21st Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator VINCENT presented four petitions, each signed by thirteen officers and employees of the Commonwealth Public Service, praying that the Parliament grant immediate increases of marginal rates of pay of all Commonwealth public servants.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a report of a statement by the New Zealand Minister for the Welfare of Women and Children, Mrs. Hilda Ross, that Australia was the main source of obscene books, which has appeared in various Australian newspapers, including the Adelaide Advertiser of the 15th July, 1954? If so, and if the statement be not true, has the Government denied the allegation? If the statement be true, what action does, the Australian Government intend to take in order to assist the New Zealand Government to wine out this blot on Australia? Is the Minister now able to supply me with an answer to a question about the Government’s power to control the Dublication and sale of abscene and filthy literature in the Australian Capital
Territory, which 1 asked towards the end of the. third session of the Twentieth Parliament ?
– I have not seen the statement mentioned by the honorable senator. If he will supply me with a copy of the Adelaide Advertiser containing the report, I shall be happy to give the matter full consideration.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by reminding him that, about eighteen months ago, he referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the matter of the uneconomic price of tin in Australia and the question whether the tariff duty on imported tin was warranted. Is the Minister aware that some tin-mining activities in Tasmania will be obliged to cease operations if the industry is not afforded relief in the near future? Can he say whether the Tariff Board has completed its investigations? If so, will the Minister endeavour to expedite a decision by the Cabinet on this important matter ?
– I understand from the honorable senator, and from other sources as well, that some branches of the tin industry in this country are having a very severe time. This matter was referred to the Tariff Board on the 24th August, 1953. Although the hearing has been completed, no report lias yet come to hand. When it is received I shall give it early consideration.
– As it has been stated that the Government will be represented at the adjourned hearing of the margins application before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, will the Attorney-General, in order to allay industrial unrest in this country, endeavour to arrange for the hearing to proceed forthwith, or early in September ?
– The Prime Minister and, I think, the Minister for Labour and National Service have made statements in regard to this matter and T have nothing to add to what they have said.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport know that there is a shortage of Newcastle coal at Port Augusta? Have any arrangements been made to meet the position ?
– That matter was brought to my notice some time ago. The ship Era has now been earmarked to load coal for Port Augusta, and will leave Newcastle at the end of this week.
– I am informed that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has a reply to a question that I asked in the Senate on the 5th August regarding the shipment of gas coal from Newcastle to Launceston.
– In reply to the question that was asked by Senator Guy and a deputation on the same matter that waited on me at Launceston, I am pleased to be able to state that the manager of the Australian Shipping Board has made a special ship available to help the Launceston Gas Company build up reserve stocks of gas coal. The ship is Dalby which will load at Newcastle in a fortnight. The ship will be in addition to the regular shipping service to Tasmania, and I hope that it will meet the immediate need.
– “Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate when an automatic telephone exchange will be installed at Devonport, Tasmania? “When will new post offices be built at Ulverstone, Burnie and Smithton on the north coast of Tasmania in order to replace the crowded premises that are now in use?
– I shall bring the question of the honorable senator to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him for a considered reply.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer make a statement on the attitude of the Commonwealth Bank Board to the wage claim of employees of the Commonwealth Bank in view of the fact that the unusual step was recently taken by the bank officers of holding a mass meeting to consider the wage injustice that they consider that they are suffering?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Treasurer.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the report that the Government of New South Wales has achieved a surplus of £2,000,000 for the financial year 1953-54? Does this surplus indicate that the demands that have been made so frequently by the Premier of New South Wales for further Commonwealth finance were unrealistic, irresponsible and unjustified ? . Doe3 the surplus vindicate the judgment of the Australian Government with respect to its policy of tax reimbursement to the States?
– The answer is, of course, “ Yes “ to each of the honorable senator’s questions. I read the report to which the honorable senator has referred in this morning’s newspaper with a good deal of interest, but with no surprise at all. The Menzies Government has been most generous in its treatment of the New South Wales Government and this declaration of a surplus of £2,000,000 by the New South Wales Government just lets the cat out of the bag. Ever since we have been in office the New South Wales Government has been crying a poor mouth about not being able to obtain its financial requirements from this Government. Its budget disclosed that it has received so much money that it has been unable to spend £2,000,000 of it.
– Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate whether a firm known as Sixty-Six Millimetre (Australia) Proprietary Limited, which is an auxiliary of the J. Arthur Rank organization, has made a present of a valuable film projector to the Prime Minister? Is the Government aware that other Australian subsidiaries of the
– I do not think any honorable senator will approve the tone or the implication of the question asked by Senator Ashley. I assure the Senate that the Prime Minister has not been made the recipient of any present. The gift of a projector was made to the Prime Minister’s Lodge, not to the person of the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that there .is a continuing shortage of rice in Western Australia ? Is he also aware that the excuse given by merchants to consumers is that, whilst it is true that markets in the eastern States are well supplied, lack of shipping space accounts for the shortage in Western Australia? Will the Minister take all possible steps to remedy this situation?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator has not been brought to my notice previously. However, if it is a matter of lack of shipping, and provided that rice is available, I shall see that the situation is remedied promptly.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by reminding him that intending applicants for age and invalid pensions obtain the necessary forms from post offices. The three forms involved are contained in a wrapper, together with an information sheet. Frequently, the vital information on this sheet, relating to permissible income and property, is wrongly stated, doubtless because of the frequent improvements that have been effected by the present Government. In view of the fact that additional amelioration of the income and property conditions is proposed by the Government when the budget is introduced shortly, will the Minister have new information sheets printed and request the postal authorities to substitute those sheets in wrappers distributed to intending applicants for pensions, thus ensuring that such persons are not misinformed regarding their eligibility?
– I shall bring the proposal of the honorable senator to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. Of course, I cannot answer for him or give any promise in this connexion, but it seems to me that the proposal contains such merit that the Minister will accept it and put it into operation.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services is no doubt aware, at the present time there is a lag of fifteen months between the time when approval is given for a loan to an ex-serviceman who desires to have a house built on his land, and funds being made available. As undue hardship, due to the high rents which they mUSt pay during the waiting period, with consequent dwindling of capital, is often caused to ex-servicemen by this inexplicable delay, will the Minister consider having such loans paid immediately all requirements are fulfilled?
– The honorable senator’s request appears to be a simple one, but many considerations are involved. In the Prime Minister’s policy speech before the recent general, election, the right honorable gentleman stated quite clearly on behalf of the Government the amount that would he made available for war service homes. A similar announcement was made in the budget last year. The funds provided are the amounts appropriated for the purpose, and they are divided between different categories and classifications of war service homes. They provide for the purchase of existing homes and the building of dwellings. Within those classifications, the applicants receive advances in order of priority.
– Why do they have to wait fifteen months?
– I do not know to which category the honorable senator is referring. The position varies from State to State. There is some waiting time, but I cannot define the exact period.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been directed to a recent report by Reuter’s from Japan that Australian butter had lost some of its popularity on the Japanese market because of two factors? The first was a lack of good quality butter arriving in Japan from Australia. Secondly, a comparison of Australian butter prices with those of butter from Danish and European sources showed that the latter was much cheaper and of better quality than Australian butter. In view of Australia’s need to retain present export markets, will the Minister examine this report and, if it is correct, take action to ensure that only products of the highest quality are exported ?
– I shall refer the matter that has been mentioned by the honorable senator to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and obtain a detailed statement.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate of the amount of (a) approvals and (h) drawings from the Commonwealth Extension Grant Fund that were made to each of the States for the financial year 1953-54?
– I shall obtain the information for Senator Paltridge as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Commonwealth and State governments, by which the Commonwealth pays benefits to the States in respect of persons who are patients at approved mental institutions, will cense?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
– by leave- I desire to announce to the Senate that, during the absence abroad of the Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will act as Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) will act as Minister for Immigration.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with thu provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.. Senators Henty, Maher and O’Byrne.
Motion (by Senator O’ Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1!H6, the following senators he appointed members of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, viz., thu President of the Senate (Senator McMullin and Senators Arnold and Paltridge.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1051, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, viz., Senators Byrne, Paltridge and Seward
Debate resumed from the 5th August (vide page 76), on motion by Senator Annabelle Rah kin -
That the following Adress-in-Reply to the Speech of Hi* Excellency th* GovernorGeneral be agreed to: -
May rr PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY
Wc, the Senate of thu Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and ti> thank your Excellency for the Speech which von have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– In my remarks prior to the adjournment of the Senate last Thursday, I had begun to speak of the danger that was rapidly developing to Australian industries. Should that danger materialize, serious consequences may result, not only to Australian industries but also to everybody in this country, directly or indirectly. For a short time some advantages are to be gained by many sections of the community from unrestricted imports but, as we saw in 1950-52, such a policy will not only harm and demoralize Australian manufacturers, but will also injure even the importers themselves. When speaking of this danger to Australian industries I do not want merely to be told by the Government, “ There is almost full employment in Australia to-day; surely there is no threat to our economy when most of our man-power is at work”. I should like to warn the Government of what is happening before our very eyes. The only action that oan be taken to stop the deterioration that is already in evidence in a variety of industries rests with the government. My approach to the problem will be to state the position as I see it and urge the Government to take action before it is too late. Our balance of trade has deteriorated already to a marked degree. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, during the last financial year our exports were worth £149,000,000 more than our imports, but when what he called invisible imports were taken into consideration our export income was almost the same as our expenditure. Invisible imports cost us about £135,000,000 in that period. They consisted mainly of shipping freights and insurance payments. In order to safeguard the future stability of Australia, we must consider seriously how we can reduce our expenditure on those two items. We have discussed the problem of shipping freights in this chamber on many occasions but with little effect, I am sorry to say. One solution of the problem would be to keep the Commonwealth shipping line in existence and also to encourage private Australian shipping companies, so that shipping freights paid on Australian goods would remain in Australia, where they would play an important part in stabilizing our internal economy.
