some research work, to review some matters and to write about them. It seemed to me to be a reasonable request. But all the information we are given is that nothing can be revealed, that to do so would not be in the public interest.
I agree that on some occasions the reasons for such action as this cannot be revealed, but on many occasions they can be. The Department of Immigration has from lime to time refused to allow people to enter this country. I find it difficult to agree with that action. 1 think that persons should not be refused the right of admission except in the most extreme circumstances, such as where it can be proved that the security of the country may be endangered by doing so. A slur has been placed on this gentleman and the only interpretation that can be placed on the Government’s action is that the Government believes he is a security risk, he cannot be trusted and the security of Papua and New Guinea will be endangered if he is not kept out of the Territory. The Minister will not say that this is the situation. The statements made by the Minister and others throw no light on the situation and do not show why he has not: been allowed to go there.
Then there is another question. I do not think we have anything to hide in Papua and New Guinea, but, by refusing this permit without stating the grounds, the Minister gives the impression that we are somewhat ashamed of what an observant person may see there. 1 do not agree with that point of view, nor does anyone on this side of the House. When we will not allow people to see what we are doing, is it not reasonable for them to assume that we are ashamed and frightened of what they will see? ls it not much better, when we know that the record of our activities there is good and that we have nothing to be ashamed of, to let people go there and see what we have done? It would then be easier to disprove any allegations made against us. But the Government blindly applies this policy of not revealing what is happening to everything from space stations to permits to enter Papua and New Guinea. As the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St. John) said, honourable members opposite follow big brother; it must be right because the Minister said it.
I summarise my remarks by saying that I regret the Minister acted as he did. I have great sympathy for him, but I regret also that no reasons have been given to this Parliament to support what is a very severe act. We are placing in jeopardy our record in Papua and New Guinea. We will be criticised on false grounds and on second hand information when we could easily have allowed the critics to see what we have done at first hand and ultimately disputed their allegations. 1 hope the Minister will reconsider bis decision and give reasons for acting as he did, especially when the person concerned has asked that this be done, lt is up to the Minister to say here and now why this man has been refused permission. The onus is then on the individual. I hope honourable members on the Government side, many of whom are tolerant, will give up accepting decisions blindly. If these decisions react against one person, they can react against another, and a liberty lost is a liberty that will never be recovered.
– The matter of public importance raised by the Opposition refers to the failure of the Government to give reasons for refusing entry into New Guinea of Mr Semenov and its failure to consult the members of the House of Assembly. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) has dealt adequately with the impracticability of consulting the House of Assembly. The other aspect - that the Government has refused entry into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea without giving reasons - seems to be agitating the minds of Opposition members. This is a universal practice around the world. Every government in the world reserves the right to refuse entry to people without giving any reasons. This is widely practised with very good reason.
Let us look at the practical aspects of this case. I am generous enough to say that there may have been a misunderstanding of the language, but Mr Semenov applied at Tokyo for a tourist visa to enter Australia for 30 days. This was granted at Singapore. Our advice from diplomatic sources is that neither at Tokyo nor Singapore did he apply for permission to enter the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, nor did he give any indication that he wished to do so. It was not until he arrived in Australia and had been here for 5 days that he applied for a permit and then he wanted to go the next day. I suggest with respect that this would be a very short time to be allowed by any person who wanted to enter the Territory. He claimed that he had received an assurance from Australian diplomatic representatives in Tokyo, but this has been adequately refuted by the cable referred to by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes).
What is the Russian attitude to our occupation of the Terrtiory of New Guinea and our discharge of the trust we have in relation to that Territory? Russia has never on any occasion that I have read - I am being careful about what I say - done anything but criticise most drastically, unfairly and unjustly all our actions in the Territory of New Guinea. New Guinea, as distinct from Papua, has many special features and people are inclined to forget them very quickly. Half of the population of the whole of these Territories - that is, the highland people - had never had any contact with Europeans until 35 years ago and had no really substantial contact with Europeans until after the Second World War. Quite a large proportion of the highlands had no contact with Europeans until a decade ago.
I am pleased to hear Opposition members say that they support what this Government has done in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and applaud the progress that has been made. Certainly we have had the benefit of science and technological advances in this regard, but no country which has been entrusted to the government of another country has made as much progress as Papua and New Gunea has made under the Australian Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) made great play about what newspapers and two members of the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea had said about this incident. This matter was covered adequately by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition relied on what had been said by the newspapers and by these two members and he said that these views ought to be heeded by this Government. One of the members to whom he referred is a known critic of almost everything which this Government does in
Papua and New Guinea. Many members of the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea do not share the views of the two members to whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred. So it is very unwise to accept what has been said by these two members as being the views of the people of Papua and New Guinea. In fact, what they said is very far from the views of the people of Papua and New Guinea.
It is true to say that this Russian journalist could not write anything but party line. It is not true to say that people in democratic countries can write nothing but party line, lt is not true to say that 80% of the Australian Press writes in one way politically all the time. Far from it. I think it is fair to say that the Government receives its share of criticism and accepts it and that is fair and proper. It is unjustifiable to say that because this Russian journal’ist was not allowed entry to New Guinea we have something to hide. We have nothing to hide in New Guinea. Everything we have done there has been done with the best of intentions. lt has been done as a result of actions by the members of the Administration in Papua and New Guinea who, with few exceptions, are dedicated people. The residents of the country have a very great mutual respect for the members of the Administration. I am certain that a number of people who visit New Guinea for a short time come away with ideas that are given to them by people who term themselves the elite’ and who would like to impose their ideas on the other residents of New Guinea. The opinion of these people does not reflect in any way the views held by the larger proportion of the population.
The question of granting an entry permit to this Russian journalist was considered very carefully in the time which was at the disposal of the Minister for External Territories. I see nothing inconsistent in the decision. This practice is followed throughout the world. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) asked the Minister for External Territories whether all Soviet citizens are prevented from entering Papua and New Guinea. The right honourable member for Melbourne referred to three Ministers visiting Moscow, but such visits are restricted to very limited areas in Russia. However, Russians are able to visit this country with very little limitation. There is a recent case of a Russian medical expert who, together with officers from the World Health Organisation, intended to visit Papua and New Guinea. No objection was raised to his intended visit. In fact, he did not visit the Territory because his itinerary precluded him from doing so. Each case is obviously considered on its merits. There is nothing in this matter to raise the ire of other countries. We are exercising our right in the same way as other countries do. Also, this Russian journalist is a writer for one of the main Press organs of a country which, so far as I know, has not said one decent thing at any time about our actions in New Guinea. It is fair to say that he would not have been permitted to comment in any other way on this occasion.
I support the actions which the Minister has taken in this matter, and I agree with what some speakers on the Government side have said about the matter. The Minister has come in for a great deal of criticism for what he has done in New Guinea. This is a very difficult matter in an emerging country. The Minister has an honest understanding of the conditions in New Guinea. Europeans and the indigenous people in New Guinea, Papua and New Britain have said that the Minister is doing an excellent job for them as well as for us. 1 support what he has done.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
I do not suggest - and I know of no person nor any body of persons in the Australian Capital Territory who suggests - that Canberra people should be privileged to escape payment of taxes and levies properly chargeable to them. But there are, I believe, grave misconceptions about the extent to which the people of the Australian Capital Territory contribute to the revenues of the Commonwealth and to the development of the National Capital itself. The belief is held by many people in Australia - and this belief, I hold, is sedulously fostered by certain State Premiers including the Premiers of the two adjoining States, and by some journals in this country which have an anti-Canberra complex - that Canberra people are spoon-fed, are given everything for nothing and are a drain on the public purse. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that the people of Canberra are paying adequately for the services which they get. 1 readily admit that these services are of a very high standard, although at times we are forced to drink a shandy of treated and untreated water which comes out of the tap frothing white and smelling to high heaven. In general, the services which we get are very good and are of a very high standard.
I have very sound supporting evidence when I claim that the people of Canberra are largely paying for what they get and that the Capital Territory is operating at a profit to the people of Australia. In this Parliament on 11th September 1968 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) slapped down the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), a Liberal member, who had suggested that the Australian Capital Territory was becoming a heavily subsidised colossus. In answer to the honourable member for Griffith, the Prime Minister said:
Indeed, i think people arc gravely misled as to the amount of subsidy, if any, that goes into the expansion of the Australian Capital Territory at present. We notice, of course, the votes which are provided in the Budget for such expansion, but we do not notice the premiums which arc paid for blocks of land when they are offered, or the income from rales and other sources which goes directly to the Treasury. 1 am not in a position to say precisely how the accounts balance out, but 1 believe i can say that it would be inaccurate to describe the Australian Capital Territory as heavily subsidised at present other than for those things which go to make up :i national capital, such as parklands, national monuments and things of that kind.
A few days later, on 17th September, 1 addressed a question to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) suggesting to him that figures of expenditure and income had shown that far from being a drag on the public purse, the Australian Capital Terri tory was paying its way, or very nearly so. I suggested to the Minister that if a balance sheet for the Australian Capital Territory included on the receipts side items equivalent to refund of petrol tax and tax reimbursements as made to the States, this would show that the Australian Capital Territory was in fact operating at a profit to Australia. I shall quote only the relevant part of the Minister’s reply. He said:
Each year in the Estimates an allocation is made for the development of Canberra. Offsetting this allocation are the income from land rentals, based on 5% of unimproved valuation, and the premiums paid for land, some of which are as high as one would expect to pay in order to purchase outright a block of land in a State capital. These do offset considerably the amount of money expended in Canberra. So, it is true to say that the people of Canberra are contributing to their own development and it is not true to say thai they are as highly subsidised by (he taxpayer us many people seem to be prepared to believe.
The Minister promised to give me an answer to the rest of my question at a later stage. I do not doubt that I will receive it some day. 1 have other evidence in support of my contention, and it comes from none other than the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) himself. The Treasurer was interviewed in September 1967 after having introduced the 1967 Budget in which he repeated the suggestion that the people of Canberra should be required to pay more for municipal-type services. This interview, which was conducted by Mr Bruce Juddery of the ‘Canberra Times’, was published in that newspaper on 2nd September 1967. The Treasurer is reported as having said that the Territory is approaching the balancing point in the relationship between revenue - that is, revenue from the Territory - and Commonwealth expenditure in the Territory. The Treasurer should have available to him figures on which to base an accurate statement. He is quoted as saying:
The trends seem to indicate lh:it Canberra is approaching the balance point. The position is much more favourable now than il lias been for some years.
At the moment draft Financial statements are being prepared to permit closer evaluation of the trends and as part of the investigation into selfgovernment.
The Treasurer also indicated that the statements of accounts would not be made available to the people of Canberra. I believe that they should be made readily available to the people of Canberra, lt is true that the people of Canberra are not provided with any detailed statements of accounts of receipts and expenditure affecting the Territory. The Territory has a population of 120,000. I believe that the people of the Territory should be regarded as sufficiently adult to be provided with the figures of receipts and expenditure that are provided to the citizens of the States of the Commonwealth who are called upon to pay rates and levies to local councils. Indeed, there is a requirement to do so under section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, which provides:
The Minister shall as soon as possible after the close of each financial year cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the Parliament a statement of moneys received and expended during that year by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Territory.
That is the requirement. But with the statement of receipts and expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for the 1967-68 financial year the Department of the Interior adds this warning:
The attached statement has been prepared in accordance with these provisions of the Act and does not purport to be a statement of income and expenditure in the accounting sense.
God help us! In what other sense would one have a statement of income and expenditure? The warning continues:
For example, the first page of the statement shows that expenditure on Australian Capital Territory services (excluding expenditure of a capital nature) exceeded total receipts by $5,763,843 and the final’ page discloses that total expenditure (including capital) exceeded total receipts by $64,773,593. Neither of these can be taken as a reflection of the state of Territory finances.
A publication of this nature is a joke. The warning continues: ft should be noted, therefore, that these documents have been prepared for Parliament in a standard form which would require much refinement and additional information before they could be used to assess matters of financial administration.
Why did the Seat of Government (Administration) Act require the preparation of these documents if they were not to be of value in assessing the actual receipts and expenditure of the Territory? It is interesting to note the receipts and expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30th June 1968. Receipts from water rates totalled $1,160,041. The expenditure of the Department of the Interior on water supplies and sewerage totalled $1,242,701.
The excess of expenditure over income is only about $82,000. The expenditure relates to water and sewerage but the receipts relate only to water rates.
The Minister was led into serious error in his letter to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council when notifying it of the Government’s decision to impose sewerage rates. I think it is to the shame of those who have the responsibility of advising the Minister and of preparing his public statements that he was led into making a very serious error. I shall quote from the Minister’s letter of 5th December 1968 to the Chairman of the Advisory Council to illustrate my point. The Minister said:
The simple fact is that the people of Canberra are more fortunate than the people of the other capital cities in that every block of land that is developed has a sewerage service provided to it; as- against this, people of Canberra so far have made no payment whatever for the service.
It may be true that some of the people who have arrived in Canberra in recent years have made no direct payment for sewerage services specifically, but the letter must be read as meaning all of the people of Canberra. In this context the statement is completely wrong. Until new charges for the supply of water were introduced in January 1960, all householders in Canberra paid both water and sewerage rates, calculated on the assessed value of the land. At that time the water rate was 3id in the £1 and the sewerage rate 2id in the £1, a total of 6d in the £1 on the assessed value of the land, which was reckoned at 80% of the unimproved capital value. These rates operated for 32 years - from 1928 to 1960. Yet the Minister was permitted by his advisers to say that the people of Canberra had paid nothing for the sewerage services provided in the city. I think the Minister was badly informed.
Until 1960 there was no limit on the use of water and consequently there was no charge for excess usage. Private householders paid water and sewerage rates annually with their general rates. Tenants of Government houses and flats paid the water and sewerage charges as part of the rate component in their rentals. But the new water charges that were introduced by this Government and which operated from 1st January 1960 provided for a payment in advance of £5 - now $10 - a year by each occupant of land. This charge applied to all dwelling houses and flats. The payment covered the use of 100,000 gallons of water. Householders were then called upon to pay at the rate of ls a thousand gallons for any excess use of water. This charge for excess did not apply to individual flats which were not metered. With the introduction of the new charges for water the previous rate of 6d in the fi for water and sewerage was abolished. Although the previous rate was abolished by this Government, it now says that the people of Canberra have not contributed anything to the sewerage services that are provided.
With the abolition of the former charge, private householders paid less annually in rates and the rents of Government dwellings were reduced by the previously included water and sewerage rate component. Of course, these people then had to pay the water rate in advance. Whilst hundreds of families found that they had to pay more for water, and pay in advance in cash, many more hundreds in big homes on large blocks with high valuations found the Government’s decision greatly to their advantage. Paying on the basis of water consumed they were paying much less than they previously had been called on to pay in rates.
In 1964 water charges were varied. The £5 - or $10 - initial payment in advance was retained but the allowance for this charge was reduced from 100,000 gallons to 75,000 gallons. Excess above this amount was charged for at 2s - or 20c - per thousand gallons. The introduction of the new water charges in 1960 meant the installation of meters on each occupied block of land. At that time the cost of a meter and a meter cover, plus installation, was £10 19s, or $21.90. It will be seen that it is completely wrong to claim that the people of Canberra have paid nothing whatever for sewerage services. They paid specific sewerage rates for about 35 years. It was a decision of this Government that replaced the rate with a charge for water used, including, of course, the water used in flushing lavatories.
What the Government appears to forget is that holders of residential leases in Canberra pay land rent at 5% of th; unimproved capital value - which is varied by revaluations every 20 years in the life of the lease. It was held originally - and this was the purpose of the charge- -that land rent was to pay for the development of blocks, including the provision of service*. In recent years attempts have been made to relate costs of development to the iniquitous ‘premium’ payment at sales of residential leases. This argument is utterly false. The costs of providing roads and services are more than adequately met from payments of land rent. These payments on leases recently granted are extremely high. Honourable members have heard me question the Minister and have heard him say that the amount paid as a premium for blocks of land here would equal what was paid for freehold land in other capital cities. The 1964 revaluations of leases - these were the leases originally granted in 1924 and which were revalued in 1944 and again in 1964 resulted in valuations of many blocks being increased by over 700%. This meant, of course, that land rent was increased by over 700%. Incidentally, and I mention this just, in passing, it is to the shame of this Government that some of the occupiers of the land on which valuations have gone up by 700% are pensioners. This Government gives no rebate on land rent or rates to pensioners and pensioners will get no rebate on the proposed sewerage rate. What galls me most about the Government’s proposal for a sewerage charge is the manner of its introduction. Apparent!) the Big Brother outlook of the bureaucracy is maintained and is accepted by the Government, which does not regard the populace of this city as sufficiently adult to be given reasons, facts and figures, lt is apparently sufficient for the Government to say: ‘This shall be done’, and it will be done, and to hell with the people and their objection.!.
In any other Australian community proposals to levy charges of this kind would be debated in public, either in the State parliament or in a local council. Reasons would be advanced and accurate figures of receipts and estimates of cost would be produced. In fact, in New South Wales there is a requirement that the estimates must be published if a council proposes to increase the rates it is charging landholders in its area. Accurate figures of receipts and of cost would be produced and the elected representatives of the people would be able to question, probe and examine and then to vote, accepting with that vote the responsibility for the decision ultimately taken. But not here, not here. In this alleged centre of democratic government, Big Brother decides, Big Brother implements, and by the Lord Harry, if you do not pay, Big Brother can get you because he wields the big stick. Big Brother can terminate your tenancy if you fail to pay what he and he alone says you must.
Democracy? Democracy is for others, not for those who are fortunate enough to live in a community developed as the seat of government.I think the fairer system of charging for water and sewerage services, if charges are justified, would be to revert to the levying of rates assessed at so much in the$1 on the unimproved capital value of the property. No one could object if it could be shown that this rate should be considerably higher than that applying in 1959 when this Government varied the procedures and introduced the system of charg ing in advance. The tenant of a Government dwelling would then be paying for water and sewerage services in a weekly or fortnightly charge included in his rent. The private householder could budget for his annual payment on a fixed and known basis. It is not sufficient simply to claim that we are paying less for sewerage service than is being paid by residents of other Australian cities. That is not sufficient, but that is the argument that has been used. Figures have been quoted to show that we are paying less. But this is not sufficient. The only basis on which the Commonwealth could justify a new charge for the sewerage service would be by showing that the payments it is receiving in rates, land rent and land premiums are insufficient to meet the charges on the cost of provision of the service, having in mind that the Commonwealth itself is a major user of this service in establishments which, if they were not located in Canberra, would have to be maintained elsewhere.
It is reasonable, in my view, that the people of Canberra should require to be shown a balance sheet of receipts and expenditures, and this balance sheet should contain entries on the receipts side to measure the equivalent of payments made by the Commonwealth to or for the States, in petrol tax refunds, income tax reim bursements and subsidies and grants of various kinds. If, on producing such a balance sheet, taking account of its own special requirements and the fact that we are planning for a city of an ultimate population of a million or so, the Commonwealth could justify a claim that citizens of Canberra are not paying adequately for sewerage, then a charge could be justified. But even then, the people of Canberra themselves should be given the opportunity, through an elected government of their own, to impose their own charges.
For the benefit of honourable members who are not familiar with the ordinance that we are discussing. I point out that the ordinance proposes a charge in respect of -one might call them toilets or lavatories depending on which university one went to, but to avoid any disputation as to the correct term the ordinance calls them flushed sanitary fixtures.
– What term does the honourable member use?
– I prefer the term lavatory’. The charge is $10 a year for each householder. This charge is levied on a house standing on a block of land. A charge of $10 is also levied on each flat or each residential unit in a block of home units. In respect of other buildings, hotels, motels and commercial buildings of all types, the first $10 covers the first two lavatories. There is an additional charge of $10 for each lavatory in excess of two. The Government is extremely kind in the case of churches, schools and charitable institutions. A charge on these buildings is made of $10 for the first two lavatories, plus $5 for each flushed sanitary fixture in excess of two.
This charge is being imposed without any evidence at all to show that there is a need for it. The people of Canberra do not want to get things for nothing. Surely this community, which is here for the purpose of government and which in the higher echelons of the departments advises the Government on matters of policy, should be told why such a charge is necessary and should be given the actual figures for receipts of revenue and expenditure.
I feel that I can do no better than conclude my remarks by quoting from the editorial of the ‘Canberra Times’ of Thursday, 17th April 1969. In so doing I appeal to members of this Parliament on the Government side, whether they be the few who are in the chamber now or whether they be the many who may be listening to this debate through the sound boxes in their offices, to look at this matter as members of the Parliament. 1 want them to ask themselves what sort of protest they would make if this sort of charge were to be imposed in their own electorates without any explanation being given as to revenue or expenditure. I ask honourable members to look at this as a matter of democratic principle. The editorial reads:
The fight against the threatened introduction of stamp duties and a lavatory tax in the ACT, which the Territory’s remaining representative Mr Fraser-
I trust I will remain - has now taken to Parliament, is primarily an attempt to reaffirm the principle that no Government has the right to raise taxation without establishing justification in terms of revenue needs and the national interest. The upholding of this principle is fundamental to the maintenance of good government in this country whether at the local, State, or Federal level.
There has been no suggestion by Canberra residents that they should he given privileged treatment by being exempted from certain taxes because they live in the national capital. Despite the added burden of a cost of living higher than in any other capital city, with the possible exception of Hobart, the people of Canberra are content to pay their way for municipal and State-type services and to share with other Australians the cost of building and maintaining the national capital. They strongly object, however, to being forced to carry a total taxation burden which available information fails to justify. And they object to the Federal Government’s refusal to publish detailed financial accounts which are pu Misinformation in every other city and State in Australia.
When the Minister for the Interior, Mr Nixon, announced four months ago that the Government intended to levy a lavatory tax the arguments advanced in support of the move were tenuous in the extreme. He produced figures which purported to show that the cost of providing sewerage facilities made a separate tax inevitable yet be failed to reconcile these with conflicting figures published in previous years. More, he misrepresented
These are not my words but are the words in the editorial of the ‘Canberra Times’; I do not accuse the Minister of misrepresentation - the unique financial system operating in the ACT with its emphasis on land premiums and rent as a source of revenue when he claimed that every block of land in Canberra had a sewerage service provided without payment. In short, Mr Nixon not only failed to justify the levying of a lavatory tax, he exposed the confusion in the Government’s accounting practice which continues to impede efficient administration in the ACT.
The decision of the ALP to move a disallowance of the sewerage tax is a step in the right direction. The debate on the disallowance and its alternative proposal that the necessary revenue be raised by a rate on the capital value of land, which seems certain to follow, should be used to force the Government to marshal coherent arguments in favour of the tax. Unless it can bc shown that additional revenue is necessary the ALP and Government backbenchers should, in defence of the basic taxation principle involved1, compel the Government to withdraw the tax in whatever form it may be dressed.
The objection of Canberran.* to the imposition of stamp duties is based on the same grounds as their opposition to the sewerage tax. At no time has the Government justified its intention to introduce these duties in terms relevant to those being taxed and the national interest. The Treasurer, Mr McMahon, has reiterated, as if it were a fact, that it was “fair and proper” that the future of taxes levied in the ACT should be the same as those in the States. This would be so if the system of taxation were similar hut. as it is not. his statement makes little sense.
The editorial went on to say that a full statement of accounts is necessary to determine whether additional taxation should be imposed.
The tax is unjust, inequitable and discriminatory. lt takes no account of capacity to pay. A man who with his wife and family occupies a four-room weatherboard shack in the Causeway will have to pay exactly the same sewerage tax as a man who lives in a mansion at Red Hill, where recently a house was sold for $135,000. The tax is completely unjust. Again T say to members on the Government side who either are in the chamber or are listening to this debate in their rooms that when the time comes to vote they should vote as their consciences dictate, that they should vote as they would if this proposition were being implemented in the area which they represent, and that they should vote - I am pleased to see that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is present - to uphold just taxation principles.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
– The first thing we should look at is what we are really debating. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) has moved the disallowance of the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968. The first part of the motion states:
That the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968, made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1965, be disallowed, and . . .
I emphasise the words ‘be disallowed, and’. Many people in Canberra are of the belief that if this motion is carried they will not have to pay sewerage rates. They have been led into this position because of the wording of the first part of the motion. I was hard pressed to understand how the Australian Labor Party could support such a proposition.
I have heard the Leader for the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) speak on television and I have read Press reports of comments in which he has claimed to be speaking for the great unsewered areas of Sydney. Quite frankly I wondered how he could support a motion which, if carried, would stop the people of Canberra from having to pay a $10 sewerage rate when in Australia there are supposed to be about 1 88,000 unsewered homes. I am not sure whether they are figures the Leader of the Opposition mentioned but I have seen them printed somewhere. The majority of the people in those homes would pay not only a rate of $30 or $40 but also a connection fee of from $400 to $600. As I said, I wondered how the Labor Parry could support the proposal now before us until I read the second part of the motion, which states:
That any necessary revenue be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned.
Herein lies the secret of the motion. The Labor Party has not in fact moved for the disallowance of a sewerage rate in Canberra. The people of Canberra cannot really look to the Labor Party to support a proposition that they should not have to pay such a rate at all. AH that the motion seeks to do is to alter the charge from a flat rate of $10 to a rate fixed on some other basis. This is the first thing that the people of Canberra ought to know. 1 know that many honourable members opposite could not go out on the hustings and suggest that the people of Canberra should not pay such a rate. So the Opposition added the rider. That was the end of the great illusion. The fact is that the Labor Party is saying in its motion that there should be a sewerage rate for Canberra. I will deal with that part later.
I want to go into the history of this proposition. It is not a new proposition by any means, and because it is not new it should not be considered to be novel. It is not new, because it was first mentioned in 1965 by the late Harold Holt when he was Treasurer. He said that he believed it was necessary that the municipal type of charges being imposed in Canberra should be increased. As the result of that my predecessor, Mr Anthony, nearly 3 years ago, on 9th June 1966, wrote to the Advisory Council, setting out in his letter this proposition that is still before us. The proposition that he included in his letter nearly 3 years ago is practically exactly the same as the one before us now - in fact 1 do not think there is any difference between them.
The proposition was explained by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, and 1 commend him for a fighting speech. The proposition is that the rate will be $10 per house per year irrespective of the number of toilets. People can have ten toilets and still pay only $10. There is a vast difference between what a person would have to pay under this proposition and what he would have to pay if he lived in the city of Brisbane, where, as 1 understand it, the rate is $30 for one toilet, $60 for two toilets and $90 for three toilets. So the people of Canberra are not really hard done by in this respect. If a person is lucky enough to have two toilets, he will have to pay only $10. In addition the proposition provides that the $10 will cover the removal of the water from the shower, bath, laundry, gully traps and kitchen sink. All that will be done for $10. That is the rate for houses and flats. The rate that was proposed 3 years ago for business and commercial premises was explained by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. He was quite correct in saying that the $10 would cover two toilets plus all the drainage from the showers, baths, sinks, drains, gully traps and the like, and that $10 would be charged for each extra toilet. The honourable member was correct again when he said that schools, churches and benevolent institutions would pay SIO a year and $5 for each additional unit in excess of two.
Mr Anthony in 1966 when he was Minister for the Interior explained to the Advisory Council that the total sewerage costs were about $500,000, and he said that if the proposition put up were implemented it would have raised $250,000. Those figures are now a little out of date. The cost of sewerage in Canberra was $858,023 for the year 1967-68. The purpose of raising this rate is to meet salaries and administrative expenses required for the operation and maintenance of the treatment works and the maintenance of the mains and reticulation, the cost of which is approximately $350,000. There is no charge for depreciation or interest on capital. So the amount raised by levying this rate will be $350,000, whereas the total cost of the service in 1967-68 was $858,023.
It appears that after Mr Anthony wrote to the Advisory Council the Council formed a committee which sought a deal of information from the First Assistant Secretary of my Department, ft asked twelve questions, some of which were relevant and to which answers could be supplied, and some of which were plainly not relevant. Those questions which were not relevant related to the amount of sales tax, excise duty and petrol tax that is paid by the citizens of Canberra. Figures of these payments in the Australian Capital Territory are not kept separately, but this does not affect the question either here or in the States. People pay at the same rates whether they live in Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra. If they buy a pint of beer they pay the same amount in excise duty. No recommendation was received from the Advisory Council about the sewerage rate. As a member of Parliament I understand politics, and the Advisory Council was playing politics heavily with this question. No member of the Council wanted to put himself in the position of having to explain to the electors why the Council had approved the rate. On 10th July 1967 the advice of the Advisory Council was again sought, and a further request for advice was made on 13th March 1968. Finally, 2 years to 21 years after the first notification of the proposed rate was sent to the Advisory Council, I wrote to the Advisory Council on 5th December 1968 and informed its members of the need to proceed with the introduction of the rate. That is the background story of the sewerage rate in Canberra.
What we have before us is a proposition to disallow a flat rate and to introduce a rate based on unimproved capital value or some other form of rating. I understand the Opposition’s dislike of a flat rate. It is based on the long-standing Socialist practice that people who can invest in land are capitalists and that those who do not are the workers and something should be done for them. That is the old theory, but under the enlightened governments that we have had in the national Parliament during the last 15 years every man who has a family has been encouraged to own his own home. We now have in Australia a greater proportion of the people owning their own homes than is the case in probably any other country in the world. For that reason I do not think that the old Socialist theory is quite so important in the present context as it used to be. The fact is that many anomalies would be created if we introduced a rate based on unimproved capital value as proposed by the Australian Labor Party. The proposition of the Australian Labor Party is to introduce a form of rate that would be calculated by a different method. I put it to the Parliament that the method the Government is sponsoring is better than the method being sponsored by the Australian Labor Party.
I say that many anomalies will be created by moving away from the flat rate. Let us consider some of the older suburbs of Canberra. Some people have lived there all their lives and have retired, perhaps on fixed incomes. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is fully aware of this and he knows the problems associated with land rent and re-valuation. If there were some other form of rate based on land valuation these people in the older suburbs would have to pay a much greater rate than $10 because of the high valuation of their blocks. Despite what the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory said, the cost of servicing the house he spoke of at Red Hill is no greater than the cost of servicing a house in the Causeway, lt may well be that a small family in one house is using the services a great deal more than the family in the other house.
There is another problem if the rate is based on the unimproved capital value of the land. The practice throughout the States is to levy a minimum charge. For example, Adelaide has a minimum charge of $8 based on the unimproved capital value of the land. Sydney has a rate of $15, Goulburn SI 5.40, Yass $14, and Queanbeyan, the nearest town to Canberra, has a minimum rate of $24.25. The Brisbane City Council has under its ordinances a tax which is known as a pedestal tax. It imposes a minimum charge of $30 for one toilet, with $30. as I said earlier, for each extra toilet. If we were to change from a flat rate of 310 to some other form of rate, say one based on the unimproved capital value of the land, the amount collected would vary from $2.50 for the smallest home on the cheapest block to $50. That would btthe range of rates that would be paid.
I have other support for my proposition thai there ought to be a flat rate rather than one based on the method proposed by the Opposition. Mr Justice ElseMitchell, who presided over a royal commission into rating and local government finnace in New South Wales in 1967, said that statutory authorities who were supplying water should be at liberty to continue to levy rates upon assessed annual values but that they should move to payment for water on a flat rate rather than on a rate based on value. This was a recent royal commission in 1967.
– The recommendation was not adopted, was it?
– That was a matter for thi New South Wales Government. The fact is that this is a similar type charge. Another interesting feature about it is that the water rates charged in Canberra are a flat rate. A person pays $10 for 75,000 gallons whether he lives in a big house in Red Hill or a small house in the Causeway. 1 do not remember the Opposition opposing that charge.
– Yes, we did.
– I do not remember it.
– You were too young then.
– That charge was introduced in I960, which was before my time as a member, but I do not remember the Opposition opposing it at that time.
– It was strongly opposed.
– Opposed by the honourable member?
– By my Party.
– 1 thank the honourable member for that information. 1 suggest that this is not an unreasonable charge for a sewerage rate when it is compared with the cost of similar services throughout Australia. I have made it easy for the Canberra people to meet their payments, and I hope that this meets the wishes of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory who was concerned about their ability to pay the cost. They will not have to pay it until November. This gives them some time in which to meet the charge.
Finally, I want to say something important, so I will choose my words with care, about the Australian Capital Territory financial position, because this causes some heartburn in Canberra. Most figures affecting Canberra are published. From the Budget papers one can ascertain the amount of revenue raised in the Australian Capital Territory through rates, land premiums and land rent. One can discover the cost of Australian Capital Territory services. Further, there is a one line figure relating to the expenditure of the National Capital Development Commission. We also publish an annual financial statement under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act. However, what these documents do not do is provide a statement of accounts in the normal municipal style as is done around Australia. This is one of the problems that the people of Canberra have in determining whether they are paying too much or too little.
No statement of accounts, based on normal municipal style accounting, is published in the Australian Capital Territory. Since I have been Minister for the Interior I have been keen to see accounts produced in a form which would indicate what the people of Canberra are paying to show them that they are paying charges on a proper basis. I have been working to this end since I have been Minister and much work has been done on this aspect in my Department. I am hopeful that the Government will be able to take the necessary decisions to enable this work to continue into the future.
There are problems associated with the premiums paid on land by people in Canberra. There are problems associated with land rent. Most people believe that they pay land rent as a normal tax. The problem of revaluations arises. These problems all require more study before anything further can be said about them by me. I do not think that the people of Canberra are being unfairly charged with a $10 sewerage rate, and I hope that the Parliament will not accept the motion of disallowance.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– The business before the House at the moment is a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance which has been moved by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser). The motion reads:
That the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968, made under the Seal of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1965. be disallowed, and
That any necessary revenue be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned.
This is, to my way of thinking, a basic question of whether people should be taxed or rated - one can use whichever term one likes - without having a say in the amount of taxation to be levied and being given statistical information to justify the need to impose such a fax. 1 was very pleased to listen to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) just before the suspension of the sitting and I was hoping that we would hear from him a detailed explanation to justify the imposition of this new rate on the residents and the commerce of the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister said that al this stage it is impossible to give any statistical information to justify the new rate and that figures are not available.
He admitted that irrespective of how closely one peruses the publication titled The Australian Capital Territory, Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Year 1967-68’, which was placed in our correspondence boxes yesterday, it is completely impossible to arrive at a conclusion as to the financial justification for the imposition of this tax, or any other form of taxation on a sectional basis, on the residents of the Australian Capital Territory. That being so. just where do we go? What is the real justification for this tax? I suggest that in all probability the continual whingeing of the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria has caused action by the Government to try to shut these people up in their claim that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory are pampered and are doing better than anyone else. So this form of rating has been introduced without any statistical information to justify it. I feel that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have no objection to paying a fair and reasonable rate, and as a non-resident of the Australian Capital Territory I think the residents should pay a fair and reasonable rate just as the residents in the Newcastle City Council area, the Lake Macquarie Shire Council area, the Sydney City Council area, the Melbourne City Council area or any local government council area throughout the Commonwealth should.
The residents of the Australian Capital Territory should be required to make a contribution towards the cost of the development of their city and of the provision of amenities. Sewerage comes within that category, and I think that they are prepared to pay for it. Therefore, the whole subject should be a matter for a clear statement by the Government. One of the unfortunate things about this matter is that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have no access to the Government. They cannot vote anyone out of office. They cannot vote the Government out of office on this issue. The only one they can vote out of office is the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, who agrees with them.
– They will never do that.
– They will never do that. He agrees with their protestations and is in fact responsible for moving the motion that we are discussing. So what redress do the people have? I feel that there should be an elected authority in the Australian Capital’ Territory, one that is charged with responsibility to levy a rate to raise sufficient money to carry out all the things which any municipal council should be expected to provide, as do other cities and municipalities throughout Australia.