The United Kingdom is undoubtedly the greatest insurance country in the world. I talked recently with some men who visited England during the last few months. They are very impressed with the recovery there. They have told me that British insurance operations overseas have played a great part in that recovery. British insurance companies have been operating in almost every country, and I suppose London is recognized as the seat of the strongest insurance organization in the world. I do not want to do anything that would impede Britain’s economic recovery, but I say we should encourage the development of Australian insurance companies operating both here and overseas. I think three or four Australian companies have offices overseas and operate internationally. The business that they do represents, so to speak, an item to the credit account of Australia. Quantities of equipment and other goods are sent from Australia to Asian countries under the Colombo Plan. If the Australian Government decides that those goods should be insured, the insurance should be effected with Australian companies, even if their rates are a little higher than those that could be obtained from companies in Britain. One would think that articles manufactured by Australian workmen and transported to other, countries under the Colombo plan would be insured by Australian insurance companies, but they are insured by British companies. We must give our insurance companies as much protection as we give to our secondary industries. An income from insurance business is the easiest kind of income. We should do everything in our power to get it.
Our balance of trade is affected to a great degree by the money that we have to find for shipping freights and insurance payments. If we do not do something to reduce that expenditure we shall have a deficit overseas very soon, in view of the flood of imports that is coming into the country and the difficulties that confront our exporters. We are depending more and more on wool. It is dangerous to develop our economy unduly on the export of that commodity because if the overseas price were to recede we would be in serious trouble indeed. Government senators know more about wheat than I do, but it is common knowledge that the wheat industry is in jeopardy because our overseas markets have dwindled substantially. There is no immediate sign of an improvement of the position. It is interesting to reflect that since April our imports have increased by 50 per cent., but our exports have decreased by 15 per cent. The balance of payments just about broke even at the end of the last financial year. Any one who has a good knowledge of this subject must realize that we shall be confronted with a deficit in our London funds during the next twelve months. It is impossible to say at present how serious the deficit will be. There should be a full debate on this subject. I have mentioned only sufficient about the matter to show that our position has deteriorated, and that we shall have to face a very serious situation within the next twelve months.
– Can the honorable senator advance any suggestion in the matter ?
– I always endeavour to make constructive suggestions. I have already made such a suggestion in connexion with insurance, which is the easiest means of increasing our funds overseas.
– In other words, we should carry our own insurance?
– Not necessarily, but the Government could carry its own insurance. Australian insurance business should be protected just as our secondary industries are protected, because both are affected by high costs and hours of work. Many agencies of British insurance companies have been established in this country in small offices, with only two or three employees. Most of the business written in transferred in toto to London, and in the absence of re-insurance no benefit from the business is derived by this country. Much money is involved in insurance. We should be doing a great deal to safeguard our internal finance if we encouraged and developed Australian insurance companies.
The next suggestion that I shall make arises from a survey that I have made in relation to freights. We should develop our own shipping line and encourage Australian companies to enter the shipping business so that we should not have to depend on the ships of other countries to convey goods to and from Australia. I have made two firm suggestions. The Australian Government must face the situation that Australian industry is now saddled with high costs not of its own making. Since coming to office in 1949, the Government has allowed the basic wage to be more than doubled. Therefore the costs in Australian industries have more than doubled. It is futile for supporters of the Government to say that inflation has been conquered ; it has been stabilized. Let us hope that the position will be kept in check. Many manufacturers in this country are now unable to compete successfully with overseas manufacturers, and unless the position is remedied, many of them will have to close down. I shall cite figures to show that Australian manufacturers are at a serious disadvantage compared with the British manufacturers. The wage rates in the weaving industry in Australia are S1.6d. an hour for male weavers and 63. 6d. an hour for female weavers, compared with 42.19d. an hour and 30d. an hour respectively in the United Kingdom. The Australian rate for female weavers is more than double the English rate. In addition, the British working week is 45 hours, compared with 40 hours in Australia. Of course, the Australian producers have not been responsible for this state of affairs developing.
I shall now give a comparison of costs in four countries in relation to four items in the textile industry. The following table shows the percentage by which the prices of a sample range of Australian textiles exceeded the prices of similar duty-free imported goods landed into store in Australia : -
It is therefore obvious that the flood of textiles to which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan has referred will be intensified, and that the matter demands the urgent consideration of the Government. Only last week the clothing manufacturers and the clothing unions in this country made a joint appeal to the Government to take steps to protect the Australian textile industry before it was too late. This industry should be developed to the full in order to provide employment for many of the immigrants who have come to this country. If the Government does not save the industry from destruction, how will we be able to absorb additional large numbers of immigrants that we hope to attract to Australia? I do not know why the Australian Government adopts an attitude in this matter different from that of South Africa and other countries Both New Zealand and ‘South Africa have provided protection for their industries. The governments of those countries ensure that no domestic industry will be placed at a disadvantage by a flood of imports. After all, the tie of trade between New Zealand and Great Britain is closer than that between Australia and Great Britain. In other words, New Zealand is more dependent on its trade with Great Britain than we are. I think the same could be said of South Africa. In the United States of America the rate of duty is based on local production costs. Australian costs should be taken as a basis in our country. During the last week-end I made inquiries about some of our industries that are already in serious trouble. Of course, I did not have time to do more than scratch the surface. I found that the textile industry was the first to be hit by the flood of imports. It is the most vulnerable of our industries.
Six months ago, the carpet industry was in a sound position. It could not meet its orders. Now the industry cannot sell Australian-made carpet squares although the selling position of wall-to-wall carpets is satisfactory. British carpets, in particular, have so undercut the Australian product that the industry is in tremendous difficulties. This sort of situation can arise very quickly. I visited a big towel mill outside Sydney some time before the general elections and found it working at full capacity. A month before the election I was informed that it was producing at only 40 per cent, of its capacity. That illustrates how quickly imported goods can affect Australian industry. During the war, local industry was able to supply all Australian requirements in refractory bricks. Yet the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is importing refractory bricks for its Kwinana refinery without having made any approach to the Australian industry. I believe that representatives of the woollen and worsted industry will wait on the Minister for Trade and Customs this week. I suppose that that industry is one of the strongest in Australia. The quality of its products is equal to that of the world’s best. Yet the industry has reached the stage at which it has to come to the Minister in order to ask for protection lest it be forced out of business. The aluminium foil industry has closed down because it cannot compete with imported foil. The circumstances to which I have referred have not yet affected the employment position, but that development will follow as surely as night follows day. Courtaulds Limited, which established its industry in the Tomago Sands north of Newcastle, is in serious trouble because it cannot compete with imported rayon yarn and tyre cord. The Government gave what seemed to be substantial assistance at the time to Australian Cotton Textile Industries Limited, the makers of sheets in South Australia. But when Actil’s figures are issued for the last financial year they will show that the company has lost as much or more than it lost the year before when it had no protection.
– Davies Coop (New South Wales) Proprietary Limited made 12i per cent.
– I do not know whether Davies Coop (New South Wales) Proprietary Limited have yet recovered from the difficulties connected with their production of duck. However, Actil is in serious trouble, which indicates that Australian industry needs substantial protection. I think that the Government gave protection in the form of a 15 per cent, tariff duty less than twelve months ago, but already that assistance has proved to be insufficient. Imports of Indian, British and Japanese sheeting are still undercutting Actil.
I shall give an instance of another state of affairs which I do not think that the Government can help. The effort that shop assistants make to force one to buy imported articles in Sydney’s big retail stores is shocking. The Australian-made product is the last that one is shown. One shop assistant told me that the price of sheets was about to rise because Actil had just been granted considerable protection. I asked him if Actil had not reduced its prices by 10 per cent, when it was last granted protection. He said, “But you would not buy Actil would you?”
– I had the contrary experience.
– Yon can state your experience later, but do not be rude now.
– I only want the honorable senator to state the truth.
– I am relating an experience that I had. The salesman then produced another British sheeting and invited me to compare it with the Australian product. I asked if there were not a very important price difference and he said that there was. The British sheeting was about £1 a. pair dearer. “With great haste, he grabbed another imported sheet which was about the same price as Actil and it was obvious that as far as his store was concerned, Actil was the last cab on the rank. Retail establishments are now opposing every application for tariffs that is made to the Tariff Board. They know that the Australian manufacturer is always around the corner to supply them at a week’s notice. They have entered into high commitments for overseas materials and they want to get rid of imported products quickly. I should say that their profit on imported material is greater than on local products. The short-sightedness of their policy amazes me. One would have thought that they would have learnt their lesson when they were in trouble in 1952, but they are ordering abroad with the same frantic haste as they did before. When the last flood of imports came the Government imposed import restrictions. At that time very many people were in the importing business, almost by accident, because there seemed to be big money in it. When the bottom dropped out of the market these people were left with import licences and they are now indenting on behalf of other people whose industry might be 1,000 miles away from them. They receive up to 20 per cent, of the base value of their licence in return for making it possible to bring the goods into the country. There is a basic weakness in the import licensing system. I do not know the solution to the problem. Because import licensing was introduced at a time w heu there was such a high level of imports it has failed to safeguard local industry against a continuing flood of imported goods and many industries are in serious trouble. There are factories producing cotton meat wraps in Brisbane and Sydney. There was also a factory in Adelaide, but it was obliged to close down because it could not compete. Both the Sydney and Brisbane factories are operating with skeleton staffs. As honor able senators may know, most Australian marble is produced at Rylstone, New South. Wales. The industry is not a big one. Italian marble can be landed, in the other States of the Commonwealth for 10s. a ton less than it costs to deliver marble from Rylstone, so that the only market available for the Australian industry is in New South. Wales. The tuna-fishing industry is one to which this Government has given great help and to which, indeed.,, all Australian Governments have given assistance. Yet, that industry also is in a serious position at the moment. The United Kingdom used to take most of our tuna, but because costs in the Australian industry have been constantly rising, South America has now captured the United Kingdom market. In a magazine issued by the fishing industry only last April I saw an appeal to Australian fisheries to develop the tuna industry because, it was stated, that was one industry for the product of which there was an unlimited market. It was said that tuna could be sold in cans to the United Kingdom, and frozen to the United States of America and Canada. However, in a few months the industry has declined seriously. I have no doubt that, already, sufficient tuna has been caught and canned to supply the Australian market for’ twelve or fourteen months. The situation of that industry will not improve; rather will it deteriorate.
We all know the plight of the Australian toy industry, due to competition from Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. Our plastic toy industry which, two years ago, was shaping well and giving promise of playing an effective part in the economy, is now stagnant. T have before me a list of references received by the Tariff Board between, the 1st March, 1953 and the 30th June, 1953. Many of the industries to which I have already referred are included in the list, as well as industries producing rayon goods such as tyre cord and rayon yarn, aluminium goods, and slide fasteners. The production of uncut moquette was commenced four or five years neo at Seymour, Victoria, and the article produced was unequalled by that -produced anywhere else in the world. However that industry also is now in a serious position.