The Australian Capital Territory should have its own mayor, and that mayor should not be the Minister for the Interior. The people of the Australian Capital Territory should have their own local government authority which could provide all of the normal municipal amenities which are provided by local government authorities. The authority would be charged with the responsibility to provide water and sewerage and would, as do air other similar local government bodies, publish annually in the local Press a statement of income and expenditure setting out where it had raised the money, how it had raised it and how it had been disposed of. That is what the Government should be aiming at here. Under the bureaucracy which exists at present the Government makes decisions and produces no evidence to justify the decisions it has made. As I said earlier, the Minister admits that he is unable to produce the evidence. So I feel that the proposal which has been put forward by the Opposition could be and should be the whole answer to this question. No-one in the Australian Capital Territory has yet conveyed to me that he objects to paying a fair and reasonable rate, and this is the whole crux of the question. In regard to some of the things the Minister had to say, first of all he attacked the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who has correctly brought to the notice of the electors of Australia the failure of governments to provide adequate sewerage in the major cities. The facts are there. Anyone who lives in a capital city or any of the large urban areas knows this problem.
In the city of Newcastle the inner sections are all1 right but the new and developing outer suburbs and the shires around Newcastle. Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens have a problem. The Newcastle council has almost solved its problem but the other councils have a major problem, and it is only by the assistance which can be given by this Parliament to the councils and to the water and sewerage authorities that sewerage can be provided. What the Opposition is saying in this matter is not inconsistent with what the Leader of the Opposition had to say. If one reads the motion it says that any necessary revenue - and I emphasise this point - should be collected by means of certain methods which are already used by local government and semi-governmental bodies throughout Australia. So the Minister was just looking for an excuse and an outlet whereby he could get out from under in this case. As one who has spent some years in local government and has been closely associated with this form of rating I think a scheme should be introduced - and I leave it to the Government to decide the nature of the scheme because I willi not tell the Government how it is going to raise this money. The present method is completely unfair and inequitable to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
There should be a system which incorporates either the assessed annual value, the unimproved capital value or the improved capital value of the land. 1 think that is possible. The most equitable form is to incorporate two of those systems, namely, a rate on the unimproved capital value of the land, and at the same time a rate on the improved capital value of the land. This takes into consideration the unimproved capital value of the land where water and sewerage facilities are provided. Persons owning unimproved land would pay much less than persons who hail already erected dwellings or structures on land. Those people who had the facilities available and developed their land would pay for it, and those who did not use it - and if a person does not want to develop his land that is his business - would still pay for the initial cost of providing the facilities. So far as improvements on the land are concerned, a person who built a bigger and more costly type of dwelling naturally would pay higher rates. From cur point of view this would be a much more equitable form of rating. This Government, along with every other government in Australia, has retained a graduated scale of income tax. What is wrong with a graduated scale of income tax whereby those in the lower income groups pay a much lower rate of tax than do those in the higher income groups? This is what wc suggest should be adopted in respect of this sewerage charge. Those who have the means and can afford to pay the charge would have to pay it, and those living in the less fashionable suburbs would not pay as much.
I was interested in the assessment of the Minister for the Interior that if our scheme were adopted the rate would vary from $2 per annum to as high as $50 per annum. As the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has pointed out. recently in the Territory a house changed hands for $135,000. I assume that the owner of such a house would, under our scheme, pay about $50 a year as a sewerage charge - perhaps not as much. The business centres in Canberra would pay the maximum of $50 a year but the people living in the suburbs in premises of much lower value than the big business premises being constructed all over Canberra would pay a lesser amount, and the smaller the home or the lower its value, the smaller would be the sewerage charge. This would be a much more reasonable and equitable form of taxation. I cannot see anything wrong with a graduated charge of from $2 to $50 a year. People in the lower income groups would benefit. They would pay much less than would the people who can afford to pay this charge. I cannot see anything wrong with what we suggest. I am in complete disagreement with the Minister. This is my idea of taxation - from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. That may be an old Socialist philosophy but it is pretty sound and one which renders assistance to those people who need it.
Under the Government’s proposal the householder will pay $10 a year irrespective of the value of his property. In my opinion this is completely wrong. I strongly support the motion to disallow the ordinance. 1 would like the Minister for the Interior to give us more constructive information relating to financial expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory. Let him explain the necessity for the sewerage rate to be introduced. So far he has not furnished any information of this kind. I do not propose to delve into considerations of whether the people in the Australian Capital Territory are rated too heavily or too lightly. That is a matter for the people living in the Territory and for their representative in this place. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory can bring out all the facts. I am concerned with principles. I have always opposed and always will oppose, as will every member of the Labor Party, a flat rate of taxation. The Minister has provided no information to support the Government’s action in levying the sewerage rate in the way that is proposed. I support the motion moved by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
– I support the ordinance and oppose the motion for its disallowance. It appears to me that in
Canberra, an affluent society, we are trying to work out the cheapest way to get rid of the effluent. On the whole I think that the controversy over this proposed rate is a storm in a pedestal. From the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) we learned today of the futility and wretchedness of Socialism. He spoke of the pioneers who came to Canberra in 1924.
– I never said a word about them. I never mentioned them.
– They took the land on lease-
– I rise to order. I claim to have been grossly misrepresented.
-Order! If the honourable member claims to have been misreprepresented the appropriate time for him to seek redress is immediately after the honourable member for Mitchell has concluded his remarks.
– As I was saying, we were told that the pioneers who came to Canberra did not buy the land, which they could have obtained at a very reasonable price but instead, because of the socialistic programme that was arranged, they paid a nominal deposit and continued to pay rent for the land.
– lt was your own government.
– I hope that next time he speaks the honourable member for Watson will open his mouth.
– The Bruce-Page Government did it.
-Order! I have already warned the honourable member for Watson. 1 suggest that he restrain himself.
– Under the terms of the Socialistic legislation under which the early residents of Canberra obtained land the land is revalued every 20 years. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has told us that the value of land in Canberra has increased over the years by 700%. The pioneers built their homes on this land. With the effluxion of time the land and improvements on it revert to the Commonwealth. This is Socialism and it pleases me to throw it back at honourable members opposite. The pioneers of Canberra, who are now in the evening of their lives - I am using the words of the honourable member - living on the age pension find that when the value of their land is re-assessed they are required to pay enormous rates. Under a free enterprise system those people would have bought land in 1924 and, in the evening of their lives, would have been able to cash in on the increase in value and would have been able to go to the seaside, buy a house well within their means, and enjoy their retirement. Because of Socialism they are doomed to a life of penury. lt is remarkable how, under Socialism, everything must be done in a complicated way. Give a Socialist head of a department a chair and a table and within 2 years he will have 100 employees and 1,000 within 10 years. We cannot have the simple method of a flat rate of tax. No, we must first value the land, then get an assessed annual value, and then employ computers to work out the rate. How nonsensical can you become? Under Socialism as soon as you get into the realms of government or semi-government instrumentalities you need computers in order to deliver the goods.
The Government’s proposal for levying this rate is very simple. The proposed charge of $10 a year compares with any charge of a similar nature anywhere in Australia. The charge in Adelaide is $2 less than is proposed here. In Sydney the minimum charge is $15. The charge in Goulburn is SI 5.40; in Yass $14; in Queanbeyan $24.25; in Brisbane $30. This is a fair tax. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has denied that the people of Canberra are living under privileged conditions and at lower cost to themselves at the expense of the rest of Australia. I think he has more or less shown that they are. Canberra is the national capital and the residents here enjoy many more refinements and better facilities than do the residents of other cities. We do not begrudge them that, but they should be willing to pay a just due.
We in this Parliament should support the charge proposed by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). Under all systems of sanitation, whether it be the pan system or the sewerage system, a separate charge has always been imposed. The Department of the Interior now wants to collect sufficient revenue to cover the cost of the maintenance of the service in Canberra. I think the maintenance cost is about $385,000 and the amount to be collected is about $500,000. One advantage that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have over the populace in the rest of Australia is that they do not have to pay a fee to connect domestic pipes to the mains. This costs the people in Blacktown between $400 and $500.
-They have a Liberal member.
– But it is much dearer in Balmain and similar areas. So the people of Canberra have the advantage of not having to pay any connection fees to the drainer or the plumber for connecting their homes to the main. I hope that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory will note that other nationals in Australia are at a disadvantage in comparison with the residents of Canberra. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) wanted to know how we could justify imposing this charge.
– You could not tell him.
– I do not know; he would have to use his imagination. The point is that ever since we have been a settled community councils have charged for this service and the Minister’s proposal is fair, equitable and reasonable. I venture to say that, under the system suggested by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, half the revenue raised would be used to pay for the additional staff that would be needed to collect it. The method proposed for the collection of the rate is very just and reasonable. The Government has shown compassion for charitable institutions and churches, as it should, and a reduced rate, related to the number of pedestals installed, will apply to industrial complexes, flats and the like. I think this is a very reasonable attitude. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has become emotional over the introduction of this charge. The difficulty in which some people find themselves is to be regretted but, as I have pointed out, their difficulty arises from the socialistic manner in which they acquired the blocks of land on which they built their homes.
I want to pass now to another aspect and show how Canberra is an example that should be followed throughout Australia. The population of Australia is concentrated in (he six State capitals and we are spending thousands of millions of dollars in an effort to overcome the difficulties that have arisen there. If the State governments at the end of the war had had vision and foresight, they would, not have allowed this state of affairs to develop. In New South Wales we will have imposed upon us a capital city of 6 million people. In this nuclear agc, nothing could be more wicked and cruel. As 1 pointed out last night, China, which now has available to it a nuclear warhead and the means of propulsion, could wipe out the population concentrated in the area from Newcastle to Wollongong with three nuclear bombs. It would not be necessary to allow for the margin of error; the bombs could not miss. The State governments should not have allowed industrial and residential developments to expand as they have. They should have opened up the great harbours on the north coast of New South Wales, for instance, and other cities and they should have encouraged decentralisation. They should have gone into the hinterland.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon, W. J. Aston)Order! I remind the honourable member (hat the subject before the Chair relates to the Australian Capital Territory. At this stage 1 cannot see the relevance of the honourable member’s remarks to this subject.
– lt is a little bit astray, but other honourable members who have spoken strayed so far afield-
-The honourable member for Mitchell cannot reflect upon the Chair ‘and he cannot canvass the decision of the Chair. I suggest that he immediately come back to the subject before the Chair or resume his seat.
– I wanted to draw an analogy between the development of Canberra and the State capital cities and to show what we could have done to establish other cities had we taken a guide from the development of Canberra. The charge that the Minister wants to introduce is fair. The basic principle is that sewerage provides a service and that the charge should be related to the benefits enjoyed from the provision of the service in the same way as charges are levied for electricity, gas and similar services. The charges are fixed in accordance with the use to which the land is put. There is one rate for residential premises and another rate for commercial and industrial premises. The proposed rate will ensure a more equitable distribution of the charges in accordance with the benefits which are received, and at the same time it will give the maximum possible benefit to the individual residents. The charge does not relate simply to the availability of toilets, lt relates to the operation and maintenance of the sewerage system. It covers the services connected to the system, not just the toilets. It includes the benefits available to the householder by way of showers, baths, washbasins, kitchen sinks, water troughs, laundry facilities, gully traps, as well as toilets. For all these benefits the householder will pay $10 per annum.
The principle of fixing the charges for a service on this basis is not new in respect of Canberra. It was introduced in 1960 in respect of water charges. The Water Ordinance 1959 was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament. No argument was advanced for its disallowance. An amendment was made to it by way of Water Ordinance 1966, which doubled the charge for excess water. This followed an investigation by a committee of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and a recommendation by the Council to the then Minister for the Interior. The amending 1966 ordinance was also tabled in both Houses of the Parliament, and no argument was advanced for its disallowance.
– Mr Speaker, 1 did claim to you that 1 was misrepresented by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) in his opening remarks. Having heard the rest of his remarks, I think it is of no value taking the matter any further.
-Order! No point of order is involved in the matter raised by the honourable member.
– As one who might be called a periodical resident of Canberra and as a member of the Party to which my colleague the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) adds so much distinction, I join in this debate partly to make it clear that the Australian Labor Party is with the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory in this matter- that he does not speak alone. ] want to try to clarify some of the issues which the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) raised. One could hardly say that he clouded the issues because they were not clear in any sort of sense in the beginning. The honourable member passed some remarks about what one might call the Socialist or Labor view. I suppose that the Socialist or Labor view would simply be put as follows: Each one of us should have an effective say in our destiny. Noone should allow himself, his country or his community to become a prisoner of someone else’s decision.
The people in this community in the Australian Capital Territory - Australians as they are, taxpayers as they are and voters as they are in Federal elections - are prisoners of the decision of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who does not answer in any way to the 120,000 people in Canberra. This offends in every way against the general principles upon which Australian government is generally considered to be based. I think that is the real issue before this Parliament. The Labor Party is not a no taxation party. The Labor Party believes that people should pay for services, but that they should do so only according to their means. So far as I know, the citizens of Canberra do not claim that they ought to be exempted from taxation or from paying their own way. But the facts are that there has been inflicted upon this community - a highly sophisticated and well administered community - a form of government which is against all the principles for which we stand.
There are one or two other matters which the honourable member for Mitchell raised. For instance, there is the question of the Socialist view, shall we say, of the way in which land and so on is controlled in Canberra. I do not know what sort of view one would call it, philosophically speaking, but it seems to me that this system has been running for a very long while. 1 think that the land on which Canberra was built was bought between 1910 and 1912. The settlement of Canberra began during the period of office of the Bruce-Page Government. The system of land control has been developed during the term of office of the present conservative or Liberal-Country Party Government.
The honourable member for Mitchell might take a look at the war service homes system. Some 20-odd years ago the Government bought a couple of hundred acres of land in the area in which I live in Melbourne. It developed the land only in the last few years. People have moved into the area and have bought blocks of land for $700 or $800 each, although a few miles away land is selling for $6,000, $7,000 or $8,000 per block. The honourable member for Mitchell has been talking through his hat, as usual. He said that he had a right to support the Minister. He has to support the Minister. This afternoon the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), against all the Liberal principles which he espouses, supported the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). We have heard this type of thing day after day. The honourable member for Mitchell did not support the Minister because he believed in what the Minister proposes to do. It was not clear what the honourable member believed in. He supported the Minister because he has to support him.
The motion before the House, firstly, seeks to disallow an ordinance. Secondly, it seeks the imposition of a more rational taxation system in Canberra. I believe that one would not need to be very bright before one could work out a more rational taxation system. In the motion, we have referred to one based on the unimproved capital value of land. I believe that there are two issues before the House. The first is that the people of Canberra ought to have a say in and control over their own destinies. The second issue is that the taxation system in Canberra ought to be rationalised. We ought not to follow the traditional and eccentric tax systems which have been foisted on people for so long. If we turn back to the time when Charles I had his head cut off and look at the taxation systems which prevailed at that time, we see that they are very much like the taxation system which the Minister for the Interior seeks to impose upon the people of Canberra. Our proposal today is part of a campaign to protect the people of Canberra, not so much against paying taxes, but against having foisted upon them the eccentric tax systems which afflict the rest of the community. There are taxes on receipts. Why should receipts carry stamp duty? There are taxes on this and taxes on that. Anything is taxed to avoid the direct responsibility of raising money under an equitable system.
The other question before the House is the failure of the Minister and his Department to inform the people of Canberra and this Parliament exactly what this city costs. It might well be that the people of Canberra get more than they pay for. It might well be that in some areas they are paying for more than they get. Canberra is a well ordered and very livable city. But I think that the people of Canberra are entitled to know exactly where the money comes from and exactly where it is spent. It should not be a very difficult, task to apportion expenditure between the national system and the local communal system. It is nonsense to say that these cannot be disentangled. This is reminiscent of the argument which was advanced approximately a year ago in the controversy over the VIP flight issue. Of course, there are a few other matters on which we want to disabuse people’s minds. It could well be that land rent, general rates and water rates in Canberra are less than they are in other parts of Australia. For instance, one person whom I know pays $46 a year for land rent, which is not a great amount, $26 a year for rates, which is low, and $10 a year for water rates. He will have to pay $10 a year for sewerage rate. The fee on the transfer of the property was $1 84.
People in Canberra are paying substantial taxes, but none of us could say whether or not the taxes are equitable. It is unreal to compare the position in Canberra with that in a township such as Queanbeyan or in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, some of which I represent. First of all, in Canberra there is a population of 120,000 people, which is larger than the population in the average municipality in Melbourne. Therefore, the overhead costs of conducting a municipality are less than they would be in Canberra. One of the great inflictions of local government in the rest of Australia is that the units are so small that they carry tremendous overhead by way of machinery, employees and so on. These are the issues which are before the House. If honourable members opposite have any sense of history, they will reject the Ministerial decree that money should be raised by way of a flat rate tax upon pedestals or flushing systems in Canberra.
– The Australian Labor Party controlled City Council in Brisbane introduced the same system.
– What is done in other parts of Australia has nothing to do with this question. The facts are that there is a tightly knit community in Canberra. There is an area of a few hundred square miles, which contains 120,000 people. There is an absolute authority resting in this Parliament and its echelons of departmental structure and so on. We believe that a rational taxation system ought to be developed in Canberra and that the people of Canberra ought to have their say before the Government imposes a tax of the type we are discussing. 1 refer back to the times of Charles 1 and John Hampden. It seems that the pronouncements of Charles I alarmed all Englishmen, who had been brought up to believe that what concerned all should be approved by all. The Minister for the Interior has to find some way in which the people of Canberra can participate in the administration of their own taxation system. Some kind of representative body is necessary. Until’ that happens we on this side of the House will reject attempts to levy taxes upon the people of Canberra. A flat rate tax is an escapist’s system. It may be worth while considering the imposition in Canberra of a capital gains tax on the sale and transfer of property and so on. In a tightly knit community such as Canberra where all records are readily accessible such a tax could be easily administered. The Opposition asks the House to reject the Ordinance on two grounds; firstly, because it imposes taxation without proper representation and, secondly, because it is a regressive and inequitable tax.
That the motion (Mr J. R. Fraser’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to inform the House that this afternoon, accompanied by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), I waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General, the Right Honourable Sir Paul Hasluck, at Government House and personally presented for the royal assent the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1969, it being the first Bill ready for presentation following the swearing in of His Excellency this morning. His Excellency, in the name of Her Majesty, was pleased to assent to the Bill, which is now Act No. 16 of 1969. I might inform honourable members that this practice has been followed with the last three or four Governors-General on their ascension to their high office. I might say that the practice was greatly appreciated by the present Governor-General.
– Order! I have to inform the House thatI have received a letter from Mr ArchibaldIan Allan resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Gwydir.
– On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Parmanent Parliament House, I present the report on the Alternative Sites of Capital Hill and the Camp Hill Area for the New and Permanent Parliament House. A dissenting report signed by two members of the committee is included with the main report.
The report I am presenting has the following appendices:
The report which will now be distributed to honourable members in the usual way does not contain appendices (1), (2) and (3) which were circulated to all senators and members some 5 weeks ago. If honourable members would like additional copies of the appendices they are available in the Bills and Papers office.
– I should inform the House, Mr Speaker, that it is the intention of the Government to provide for a debate on the report during the next sitting week.
Ordered that the report, the dissenting report and appendices be printed and that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Debate resumed from 23 April (vide page 1400), on the following paper presented by Mr Sinclair:
Overseas Shipping - Australian Entry - Ministerial Statement, 22 April 1969 - and on the motion by Mr Erwin:
Thai the House take note of (he paper. Mr BARNARD (Bass) [8.54]- The House is resuming the debate on a statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) concerning Australia’s participation in overseas shipping. As the House will recal’l, this debate was rudely interrupted last week by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). On that occasion this extremely important debate was treated with, if I may use this term, almost complete contempt by the Minister. As a result of the Minister’s action in the House the debate was adjourned. We now have the opportunity to continue to debate an extremely important subject and one upon which. I believe, the Opposition and the people of this country are entitled to some clarification from the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The Opposition now wetcomes the opportunity to resume the debate in what we hope will be a rather more rational and enlightened atmosphere than that which prevailed last week.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has given the House a most inadequate and unsatisfactory account of a major change of Government policy. Honourable gentlemen will recall the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in this House on 26th November last year of Australia’s entry into the overseas shipping trade. This followed repeated questioning by Opposition members about rumours of Australia’s participation in overseas shipping. The Prime Minister’s announcement won him an immense amount of praise. It was used to support the view then widely held that the Prime Minister was a great economic nationalist. This reputation has become somewhat tarnished in recent months, but this should not obscure the fact that the Opposition welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pointed out that this development had been advocated by the Australian Labor Party for many years. He also pointed out that Australia was taking modest strides in the direction of getting a share of the shipping trade and stopping the drain of freight costs.
The Prime Minister said that negotiations had reached the stage where they were subject only to elucidation of some further fine points. One of these fine points has since been revealed to the House; it is the decision to buy ships instead of chartering and operating them. It should be noted that this decision has been very belatedly revealed to the Australian people and to the Australian Parliament. The Prime Minister did take the Canadian Press and presumably the Australian people into his confidence a month ago. He told a Press conference in Canada that Australia would now buy ships and not charter them. I have been unable to discover why this information was not conveyed to the Parliament before the Prime Minister went to North America. Quite obviously, he had this information and it is inexcusable that he should not have revealed it before leaving Australia, lt is even more reprehensible that after revealing the purchase in Canada, he did not make an immediate statement to the Parliament. The right honourable gentleman had 3 sitting days in which he coul’d have conveyed the Government’s abrupt change of policy to the House. Instead, the bare details of the switch were announced in a Press statement by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
The Australian Parliament was finally taken into the Government’s confidence with the statement of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, although this did little to amplify the meagre information contained in the previous Press statement. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that with the signing of the agreement imminent, the Government was forced to disclose its hand. It waited until the last possible moment before the agreement was signed before revealing the decision to buy the ships. This remarkable behaviour is completely in accord with the total secrecy which has surrounded the whole deal. During the last parliamentary recess there were persistent rumours that all was not well with the purchase and that difficulties had been encountered. These rumours have been confirmed by the abrupt change of face. If the
Government genuinely believed that it had improved its position by buying ships instead of. chartering them, it is inexcusable that this information was not revealed before. This Parliament has never been given a detailed account of the deal.
In his statement, the Minister for Shipping and Transport said that it was impossible to give cost and revenue details because they were confidential. This was supported by the Deputy Prime Minister in the course of debate. These considerations did not prevent the Deputy Prime Minister from giving details of costs and foreign exchange savings to a Press conference following the Prime Minister’s announcement in the House in November last year. The Deputy Prime Minister was very voluble on the benefits Australia would gain from the deal. He also explained why the Government decided to charter instead of buy ships. He said that ship builders would receive from the British Government a subsidy of 20% of the cost of construction. To receive the benefit of this subsidy the ship would have to be chartered and not bought. The inescapable conclusion now is that the British Government refused to give the subsidy for a ship to be operated by Australia. There is no conceiveable reason why Australia would have waived a subsidy which would have cut the purchase price by 20%.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has not given any explanation to this House for the change in policy, yet the Deputy Prime Minister was quite explicit in his insistence that this was why the ships would be chartered and not bought. How does this argument stand up now? There is not the slightest explanation in the statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport of what has happened to this subsidy. According to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in November of last year, there was not the slightest intention to buy ships. Neither gentleman made any mention of the possibility of direct purchase. The whole tenor of their statements was directed to chartering and operating the ships, but now it is in the best interests of Australia to buy the ships. What is the reason for this? There is not the slightest explanation in the statement of the Minister for Shipping and Transport for this decision. He deliberately suppresses details of finance, terms of payments and costs, which would provide some sort of rationale for the abrupt change. One hopes that when the Minister for Shipping and Transport has the opportunity to close this debate he will give some explanation of this abrupt change from decisions made in November of last year.
There are other contradictions in the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister. It is not possible to reconcile what the honourable gentleman says now about the charter rates and the British subsidy on the construction of these vessels with what he said al the Press conference last November. He now claims that from the very outset the British Government said that the charter rate would be determined on the gross value of the vessel, and not after the investment allowance had been taken into account. When the deal was announced the Deputy Prime Minister said that the charter rates would have a component of 5i% interest on four-fifths of the construction cost, that is, the gross cost less the British Government’s subsidy. The honourable gentleman claimed that it was publicly stated that the charter rate would be based on the gross value and not on the value excluding the investment allowance. This is completely contradictory to what he said in November last. The honourable gentleman now says that the charter rate would carry no advantage accruing from the British investment allowance. This again completely contradicts his statement in November that the interest component in the charter rates would be calculated on fourfifths of the construction costs. This is an example of the confusion surrounding the whole deal which has not been satisfactorily clarified by either the Deputy Prime Minister or the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
Let me deal briefly with major areas of concern raised by the Government’s decision to enter the overseas shipping trade in this way. The Government has committed itself to one form of container vessel, the so-called cellular container vessel. This commitment is a straight out contradiction of the fourth recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. That recommendation states:
Governments should take no action which would result in a situation of preference to any one type of shipping operation which might be used to protect the operators from a wrong investment decision.
The Government’s commitment to one form of container shipping clearly contravenes this sane and sensible recommendation. It should be recalled that these recommendations were put forward by a committee which included four supporters of the Government. The Government had a majority of members on that Committee. 1 have just referred to one of the Committee’s recommendations. It is a sensible recommendation, but it is completely ignored by the Government, by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and by the Deputy Prime Minister. There must be very grave doubts about the Government’s commitment to the container consortia using this form of shipping, lt is far from certain that the cellular vessel is the most suitable for Australian trade. The Minister for Shipping and Transport said that the Government had deliberately chosen to move into overseas Conference operations at this time of major changes in shipping technology. The Government has chosen to take very considerable risks in joining operations devoted to one form of container shipping. Furthermore, it has chosen to join these operations at a time when international rivalry and competition for the Australian market has intensified.
The Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes found that there had been an element of haste in introducing the container system to Australia without sufficient time for adequate consultation between the many interests involved. It could well be that, if the form of container shipping selected by the Government proves to bc unsuitable to the Australian trade or is not competitive with other forms of container shipping, the British operators will be propped up by the Government. In these circumstances the Government could be forced into guaranteeing cargoes for the consortia with which it is associated. This would result in a most undesirable element of coercion being introduced into the allocation of Australia’s shipping trade. It is also probable that the decision to buy instead of to charter these ships will force up the whole cost structure of the trade. If the costs of operating the Australian owned ships are higher than those of the British members of the consortia, then the other shippers will gear their charges to the Australian model. This would have the inevitable effect of forcing up the whole freight structure with consequent greater profits for the British shippers. This is not a desirable end of a national shipping policy.
There are other areas of dissatisfaction with the whole operation. The container era will place a heavy burden on Tasmanian exporters who will have to pay the additional cost of shipping their goods to container ports. The burden placed on the fruit export trade from Tasmania was pointed out by the Senate Select Committee. Honourable members will recall that the Committee recommended that the Commonwealth Government should join with the Tasmanian Government in making special arrangements for the export of the Tasmanian fruit crop. I looked in vain through the speech made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the statements made by the Minister for Trade and Industry for some indication that would confirm or support the recommendation made by the Committee. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has been singularly silent on this issue. He is not concerned about the situation in Tasmania. As has already been pointed out in this debate, the same difficulty will apply to the ports north of Brisbane. Suppliers in the northern areas will have to send their fruit to the port of Brisbane. This must inevitably add to the cost of those who are exporting goods from these areas. I am particularly concerned with the position in Tasmania. I want to reiterate that a responsible Committee of the Parliament recommended that certain action should be taken by the Government to alleviate some of the difficulties that will arise as a result of the Government’s decision in respect of containerisation.
I can only repeat that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has offered no hope to Tasmania. No statements have been made, and one can appreciate the difficulties that will be experienced by those who are faced with these problems in Tasmania. I refer particularly to those who are engaged in the apple and pear industry in that State. The Government has done nothing to quell the fears about the special disabilities that Tasmania will suffer.
I: is ironic also that the Minister should mention that consideration had been given to building the ships in Australian shipyards. This is the same Government that ruthlessly scrapped the move by the Verolme company of the Netherlands to establish a shipbuilding industry in Tasmania. Time will not allow me to develop this argument, but the Minister for Shipping and Transport was in this House at the time. He was not then responsible for the Department of Shipping and Transport, but he will well remember the debates which took place in this Parliament as a result of this Government’s refusal to grant ?. licence which would have enabled the establishment of a successful shipbuilding industry in Tasmania. Yet the Minister for Shipping and Transport says the Government is extremely sorry and regrets that it would not be able to have these ships built in an Australian shipyard.
The Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Minister’s statement referred to the misgivings of the wool growers about containerisation. He was pointing out that vessels of the Scandia type would be more suitable for this vital commodity than the container ships which are to be adopted by the Government. Scandia ships will be able to take on wool from any port in Australia and not merely from the three designated terminal facilities. The man on the land may well ask, as indeed may any alert Australian, whether the arrangements in part unveiled by the Minister for Shipping and Transport are to yield their greatest advantage to the Commonwealth or to the other three partners making up Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Limited. They may ask whether the wool industry will now come under pressure to ship its products in Associated Container Transportation vessels irrespective of whether or not to do so is to the advantage of the industry. They may ask whether the scheme as a whole has any prospect whatsoever of profitability in the foreseeable future if export wool, which makes up 40% of Australia’s export cargo, is not shipped under the Associated Container Transport flag. In summary, the Opposition is extremely dissatisfied wilh the information given to the House about this venture. We believe that the Government has acted hastily and without proper consideration of all the factors involved.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) expressed his dissatisfaction with the information that he has received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) and from the Government on the decision to establish or, if you like, reestablish an Australian national overseas shipping line. Although it might have been difficult to understand what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, it seems that there is at least some basic agreement between the Opposition and the Government that Australia should be involved in overseas shipping to some extent.
– The Opposition has been saying that for 20 years.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just interjected that the Opposition has been saying this for 20 years. In the earlier stages of this debate last Tuesday the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) credited the Country Party for Australia’s adoption of this new method of handling cargoes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who followed later in the debate, credited the Australian Labor Party and referred again, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition just did by interjection, to the 20 years of advocacy by the Australian Labor Party of a national shipping line.
– The honourable member was still at school when we were advocating this.
– The honourable member apparently has not forgotten that those times existed. 1 would like the Australian Labor Party to bring its thinking into 1969 and recognise the fact that in shipping, as in many other things, there have been very substantial changes. The Leader of the Opposition in his contribution to this debate read his researcher’s meticulous notes very adequately, but while reiterating political history he completely forgot, and his researcher apparently did not remind him of, the technological history of shipping and the technological history of Australia’s involvement. It has been true, and it is just as true today, that Australia with its industrial awards and relatively high rates of pay could not afford to be involved in a shipping line that used conventional ships. I believe that this is still true.
– The honourable member would believe anything.
– The honourable member who has just interjected still does not realise what has happened, that a revolution in shipping has commenced throughout the world. It is just beginning. I do not believe that it has completely sorted itself out yet. Whether or not the Opposition agrees with the details of the decision, the Government will enter into this field in a way that we can afford and in such a way that we will gain experience of a very wide mixture of shipping methods in the few ships that we will be owning and operating. We will gain direct experience of the cellular container type of shipping. We will also have experience of the Scandia type of shipping operation. So we will know by personal experience just what is involved in the important decisions and very large commitments that have been made by the people who will be our partners and by other major shipping firms in the cellular container business. Personally 1 believe that we could move more towards the Scandia type of operation, which gives a greater flexibility. But at the moment a great deal of the world’s shipping is committed to the cellular container operation and Australia cannot afford to be without experience of it.
I would like, because it is so fundamental in this debate, to mention the factors which make it feasible and reasonable for us now to be involved in overseas shipping in the way that the Government has already decided. One container ship in the 20,000 to 24,000 ton range will equal in productivity four or five conventional ships in the 10,000 to 12,000 ton range such as are nowoperating. This is a measure of their relative productivity. When we turn to the question of labour costs the difference is even gi eater because the crew required to run a 24,000 ton container vessel would be no greater than the crew required for a conventional ship of 10,000 or 12,000 tons. In both cases the number of crew would be from 35 to 39. So we find that a ship with twice the tonnage as present-day conventional ships and with four or five times the productivity can be operated with the same crew. It is that reduction in labour cost content that has provided a revolution as far as we are concerned. We have a high labour cost economy which, I believe, is a very good sort of economy to have, but in supporting this kind of economy we have to be realistic and have to ensure that the hours of work are productive enough weil and truly to cover the rewards of that economy, otherwise the rewards become completely unrealistic. They become paper rewards and we get back, in effect, to a low labour cost economy with all the social and personal difficulties of that type of economy.
The actual immediate cost of this operation has been increased, as the Minister indicated, by the decision to purchase rather than to charter these ships. We should remember, in making a comparison between the charter operation and the purchase operation, that the charter agreement involved, as 1 understand it, a put option, lt involved an option to purchase the ships which could be put to Australia by the people from whom we are purchasing them. So there would be a necessity to purchase. I understand that when he speaks to close the debate the Minister will clarify the point about the British subsidy to the British firms which may or may not have been passed on to us in the charter rate. As 1 understand it from the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), it would nol be passed on in the charter rate. On the other hand, the financial process of initially chartering and later purchasing these ships does lend some substance to an argument that the net effect of the decision to purchase could reduce our profitability by the order of 3% or 4%. 1 should like the Minister to comment on this when he replies - not only on the point of whether or not the carry through of the British subsidy would reduce our costs but also whether or not purchase as against charter and later purchase puts us into a capitalisation position which would have or could have the net effect of reducing our profitability by some figure, whatever that may be. 1 would also seek from the Minister some definite assurances about the carriage of wool. I understand that it may be possible for standard density bales on any shipping - whether it is container shipping, conventional shipping or Scandia type shipping - to be carried at standard rates with medium density bales having some freight advantage and high density bales having a greater advantage. What I want to know from the point of view of many of my constituents who are very much concerned about this is whether or not there will be any discrimination against wool as a result of its carriage by any particular method of shipping or mixture of shipping - whether the rates will be standardised and whether or not there could be any net increase in even the standard rate for carrying wool as a result of using container ships of any type. From the wool producers’ point of view, of course, as the Minister is well aware, there is the argument that wool is already presented for transport in a container. I should like to have that assurance from the Minister in order to be sure that the fact that a considerable quantity of wool will go in containers will not be a factor in forcing wool freight rates for standard density bales, or any other bales, to a higher level than the rate which would apply if containers were not used for wool. That, again, applies to any ship which is used for the actual transport of the wool.
This decision by the Government will, I believe, prove to be of very great long term advantage to Australia. Whether or not the profitability is greatly affected by the charter or the purchase decision, the fact remains that Australia’s coming into this more directly as shipowners not only gives us a slight moral boost as a country but in many intangible ways it will help us in our examination and understanding of the shipping industry and of the conferences in which we will be sharing both as a partner and as a client. Our share of the trade - of the order of 7i% as proposed - -could be larger in the future. I do not believe that there is any profit at this stage in speculating about how our share of our own trade may grow. The important thing is that we will know what is going on inside the conference with which we shall be connected and we will know how to develop our own interest and how to extend, if this is seen to be a good thing, our own involvement directly in shipping.
The timing of this is the important thing. It is this point of timing that completely destroys the arguments advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He seemed to have no comment other than thai this was something that had been advocated by the Australian Labor Party for 20 years. Of course, strictly speaking, that is not cor rect, because what is now being done was not even envisaged 20 years ago and it is precisely because of the changes that have occurred in the shipping industry, and largely as a result of them, that Australia now finds this decision to be not only reasonable but advantageous. Through this decision we will have a wider range of shipping experience than most other countries. At the same time we have a relatively small commitment to any particular form of shipping. 1 remind the Minister of the assurances that I am seeking in respect of the carriage of wool. I congratulate the Government on its timing. I believe that this will prove to be a particularly valuable decision for Australia now and in the future.
– First of all, 1 take issue with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) who said that this step has become a fact only because of changed conditions. He said that our award conditions would not enable us to enter into an overseas shipping line with conventional shipping. If we applied this talk to a number of industries in Australia we would be bereft of them to the disadvantage of Australia as a nation. In actual fact the wages paid to Australian seamen are far less than those paid to Swedish seamen or seamen on United States ships, yet those ships have for many years traded along our coast and carried our produce overseas. 1 do not tie the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) with the unAustralian attitude taken by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who would rather trust our trade in the hands of foreigners and would rather have foreign crews on our ships than have Australian seamen because Australian seamen might be tempted to become wayward in the hands of Communists. This is one of the reasons 1 am speaking tonight instead of last Wednesday.