If we are to become a great nation, one of our basic tasks is to protect our secondary industries. It; is futile to try to preserve a fine balance in our overseas payments. Already we can see where such, a policy is leading us. The Australian shipbuilding industry has also been an applicant for protection at the hands of the Tariff Board. Despite the fact that tha board has been divided and that there, are now two bodies operating, applications are still not dealt with quickly enough. The result often is that, by the time the board considers an application and. makes a recommendation, the industry concerned finds itself in serious difficulties.
It is well known that primary production does not provide employment for as many people as does secondary industry. We must build up our secondary industries, so that they will be able to absorb the large numbers of immigrants coming here. It is notorious that there is no friendship between nations where trade is concerned. In many instances, Australian industries have been subjected to ruthless, and sometimes successful, com.petition from overseas. We must build a tariff wall all around our industries. That may, perhaps, give rise to a degree of inflation, but it will be only temporary inflation. Once an industry is established it begins to produce wealth and contribute to the prosperity of the country. We in Australia are now facing threats to our security at closer range than ever before. For that reason, it is imperative for us to be able to defend ourselves, and I think that everybody will agree that our basic defence lies in strong secondary industries. From that source would come our war effort. Without strong secondary industries we could not prosecute a defensive war or be of much assistance to nations which came to our aid. Courageous action is necessary to remedy the desperate plight of many of our industries, but that action must be taken if we wish Australia to develop as it should.
.- I wish to support the motion that was so ably moved by Senator Annabelle Rankin and seconded by Senator Paltridge. In moving the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply,
Senator Annabelle Rankin gave a comprehensive survey of Australia’s social services system and mentioned many of the anomalies that escape most honorable senators, although they are obvious to women. Therefore, her contribution to the debate was a valuable one. Senator Paltridge put forward constructive suggestions,, particularly with reference to the development of Western. Australia, and they are well worthy of close attention.
I propose to refer briefly to some of the matters that were mentioned by Senator Armstrong. I have been unable to detect in what way much of what he said could be related to the Speech that was given by the Governor-General or to the motion that is before the Senate. Nevertheless, some of the matters that he raised are worthy of consideration. The first of these is his reference to Australia’s invisible imports, in the form of insurance and shipping services, amounting to £135,000,000. Senator Armstrong presupposed that Great Britain would purchase goods to that value from us if Australia did not take those services from Great Britain. His argument is baseless because those are services by which Great Britain pays for the food and goods that it purchases from Australia. No one, least of all myself, would try to assess what would happen if Australia set up socialized insurance and overseas shipping service? in Australia as .Senator Armstrong obviously expects us to do.
– The honorable senator is taking liberties with my speech. I did not say anything that could be construed in that way. I spoke of Australian insurance companies and Australianowned shipping lines.
– As the policy of the Australian Labour party is directed towards socialism and as Senator Armstrong is a member of that party, I assumed that he would subscribe to its platform. However, on listening to him. I was certain that he had some knowledge of, and perhaps some interest in, private enterprise also, because he referred to the problems of private enterprise. I was interested in his reference to the cotton meat wrapping industry.
Surely no country will attempt to keep active an industry that has outlived its usefulness! Senator Armstrong must know that packaging of meat does not now call for wrapping in cotton. Plastics have taken its place. How could this Government or any other government be expected to bolster an industry of yesterday? A similar question might be asked regarding other industries that were mentioned by Senator Armstrong.
Throughout his argument, the honorable senator overlooked the fact that the Tariff Board does not exist to protect Australian secondary industries irrespective of their efficiency as he suggested. The Tariff Board first must be satisfied that Australian industry is efficient. That is one of the foundations of our economy. If secondary industries that are inefficient or partially inefficient are protected, the associated costs are passed on to the great primary industries which provide the bulk of Australia’s export income. To maintain a fine shade of competition between imports and locally manufactured goods by using as an arbiter an independent and impartial Tariff Board separate from the political field, is a proper policy. That policy has been adopted by this Government and is supported by the Australian people.
Recently, I was greatly heartened when 1 listened to a magnificent speech by a visitor from Great Britain. The gentleman to whom I refer is managing director of a large industry in Great Britain and has been the captain of many productivity teams that have gone from Great Britain to the United States of America. After spending some time in Australia, he made a comparison in his field of industrial activity between Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America. Apart from some not very complimentary, but not too bad, comments upon Australia’s approach as a nation to hard work, he said he found that the great weakness in Australian industry was lack of scientific management. He considered that we suffered there in comparison with the United States of America and Great Britain. The speech was delivered over the Australian Broadcasting Commission network, and I have obtained and studied a copy of it. He said that at one time Great Britain was in the position in relation to the United States of America that Australia now occupies in relation to Great Britain and the United States of America. Only by the formation of productivity teams representative of capital and labour, which visited the United States of America and studied American methods, had Great Britain been able to improve its industries. Now, he said, Great Britain was a prosperous and actively competitive nation as it had been before World War II. That was achieved only because the Americans threw open their doors to productivity teams from Great Britain, as they would to productivity teams from Australia, and enabled them to study scientific management as it is practised in the United States of America.
In Great Britain and the United States of America, capital and labour work together in the common interest. That is something that we have not learned to do in Australia because of bad leadership, and discouragement by those who occupy the Opposition benches in this Parliament of any attempt by capital and labour to appreciate fully that their roles in modern history are complementary. If such a.n understanding were achieved, it would be one of the most valuable contributions to the solution of the problem that Senator Armstrong has posed. I do not agree with many of the statements that he has made. I have read some well-informed reports on economic surveys of Australian industry and have discovered that, apart from a few casualties that can always be expected, the great problem of Australian industries is to introduce and train scientific staffs and management. When that problem has been solved, we shall make advances.
I wish to refer now more directly to the Governor-General’s Speech. Dealing with payments to the States for road purposes, His Excellency said -
The new legislation will provide for a new basis and a very substantial increase in the Commonwealth Aid Roads payments.
We shall all welcome the increased assistance that is to be given to the State governments and to localgoverning authorities for the construction and maintenance of roads. I congratulate the Government upon this proposal, which will be of immense benefit to Australia. Particularly do I commend that portion of our aid roads legislation which provides that 35 per cent, of the Commonwealth grants must be expended in sparsely populated areas. That is an admirable provision, which was inserted by this Government, and one that is of incalculable benefit to rural industries and country areas generally. There is one other way, however, in which I think local authorities could be assisted greatly. They should be exempted entirely from the payment of the pay-roll tax. I am sure that I speak for everybody in this chamber when I say that I should like to see the pay-roll tax completely abolished, but at least State and municipal authorities should be freed of the obligation to pay it. The pay-roll tax levied on such authorities is virtually a tax on a tax, because rates have to be increased to meet it. Exemption from the pay-roll tax, together with the new formula for the granting of Commonwealth aid, would be of great assistance to bodies that merit all the help we can give them.
The second matter mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech to which T shall refer is the immigration programme. There is one aspect of the Government’s immigration policy which I think is doing much for newcomers to this land. I refer to the removal of the atmosphere of institutionalism from nationalization ceremonies by having such ceremonies carried out by local authorities. To-day, many new Australians are taking the oath of allegiance in municipal chambers which are steeped in all that is best of man’s service to the community. They are becoming Australian citizens in the communities in which they are to spend the rest of their lives. Consequently, I believe that this new approach by the Government to this matter will commend itself to all Australians.
The third matter to which I propose to devote a few minutes comes under the heading of the development of Australia. I refer to war service land settlement. I shall relate my remarks to an area with which I am well conversant, and which I think illustrates the problem that has arisen. Earlier to-day I asked a question about a particular estate, and I propose now to bring the details of that matter to the notice of honorable senators. A problem has arisen in the north-east of Tasmania, which, if not tackled immediately, will result in the loss to that State of many thousands of acres of grazing land. I may be told that this is a State problem; but it is greater than that, because much of the estate to which I refer has been taken up under the war service land settlement scheme, for which money is provided by the Commonwealth. I have with me some photographs that I have had taken in the Waterhouse area. One of them shows a fence, or rather what is left of a fence, which marked the line from, which cultivation and sowing were carried out under the war service land settlement scheme. It was erected on an area which the authorities claimed would, never be reached by sand. But to-day, only the top of the fence is visible over the sand, and beyond the fence many hundreds of acres of pasture land have been inundated by sand. In the same area, the drainage system has been completely blocked by sand. The lagoons into which water was to drain are now sand-filled. One photograph, taken from the air, shows great tongues of sea sand stretching across this estate. I say, therefore, that this is more than a State problem. The Commonwealth must be interested in it because of the vast sums of money the State has spent under the war service land settlement scheme. There is an urgent need for the establishment of an authority representing the Commonwealth, the State, and the landholders to deal with this problem as a whole. So far, only desultory attempts have been made by private landholders on a £l-for-£l basis to stem the encroachment of sand. They have been planting marran grass, but the stock from nearby areas over which they have no control wanders over the nearly submerged fences and destroy the marrar grass. It is merely throwing good money after bad. We have something to learn from New Zealand in tackling the sand problem.
– And from South Australia as well.
– I am glad to hear that, although I have no knowledge of what is being done in that State. In New Zealand, a special authority has been set up, and through a proper scientific approach, magnificent results have been achieved. Brush fences have been built and the gullies in which the sand starts to blow have been filled up. Marran grass is then planted and is followed by wild lupins and then forests. In one area those forests are already revenue-producing because, under supervision, small quantities of timber are being cut for sale each year. I plead with the Government to investigate the conditions in Tasmania before more valuable land is lost. There is a sound case for federal assistance. To deal with the area as a whole - and that is how it must be dealt with - is beyond the capacity of the State Government and I urge that the problem be given immediate attention by the Commonwealth.
I want to deal now with a matter of great importance. I shall address my remarks mainly to Opposition senators. There are not many of them in the chamber now, but I hope Senator Armstrong, who I understand is still the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, will convey my message to his absent colleagues. The Governor-General said -
The conduct of Australia’s external relations over the last three years has been a complex task. The course of world events gives ground for concern that this task will be no less difficult during the life of the Twenty-first Parliament. . . My Government proposes to continue the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament and hopes that in the Twenty-first Parliament all parties will participate.
We on this side of the chamber regret the continued refusal of the Labour party to take part in the deliberations of this very valuable committee. It is almost a truism that never before in the history of Australia has the question of our relations with, and understanding of, our neighbours been more important than now. I do not believe there is a better way in which honorable senators could learn to understand our neighbours than by taking part in the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I have heard various reasons advanced for the continued refusal of the
Opposition to be represented on the committee, but nothing can outweigh the fact that at this stage of our history it is essential to make a non-party approach to the dangers that face .us in the near north. It is very important that we should try to understand our neighbours there. We all regret that, so far, the Opposition has not been able to raise its head above the handle of the parish pump in dealing with this matter. Every honorable senator has a duty to inform himself of the developments in other lands. I hope the Opposition, even at this late hour, will agree to cast its eyes beyond the boundaries of Australia and to permit some of its members to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee, so that they will be able to inform themselves fully of developments overseas and help to influence public opinion in Australia. The Labour party could play a great part in presenting the international position to the Australian people and in conditioning a great portion of public opinion on it. The Australian people must be warned from all sides of the Parliament of the dangers that lie ahead of us. By fully informing ourselves of the course of international developments, we could do something to avert those dangers. I have pleasure in supporting the motion.
. –Honorable senators on this side of the chamber agree whole-heartedly with the part of the Governor-General’s Speech in which he re-affirmed our loyalty to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, but apart from that, there is very little in the Speech about which we can be enthusiastic. It was just a repetition of the promises that have been made readily, and broken just as readily, by this Government while it has been in office. Much has been said about the international situation. Senator Henty mentioned the dangers in the near north. The Government has expressed its concern about the international position, and rightly so. We are all concerned about it. Last week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a very important statement, in the course of which he said that Australia was prepared to face war. The GovernorGeneral said -
Mindful of the serious international tensions and conflicts, especially in Asia, my Minister forExternalAffairs has . . . paid visits to Indo-China, India andPakistan,has participated in the Geneva Conference, and has visited London and Washington.
It is proper that we should maintain close liaison with the countries with which we shall be associated if any international trouble develops. The GovernorGeneral said also -
My Government is undertaking a reorganization of the defence programme to achieve the maximum security that the country can provide for a long period, having regard to the needs not only of defence hut also of economic stability, a steady development of population, and resources, and high levels of production and employment.
But we know that during the last few years the Government has hindered the development of the country by allowing work on State developmental projects either to be stopped altogether or seriously retarded. It boils down to a question of finance. Every year, the State governments have approached the Australian Loan Council. What has happened recently is painfully reminiscent of the depression years, when the States could never get the money they required. The States have placed before the Australian Loan Council their minimum requirements but, as yet, they have not received, either collectively or individually, the funds they have sought for the development of their States. In the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government has admitted that the basic responsibility for the development of this country rests upon the State governments. If they do not get the funds necessary for their developmental projects, the development of the nation as a whole must suffer.
In view of the dangers that confront this country, why should not the Government make sufficient funds available to the States? If there were a gap between the revenue derived from ordinary sources and the sum required by the States, bank credit could, and should, be made available by the Commonwealth Bank. I do not suggest that bank credit should be issued too freely. There must be safegaurds against that. The money, having been expended, could he retired and cancelled. The basic necessity is for this Government to treat the development of Australia as the first and foremost consideration. But what do we find? I have an extract from the Melbourne Age which refers to the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister to the tragedy of what are known as the “ creeping lakes “ in the Colac area of Victoria. The Prime Minister said that that problem was not a national responsibility, but purely and simply a State responsibility. But the States arc not given sufficient funds for their ordinary developmental projects, let alone funds to deal with disasters of this kind that occur from time to time. In the Colac area tens of thousands of acres of highly productive land have been thrown out of production by that disaster, but this Government says that that matter is not a national responsibility.
We have been told that the Australian Loan Council is a democratic organization on which the States can outvote the Commonwealth; yet time and again, when the Commonwealth was outvoted by the States, the decision of the Commonwealth stood. Another report in the Age of the 3rd May, 1952, reads -
Flat Rejection of State Proposals. higher Tax andBank Credit Refused.
Canberra, Friday. - The Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting to-day flatly rejected a three-point ultimatum by State Premiers to secure maximum fundsfor State works.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told the Council the Government was unwilling to increase taxation or resort to bank credit to finance State works.
Although an ultimatum was offered to the Loan Council by theStates, it was rejected by the Prime Minister. In the same edition of the Age, this report was published -
Heavy Cut in Programmes - P.M. Limits Aid to £125,000,000.
Canberra, Friday. - The States are not likely to have more than £200,000,000 to carry out public works in the 1952-53 financial year.
The amount will consist of a £125,000,000 underwriting guarantee by the Commonwealth from revenue plus whatcan be obtained from the loan market.
The States came to the Loan Council with works programmes totalling about £345.000,000, but late to-night made a last minute compromise request for £225,000,000 - the 1951-52 figure - plus 10 per cent.
In each year since this Government came to office there has been a vast increase of costs, necessitating increased public works costs. But the Commonwealth has not recognized that necessity, as the following report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the same date, shows : - £247½ mil. sct: defy Menzies.
The Premiers rejected an offer by the Prime Minister of additional help above the £125 million if the loan market should become favourable.
The tragic feature is that the Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth could not approve the requests of the States for more loan money because the loan market was not sufficiently responsive. Let us consider the position that could arise if an enemy force were to land in the north of Australia - and God forbid that it ever should !Would it be of any use for the Government to send a note to the commander of the force requesting him to wait in the north until the Australian troops could be sent there, because the loan market had not been very favorable and for that reason necessary preparations had been retarded? Perhaps the Government would send the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) to have a talk with the commander of the invading force ; or perhaps the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who could sell our ships to them. That would put them in the bag, because, although they would then have our ships, we would have their cash - and they could not come south without money! Perhaps the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would then get a bright idea to lend them their money at a high rate of interest, whereupon they would have to pack up and go home, because we would be a creditor nation. I have mentioned these obvious absurdities to show the stupidity of restricting the development of this country according to the limits imposed by private finance. Apparently, the private hanks and financial institutions dictate the policy that this Government shall apply. There is no reason why the Government should not resort to that great institution, the Commonwealth Bank, in order to bridge by bank credit any gap between the amount of loan money available and the amount required. That is absolutely essential.
– Apparently the honorable senator would use the Commonwealth Bank to gobble up the other banks.
– On the contrary, I am showing that we must he realistic. The Governor-General stated -
It is a fundamental part of the policy of my Government that the development of Australia should proceed at the highest practicable rate.
Why “practicable”? Why not the fullest possible physical rate? Our production should be limited only by our physical resources. But, of course, not only this Government, but also previous anti-Labour governments, have been bound to orthodox finance. His Excellency continued -
This requires an adequate supply of labour and materials: sound policies for encouraging private investment and an inflow of capital ; close financial collaboration with the States, who are responsible for most public works: the encouragement of savings by monetary stability; . . .
Of course, we agree with all those things, but I cannot see why the development of this country should be retarded solely on account of lack of finance. In Victoria, several essential projects have been held up, not because of an insufficiency of labour and materials, but because sufficient money could not be made available by the Loan Council. Thousands of men were dismissed from the Eildon weir project, and at Morwell in Victoria from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 worth of capital equipment was allowed to rust and rot because money was not provided to complete that project. Supporters of the Government continually advocate the development of Australia. Development of a State is national development in the true sense. This Government has admitted that the States are primarily responsible for developmental projects. Had the Morwell scheme for the gasification of brown coal been completed, Victoria would have been relieved of the necessity to obtain gas coal from Newcastle, thus saving freight and other charges. I could point to a number of other weaknesses in His Excellency’s Speech, which was the medium adopted by the Government to inform the people of its policy. None of the States has been able to obtain from the Loan Council during the last few years all the money it needed to complete public works.
– How, then, does the honorable senator account for the fact that the States have had surpluses during that period?
– I have not heard of a State having a surplus for many years.
– Queensland had a surplus in the last financial year.
– Presumably Senator Kendall is quoting from a newspaper report. He should know better than to take notice of everything that appears in the press. When Mr. McDonald was the Premier of a previous anti-Labour Victorian Government, he complained bitterly of lack of money to complete developmental projects. The stark political dishonesty of the Australian Government is emphasized by the fact that, while on the one hand honorable senators opposite continue to tell the people about dangers that confront this country, on the other hand, they hinder the development of Australia by refusing to make available to the States enough money for the completion of public works.
I support what Senator Armstrong has said about the textile and clothing industries. The Warrnambool Woollen Mill Company Limited is greatly concerned about the flood of textile imports into Australia since the lifting of the import restrictions. I quote the following from a letter written by the secretary of the company : -
The following figures supplied by nine textile mills show how vitally employment depends on effective production: -
That is a decrease of more than 400 employees.
– There is worse to come.
– That is so.
– And the population is increasing also.
– The letter also contains this table -
We are now witnessing a return to the conditions that existed in 1951-52. In that year, there was a vast pool of unemployment in Australia, due to the lifting of import restrictions and a consequent flood of imports of all kinds. The textile industry is usually the first industry to be affected by the encouragement of imports.
Housing is a matter of great concern to the people. In this connexion, His Excellency stated -
My Government will continue to undertake a large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the Status. The provision of war service homes will be vigorously pursued.
My Government now proposes that it should be made possible under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement for tenants to purchase on liberal “terms the homes in which they live.
Here again, I contend that a fundamental factor of national development is the proper housing of the people. This matter was mentioned during question time to-day. An ex-serviceman who lodges an application for a loan to build a home on his own block of land has to wait eighteen months to obtain it from the War Service Homes Division. What applies to those eligible for war service homes assistance applies to tens of thousands of others throughout the community. Why cannot the Government make sufficient money available through the Commonwealth Bank at a nominal rate of interest and on a very nominal deposit to enable people to build houses? The people are unable to build houses, not because of a shortage of materials or labour, but because of the difficulty of obtaining loans at a sufficiently low rate of interest and because’ of the deposit at present demanded. The War Service Homes Division lends money on the most generous terms in the country, but the interest charged and the deposits required even by that organization are far in excess of what people can afford to pay.