– I do not think he said quite that.
– He did, quite clearly. He said that to carry even 50% of our trade on Australian ships would be disastrous and would be placing in jeopardy the economy of this nation because we would be placing it in the hands of people who would be under the control of Communists. I accept the assurance of the Minister for Trade and
Industry (Mr McEwen) that there will be benefits from Australian participation in this trade. I believe that the arguments he put forward last Wednesday were valid so far as they related to the period after the sale by the Bruce-Page Government of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. Perhaps I should not say ‘the sale’ but ‘the giving away’ of the Line. As I understand the facts, we were never paid for the last of the ships. I also understand that the purchaser of the ships, who was a lord, served time as a guest of His Majesty.
– Who was the Prime Minister at that time?
– That was done during the period of office of the Bruce-Page Government, lt was most important that Australia should enter the overseas shipping trade at that time. But the very people with whom we are aligning ourselves today are the people who sought to destroy the Line at that time. On many occasions they tried to introduce increased freight rates to the detriment of the sale of Australian primary products overseas. Honourable members who read the report of the commission of inquiry into the sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line will see that Mr Larkin, the then manager of the Line, reported that on three separate occasions he had resisted attempts by the conference lines to increase rates, and at one stage they had threatened to boycott the carriage of cargo in an endeavour to starve the Line out of existence because it would not agree to an increase in freights at a time when Australia was trying to increase its export income.
This was a part of the process of evolution to which we of the Labor Party are dedicated rather than to the process of revolution as proposed by the Communists. That is one of the essential differences between the Labor Party and the Communist Party. We believe that by evolution we can ger through even to dedicated Liberals the benefits of this entry into overseas shipping. We have in this Parliament people who a few years ago refused to accept that an Australian overseas shipping line would be of benefit to Australia, particularly to primary producers. We now have them accepting the fact that it will be of benefit to the primary producers. I appreci ate that fact and I very much appreciate the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry in this respect. He said, in relation to one of the main reasons for entering the overseas shipping business:
In going into the shipping business we are not prompted by the Socialist motive or to make a profit.
In this respect I do not know whether he means that Socialists do not make profits or that Australia is not going into the shipping business to make a profit. If he means that Socialists do not believe in making a profit what does he mean by saying:
I could not agree more with the Minister in this respect. But he has stated that one of the great changes that has been made - it first of all leaked to us by way of an announcement from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in Canada - is that Australia is going to purchase the ships. I accept the explanation of the Minister for Trade and Industry that it would be preferable to purchase the ships rather than to charter them, particularly if the subsidy from the British Government is not applicable and if it means that we are unable to man the ships with Australian crews and sail them under the Australian flag. While I accept this I do not entirely go along with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) when he said that consideration was given to building these ships in Australian yards but that this would have meant placing an order now with delivery much later and that it would have been more costly.
The Minister stated a sum in the vicinity of $8.5m for the first ship, the ‘ACT P. The Minister for Trade and Industry has said that to convert that ship to Australian conditions will cost another $100,000. He said that he considers the cost of $100,000 surprisingly high but that it is no fun to spend $100,000 on a vessel that someone else owns. That is quite right. I read in Tuesday’s issue of the ‘Canberra Times’ that the second ship is to cost 45.9% more than the first. 1 do not know whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport will deny the figure of SI 2.4m that was quoted or whether he will clarify the position. This figure came from a spokesman for Trans Oceanic Containers Pty Ltd in Sydney. He said that this was one of the ships that was ordered. I agree that where a number of ships of the same type are being built it is cheaper to build them in continuation rather than to build one. But if a great number of modifications are to be made to these vessels I think some consideration should be given to building them in Australia, particularly at a time when Australian shipyards are looking for work and when skilled tradesmen are being put off in yards such as the Evans Deakin yards in Brisbane and Cockatoo Dock in Sydney, and when even the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd at Whyalla is looking around for further orders. 1 acknowledge the correctness of the Minister’s statement but 1 would like to know whether the figure of $12.4m is closer to the price of the second ship, lt is also worth while to remember that if we spend money in Australia we save foreign exchange and give people in Australia employment. As the wheel turns and Peter pays Paul a considerable amount of money returns to the Treasury of this country through the employment given to Australian craftsmen. So I would like a further explanation of why consideration has not been given to building these ships in Australian shipyards. Perhaps it was thought necessary to enter the trade quickly - a reason given for the purchase by the Australian National Line of ships from Japan - but if we continue to buy ships overseas what will be the position? What is the Government’s attitude in this regard? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has pointed out that under containerisation there will not be a flat rate charged throughout Australia, as was promised by the Minister for Trade and Industry but that people outside the main container ports will have to pay to ship goods to the container ports. This matter has been raised in the House on a number of occasions. This is something that will seriously affect people operating in ports along the Queensland coast and in Tasmania. There are many ports along the
Queensland coast from which feeder services will operate to ports offering the advantages of container shipping.
I do not disagree with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro who said that there will be advantages in Australia’s having her own overseas shipping line. Innovations always bring advantages. No carrier today works with a model T Ford. These vessels which we are to acquire will travel at 224 knots. This speed is necessary. In supporting claims that Australia should have an overseas shipping line I have always advocated that the ships should be modern and fast, capable of handling our trade in the most profitable manner. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has given details of the freight and insurance costs on imports into this country. He gave the figure of S407m for 1967-68, which is a considerable increase over the 1958-59 figure of $200m. The figure is growing all the time. The Minister for Trade and Industry touched on a very important point when he dealt with freight charges. These are determined not only by the cost of transporting goods from one place to another and the cost of paying the men who man the ships. The cost of handling cargoes is a considerable component in the overall high cost of freights.
Most of the stevedoring companies operating in this country are subsidiaries of overseas shipping companies. What they lose on the swings they pick up on the roundabouts. The Minister for Trade has quite rightly said that we want to know all the figures. I believe that stevedoring in this country should come under the control of a single authority. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has acted to the benefit of the industry with regard to the manning of wharves but its powers should be extended to enable it to control all stevedoring in Australia so that we do not have one small stevedoring company operating at one end of a port and another small company operating at the other. We do not want one company handling a ship while another company handles the ship berthed alongside. When companies operate in this way cargo handling gear must be duplicated. In some cases this gear has reached such a state of deterioration that in their own interests and in the interests of safety generally waterside workers have been forced to walk off the job when their efforts to draw attention to the conditions under which they are asked to work have failed. When they walk off the job they are branded by people such as the Minister for Social Services as a disruptive influence or as people acting under Communist influence. The waterside workers are dedicated to the principle of an Australian overseas shipping line, as is the Seamen’s Union of Australia. 1 believe that the Seamens Union will be glad to man a ship flying the Australian flag.
T hope that this venture grows. The Government’s action in adopting one of Labor’s platforms is proof of the process of evolution. The Government’s proposal is a step, however small, in the right direction. Not only will we have vessels to carry Australias cargoes overseas but also we will be assured of a voice in overseas shipping conferences. We will be able in some measure to counter the activities of overseas monopolies which for too long have dominated Anstralia’s overseas trade.
– I support the statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) on Australia’s entry into the overseas container shipping trade. Let me first deal with some of the remarks of honourable members opposite. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) asked why we are not building ships in Australian shipyards. Government supporters who have already spoken in the debate have answered the question, pointing out that Australia’s high cost of living makes the building of these ships in Australian yards uneconomic. In addition the time factor must be considered. It is crucial that we get these vessels operating as soon as possible. It would not be economic to enter the overseas shipping trade with conventional vessels, but the advent of container ships gives the Government a good reason to get into this business.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) asked why the Australian National Line is to spend only $25m or $30m on the purchase of two or three ships. He compared this expenditure with the llikely expenditure by Qantas in the next years of about $323m. I cannot remember the cost of the monoplanes with water cooled engines with which Qantas began its operations from Cloncurry, but they certainly did not cost $323m. Qantas pro- gressed through DH86 aircraft and so on to the sophisticated aircraft, such as the Boeing 707, which it is using on overseas runs today. Qantas started with very little capital but has built up its organisation. This is what the Government proposes to do for the Australian National Line through the venture with Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Limited. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) criticised the proposal to use Associated Container Transportation vessels, saying that they were of the wrong type. But the venture must start somewhere. The three ships concerned in the proposal may cost between S20m and $25m but the Labor Party has advocated, by implication, that the Government should embark on an initial expenditure of between $150m and $200m to get into the overseas trade and lift 50% of our cargoes. This is a completely irresponsible approach to the matter.
In an editorial on 30th August 1968 the Melbourne ‘Age’ stated:
This is the thinking behind Australia’s entry into this trade. I am glad to hear that various Opposition members support the proposal, although in a very grudging manner and with resort to extravagant figures. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) supported it but, apart from some rather trivial, pettifogging criticisms, he wanted to barge into the trade. He would be the first barge owner. He wanted to carry 50% of our cargo in Australian ships. I am not against that idea nor is anyone else on this side of the House. But to do so would be like starting Qantas with a fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft. It is just stupid.
The Minister in his statement said that these 24,000-ton ships will cost about $9m each. He estimates that we will get 7i% of the United Kingdom-Europe trade. This is considered to be sufficient to ensure a sound basis for us in this trade. The Leader of the Opposition wants to order a fleet of ships. He is all for spending Si 75m or more on whatever number of ships we would need to carry the volume of trade that he has in mind. The Government’s approach is sound and sane. It is a businesslike approach. The Government does not in an election year seek to attract voters by promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars - and we have heard a lot recently about election years. The Government’s way is to start somewhere down the scale and work up step by step. We have our foot in the door of the overseas shipping operation. There has been terrific development in this country during the past 20 years. Our mining has shown tremendous expansion and the country is surging ahead. The volume of cargoes carried to and from Australia will increase, so let us join this shipping trade now and grow with it. Labor’s policy would foul the lines right at the outset. I do not know how the Opposition would implement its proposals. Tt would have fifteen or twenty ships.
– I have never said that.
– The honourable member did not say that. Labor would rush into this business and scuttle the whole show. Australia’s first entry into the overseas shipping industry was just after the 1914-18 war. We had about fifty conventional ships at that time. However, rising costs eventually put the line out of business. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) said that he supports our entry into the overseas container business. This is a new shipping era. The old ‘Bay* boats that we had 40 years ago were conventional ships. The Minister for Trade and Industry said that previously he opposed our entering the overseas shipping trade because the expenses arising from the use of these conventional ships would make the venture unprofitable, but, with the container ships, the roll-on roll-off ships, the Scandia type ships that were mentioned by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) and so on, the situation is entirely different. There will be a great deal of equality in competition. By using up to date, modern methods, we will not be caught up with the normal labour costs in the loading and unloading of the ships.
The Australian National Line is to enter Transportation Ltd. This is a development from the purchase of an interest in an overseas shipping line. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 29th August last reported:
A Cunard spokesman told the ‘Financial Review’s’ London Office yesterday: ‘Over the last year or two the Australian National Line has been looking at the possibility of entering the overseas trade.
Port Line and the Australian National Line have extremely good relations.
But there is absolutely no question of Cunard disposing of Port Line, which is extremely important to our group.’
I have heard it said that Cunard unloaded this line on the Australian Government. But that report gives the” lie to such a suggestion. ACT and ANL are joining with Cunard, ‘which has been in the game since the days of sailing ships,- with Blue Star, which lost most of its ships - 1 think twenty or thirty - during the last war fighting for its country, and with the Ellerman organisation.
– The company was paid for the ships. ,
– That does not matter; it was in there fighting and a lot of you others were not. These shipping lines have a wealth of experience and ANL will now be engaged with them in a joint venture, lt will have li% of the United Kingdom-Europe trade. These 24,000 ton ships will cost between S8.5m and S9m.each. The new deal, which has been criticised so strongly by the Opposition, is that we will get the ships on a 20% deposit, with the balance repayable over 8 years at 5%. That is not a bad deal for ships like that. ACT and ANL will be able to use the terminal facilities in London, Melbourne and Sydney owned by Overseas Containers Ltd or Associated Steamships Pty Ltd in Australia, which is the P & O Line. In Fremantle they will use the terminal owned by the Fremantle Harbour Trust, with which the honourable member for . Canning (Mr Hallett) has had quite a lot to do in the past. I gather that there are to be no charges other than those met by the companies for their own ships. This seems to me to be a sound deal.
As the Minister for Trade and Industry said, we are not a Socialist, government and we are not running a shipping line as a money making concern, but we want at least to engage in an economic operation. It is estimated that gross revenue in the first year will be $4.3m, in the second year $7. 5m and in the third year about $9.5m. Over 5 years it will be close to $40m. This will to some extent offset the 8600m spent annually on freights and insurance for our imports and exports. By participating in this partnership with ACT, ANL will have available to it and will participate in the ownership of all the ancillary interests, such as trucking companies, stevedoring companies, possibly tug companies and so on. So we will have the benefit of these services as well as the experience which it takes to operate them. 1 refer to the Minister’s statement in which he referred to the cost of purchasing these ships as against chartering them. He said that the down payments on the ships, the working capital, the containers and the related setting up costs are likely to increase the initial amount needed to around $9m, from S6m or $7m. There will be only a modest difference in the cost of purchasing these ships as against chartering them. We are getting in on the ground floor and we will have the benefit of the goodwill and assistance of the three great lines with which we are to be associated. In a country which exports large quantities of primary produce, such as wool, beef, mutton, fruit and wheat, shipping freights and insurance costs amount to a tremendous sum of money. Under this agreement Australia can really get in on the ground floor regarding the whole matter of freight costs. Over the years, from the knowledge and experience which we will gain from our partners in this joint venture, we will be able to increase the number of our own ships which will carry our produce from this country and which will bring imports to this country. We are entering the overseas container trade at the beginning of a new era. That is the point. New types of ships, terminals and handling facilities are being introduced. As I said before, there will be a modest difference in the cost of purchasing these ships as against chartering them.
We are to start this operation by carrying li% of the trade between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. We can work the business up to whatever the Australian people want. After all, if people in Australia are prepared to work they can do anything. We can build up our shipping line and also our industries. But as I have said previously, it lakes a lot of hard work to do these things. People cannot sit back and expect to get more pay for doing less work. That is something which I think all people in Australia should remember, lt is typical, extravagant and irresponsible Labor thinking to say that we should go straight into this business to the tune of some hundreds of millions of dollars before we run one or two of our own ships, as is proposed by the Government. For years the Darwin waterfront has been Communist dominated. The Territory has been held to ransom by this Communist organised situation. What has happened now? As a result of irresponsible stoppages on every possible occasion, the business people and citizens in the Northern Territory have been held to ransom, lt has taken as long as 48 days to unload 5,00(1 tons of general cargo in the port of Darwin. This is quite ridiculous. The wharf labourers are tending to kill the goose which has laid the golden egg. Stores are overlanding their supplies. Cement is being bulk handled. Wharf labourers are losing their jobs. The introduction of container cargo ships will greatly assist the situation, not only to and from Australia, but also around the coast of Australia, especially in the north, where shippers want beer loaded on the bottom so that they have to unload the rest of the cargo before they get the beer. The introduction of container cargo ships will be a tremendous step forward for the people in the north, lt will reduce handling charges and also the turn-around time of ships in ports such as Darwin. As a result, there should be lower costs for the consumer in the Northern Territory. By voting against this container cargo ship concept, the Labor Party is supporting a rise in costs as their Communist dominated wharf labourer mates in Darwin have been doing for years.
– Whose mates?
– The mates of our friends opposite. The introduction of container cargo ships will assist the housewife, the business man, the station people and the developer in the north. The Government’s move is designed to reduce costs all round Australia. 1 strongly support the Minister’s statement.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– lt has taken 45 years to make the decision that Australia should have its own overseas shipping line, lt is 45 years since we ran our own ships overseas. In the period between 1924 and 1928 the ships were gradually being sold by the Bruce-Page Government. Therefore, because the Australian Labor Party has always had in its platform the principle that we should have our own overseas shipping line, I for one welcome the Government’s decision, belated as it is. When we become a government after the November Federal elections we will certainly increase the capacity of this line which is now to become an established fact. The decision to establish the line is welcomed by us, but it is 15 years too late. All this talk about our getting in at the beginning of a new era may sound all right, but we are going into this hard, rugged world of monopoly shipping combines as babies and infants. Had we been engaged in the overseas shipping business for 15 or 20 years, we would have been an experienced overseas shipper today. We have deliberately forced ourselves to enter into this jungle at this late stage as babies almost in our cradles. The shippers who are already engaged in the business will not give us too many advantages because they talk a tough language and they know how to exert pressures.
The Australian National Line has now been accepted into the Conference lines. We are not going to compete with the Conference lines. We are going to be one of them. That means that we will have no independent voice. We will pay the penalty because we will have to charge the freight rates and we will have to travel the routes which are dictated by the Conference lines. The Labor Party’s concept was that Australia should have an overseas shipping line under its own right, not as a part of the Conference monopoly, as it will be under this proposal. The Australian line will be limited to carrying 71/4% of the trade between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. But with all these disadvantages, and entering into the overseas shipping business as babes in the wood, we are glad that we are actually starting on the long road of owning our own overseas shipping line.
Honourable members should not forget that in the last few months of the Chifley Government - and I was in the Parliament at that time, from 1946 to 1949 - we actually brought down legislation which created an Australian overseas shipping line. We were defeated on 9th December 1949, and when the new Government came into office the legislationwas never implemented.. It died a natural death. This is another facet of the battle which the Labor Party has fought in order to establish our own overseas shipping line. Had the Labor Party not been defeated in 1949 Australia would now have its own overseas shipping line.