It is only right that ex-servicemen should receive priority in many fields, but we cannot close our eyes to the need of other people in the community. The housing position is desperate. Tens of thousands of people in every State are in need of decent housing. They are living in sub-standard homes and in emergency housing centres that are a disgrace to a so-called Christian community. Some of the conditions under which the people of this country live are absolutely disgusting. It is time that the Australian Government, in conjunction with the State governments, undertook a comprehensive home-building scheme. If sufficient money is not available for such a scheme through normal sources, the Government should make it available through the Commonwealth Bank. Every house that is built in Australia is a national asset. Every house built is an immediate revenue producer. So why the hesitancy about making money available? Is it not infinitely better to use bank credit and have the people decently housed than to allow thousands to live under the present inhuman conditions? The need is also great for lots of other social amenities, such as hospitals and medical facilities. The strength of the nation is based on its health and the general contentment of its people. A healthy people must obviously make a healthy nation. Everybody knows the urgency of the hospital position throughout Australia. The Government has been in office since 1949 and is still urging the people to develop the country, but the people cannot develop the country sufficiently without social amenities, including adequate hospital, health and educational facilities.
Land settlement is also necessary. Tens of thousands of ex-servicemen are qualified and eager to settle on the land, but they cannot do so because of the lack of finance. Tens of thousands of acres of highly productive land throughout Australia are not being used at all, and many thousands of acres are not being used to their fullest capacity. Any honest -govern- ment that wishes to develop the country must attend to these matters or it will be branded as criminally negligent. If the danger to this country from outside is as great as it has been represented, and I ‘believe it is, we have a very important duty to perform. The only limit to the development of this country must surely be physical. Any financial difficulties can be overcome. We have a great institution in the Commonwealth Bank, through which credit can be and should be issued for any national developmental work. I know that there must be safeguards. Nobody would advocate the issue of bank credit, aci lib. The money expended can be returned as soon as the national projects that have been financed are brought to fruition. There is no insurmountable barrier to the use of bank or national credit so that we can fully develop this country by the provision of housing, hospitals and all the social services that the people need. These services can and should be made available and the Government should ensure that what is physically possible should be made financially possible.
, - In supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I take the opportunity to make reference to the final announcement that appeared in that Speech. This announcement concerned the proposal to set up an all-party committee in order to review certain aspects of the Constitution. I heartily commend the Government for this proposal which, I am quite certain, will be welcomed by the whole of Australia. The relevant portion of His Excellency’s Speech read as follows : -
A proposal will be submitted to the Parliament for the appointment of a Committee of the Parliament representing both Houses and all Parties, to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution, and to make recommendations for its amendment. Among other matters which it is hoped that Committee will consider is the method of ensuring in the future some coincidence between the dates of elections for the House of Representatives and of elections for the Senate.
Two points in this announcement are important. The first, in my opinion, is that the Government proposes to tackle this subject by appointing a committee of the members of this Parliament. The second important point is that the proposed committee will review only certain aspects of the Constitution and not the working of the Constitution as a whole. The Government could have tackled this problem in several ways. Pot instance, it could have set up a royal commission. In 1949 a royal commission was appointed in order to review certain specified aspects of the working of the Constitution under the able chairmanship of Professor Peden. That royal commission took some two years to conclude its work and it made certain very important recommendations upon which I do not propose to comment. I merely mention this royal commission because it did not comprise members representing any particular class of persons in Australia nor any political party, nor the Commonwealth or the States. The royal commission attempted to consider objectively the workings of the Constitution with particular reference to the matters specified. Again, the present Government could have tackled this problem in another way. It could have assembled a convention such as I think was held in 1942 when representatives of the States and the Commonwealth assembled in Canberra and considered certain referred aspects of the Constitution. On this occasion, the Government proposes to adopt neither of the methods that I have mentioned. It has decided that the committee that will consider the working of the Constitution will consist solely of members of this Parliament. I think that that is a mistake. I believe that the sovereign States should all be consulted and invited to participate in the deliberations of this committee. After all, we are supposed to be a federation and I suggest that the interests of the States are of the essence of federation. There is hardly a sentence in the Constitution which does not in some way, directly or indirectly. affect the States, and I sincerely hope that the Government will see fit to invite the State governments to participate in the deliberations of this committee.
The second important point in the Governor-General’s Speech was the statement that only certain aspects of the working of the Constitution would be reviewed by the proposed committee. I think that that is a pity. The time is well overdue when the workings of the whole Constitution should be reviewed. I have no knowledge of the specific aspects of the Constitution that will be referred to the committee. But there is a real clanger in revising part of a constitution without reference to the whole because this may dislocate the remainder of the Constitution. It depends, of course, on what aspects of the Constitution are to be considered.
I think that one provision of the Constitution which is well overdue for immediate consideration and, perhaps, revision, is that relating to CommonwealthSlate financial relationships. I do not think that I would be exaggerating if I said that the uniform tax case of 1942, in effect, sounded the death knell of federation in this country. The judgment in that case established the position that the Commonwealth has actually a monopoly of taxation in every field. I do not think it would be wrong to say that the States have been robbed of their sovereignty as the result of that judgment. I do not quarrel with the judgment as a judgment. I have the utmost respect for the judgments of the High Court. I do not think that anybody would be so bold as to say that the judgment was wrong. In fact, it was perfectly correct, having regard to the provisions of our Constitution. I invite the Senate to listen to the words that were written by His Honour, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir John Latham, in delivering judgment in that case. I suggest that these words might well be inscribed on the walls of this chamber, which is the council of the States. The learned Chief Justice said -
It is perhaps not difficult for us to point out that the scheme which the Commonwealth has applied to income tax of imposing rates so high as practically to exclude State taxation could be applied to other taxes so as to make the States almost completely dependent financially, and therefore generally, upon the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth Parliament, in a Grants Act, simply provided for the payment of moneys to States without attaching any conditions whatever, none of the legislation could be challenged by any of the arguments submitted to the court in these cases. The amount of the grants could be determined, in fact, by the satisfaction of the Commonwealth with the polities, legislative or other, of the respective States, no reference being made to such matters in any Commonwealth statute. Thus, if the Commonwealth Parliament were prepared to pass such legislation, all State powers would be controlled by the Commonwealth - a result which would mean the end of the political independence of the States. Such a result cannot be prevented by any legal decision. The determination of the propriety of any such policy must rest with the Commonwealth Parliament and ultimately with the people.
Perhaps the final remark of the learned Chief Justice was the most profound of all. He said -
The remedy for alleged abuse of power, or for the use of power to promote what are thought to be improper objectives, is to be found in the political arena and not in the courts.
Some people consider that, in some manner, that decision changed the interpretation of the Constitution. Actually, it did not do so. Those powers have always remained in the Constitution. As a matter of fact, as early as 1902, Alfred Deakin stated -
As the power of the purse in Great Britain established, by degrees, the authority of the Commons, so it will, in Australia, ultimately establish the authority of the Commonwealth. The rights of self-government of the States have been fondly supposed to be safeguarded by the Constitution. It has left them legally free but financially bound to the chariot wheels of the Commonwealth.
The question we must answer now is: Do we confirm this situation or do we reject it? I am not here to suggest a possible way out of the problem. At the moment, it is neither propitious nor desirable for me to do so. My point is that if we confirm this situation it is high time that an instrument of this Government said so. Hence, I think it is necessary for this matter to be referred to the proposed committee. If we reject the present position, perhaps that is an even better reason for referring the matter to the proposed committee.
I turn now to the defence power, which is another important aspect of the Constitution. In time of war, the power of the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to defence is clear and precise and has been set out, for all to see, in many judgments of the Hight Court. As is well known, the powers of the Parliament during actual hostilities are very great. Indeed, they are almost absolute. Such matters as prices control, organized marketing, compulsory acquisition, control of land sales, and wage fixations all come within the power of this Parliament during the time that hostilities are actually in operation. Even matters such as the fixing of drinking hours have been included as coming within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament under the defence power. But the framers of our Constitution were not aware of what might happen 50 years after that document was written. I refer, of course, to international affairs as they exist at the moment, with a state of international tension but no actual war. In such times it is clear, from the decision in the Communist party case, that this Parliament has not the power it possesses during a period of actual fighting. The court came to that decision approximately two years ago. At the same time it came to another important decision which raised a new problem in relation to the defence power.
I think it i3 correct to say that the High Court then held, in effect, that in such cases the court, not the Parliament, is the final and decisive authority in assessing the gravity of the international situation so as to enable the Parliament to invoke the whole of the powers available to it under its defence power. That, to me, was a very important decision. Heretofore, the responsibility for making a decision concerning the gravity of the international situation was considered to reside with the executive government, in this Parliament. The question we must ask is whether such a decision should rest with the High Court or with the responsible government. Surely, the state of international insecurity which now exists was not envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. In my opinion, this matter of constitutional reform should be referred to the proposed committee.
The third matter, that of conciliation and arbitration, in my opinion, is equally important and invites immediate consideration. No doubt every one will agree that that aspect of the Constitution cries aloud for consideration and, perhaps, revision. At one stage Australia was first in the field in regard to arbitration matters, but many people are of the opinion that to-day all is confusion. As a matter of fact, approximately 35 years ago the late Mr. Justice Higgins, in referring to our federal arbitration legislation, remarked that our arbitration laws were a “ Serbonian bog of technicalities “. We have wallowed in that bog ever since. Many governments have attempted to alter the Constitution in regard to this power. For instance, the Fisher Government, in 1911, and again in 1913, attempted to do so and failed. The Hughes Government, in 1919, also tried, and further unsuccessful attempts were made by the Bruce-Page Government in 1926, the Curtin Government in ]944, and the Chifley Government in 1946. I suggest that it is time that the national question of arbitration received objective scrutiny, completely devoid of party political considerations, by a competent authority. As we are to have a committee to consider aspects of constitutional reform, in my opinion the Government should include this matter in the subjects for consideration by that committee.
The fourth, matter to which I wish to refer is the Commonwealth power relating to international affairs. Section 51, paragraph 29, of the Constitution, has this to say about the Commonwealth power -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with’ respect to: -
The fact that those two words “ external affairs “ are practically the sole source of power of this Commonwealth in the vital field of international relationships makes me somewhat thoughtful. We must appreciate that at the time that the Constitution was framed none of the sovereign States had, in effect, the power to make international treaties, such treaties being made in Whitehall. When we consider that the persons who were responsible for the framing of the Constitution had never heard of organizations such as the United Nations organization, the Colombo plan and the Declaration of Human Rights, we might well come to the conclusion that it does not necessarily follow that the present Commonwealth Parliament possesses the power it thinks it does in regard to this very important aspect of its activities. We could well throw this subject into the ring for consideration by the committee. As far as I am aware, the matter has not been considered in modern times, since international relationships have changed so much.
The last matter to which I wish to refer was touched upon in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, when he said -
Among other matters which it is hoped that Committee will consider is the method of ensuring in the future some coincidence between the dates of elections for the House of Representatives and of elections for the Senate.
It seems to me that very few people will disagree with the proposal contained in His Excellency’s Speech. Neither the Government nor the Opposition desires to perpetuate the present situation in which a Senate election is held at a time different from that of a House of Representatives election. There are two good reasons why we should attempt to make the elections coincide. The first is that no government should be obliged to answer to the electors within a shorter period than that envisaged by the Constitution. A government is elected for three years and should have three years in office before being required to answer to the people. That is not the case at present. The second reason why some action should he taken is that most people do not like this multiplicity of elections. They arc unpopular. We must not altogether overlook the possibility that this situation can continue indefinitely.
There are, in fact, three constitutional alterations which are necessary. The first, to permit of a permanent remedy, calls for alteration of Section. 13 of the Constitution so as to bring the term of commencement of the Senate into line with that of the House of Representatives which, in effect, would mean that the term of a senator would commence as from the date of the first meeting of the Senate after his election, which, I understand, is the case with members elected to the House of Representatives. The second alteration would be consequential upon the first and would relate to the actual position of the existing Senate. The life of the present Senate, as far as half the senators are concerned, will terminate in 1956, and in 1959 in respect of the other half. An alteration of section 7 of the Constitution, therefore, would be required in order to extend those periods to 1957 and 1960 respectively, and thus coincide with’ the time of dissolution of the House of Representatives in each case. I think that a third alteration also would be called for. Section 28 of the Constitution would have to be altered in order to cover the possibility of the House of Representatives being prematurely dissolved under that section. Otherwise, of course, we should have a repetition of the present position. It seems to me that the only way to get round that problem is to alter Section 2S so as to make the Senate subject to the provisions of the section; that is to say. to dissolution at the same time as the House of Representatives.
– Dissolution of the whole Senate?
– That may sound drastic. Some may argue that it is contrary to the principles and the functioning of the Senate as a house of review. It could be contended that upper chambers are not generally liable to dissolution simultaneously with lower legislative chambers. That is true. But I suggest for consideration that the Senate is not an ordinary upper chamber. Most elected upper houses are elected on a restricted “franchise, whereas the Senate is elected on a popular vote. The Senate also is the upper chamber of a federation of States, and obviously under the Constitution, it was intended to have a degree of parliamentary responsibility equal in every respect but one to that of the House of Representatives. Such a degree of responsibility is greater than that of any other second chamber within my knowledgeTherefore, I can see no good reason why the Senate should not follow the fate of the House of Representatives in the event of a dissolution under section 28. That proposal may appear to be revolutionary, but if we want to preserve the true functions of this responsible House, we should be prepared to fall into line with the House of Representatives. Then we would deserve the same fate as that chamber when it suffers a premature dissolution.
I have outlined several matters that in my opinion should go to the proposed committee. Finally, I point out that for a long time we have been under the impression that we had an indissoluble federation. Events, however, have led me to believe that the federation is on the point of disintegrating. We are rapidly becoming a Commonwealth with a central government that is completely supreme and a set of provincial governments that are now described as State governments. I believe that we are at the political crossroads. We have to determine whether we desire that situation to continue or whether we would like to preserve the true conception of the status of the States and the Federal Government. The proposed committee may assist to that end. It might not provide all the answers, but it would be a start in the right direction. I think that the Government should be commended for making such a start and I sincerely hope that it will attempt to solve some of the problems that surround us.
– The Speech that was delivered by the Governor-General and the speeches that have been delivered subsequently in this chamber from both sides, have related to problems that are facing Australia internally and financially. After 50 years of Australian federation and nationhood, time and circumstances have gradually created problems within the confines of Australia and beyond its boundaries. All of them are becoming increasingly pressing and some are urgent and dangerous. Australia’s externalattitude in relation to international affairs is a subject that honorable senators can reasonably expect to be debated in the near future. When we consider international affairs it is, as it were, a matter of Australia looking at the world. That is very important. We take a certain view of the world and therefore we have to determine our attitude to it. Something else is equally as important, however. That is the way the world looks at Australia. The second affects the first materially. If the world is looking at Australia, it is important that we should study ourselves. Much thought and interest is being manifested among the
Australian people and public men in this question.
The speech by Senator Vincent related partly to the proposal to study someaspects of the Constitution. That is one indication of Australia looking at itself. The Australian Constitution undoubtedly requires close investigation in part if not as a whole, particularly if we are to face with equanimity another 50 years of nationhood. The general question of Australia’s security, its position in world affairs, and its integrity and moral standing before the nations of the world are important matters to which I wish to refer. For a long time I have been concerned, not about the white Australia policy itself, but about the reaction of the world to it. Can we put before the bar of world opinion a morally defensible claim to hold, develop and defend this country? It is difficult to defend militarily what is indefensible morally. I have had some doubts about this matter, therefore.
In the past I have always resolved my doubts because I have recalled that a study of the history of Australia since federation shows that, in a sense, it has been particularly unfortunate. Australia has aspired to strong nationhood over a comparatively short period under abnormal difficulties. We entered World War I. only fourteen years after the beginning of federation. That was a tremendous strain upon the physical and financial resources of the nation and one that a young country should not have been expected to bear in reasonable circumstances. However, we had to bear it willingly because we had accepted the wide responsibility required of us in the interests of world peace and international justice. For a few years after World War I. we were trying to build Australia. Then the nation was struck by the cataclysm of the depression. Again our affairs had to be put into the melting pot for a time so that we could hold the nation together economically and morally. We had hardly emerged from the depression when the world cataclysm of another war struck us again with a further strain on our limited physical resources and economic potential, and a further retardation of development of this young nation..
In. estimating the moral situation of Australia with its limited population and vast area and its right to hold this country against over-populated countries, we have to consider those matters against the difficulties that we have faced and overcome in the short period of 54 years. We have to establish out moral right to hold Australia against all who might seek to take it or who would try to impose their will and their way of life upon us and substitute it for the way in which we want to live. I believe now that our moral position and standing can easily decline unless we are conscious of the things we have to do and are alert to the situation.
While I wish to discuss this matter objectively, I propose to be severely critical of the Government because I believe it has tended, by its policy over the past five years, to weaken the moral situation of Australia. When we emerged from World War II. the Labour Government of the day took the first opportunity to do two things. The first was to_ protect national self-interest by introducing new citizens to Australia. That action was a recognition that we could hold Australia only if we were prepared to populate it by natural increase and offer succour and sanctuary to people from other countries. The Labour Government was conscious of that necessity, first as a matter of national self-interest and secondly as a demonstration or gesture of international charity. It offered to displaced persons, the homeless, stateless, dispossessed and disfranchised, an opportunity to come to Australia and stand alongside us. At that stage Australia had greatly strengthened its position in the eyes of the world.
Strangely enough, in the matter that I am discussing I am always more afraid of the attitude of our friends than that of our enemies. When pressures of population create world tension and incite discords, even our best friends are liable to turn to us and ask what we are doing to ease the pressure. At such times we must be prepared to put forward a case that cannot be denied. I say with some pride that the Labour Government of that day - and I pay particular tribute to Mr. Calwell who was the Minister for Immigration - sensed the position as it arose and acted. From then until recently, no nation could point a finger at Australia and say that we had not attempted honestly to discharge our international debts in accordance with our capacity. We had done our utmost to induce people to come to Australia. In addition, we had created conditions that would tend to build our population by natural increase. The Labour Government sought to improve economic circumstances and establish full employment with a high level of wages and conditions because the depression had proved that economic factors directly affected the birth rate. In that way the people were enabled to live at a decent standard and were encouraged to rear large families. I know that possibly my own personal contribution in that regard has not been very great but still I ask honorable senators to discuss the matter objectively.
I have reviewed the achievements of the Labour Government. When the history of Australia is written and the activities of many who have passed through this Parliament are reviewed, the embarkation upon the immigration programme will be proved to be one of the brightest achievements of the governments that have held office since federation. It is tragic to note the deterioration in immigration that has resulted since 1949 as a result of the attitude of the present Government to this matter. When I place before the Senate some of the figures in connexion with immigration that I have obtained, honorable senators on the Government side will be staggered. Those figures show that immigration has diminished greatly from year to year under the influence of the present Administration. Figures can be very confusing, but the statistics that I have before me are simple to follow and tell their own story. In 1947 the net gain to Australia by immigration was 12,1.86. In 1948 it rose to 48,468. In 1949, when the Labour Government’s programme was actively under way, the net intake by immigration rose to 149,270. In 1950 the Labour Government’s programme was still effective and the figure rose to 153,685. Then the flow began to decline, and it is a fair circumstantial conclusion that the decline was due in some measure at least to the immigration policy of the present Government. From the peak of 153,685, the net intake dropped to 110,362 in 1951. In the following year, there was a further decline to 97,454, and by 1953 the net immigration intake of this great country was only 42,8S3. For the first two quarters of 1954 the figure was 31,584. After all, 1949 was only a few years after the conclusion of hostilities, and in those few years the nation had been confronted with all the problems associated with the re-orientation of its economy to peace-time conditions; yet the Labour Government was able to achieve the magnificent result to which I have referred, whereas in 1953, eight years after the end of the war, this Government was able to bring only 42,883 people to Australia. But those figures, bad as they are, do not tell the full story. Equally significant are the number of permanent departures from Australia in the same period. Departures totalled 18,457 in 1949, the year in which arrivals reached 167,727, leaving, as 1 have said, a net immigration gain - of 149,270. In 1950, arrivals totalled 174,540 and departures 20,855. By 1951, arrivals had dropped to 132,542, and departures had risen to 22,180. There was a further decrease of arrivals in the following year to 127,S24, and departures rose to 30,370. Last year, the flow of arrivals fell to 74,915 whilst departures reached the extraordinary total of 32,032 or 43.6 per cent, of arrivals.