Successive Prime Ministers of the LiberalCountry Party governments have fanatically refused to set up an Australian overseas shipping line. We are the only large trading country in the world without its own shipping line. From 1950onwards the Opposition has continuously put to the Government that we should have our own shipping line. Even Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, which are landlocked countries, have their own overseas shipping line, but this great continent, away down in the Pacific Ocean does not. Not one bit of what the Opposition has put forward has ever penetrated the thick skulls of the supporters of the Liberal-Country Party Government. Honourable members opposite have taken all these years to wake up to the fact that it is in the interests of the future of the country to have an overseas shipping line in our own right. Why has this change in attitude suddenly taken place? There have been some amazing about-faces and somersaults by certain people who sit on the Government benches. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is one such person. He took part in the debate on this subject on 23rd April. At page 1368 of Hansard he is reported as having said:
But without the capital investment the vessel can trade at. a satisfactory profit. We have not entered this operation for the purpose of making high profits but for the purpose of getting right inside Conferences and knowing the total facts relating to the freights that are charged.
That is what the Opposition has been saying for years. It has said that if Australia had its own shipping line it would be able to watch these people closely and know what they are up to. At this late stage the Government is going to do just that. A little later on in his speech the Minister for Trade and Industry said:
I have advised the Government that I think it is a belter, cleaner, simpler operation for a government that wants to run a ship to own the ship and own it from the outset.
Again, the Opposition has been trying to tell the Government that for years. The Minister, at his late age, has just seen the light. A little later in his speech he said:
We will get into the water first in the BritishEuropean Conference, and a little later when the vessel is built, into the Australia-North American Conference and we will serve the purpose which this Government wants to serve, that is, to get the inside knowledge.
The things that the Opposition has been trying to tell honourable members opposite have taken a long time to penetrate their skulls, but they are now going to be implemented. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) also has taken part in the debate. He traced the history of the Government’s dogged refusal to enter into overseas shipping. Referring to the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Leader of the Opposition said:
The right honourable gentleman will recall that on 21st August 1962 he denounced my advocacy of an Australian overseas shipping line in these ringing terms:
This man . . . referring to me - . . would destroy our industries; his party would destroy our industries if we let it do so. This would be the inevitable consequence of the policies that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition purports to espouse.
That is, for the setting up of an overseas shipping line. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that on 10th October 1963 the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said:
I doubt very much that it would be practicable to have full and free operation of an Australian overseas shipping line.
The Leader of the Opposition also reminded the House that the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), formerly Minister for Shipping and Transport, had said on 19th October 1965:
We cannot operate an overseas shipping line without subsidising it. I am satisfied of that.
That comment was made 2 years and 9 days after the comment by the Treasurer. All these comments were made by responsible Ministers over a period of years. Yet, almost overnight the Government decided to charter two or three vessels so that Australia could get into the overseas shipping business. And then right out of the blue came the statement earlier this month that the Government is actually going to purchase three ships. It appears that the first ship will be available almost immediately and that the second one, which will be used on the North America run, will be available a little later on. Even the Ministers outside of the Cabinet knew nothing about this decision until they read about it in the newspapers. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced in Ottawa on 3rd April that the Government had decided to purchase these ships instead of chartering them. It is typical of the Government to make announcements of this nature in Australia outside the Parliament or outside Australia altogether. The decision was graciously conveyed to the Cabinet some days later and jointly announced to the Australian Press on 17th April, 14 days later, by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair). The pronouncement was made half an hour after the Parliament had risen in order that members could attend a reception for the retiring Governor-General. This is the way we have been treated. The matter was mentioned in the Parliament 5 days later. In other words it was mentioned in the Parliament 19 days after the original announcement in Ottawa - not Canberra - by the Prime Minister that Australia would purchase ships. That is some of the history of the matter.
On 5th March 1969, I spoke on the motion for the adjournment of the House. The subject 1 discussed was containerisation. That was when we had first heard that Tasmania was not to be included in the container network. The Opposition claimed that this was a complete repudiation of promises made in this Parliament by responsible Ministers that Tasmanian and north Queensland ports would be included in the container network. It seems that these ports are going to be on the outer as far as container shipping is concerned. The Minister for Trade and Industry requested that a conference be held in Australia in May 1966 of representatives of the large shipping consortia all over the world. We were assured at this conference, which was organised by Sir Alan Westerman, who is a great apostle of containerisation, that there would be one freight rate for all Australian ports. This led the Australian shipping industry and all exporters to believe that democracy had prevailed and that one freight rate would apply to all States even though the large container ships would be loading and unloading only at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. We were happy about this decision to apply a unified freight rate. On 23rd February 1 967, in answer to a question by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett), the Minister for Trade and Industry said:
This great combination of British shipping companies has stated thai it will proceed to build six container ships - very sizeable ships - and commence a specialised container service to and from Australia. The ships will be delivered in 1969. . . .
They have been delivered as promised. The first container ship, of course, was the Encounter Bay’ of 27,000 tons, lt has already visited Australia. The Minister went oh to say:
This will have the result of providing a service to Australia every 10 days by a container ship. The ships -will load and unload in only three Australian ports . . . and there will be feeder container services from all Australian ports to these major terminal ports.1
The next sentence is’ the most vital one. He said:
The cost of the feeder services will be absorbed so that there will be a single Australian freight rale.
He went on to say that this is a very important aspect. The Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes made a very thorough survey of the industry throughout Australia during 1967 and 1968 and it presented an excellent report. Page 17 of the Committee’s report states:
As the cellular ships of the British consortia will operate only from the ports of Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, a comprehensive service of ‘feeder’ ships is planned to cope with trade from as far apart as Darwin and Tasmania. The Committee was given assurances by the shipping companies concerned that there would be a uniform rate applicable to cargoes from main ports and feeder ports. The Committee is adamant that, in accordance with these assurances, there should be no differential rates applied to cargoes from feeder ports.
That was another faithful assurance given in the 1967-68 period that a uniform freight rate would be applied when container shipping commenced. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is at the table, replied to a question I asked him in this House on Thursday 6th March. In a long and interesting reply he said that there would be a differential container freight rate for movement of goods from Tasmania and that Tasmania was not going to share in the unified freight system. He went on to say:
At the same time, the position as. far as conventional shipping from Tasmania is concerned is that there will be available still to Tasmania ship space on these conventional vessels .al an identical rate for the sea leg as that which applies on container ships.
He also said: lt is hoped that before long it will be possible for the container operators to. come to suitable arrangements to move the goods’ from Tasmania to interstate container ports at the same rate. 1 commented on this statement outside the House and maintained that this was little comfort for Tasmania. 1 said that it appeared that Tasmania and northern Queensland were going to be forced to use conventional shipping for several years yet.
I think that the Minister forgot, in giving me his reply, that container shipping will be calling every 10 days at mainland ports but that conventional ships’ do not call as often as that and will not’ call as often as that. This means that ‘there :will bc protracted delays in getting Tasmanian exports to Europe on conventional ships ‘when compared to exports from ‘ mainland ports in container ships. This delay could cut Tasmania out of- some very, .valuable markets in England for some of the butter, cheese and other products that we export to Europe against great competition from other countries. Therefore, we are going to be greatly penalised by having to stick to conventional vessels for an. ..indefinite number of years. We will naturally keep fighting for unified freight rates, tasmania exports about S50m worth of products each year. All of these products will now be forced to go on conventional or residual ships or perhaps on Scandia type ships. If the products were exported on Scandia type ships this would be a help and would fill the gap to a certain extent. This type of vessel has its own cranes and other equipment. They are excellent ships and. we may be able to work them into the Tasmania-Europe run with advantage to our Tasmanian primary producers and manufacturers.
For the time being Tasmania and northern Queensland will suffer considerably. Mr R. A. Ferrall, the Master Warden of the Port of Launceston Authority said that he was dismayed that the British container operators had back-pedalled on their agreement to pay Tasmanian feeder service costs. He said that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) had assured the Australian exporters and primary producers last year that the two consortia intended to absorb the costs of feeding the main three container ports by offering a single freight rate. Mr Ferrall said that he did not know what the consortia expected to achieve by cutting off Tasmania from the deal. Naturally, the Tasmanian people are upset. The Tasmanian Government is very worried about this, lt may be that we will find for the time being that the Scandia type shipping will help to fill the gap and help lo soften the blow somewhat for Tasmanian exporters.
An interesting point about the United Kingdom is that all the shippers in that country enjoy the benefit of a unified freight rate. Take the case of a Glasgow manufacturer who until now has delivered his goods to ships in the Clyde. Let us suppose he paid a freight of $10 a ton for that delivery. Now he must send his goods to London for consignment on container vessels but he still pays only $10 a ton, the remaining freight burden being carried by the consortia. This applies to all shippers in the United Kingdom. They will have to send their goods to London, but whether those goods come from Liverpool, from Birmingham, from Manchester, from Leeds, from Newcastle or from any other centre, the individual shippers will pay no more for the delivery of their goods to the container ships than they paid previously for delivery to conventional ships. If it is good enough for the consortia to operate such a system in the United Kingdom why is it not good enough for them to operate it at this end of the journey by establishing a unified freight rate to cover the whole of Australia? Why pick and choose? Why make fish of one and flesh of another? Why penalise certain Australian ports when no ports in the United Kingdom are being penalised?
We have seen a big build-up with these container vessels, but now we are experiencing a big let down. We were led to believe for several years that we would be looked after with a unified freight rate and now we are being let down with the an nouncement that there will be no unified rate. But we will keep on fighting for justice.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Drought Relief - War Service Homes - Export Income from Minerals
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to refer to the present position of the drought in Queensland. It is now about 2 weeks since the Queensland Premier sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) asking that urgent action be taken in the matter of the provision of additional Commonwealth finance to minimise the effects of th!e Queensland drought. Apparently no reply was received by the Premier, and yesterday he telephoned the Prime Minister in an attempt to impress upon him the serious nature of the drought in Queensland. He also made public a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Government in which he tried to impress upon the Government the seriousness of the disaster which Queensland is facing.
The attitude of the Federal Government towards the Queensland drought is a warning signal to all primary producers in Australia. At present 85% of the total area of Queensland is drought stricken. But Queensland has been and is being affected not only by the present drought; the fact is that this drought is more or less a continuation of droughts that have followed one another for the last 10 years. There has been only one minor wet season since 1958 in the monsoon al region. The incredible indifference of the Government towards the plight of rural areas can be explained only by a switching of emphasis by the Government in recent times from primary production to the boom in mineral production. As mineral exports increase at what seems to be a staggering rate, the emphasis previously placed on primary industry for the production of export income is diminishing. In previous years no Federal Government of .any political party could afford to ignore the impending devastation and the loss of export income that could come about as a result of such a serious drought in Queensland, which has been, of all the States, the major producer of surplus goods for export. There are two reasons why the Federal Government must make a decision immediately. Firstly, there are the disastrous economic effects on the areas that are at present being devastated. These districts are now moving into a winter which promises to be dry and then into the spring which is normally a dry season. Under normal conditions Queensland cannot expect to get Tain until the storms come in late October and November, lt is now only April and all the records and experience point to our experiencing a drought which has accelerated to a degree greater than all previous droughts in history, that is, in terms of what can be sown, in terms of native pasture, in terms of superficial water, and in terms of underground water. All the evidence points to the fact that at this time the drought is further advanced than any previous drought which has occurred in Queensland.
Surely all Australians have a responsibility to try to avoid the wilful slaughter, by starvation and thirst, of the breeding stock in Queensland. This is what is occurring at the present time. The pinch penny attitude of the Government in carefully weighing the cost of carting excess grain or fodder as against the losses or the value of the cattle or sheep which might be saved is to be condemned. The cattle and sheep industries in Australia, have built the very foundations on which the economy of this country now stands. While we have a surplus of fodder and grain and plenty of trucks and railways to carry fodder and starving stock the Government should not hesitate to marshal these resources. Why cannot the Army with its men and a surplus of trucks be brought into action to move fodder, grain and starving stock? If necessary why cannot the starving stock be carted free of charge if a grazier cannot afford to pay? It is the potential that is important, particularly in female cattle which drop calves: it is the calf which breeds. I. you destroy the calf’s mother you destroy the potential. Why cannot any monetary losses, in terms of potential’, incurred in a drought be underwritten by the Treasury? It is important that a decision be taken immediately. I believe that all Australians, having given serious thought to this matter, would willingly contribute by way of an annual tax to a national disaster fund. It seems to me that as each year goes by more natural disasters are occurring, whether they be droughts or bushfires, and the cost of these is mounting each year.
It is not necessary to say that water conservation must be stepped up in areas where it is practicable to conserve water - that is, in the higher rainfall areas on the coast of Queensland, which are most susceptible to drought. These are the areas which in terms of value have the greatest losses, although the severity of the drought there may be less than in the western areas of the State, lt is a disgrace to this nation that in the 68 years since federation the various Commonwealth governments have given to Queensland, the State which has the greatest natural water reserves, only one dam - the Fairbairn dam, which is still not yet constructed. In agricultural areas as well as in pastoral areas long term finance must be made available for carry-on finance because of the increasing frequency of droughts, irrespective of the intensity of the drought. Whether there is a drought or not, fixed cash costs in the form of rent, rates, taxes, repairs and maintenance have to be met.
Some farmers in the cane areas, for instance in the Bundaberg district, will not cut 1 ton of cane this year. There are hundreds if not thousands of graziers who will not market one head of sheep except virtually to give it away because of the drought. This also applies to pastoralists. It must be obvious to everyone that the Federal Government’s ad hoc attitude to disasters must end. To wait until something happens and then to make a decision, or to wait for a favourable political time to make the decision, is not the way in which to tackle the problems of drought. Systematic and commonsense planning must be implemented to minimise recurring droughts, even though the initial costs will be high, lt is incredible that the Prime Minister should continue to refuse even to reply to the urgent requests by the Premier of Queensland, by telegram, letter and telephone, for additional help. This shows a degree of arrogance or inattention on the part of the Prime Minister with respect to this very grave problem.
As I have said and will continue to say in this House, until the Government does something about this drought, which has all the hallmarks of being one of the worst, if not the worst, in the history of Queensland, if it had not been for the very heavy expenditure on water points on properties and the availability of wheeled transport in the form of road trains, then the crash that would have occurred would possibly have exceeded anything in the history of droughts in Queensland. As I said before, Queensland is now facing the winter, which is normally dry, and it will then go into the spring, which is normally dry. The position is worsening.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to bring to the attention of honourable members a matter which 1 consider to be of importance and which is a clear example of the Government’s complete disregard for national servicemen. I refer to an inflexible policy which the Government continues to enforce and is not prepared to review in any circumstances. I have already brought this matter to the attention of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). I shall read a letter written by a national serviceman at present serving in Vietnam who applied for a war service homes loan. I will not mention any names. The correspondence is available. The Minister for Housing is aware of the details and I did advise the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who represents the Minister for Housing, that 1 would be raising the matter tonight. This is what the serviceman had to say in his letter dated 2nd February 1969 which was addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service:
I am a national serviceman currently serving in Vietnam. I am married, and have borrowed $6,000 from the Commonwealth Bank, Mayfield branch, to build my home at Valentine, NSW.I entered into the contract with the bank two years before my call-up in February last year.
Would you please inform me as to whether I am eligible for a loan under the War Service Homes Act to pay my loan back to the bank. As war service loans have many advantages over bank loans it would be to my advantage if this could be arranged.
I will now quote the reply from Mr E. H. McGrath, Deputy Director of War Service Homes. It reads:
I refer to your request for assistance under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to discharge the existing mortgage over your home at Valentine.
I would explain that it is the purpose of the War Service Homes Scheme to provide homes for eligible servicemen and ex-servicemen who do not have a home of their own. In accordance with the intention of the scheme, it has been the policy for many years not to provide assistance to discharge existing mortgages except those arranged with the prior approval of the Department.
Your desire totake advantage of the favourable conditions on which War Service Homes loans are available is understandable. However, for the reason mentioned, I regret that it is not practicable to approve of your being granted a War Service Homes loanto discharge the privately arranged mortgage on your home.
At this stags the young serviceman came to see me and explained his position. I outlined the facts of the Government’s policy, and upon his request I took the matter up with the Minister for Housing. I finally received a reply from the Minister on 21st April of this year. Naturally the name of the serviceman is included in the letter, but I will simply refer to him as Mr X. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr Jones,
I refer again to your representations on behalf of Mr X, a national serviceman now serving in Vietnam, whose application fora war service homes loan to discharge the existing mortgage on his home was declined by the Deputy Director of War Service Homes, Sydney.
As you are aware, the policy of refusing war service homes loans to discharge privately arranged mortgages is a long standing one and is based on the intention of the war service homes scheme to provide homes for eligible persons who do not already own a home. This policy, which has been affirmed by successive governments, is administered uniformly and applies to all eligible persons irrespective of the theatre of war in which they had qualifying war service. Applications for assistance from eligible national servicemen such as Mr X must, therefore, meet the conditions under which war service homes loans are granted in the same way as applications from other eligible persons and I can see no prospect of the Government agreeing to any change in the general policy.
Against the above backgroundI regret that I must confirm the decision conveyed to Mr X by the Deputy Director, Sydney, that he could not be granted a war service homes loan to discharge the existing mortgage on his home.
Yours sincerely, (Annabelle J. Rankin)
The position is that both the Deputy Director and the Minister have said the same thing, that is that the Act does not provide for a loan to be granted to an otherwise eligible applicant for the discharge of an existing mortgage. Let us examine the facts in this case. First of all, when the young man negotiated his loan with the Commonwealth Bank 2 years prior to his call-up he was not an eligible applicant. He did not become an eligible applicant until after he was called up for national service under this Government’s policy and was conscripted to serve in Vietnam. This made him an eligible applicant. As this. Government is so concerned with enforcing national service training on. the young people of this community, why can it not amend the War Service Homes Act so that people in these circumstances can be granted a loan? This man would be among a. very small minority of. national servicemen who are at present in Vietnam or who have had service in Vietnam and who have subsequently become eligible for war service loans but who have been refused because of the circumstances. I suggest to the Minister that it is tune for the Government to review its policy on this matter with a view to making eligible for war service loans those men who are in a position similar to that of the man I have referred to.
The Minister has said that it is the longstanding policy of successive governments not to grant loans - in these circumstances. The Minister was referring only to LiberalCountry Party governments, to the Menzies Government, the Holt Government and now the Gorton Government, not to Labor governments. When the Australian Labor Party was in office it permitted the granting of loans for the discharge of existing mortgages. It is only the policy of successive Liberal-Country Party governments that is being applied. It is time the Government reviewed its rigid, inflexible policy and brought it up to date. One would conclude from the letter of the Minister that there are teams and teams of ex-servicemen, a long string of ex-servicemen, applying for war service homes loans today and that the Government is having great difficulty in finding sufficient money to provide these men with loans. But the fact is that any eligible ex-serviceman can obtain a loan almost instantaneously. Once he has gone through the formalities he is granted his loan. Furthermore, Government returns on loans exceed the amount of money which is being lent at the present time, so the Government does not have the excuse that the money is not available. There was an excess of receipts over expenditure of $12m in 1966-67. In 1967-68 the surplus was $23m.
In the light of this information why can the Government not review its policy? It has conscripted these young men into the Army and forced them to do national service here and overseas. I suggest to the Minister that the time is ripe for the Government to review its policy. I point out once again that it has been only successive Liberal-Country Party governments that have not granted loans in these circumstances. Even when the Act provided for the granting of loans for the discharge of existing mortgages a ministerial direction was issued to the various State Directors that loans were not to be granted to discharge mortgages. So the blame is entirely on the shoulders of the Minister for Housing. It is the responsibility of the Government to review its policy and grant loans for the discharge of existing mortgages so that servicemen may receive the undoubted benefit of a war service loan. Why can they not be given every opportunity to .do so? The Government cannot fall back on the old cry that it does not have enough money because obviously receipts far exceed expenditure, as 1 have already pointed out.
– The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) raised a matter that is of great concern to the Queensland Government, the Federal Government and the people of Queensland, particularly those who are affected by the present drought, which is one of the worst in the history of this great State. But when the honourable member says that the Federal Government is indifferent or arrogant in its approach to this problem I must take issue with him. In the first instance, the Queensland Government made an approach to the Federal Government for drought relief assistance, and the Queensland Government was given assistance on a SI for $1 basis. The Queensland Premier came here and discussed the matter with the Federal Government. lt was suggested at the time that the
Government was prepared to give further consideration to providing drought relief to Queensland at the end of the financial year. From the way that the drought has developed I believe it is necessary that the Government should give consideration to providing further assistance to Queensland for drought relief before that time. I have said so in the House before and so have other Government members. Queensland members and senators on the Government side have been working on this and have been giving support to the Queensland Government’s case for further drought relief assistance. I am quite sure that the Federal Government is at the moment giving serious consideration to what can be done to assist Queensland. Federal Governments over the years, have been sympathetic to cases where there has been a great national need for Federal assistance, and this Government has not been backward when called upon. This Government is at least as good as previous governments in coming to the assistance of those who need it as a result of a national disaster.
The honourable member for Dawson suggested that we should have a planned campaign and that we should not wait for disasters to occur before making a remedy available. He said that the people are prepared to pay taxes to cover this campaign. It is easy to say that, of . course, when one does not have to raise the taxes. But it is a matter which does need a great deal of assistance and a great deal of planning. I want to point out that droughts do not follow a particular pattern. We have different types of droughts and they have to be approached differently. In this case the people in southern Queensland have had access to good markets for their stock in New South Wales. I believe that in this case consideration should be given and can be given even at this stage to assist by providing transport so that as much stock as possible can be brought economically from the drought areas to the areas where food is available for them. I hope that the Government will be giving consideration to this, but by the same token I believe that the detailed administration of drought relief is better in the hands of State governments because they have at their disposal details of the needs of their States, Such relief is better implemented by the State governments whether it is for drought relief or for any other natural disaster. If finance is made available, it is better to allow the State governments to develop their plans of operation. lt is desirable that fodder should be transported free of cost and the Queensland Government has indicated that it will transport wheat, if it is available, on the Queensland railways free of cost. This is a good effort on the part of the State Government and I commend it. I hope that in respect of expenditure that is incurred in alleviating the effects of drought the Federal Government will come to the assistance of the State governments to a degree that will make it a reasonable contribution when compared to contributions :that have been made in other circumstances in respect of other natural disasters. I am confident that the Federal Government . will look at this drought in the same national, way as it looked at the bushfires .in Tasmania, the floods in New South Wales and droughts in other areas.
It has been said that provision should be made for droughts. This, again, is easier said than done. Finance has to be provided and it is not always easy to provide it. Planning for drought relief is something to which wc must give further consideration, lt is advisable that this matter should be given the utmost consideration but at the same time 1 do not think that we want to ever forget the problems that are related to it. Great steps have been made. The Queensland Government has a farm water supply scheme which has done much to alleviate the problems of drought where water is such a vital factor. Great strides have been made in respect of water conservation. The honourable member for Dawson has suggested that the only dam that this Government has helped to construct is the Emerald. Dam. This was a’ recent project and it is just, getting under way. Although there was criticism at the time that it was being built at a politically opportune time, the advantages of that dam will be felt throughout large areas of Queensland. The great pity is that it is not full at the moment. We realise that, and the Government realises it -too. lt has introduced a scheme of water conservation and the Fairbairn Dam in Queensland is the first to be commenced under the scheme. The dam, which is now to be constructed on the Gwydir River in New South Wales as a result of this Government’s efforts, is going to result in the expediting of the Pikes Creek Dam. As I understand it this will provide water along the border rivers between Queensland and New South Wales.
While I agree that more money could be and should be made available for water conservation, which is one of the vital needs of this country, the Government is alive to the need and is taking steps in that direction. I hope that the path it has begun to travel will be followed with even greater rapidity in the future and that we will get the benefits that only water conservation can provide. We have seen examples of this and 1 hope that the whole House will realise just what it means. In the St George area of Queensland where irrigation has been undertaken by the Queensland Government the population is increasing. It is one of the few areas of Queensland where population is increasing as a result of this activity. I do not argue the point that it is a good idea for more money to be made available for water conservation in this, the driest continent in the world. I go along with the idea that planning, as far as it is possible, is a good idea, but I challenge the honourable member for Dawson when he claims that the Federal Government is indifferent. The Federal Government is not indifferent in any way; it is seriously concerned with the position and is examining it at the moment. I am confident that the Federal Government will give worthwhile assistance to enable Queensland, in its hour of trial, to cope with its terrific drought problem. It is not an easy problem with which to cope.
– You are leaning on a broken reed.
– The honourable member can have his say - that is, if he is an expert on drought or any other subject. The point is that it is not easy to solve the problem. It cannot be solved in 5 minutes. Many factors have to be taken into consideration. I believe that the Commonwealth Government is anxious to help the Queensland Government. The future will prove that what I am saying is correct. The Federal Government will take notice of and will be glad to meet the wishes of the Queensland Government and the group of members who have been considering this matter and providing the Government, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, with the information that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth Government to make a decision in respect of making finance available in these circumstances. While on the one hand I agree that in some respects there is some merit in some of the points made by the honourable member for Dawson, on the other hand his accusation about the willingness or keenness of this Government to assist Queensland is quite groundless and I am confident that this will be proved in the not too distant future.
– I rise to support the proposition put to the House by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) concerning a national serviceman now serving in Vietnam who applied to the War Service Homes Division for assistance under the Act to discharge an existing mortgage. The honourable member for Newcastle is to be commended for bringing this matter before the House. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who represents in this House the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), is now in the chamber and no doubt when he replies - if, indeed, he does reply - to the case presented by the honourable member for Newcastle, he will again advance the arguments that have been used by him and by the Minister for Housing on this question over a long period. Not only does this matter concern those men who are now serving this country in Vietnam, but it applies to all ex-servicemen in Australia who previously, under a Labor government, as the honourable member for Newcastle pointed out, were entitled under the war service homes legislation to discharge an existing mortgage.
The present Government decided, when it came to power, to amend the legislation. On 9th December 1951 the Government decided to amend the Act by regulation so that it would no longer be possible for an ex-serviceman, who was eligible under the Act, to discharge an existing mortgage. It prescribed that an advance was not to be used to discharge an existing mortgage unless with the prior approval of the War Services Homes Division. This is very important to many ex-servicemen who want to discharge existing mortgages.
As I pointed out only a few moments ago these circumstances applied under a Labor government, and when this Government came to power not only did it take the opportunity to apply this kind of restriction to prevent the discharge of existing mortgages and to prevent servicemen who are eligible under the Act from accepting the benefit of the low rate of interest of 3i%, but indeed it applied, as this House fully understands, a waiting period which existed under the war service homes legislation and under the policy of this Government for a long period. The waiting period has now been removed, but the Government is still employing the restriction on ex-servicemen who want to discharge an existing mortgage, lt will be interesting to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service explain to this House how this Government can condone a policy which prevents a national serviceman, serving in Vietnam and wishing to discharge an existing mortgage which he probably had applied for and had had accepted before he was called up under this Government’s legislation, from discharging that mortgage.
The honourable member for Newcastle pointed out that one of the reasons given by the Minister for Housing for the application of this kind of regulation is that those who have not received assistance under the War Service Homes Act should be provided with a home before existing mortgages can be discharged. The plain fact is that the number of applications has declined, and if there was some basis for the application of this kind of restriction back in 1951 it certainly does not apply in 1969. Again, as the honourable member for Newcastle pointed out, the Government is now receiving each year in repayments and interest more than it approves each year in the Budget for expenditure under the War Service Homes Act. In 1957-58 expenditure under the Act was $70.3m. The receipts in that year were $29.3m and 14,383 applications were approved. By 1963-64 the situation had changed. The amount approved by the Government in the Budget of that year was $70m. The receipts were $55. lm and the number of applications approved had fallen to 9,000. In 1967- 68 the expenditure had dropped from $70m - this is the amount made available by the Government under the war services homes legislation - to $46m, and the number of applications approved in that year was 6,788. In that year the Government received in interest and repayments of capital $69. lm. In that year it made a profit on its transactions of $23m. In 1968-69 the expenditure is $50.5m. The receipts are estimated to be $7 1.8m.
Again, in this financial year the Government will make a profit. on its transactions of 82 lm. Surely in these circumstances with a profit being made by the Government on its war service homes transactions - that is, because the amount of repayments of capital and interest exceeds the amount that the Government makes available under the terms of the war service homes legislation - and the decline in the number of applications there is no necessity for this kind of restriction to apply. If it was good enough for a Labor government to accept the principle which is included in the Act - this is done merely by regulation and is a matter of policy, as the honourable member for Newcastle pointed out in the letter which he sent to the Minister- it ought now to be possible under this Government. It is merely a matter of policy that the War Service Homes Division does not approve of the discharge of an existing mortgage. This restriction has applied since 1951 and the Government can no longer justify its refusal to discharge existing mortgages for those who are eligible under the terms of the war service homes legislation.
Therefore I hope that the Minister will be able to give to this House a reasonable explanation of why the Government persists in refusing to agree to the discharge of an existing mortgage, as in the case dealt with by the honourable member for Newcastle. Here is a young man serving in Vietnam who purchased a home before he was compulsorily called up for service as a result of the legislation adopted by this Government. Because he is placed in these circumstances the Government says to him: You are not eligible for assistance under the terms of the war service homes legislation’. He wants to discharge an existing mortgage of $6,000. The Minister knows that if this ex-serviceman sold the home that he is now purchasing he would be entitled under the Act to assistance under the war service homes legislation. He would then be entitled, one would assume, to the maximum advance of $8,000.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had the opportunity of listening to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and also the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) speaking tonight about an issue which could probably quite easily be resolved with the normal amount of representation to the Minister concerned. I think that is probably what it is worth, and I am sure that if the honourable member for Newcastle put it to the Minister he probably would get a sympathetic bearing. But the point I want to talk about tonight is something which is just as important and does nol include for a change the rat rushing and the plunging to the depths of despondency, despair and gloom in which the. Australian Labor Party currently indulges in trying to support that 5%, the militant, ‘ intellectual, highbrow minority of university students in Australia.
I would like to talk about a very important statement which the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) issued very recently concerning Australia’s export income from minerals. We are talking in terms of something like SI ,000m which is a fairly big figure and something which wc as a nation may well think is worthy of consideration. The Minister said in a Press release, ND 47, very recently that the value, of Australia’s mineral exports is expected to exceed $ 1,000m per annum, for the first time, in the financial year 1970-71. I expect, of course, an immediate university move to support this excellent boom in the Australian economy, and no doubt the students will receive the normal sympathetic hearing which the authorities in Australia give today. In brief, the reason for my rising tonight was simply to emphasise three or four of the major points which the Minister made in that Press release and which I feel are most pertinent. He said that the main increases had occurred in the planned exports of coal, iron ore pellets, alumina, lead, zinc, tin, copper, and bauxite. The value of exports of mineral products is expected to increase from S542m in 1967-68 to $l,285m in 1973-74. This afternoon the Opposition claimed that the Government had fallen down on its decision to buy ships for our container trade and to operate them through Associated Container Transportation (Aust.) Ltd; that the Government had fallen down on the provision of drought relief, on this, that and the rest of it. Yet in a period of 5 years the value of our mineral exports has increased by 137%. This is a feat beyond the wildest expectations of 10 months ago. When it comes to talking dollars and cents the Labor Party usually talks through its hat. The figures I have given indicate the growth of Australian industry, which the Government has sought to control not only for the good of Government parties and of the Opposition but of the nation as a whole.
Let me refer to just three examples - bauxite, alumina and aluminium. Between 1967-68 and 1973-74 the value of these things will increase from S55.9m to $248m or 390%. On the basis of signed contracts, the value of coal exports will increase by 190% from $85. 1m to $247m.
– That is private enterprise.
– That is dead right. The honourable member is not complaining because he is sitting right under it, earning $12,000 a year. The value of our copper exports is expected to increase from $35.6m to $98m, an increase of 175%, mainly as a result of an increase in exports of refined copper. The Opposition is hopelessly split, as was demonstrated yesterday. Honourable members opposite need not laugh; we have more of them today than we had 12 months ago, but the Opposition does not know where it is heading with its defence policy. We still do not know who the real Leader of the Opposition is. We are talking about a very important matter - a massive increase in Australia’s export income brought about by international sales of our minerals. This is a predominant feature in the community today - overly so. If I say nothing else I would like to compliment the Australian Government.
Opposition members - Oh!
– Yes, you have criticised, and you are good at it. That is why you are in opposition. You have done nothing and that is why you are out of government. I compliment the Government on its encouragement to the earners of export income. So when we talk about shipping, containerisation and free enterprise, which the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has so often referred to when he has engaged in parish pump politics about cargoes of apples lying in the Suez Canal, we should remember these important figures relating to exports of minerals. The honourable member is leaving the chamber. He does not want to listen to the facts. The figures reflect the growth of the Australian community. Tonight we heard the Labor Party’s shadow Minister for National Developmentthe honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I cannot remember his speaking for more than li minutes without raising some controversy. He is very good at cane cutting and crop dusting; at engaging in parish pump politics in his own electorate. But how about looking at some major international projects which concern the internal welfare of Australia?
I rise tonight simply to refer to the three mineral types that I have mentioned. Spectacular growth has been achieved. Spectacular results have been maintained. Australia’s long term future is guaranteed not so much for what we are selling today as by the fact that we are able to sell what we have. On the other side of the House we have a splintered 42-strong party. The reason why its numbers are so depleted is that its members have not got off their back sides to put forward anything constructive. I have given tangible figures to support this Government’s-
– I rise to order. I consider the honourable member’s remark to be unparliamentary.
– There is no substance in the point raised.
– The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines ‘back’ as referring to the aft position of a person’s body and ‘side’ to either starboard or port. Let me give just one more figure in order to ram these figures down the throats of honourable members opposite. Production of manganese will increase from $7 .9m in 1964, when Labor’s great boy at Mount Isa was having a swing at the Government, stirring up the Corns, the militants and the left-wingers, to $16m in 1973-74 - an increase of about 145%. And so the story goes. We have a sorry set of individuals on the other side.
-Order! The honourable member must watch his language.
– We have a sorry set of honourable individuals on the other side, who have criticised the Government tonight but who have not bothered even to read the Press release to which I have referred, which records an increase in the value of mineral exports of more than 100% in 4 years. That is not bad, I suggest.
– I refer to the matter raised earlier in this debate by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson); The drought in Queensland has created’ a critical situation. At the risk of sounding a bit sorrowful I remind Government supporters who feel that I may be exaggerating that they could talk to their colleagues ‘ from Queensland, who would agree that everything that has been said on this subject is correct. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), while introducing politics into the subject, agreed that the position was drastic. It is so drastic that the Premier of Queensland took the unprecedented step of handing to the Press a personal letter which he had forwarded te the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The first approach to the Prime Minister on this matter was early in February. It was 5 weeks before an announcement .was made that the Commonwealth was prepared to come to the party on a $1 for $1 basis. So much for immediate assistance.
About 2 weeks after the letter had been forwarded the Prime Minister was in Brisbane opening the. Liberal Party’s headquarters. He was asked about Commonwealth assistance and he said that the matter had been brought to his notice. The honourable member for Maranoa asked for help for the Queensland Government. I acknowledge that it should be in need of help over the next 3 weeks, with an election on 17th May, but I am more concerned that help should be provided for the people affected by drought. On 16th February I asked the Prime Minister, by telegram, whether he would consider granting some assistance and later in the House I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to see whether some of the surplus wheat in the southern Stares could be made available to Queensland. The Minister indicated that he was prepared lo see what could be done in this regard. In a letter to the Prime Minister on 28th April the Premier of Queensland asked for this wheat to be provided and suggested that the Queensland Government could carry the grain for stock fodder free of cost.
It is not only the cities that are suffering from the drought. The Isis sugar mill will crush only 47% of its peak - 8 weeks crushing. In Maryborough there will be only 8 weeks crushing. It is suggested that every week of the drought means one week less of crushing. The reduced crushing will affect the employment of people in the sugar growing areas. Some of these people have been registered for unemployment benefit since the last crushing. The local authorities in these areas have sought assistance to provide employment for the people affected by the drought. Each local authority was given $10,000. The Prime Minister, in reply to my telegram of 16th February, intimated a week ago that he was willing to look at the position after the end of June, in the next financial year. I respectfully suggest to the House that there is a need for immediate action. I do not agree that the Queensland Government has been quick to act. In the matter of Killarney, history has been repeated. The Government was so slow to act that when assistance was given I understand the first building to be repaired was the TAB office. Often the assistance that is given is too late. I urge the Commonwealth to give immediate assistance and to heed the requests that have been made not only by honourable members on my side but also by honourable members on the Government side of the House.