What explanation can the Government give of this gradual and tragic diminution of the flow of immigrants? When Labour introduced its immigration scheme it faced great difficulties. Trade unionists, whose livelihood might be challenged by the mass intake of new competitive workers, had to be convinced that the immigration programme was in the interests of Australia. An undertaking was given that their livelihood would not be prejudiced by this great national experiment. It is to the credit of the Labour Government that it was able to convince the trade union movement of the need for immigrants and that the guarantees given to that movement were honoured to the last detail. Labour gave an assurance that the condition of full employment would he maintained, and that, therefore, the income of Australian workers would not be prejudiced. And it was not prejudiced. That is why the tempo of immigration was allowed to increase until the Chifley Government was defeated in 1949. Then what happened? Did this Government lose interest in immigration as a principle, or did it lose interest in maintaining those conditions without which immigration at the rate reached under Labour could not be maintained? Those two questions have to be answered; but regardless of whether the Government can answer them or not, the ultimate outcome of this Government’s administration of the immigration programme has been very bad for the Australian nation.
One particularly deplorable feature of immigration to Australia in recent years has been the decline in the number of citizens of the United Kingdom who have come here. In 1949, our immigrants included 38,000 people from the British Isles, but by 1953 the figure had dropped to 13,000. I know that all sorts of explanations will be offered by honorable senators opposite. It may be argued that British people do not want to come here. But is it not the responsibility of the Government of this country, which needs population above all else, to make economic conditions so attractive that our kinfolk from the United Kingdom will be eager to come here? It is significant that while the flow of British immigrants to Australia has been decreasing, the immigration of those people to Canada and, speaking from memory, to New Zealand has been increasing. That is further proof surely of the mishandling by this Government of our immigration policy.
While I am discussing the subject of the conditions by which we can attract immigrants and without which they will be deterred from coming here, it is interesting to examine employment statistics. Peak employment, excluding wage-earners in rural industries and private domestic service - I know that many immigrants are going into rural work - was reached in November, 1951, when 2,643,100 people had jobs. The figure for April, 1954, was 2,643,600. In other words the gain in total employment throughout Australia was only a mere fraction of 1,000 in spite of the fact that from 1952 to the first half of 1954 there was a population increase by immigration of 154,912. Why has there not been a corresponding increase in total employment in Australia? Is it any wonder that prospective immigrants are no longer interested in coming to Australia when they can go to Canada, South Africa and other more attractive countries ?
Let us consider the Governor-General’s Speech against the backdrop of the international situation and our defence responsibilities. Ultimately the defence of any country rests upon the potential physical mobilization of its people and its economic resources. In the last few years, under the administration of the present Government we have lost an opportunity to add many thousands of people to the forces that can be mobilized for our defence in the event of a shooting war. We do not want war and we do not want to bring people here merely to be used as troops; but if immigrants come here and accept the conditions that we offer to them, they do so on the understanding that they will be willing to stand side by side with Australians to defend the way of life that they have chosen to adopt. This Government lost an unparalleled opportunity to get a tremendous number of immigrants in the last few years and we must not think that such opportunities come every day. As conditions settle down in Europe, as Western Germany becomes prosperous again, and as other nations go back to their pre-war circumstances, the prospect of getting as new Australians large numbers of people of the type that we want is receding. If ever this country is lost because of our inability through sheer lack of numbers to hold it, this Government will have to accept some of the responsibility for that calamity. It has thrown away a chance that comes seldom in a nation’s history to get many good immigrants quickly.
Senator Paltridge, in seconding the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, made a thoughtful contribution to the debate and I compliment him upon it; but there are some aspects of his speech on which I must join issue with him. He spoke of what I would call the short term concept of the defence of Australia. He told us that we must abandon development in favour of defence. He claimed that defence was our No. 1 priority, and that development had to be restricted to the degree to which it could be integrated with primary defence projects. I have paraphrased his remarks, but I think that is the substance of what he said. The Australian Labour party has never disregarded the necessity for primary defence; that is, the actual sinews of war, our army, navy, air force, and so on. There has never been any logical reason for disregarding the role that has to be played by the three services. The question is whether, in the light of our geographical position, concentration upon primary defence to the exclusion of everything else is the proper approach to our defence problem as a whole. I believe that we must have a much better balanced relationship between national development and national defence than that which the Government and Senator Paltridge are prepared to allow.
In Queensland, we have pressed at every opportunity for capital to be poured into that State for what we call developmental works. But none of those works can be disregarded from either the long term or short term defence view-points. They are inextricably bound up with any true concept of overall defence strategy. We have a vast continent, much of which is sparsely populated. Our most threatened areas are in the north, and they are the parts which, significantly enough, and dangerously enough, are the least populated. The construction of every chain of strategic road in our undeveloped northern areas is just as much a defence undertaking as the building of a tank. We in Queensland have been pressing for years for the construction of roads, which in addition to opening up rich, fertile land would have enormous defence value, but unfortunately our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The only land force that would be able to do a good defence job should the need arise is an extremely mobile force. But what is the use of such a force if the facilities for movement are inadequate? To mobile defence forces, movement through unpopulated areas and through deserts is always a liability. But, movement through developed country where good roads and bridges exist and where there is a friendly populace is relatively easy. Throughout many hundreds of miles of Queensland, roads have been built with inadequate funds and in the face of great difficulties. They may serve the requirements of ordinary passenger transport, but they are completely incapable of carrying tanks and heavy transport units essential for the movement of an army. Obviously, to build roads and bridges capable of carrying such heavy traffic is beyond the financial capacity of any State government. That is a Commonwealth responsibility. I am not as expert in defence matters as some other members of this chamber are, but I believe the propositions I have advanced to be reasonably fundamental and logical. Yet these things are not considered when development in Queensland and other parts of Australia is talked about. It is fallacious for Senator Paltridge to argue that if we develop our country, we must increase our defence vote. He argued, in effect, that the more we develop the country, the greater becomes the liability and the greater the sum of money that we must spend on defence.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to S p.m.
– I have dealt with the general problem of Australia’s defence. I have endeavoured to show how the defence of Australia is related to the development and population of the country. I have gibed at the Government because it has allowed the effort that was made and sustained by a Labour government to deteriorate, so that now the country cannot be proud of the effort it is making to bring new Australians here. It is interesting to note the observations that were made by His Excellency in relation to this matter. He said -
The immigration programme for 1054-55 will be based upon Australia’s ability to absorb migrants as permanent settlers without disruption of the existing economic pattern, having regard to the contribution that migrants can make to national strength, to development, and to primary and secondary industries.
As a principle, that cannot be disputed. Those are the factors that must be taken into account in framing an immigration programme on a big scale. Let us examine the Government’s own assessment of the condition of the national economy. For the purpose of assessing the value of the paragraph I have just read, I shall accept it, although I might disagree with it in other circumstances. His Excellency said -
My advisers report a general and continuing state of prosperity throughout the Australian economy. The number in civilian employment is the highest ever recorded in this country; and the output of goods and services is correspondingly high. Prices have remained remarkably steady.
If that is a fair claim, and if the condition of the economy now is better than it was in 1947, 1948 and 1949, when Labour had the responsibility to frame our immigration programme, then the capacity of the nation to absorb immigrants is greater now than it was then. Therefore, we could have expected that a most ambitious immigration programme would be contemplated by the Government and would be mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech. But where we expected courage and a great degree of realism, we find timidity. Although no reference was made by His Excellency to the level of immigration that is contemplated, the figure I have seen mentioned in the press is 75,000 new Australians a year. That is less than 50 per cent, of the peak intake while Labour was in office, when, if we accept this Government’s contention, the country was not nearly as well prepared to accept immigrants as it is to-day. I shall ask the Government to alter its attitude to this problem, because it is vitally important to us.
With regard to development, we find the same slowness in approaching what T believe to be a vital problem, that is, the integration of development and defence. Development was referred to in His Excellency’s Speech. During the general election, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech, as reported in the press, said -
Wo will therefore ask the States to co-operate in the creation of a small advisory body of highly expert persons to serve as a National Development Commission, acting in association with the Department of National Development, to report to both Commonwealth and States upon the economics and relative importance of particular proposals.
That statement was made on the 4th or 5th May. In view of its importance, it would not have been thought of only the night before. We can assume that the details of the proposal were considered and canvassed for some time before the proposal ultimately was propounded as a part of the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Therefore, we could have expected that some early action would be taken. The first opportunity to put a proposal such as that before the State Premiers in a proper manner was the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. It is interesting to see the manner in which the proposal came before the Premiers in Canberra on the 1st July. We can assume that the proposal had been under consideration for at least a month before the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech. At the conference held on the 1st July, the Prime Minister said -
This subject does not appear on the agenda because it was not put forward by any State and we had nothing formal to place before you. In the course of my policy speech, I referred to proposals, which I stated in general terms, for what I described as a National .Development Commission. All I want to say at this stage is that I should like to ask you to keep 3’our minds free on that matter until we have been able to consider, in the necessary broad detail, the kind of notion that we have. We shall then submit it to you for your consideration.
I am assuming that development, because it is closely related to defence, is more important than the Government itself appears to believe. If there must be some priority for national works, and if this proposal had been canvassed by the Government in April, surely the Prime Minister could reasonably have been expected to have a definite proposal to put before the Premiers three months later, but the best that the right honorable gentleman could do then was to speak of discussing, in the necessary broad detail, the kind of notion that the Government had. That, together with other things, leads me to the conclusion that the Government does not really understand how vital the question of national development is in relation to Australia’s defence preparations. I ask the Government to reconsider its attitude to that matter.