The position is grave. Queensland has very little winter rain that will assist in providing fodder. Even where a winter crop has been planted and there will be some growth, water is still a problem. The creeks are drying out. Those people who were conscious of the need for water conservation and built dams have found in recent times that they have been using more water than they normally do. They have allowed their water reserves to be used because they expected rain in what is usually the wet season; but the rains did not come. There is no water for stock and many people have been carting water. At Taroom, which is not far from Maryborough, cattle were dying last Christ mas. That shows how long the drought has been in existence. Winter is coming and we can expect very little rain in the early spring. Unless some assistance is given immediately, the position will be even more desperate.
– I wish to endorse the remarks of those who have already spoken in this debate. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) has said that more money should be made available for water conservation and it is - a pity that the Emerald dam is not now full of water. He is full of optimism and believes that the Government has started on the right track. He denies that it is being neglectful and believes that it will take more action before 30th June, although the Queensland Premier has been ignored to the point where he has had to telephone the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to obtain an answer to his request. I commend the loyalty of the honourable member for Maranoa to his Prime Minister, who has neglected to stand up for himself in this matter.
We on this side of the House have urged that a national emergency fund be established to deal with such disasters as drought. I warn the House that a greater disaster is in the making now than has probably ever before been experienced in this country as a result of drought. This may sound like calamity howling or parish pump electioneering, but 1 would like to make a few points for the benefit of those who do not understand the long range scale of this drought and its impact. I am no technical expert and I cannot in technical detail describe the risk, but I shall try to put it in the rough on a broad canvas. Firstly, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said, the most affected area is one where drought is an annual event. No other State has such a consistently rainfree winter and such an unbalanced concentration of its average rainfall in a midsummer monsoon season. Therefore, Australia should take warning that this drought is almost certain to continue for months.
Secondly, the area is one that depends primarily on the cattle and cane industries precisely because of the rainfall patterns. These industries are not far behind wool in providing large slices of our overseas earnings. A serious deficit threatens this country this year and next as a result of this drought, irrespective of the huge mineral export income that another honourable member has mentioned in this debate. Cattlemen who are familiar with droughts are selling their calves. 1 am speaking now of the area within 200 miles of Rockhampton where half of our export cattle are fattened.
The cattlemen who are desperate are transporting cattle they cannot sell to public roads and lanes. One of them was asked what he would do if rain did not come in the winter. He said: ‘I will drive them around all winter. What else can I do?’ Honourable members can imagine how many cattle will be left if that state of affairs continues. The honourable member for Maranoa wishes to leave details of drought relief to the States. That would be all right if the State governments had the money that he is advocating. Several inequities have not been attended to by any government in this type of approach. Applications have been made for agistment of about 62,000 head of cattle, I believe, in the Shoalwater Bay area. This is a ridiculously large number for the area to be made available by the Army and the Department of the Interior.
I believe that the Queensland Government and the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) are conferring on fencing needs and other matters that must be attended to before large scale agistment can be undertaken and before applications can be allotted. I trust that they will be allotted on the merits of each case, not so much on the capacity of an applicant to pay as on the impact of the drought upon his situation. Low interest long range loans must be made available on a greater scale. The Army with its equipment and manpower could be marshalled in the area. I have in mind the alacrity with which such facilities have been made available to help large industrialists when they have had industrial trouble. I think the suggestion bears looking into; for instance, the Army could help with fencing problems, and certainly with equipment. The Commonwealth Government could well finance the fencing required in the area.
Facilities are being made available to finance freight costs of starving stock. Again this is a case of too little too late where disaster has occurred. An attempt is made to make amends when it is already too late. When cattle are starving they are a liability to the man on the land. They are eating his property and he is not able to sell them. So he shoots them or cuts their throats, or disposes of them for a ridiculously low figure. It is not enough to subsidise freight for starving stock. Assistance should be given now, before the cattle are starving, while they are in saleable condition and can stand being transported, when there is a possibility of saving them. Action should be taken to secure in some way the interests of the men who cannot afford to pay freight costs because of the drought,
The Commonwealth . should provide fodder storage. This could be set up jointly with the States. I am not arguing that the States should not be concerned in the details, but at least the Commonwealth could plan with the States on a Commonwealth scale. Producers’ organisations could be consulted. I am not suggesting a nationalised project. I maintain that it is possible to be a Socialist without wanting everything done by governments. The cost of a national, fodder storage scheme could easily be recouped by charging for the fodder at a slightly higher rate than is paid for it in times of plenty. There must be a way of working this out on a national scale. Big graziers have managed to beat droughts by having properties at opposite ends of Australia - in the area around the Gulf of Carpentaria and in South Australia - and by moving their stock from one end of the country to the other. If this can be done by private interests, by these giant holdings, it can be done on a national basis. Now is the time to consider the proposition.
– The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and several other honourable members have raised matters relating to the drought conditions which presently are being experienced in Queensland. They are quite right in doing so because at present a large area of Queensland is suffering from severe drought. In fact, in some areas which have been mentioned the drought is more severe than at any previous time on record. Several comments have been made as to the action which should be taken in this matter by either the Queensland State Government or the Commonwealth Government. Also, a number of constructive proposals have been made as to other actions which should be taken to assist the people in Queensland. All I can say is that those constructive proposals will be carefully considered.
But I point out that the criticism which has been directed at the Government tonight is, first of all, not fair and, secondly, not factual. The honourable member for Dawson knows, as do his colleagues in the Opposition - and this matter was emphasised by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa - that the Commonwealth Government is not only taking action in relation to the drought situation which exists, and which has existed for some months, in certain parts of Queensland, but is making an allocation of approximately $2.2m to Queensland in this financial year. This amount is substantially to cover the residue of the problem from the first half of the financial year. It is impossible for anyone to predict what the drought conditions will be in 6 or 12 months time. The pattern of droughts throughout Australia bears out that statement. Seasonal conditions in most States in Australia are reasonable. But at the present time a large part of Queensland, which last year had a reasonable season so far as grains and other crops were concerned, is suffering from severe drought. The pattern was not obvious last year but it is now obvious because Queensland is suffering from lack of rain during what traditionally would be the wet season.
So the first point is that in a country the size of Australia and with the varying conditions which exist, it is impossible to predict that a drought pattern will remain on a stabilised basis year by year. We need to adopt a flexible policy in order to deal with the situations as they arise. That is exactly what the Commonwealth and the States, which have the prime responsibility, have been doing over the years. The States must be the first ones to react to a situation of emergency, and they do react. But I point out to the House that the first response to the drought situation in Queensland, prior to it developing to its present serious stage and when it became obvious that the wet season was not breaking as it should, was a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) some days prior to the Premiers Conference which was held in this chamber, that the Commonwealth, on any case submitted by the Queensland Government, would be prepared to meet the emergency situation on a $1 for $1 basis.
When the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland were in Canberra, sitting at this very table, this matter was raised. At a later stage, they moved out into the Prime Minister’s suite- after the Premiers’ Conference was adjourned. Again this matter was discussed. A public statement was made by the Prime Minister, after his discussion with the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland, - indicating that the matter was being further examined. Not only was $2. 2m being made available by the Commonwealth to Queensland this year but also, in addition; further firm proposals would be re-examined, whatever seasonal conditions were and whatever the results might be at the end of the current financial year.
Since then the situation, as has been explained in the House tonight, has deteriorated further. It has been made quite clear to the Queensland Government that firm proposals that - are put up will be examined sympathetically. One may confidently accept such a - statement. One has only to remember that in 1965 when a very severe drought situation existed in New South Wales and Queensland, the Commonwealth provided not only a $1 for $1 payment but also the total amount that was required at that time to meet the drought situation. The Commonwealth Government has always examined these situations sympathetically and met the demands that have been made upon it.
On this occasion we have an emergency that transcends party differences. I do not believe that we should be making political capital out of the misery suffered by people in outback areas. Our intention is that when proposals are put up - and they are at the stage of being examined at the present time - they will receive the usual sympathetic consideration from the Government. The Prime Minister undertook at the time of the Premiers’ Conference to reexamine the situation in the light of conditions at the end of the financial year, but if it is thought necessary, on the detailed information provided by Queensland, to make an earlier re-examination, this certainly will be done.
The last point that 1 wish to make is in relation to water resources. Much has been said about this matter. The honourable member for Dawson has made reference to it again tonight, as has the honourable member for Maranoa. The Commonwealth Government did say. on the recommendation of the Australian Water Resources Council, that it would make available over 5 years an amount of $50m for the schemes which were submitted to it by the States. An amount of $53m has already been approved by the Commonwealth above the original amount that was indicated, and a very substantial proportion of that amount is being allocated to Queensland. I merely draw attention to this fact to indicate that, in this field, the situation has been recognised and no doubt more will he done again in the future.
In other fields, the further development of our roads systems, involving such greater assistance to the’ States which [ hope will be authorised by this Parliament before very long, the provision of assistance for harbours and for land development schemes, all of which help to soften the impact of drought and increase the resources available to deal with such situations, are part of the overall plan that has been adopted by this Government in recent years. I say in conclusion that the points that have been raised tonight certainly arc noted. We are aware of the problem that exists. Everything possible will be done within the resources of this Government, in the close co-operation that has existed with the Queensland departments concerned and the Queensland Government, and I am sure that the situation will be dealt with sympathetically before it develops beyond a point where it might become irremediable.
- Mr Speaker, the House must be indebted to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who has just put the record straight in relation to the drought in Queensland. It certainly is a grievous national disaster. But I think it i.; unfortunate that honourable members opposite should try to make poli tical capital cut of it and, moreover, misrepresent the facts in doing so. I do not think that any great credit accrues to them. The Minister for Civil Aviation has indicated the assistance that the Federal Government has already given to Queensland. Much has been made of communications between the Premier of Queensland and the Federal Government. We must not take these out of context. The fact must be that the Premier of Queensland, who has an election on his hands, has been pointing out to the people of that State that he has taken the necessary steps to alleviate the effects of the drought in that he has asked the Federal Government for additional assistance. I think it would be an irresponsible government which automatically said: ‘We have been asked for certain additional sums of money. We will automatically accede to the request’. Naturally, investigations have to be made to protect the taxpayers, who, after all, provide the money.
The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) drew an analogy with the dam at Emerald. I wish to point out to him that the decision to construct a dam at Emerald was delayed for some time because it was an extremely difficult decision to make. In this area of low precipitation an unusually large dam was necessary. Also it was necessary to determine whether the surrounding soils in this fairly remote area were suitable for irrigation purposes. These investigations and many others took a long time to conduct. That is why there was a considerable delay before the project was brought to a state of realisation. I am sure that the Federal Government is giving the same consideration in this instance. 1 draw the attention of the House and of the Government to one aspect of primary industry which has been overlooked by honourable members opposite. I refer to the small crops farmers. These people are as badly afflicted by the drought as are the graziers. In fact, the graziers have a prime responsibility to provide against drought by sensible stocking, attending to their pastures and conserving fodder. Good graziers do just this. That is why they are not in as bad a position as those who have not done so. Although the individual grazier can help to alleviate the effects of drought by providing for himself in this manner, the small crops farmer is much less able to do so. Although he may construct a dam on his property or rely on underground water for irrigation, if rain does not fall for any length of time his dams may dry out or the underground water supply may fail or become brackish. He can find himself in a difficult position during a drought. But when rain falls and smalt crops farmers are able to plant their crops, they find that there is a glut on the market and they receive very little monetary yield for their efforts. So, the difficulties of the small crops farmers are prolonged far beyond any time of drought. The House should take notice of this aspect of primary industry which might readily be overlooked. These people are already grievously afflicted and they will continue to be afflicted long after the drought breaks. I appeal to the Government to consider these people who, as I have said, are affected long after there has been sufficient rainfall to alleviate the effects of drought suffered by other sections of primary industry.
– The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) and other honourable members have referred to the very serious drought which is now affecting a large part of Queensland. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), no doubt mainly in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Treasurer, also contributed to the debate. I wish to make only one main point. It relates to Commonwealth and State policy in regard to drought assistance, particularly one specific aspect of that assistance. The Commonwealth Government, without any doubt, has moved into the drought assistance field in a vast way in recent years. It has not hesitated to assist a State on a total basis when a major portion of that State has been affected. Equally it has not been afraid to move into the smaller regional droughts and to give very substantial assistance there, too.
But the usual action of the Commonwealth is to respond to specific recommendations made to it by the States. It looks at these specific proposals and approves, varies or rejects them. It does give some blanket approvals. It then provides the finance for these specific programmes to be carried out. However, there are some proposals that the States find difficult to put to the Commonwealth because they involve measures that would assist people moving either stock or fodder or both over State boundaries. I believe that there is now a case for the Commonwealth looking from its point of view at the history of drought in Australia, particularly in the last 4 or 5 years, picking out particularly those measures in which more than one Stale would be involved and not being afraid to initiate specific measures even if it only initiates them for discussion between the Commonwealth and the States.
I will mention only, one example of this, but I would like to emphasise it because it is a very fundamental one. When there is a drought in a State or in any region of Australia which overlaps State boundaries, very often, if not invariably, somewhere else there is a considerable fodder resource which is not fully stocked. The major problem is to move the stock to the fodder or the fodder to the stock. I do not want to go into ail the details of the fact that occasionally there are situations in which the stock cannot move and the fodder has to be brought to them. That is obvious. In many cases there are large numbers of commercial stock which can be moved to good feed, provided the transport cost to the individual farmer is not overwhelmingly great. In the New South Wales experience we have seen subsidies of 75% made in the case of rail transport. Also in New South Wales we have seen subsidies allegedly of 50% made in the case of road transport. In practice that 50% often has turned out to be about 30% or 33%.
I am suggesting that this is the kind of proposal that can be looked at by the Commonwealth because, in the present drought in Queensland and in the previous drought - we can almost call it previous now - in Eden-Monaro, there has been a considerable need for stock and fodder to move across the border. In the case of EdenMonaro, it has been across the Victorian border. In the case of Queensland, as the honourable member for Maranoa would know, there is considerable stock movement from the southern portion of that State very deep into New South Wales. If the Commonwealth could look very seriously at working out some method of helping seriously to subsidise such movements of stock, I believe that it would be one of the best possible ways in which public money could be used to alleviate drought. It is not simply because ofthe complications of administration in respect of a trip, part of which is done in one State and part in another.
The other important matter is that, again for reasons that I do not think I have to elaborate too much, there are many stock situations in which it is simply not practicable to use rail transport. There are stock situations in which any good stockman who is looking principally to the wellbeing of his stock is just not prepared to load them into a road truck, unload them, reload them on to rail transport, unload them, reload them on to road transport and then finally unload them at the point where he has been able to get some agistment. He would rather pay the higher cost of the less subsidised road transport and pick up his stock in one operation, deliver them and drop them in one operation. With road transport stock is handled only twice whereas it is handled about six times with rail transport.
I believe that the Commonwealth needs to make a serious study of how to subsidise road transport. I believe that the subsidy on road transport should be lifted to at least 75%. Indeed,I believe it could be responsibly lifted to even 80% or 85%. This would extend the capacity of people to use the further range of available grass. I believe that some content of cost should be left in it sufficient to ensure that the individual farmer makes a responsible decision. I very strongly believe that the option to the farmer should be completely open. He should have a choice between road or rail.
I do not believe that there is any other measure concerned with the payment of public money that could do more good than the ironing out of the transport problem. This could be done by seriously subsidising the transport of stock - preferably not on a rebate system - so that optimal use could be made of what fodder we have in nondrought areas during droughts in areas that are so seriously affected as Queensland is now. I hope that the Minister at the table will look at this seriously, because I know just how much good this kind of policy would have done if it had been applied during the last 4 or 5 years. A much greater amount of grass would have been used and the benefits that the economy would have gained from this over that period has been lost and grass has been wasted because of the lack of this kind of policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Those listed in Category II are contracts under which the C.S.I.R.O. collaborates with companies in specific research and development projects and under which some privileged position in respect to patents is reserved for the company.
Because of the large number of contracts in which the Department of Supply is involved, and the classified nature of some of them, that Department has found it impracticable to itemise individual contracts.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he consider the setting up of a coastguard service on the Australian coast to assist and protect fishing vessels and other craft?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Arrangements already exist whereby fishing vessels and other craft receive a measure of assistance and protection from the States and the Commonwealth, but, with particular reference to fisheries, a comprehensive study is under way of the long-term problems of fisheries patrolling around the Australian coastline.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the average age of (a) members of the House of Representatives and (b) senators in (i) 1946 and (ii) 1968?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate have advised that the official records do not contain the dates of birth of all members and senators in 1946 and 1968 and that the following information is therefore based on data obtained partly from unofficial sources:
Members of the House of Representatives:
At 31st December 1946 - 52 years 1 month.
At 31st December 1968-53 years 2 months. Senators:
At 3 1st December 1946-60 years 10 months.
At 3 lst December 1968 - 56 years4 months.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What consideration has been given to prohibiting the export of artifacts and works of art deemed to be of national importance?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An interdepartmental committee, convened last year to consider the question of controls over the export of Australia cultural property, is examining this question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Lang on 14th November 1968 (Hansard, page 2849), he considers ‘Waltzing Matilda’ the national song, what steps must be taken or have been taken to secure its recognition as the national anthem?
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows: 1 and 2. Our national anthem is ‘God Save The Queen’, which is appropriate to a monarchy such as Australia and to those occasions which mark our allegiance to The Crown, such as when His Excellency the Governor-General attends official functions. No steps, therefore, have been taken to secure the composition of a new national anthem. It is my personal opinion, however, that ‘Waltzing Matilda is our national song. I feel it would be appropriate as a salute on occasions not involving the monarchy, such as the arrival at a ceremonial function of an Australian Prime Minister, or the presentation of a medal to an Australian athlete at the Olympic Games.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690430_reps_26_hor63/>.