I know that the State Premiers have rejected a system of priorities. I know that in Queensland we do not want such a system. We have a big backlog to make up. We think we have been starved of money for national works of importance, not only to the States but also to the nation. We in Queensland think we are more sensitive to the real requirements of the nation, through the defence of Queensland, than is the rest of Australia. We think we have a valid case and that it should be accepted. We want the Government to deal with development on that basis. Queensland, not only from its point of view but also, more importantly and more objectively, from the national point of view, must have special consideration, particularly because years have been allowed to elapse during which these schemes for development have not received the attention that the requirements of the State and the nation demand.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer. To some extent, it is related to the general problem. The economic strength of the nation lies in the goodwill, contentment and prosperity of all sections of the community. No section can be disregarded, least of all the great working section. That raises the vexed question of margins. In view of what was said during the general election campaign and what has transpired since then, the Prime Minister has not emerged from the controversy with great credit. In his policy speech, referring to the proposal of the Labour party for an approach to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on margins, he said -
He (Dr. Evatt) has recently promoted a belief that he undertakes, if he becomes Prime Minister, either to persuade or to compel the Arbitration Court to decide in favour of the unions. This is deplorable.
It would have been deplorable -
Do you want an independent court or one that can be ordered around? Dr. Evatt knows that he can do nothing about the margins issue unless he secures an amendment of the Constitution.
In fairness to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and to put the record straight, let us see what he said in his policy speech. He said -
We should as a government at once intervene before the appropriate tribunals and support the case for just and reasonable increases in margins for employees.
That was a completely different proposition from the one suggested by the Prime
Minister. In no sense could it be construed as an attempt to circumvent or direct the court. The statement by the Prime Minister was a piece of political deception. But the matter did not end there. Any layman who is not technically qualified in law can go before the people and express an opinion that the Constitution would have to be altered before the Government could do a certain thing. That opinion would carry weight according to the technical stature of the man who expressed it. The Prime Minister expressed what had to be construed as a valid and worthwhile legal opinion on the constitutional position but, according to the conduct of the Government subsequently, it was totally incorrect. In the Courier-Mail of Tuesday, 29 June, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is reported to have said that the Federal Government would emphasize to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the importance of sufficient margins for skilled workers. That was an acknowledgment that the Government would intervene to put a case before the court. There was no suggestion that there was any constitutional prohibition or that any amendment of the Constitution was necessary. So the Prime Minister, one of the most eminent legal and constitutional authorities in Australia, put before the people a distorted and incorrect view of the position. It was a view that they could reasonably be expected to accept. What was worse, he attributed that incorrect view to an equally, or perhaps more distinguished, constitutional lawyer, the Leader of the Opposition, when said that the Leader of the Opposition knew he would have to amend the Constitution before he could do something about the margins issue. The action of the Prime Minister in putting that incorrect opinion in the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition added deceit to deceit.
We are not likely to build the sinews of strength of all sections of this community, particularly the workers, if the people are subjected to distortions of that kind and attempts are made, merely for political advantage, to deprive a great body of workers of justice. That kind of thing cannot go on in the community. lt will be idle to talk of development, defence and external affairs unless . the whole of the Australian people are taken fully into the confidence of those whose responsibility it is for the time being to control their destinies.
There is an immediate defence problem in Australia. It is the problem of strategic defence demands in terms of finance, personnel and equipment. In addition, there is a long range defence problem - the integration of development and defence. There is an immediate danger to this country which must be looked at, but we must never forget that, by reason of the geographical situation of Australia, there will always be a threat to this Western continent in an Asian setting. That will be a continuing menace. The problem will never be solved merely by making defence preparations on an ad hoc basis to meet the immediate threat. We must build up our strength in all walks of life and in ali aspects of national activity in order to preserve Australia and its integrity from this constant and possibly growing menace. Even if we deal with the immediate threat and dissipate it for all time, we shall not have relieved the continuing threat to Australia. It is inseparable from our national situation and can be met only by a strong and developed country with a large population, fully exploiting its national resources. It is not too late to do this.
That is why I appeal to the Government to reconsider its attitude to immigration. If our economy is in the sound condition in which the government claims it to be, we can stand a. greater intake of immigrants. Do not let us be timorous about it. Let us be courageous. In the long run, that will pay dividends. If the Government is sincere in its claim that the economy is sounder now than it ever was, it will be bold in its immigration programme. There was a lot of merit in what Senator Paltridge said. When we consider developmental schemes, we should consider them from the point of view of their defence implications and significance. Mention has been made of the proposed National Development Commission, and His Excellency referred to the relative economic importance of cer tain proposals in relation to national production and national development. This is a time for careful scrutiny, when the Government must examine all proposals with an eye to their national and international significance.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales - Minister for National Development) “S. 16]. - Like other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, I subscribe to the motion of loyalty which was so ably moved by Senator Annabelle Rankin and seconded by Senator Paltridge. 1 shall address my remarks to that portion of the Governor-General’s Speech which referred to the development of Australia, including the progress of secondary industries. I shall not speak in general terms, but shall relate my remarks directly to the portion of the coal-mining industry which comes under the control of the Joint Coal Board. The coalmining industry is, in fact, the foundation of secondary industries in Australia, because it provides the sinews of war for. the steel industry, the gas-making industry, and the generation of electric power. Secondary industry, transport, and communication services, which are large users of coal, absorb more than 40 per cent, of the work force which enters Australia under the immigration programme. Therefore, if the view be accepted that, to a material degree, both the rate of our development and our present and potential defence strength can be measured by the growth of our population, it follows that adequate supplies of coal are the foundation o.t national progress and preparedness in both peace and war. On that basis, I criticize Senator Byrne’s remarks which, I consider, were based on inaccurate premises. The honorable senator said that the present immigration programme provided for an intake of 75,000 immigrants a year. That is not correct. The present rate of intake is 100,000 immigrants a year. Furthermore, it was announced recently that the predetermined level of 100,000 had been increased by 7,500. It is all very well for the Opposition to criticize the Government in connexion with such matters, but I point out that we have a responsibility to regulate the intake of immigrants according to the state of the economy of the
Country. We yield to nobody, but hold to our immigration programme. We have a responsibility so to integrate the immigration programme that it will be supported by the strength of the economy, without undue detriment to the existing Australian population. It is one of the great romances of Australian affairs that during the years that this Government has been in office the population has increased by about 1,000,000 people. It is obvious that people who criticize our immigration programme have not given the matter careful thought. One of the good things that we can look forward to is that, on the basis of the present population and our immigration programme, we can confidently expect a further increase of about 1,000,000 persons during the next five years. If we can increase our population by 25 per cent, in a decade we shall have reason to be proud of our achievement. It would have been better for Senator Byrne to pay a tribute to the progress that has been made rather than to offer irresponsible criticism.
I shall trace briefly the history of what has been done by this Government to ensure a continuance of adequate coal supplies in future, and the prospects of the coal-mining industry generally. We have passed into a new era in which, for the first time in a long period, we in Australia have reasonably ample supplies of coal for our requirements. Since 1952, several years after this Government cameto office, we have made adequate provision to supply Australia’s coal requirements. The relative figures are of more than passing interest. In 1947 and 1948, 11,700,000 tons of coal were produced in New South Wales. In 1949 - the year of the coal strike - production in New South Wales decreased to 10,700,000 tons. From 1950 onwards production increased progressively, the figures being: 12,800,000 tons in 1950; 13.500,000 tons in 1951; 15,000,000 tons in 1952; 14,100,000 tons in 1953; and this year, on the basis of production during the first seven months, the figure should be about 15,000,000 tons for the year. In 1949 production was only 10,700,000 tons, and the estimated demand 14,700,000 tons. Many people lost their employment, and 122,000 persons were in receipt of unemployment relief. From the foregoing honorable senators will gain an idea of the importance of the coal-mining industry, and the improvement of national welfare that has resulted from increased production.
One of the matters that was not easy to resolve was the task of estimating the demand for coal. It was not until 1952 that we had sufficient coal available to meet requirements. We proceeded on the basis of certain estimates, and we expected that the demand in 1953 would be 18,000,000 tons. Subsequent events proved that that estimate had been overstated by about 4,000,000 tons. Victoria over-estimated its demand by 1,400,000 tons; South Australia by 500,000 tons; and New South Wales by 2,100,000 tons. When I look back to that year it is obvious that errors of judgment were committed by the various States. I should point out that during that period of inflation it was not only the demand for coal that was over-estimated; there were many small errors of judgment in regard to other phases of the Australian economy. We purchased plant in excess of requirements for open-cut mining. We now have on hand about £4,000,000 worth of plant for which we have no present use, and which we are selling as opportunity to do so occurs. Of course, we are prepared to accept responsibility for that, and we expect some- criticism. However, I ask honorable senators who may feel disposed to criticize this state of affairs to reflect upon the- happenings at the time that the plant was purchased. We had expended about £3,800,000 subsidizing the importation of coal from South Africa and India. I cannot imagine a worse example of waste than that in a country with the vast coal resources of Australia. We expended £675,000 in subsidizing the transportation of coal from Callide in Queensland to Victoria, and we also subsidized the transport of coal in South Australia. Industries whose production had decreased were able to operate at full capacity. It is all very well in these matters to be wise after the event. If, on the sale of the plant, we should incur a loss it will be insignificant by comparison with the advantages that we gained by having available sufficient supplies of coal for our requirements. That plant was purchased for the open-cut programme, which made a very substantial contribution to the problem in 1951-52, winning no less than 2,750,000 tons of coal.
Perhaps success of the open-cut mining has overshadowed the success that was attained in the underground mines. We are always inclined to reflect on the spectacular rather than the prosaic. In 1951, for the first time in many years, we gave the colliery proprietors reasonable prices for their coal. They were also able to claim as allowances, for taxation purposes, expenditure on the development of their mines. There is no doubt that that created a stable condition of affairs in the industry, and this naturally had some important effects. .First, it led to a reduction of industrial disputes, and thereafter many men returned to the coalmining industry. I used the word “ naturally “ advisedly, because it is quite natural for men to have more confidence when working in an industry that is progressing and going ahead. In these circumstances the employer is better placed than the one who is in a struggling financial position. The results of our policy were dramatic. Losses of possible production through industrial disputes had been 11.5 per cent. 13.7 per cent, and 21.2 per cent, respectively in the years 1947, 194S and 1949. They fell to 8.8 per cent., 11 per cent,, 7.6 per cent, and 9.5 per cent, respectively for the succeeding four years, and this year - the best so far - it is 6.2 per cent.
Concurrently with the great losses from industrial disputes, the industry has been undermanned for year3. For the three years prior to this Government’s coming to office, the total number of employees in the industry had increased by only 570. During our term of office the number of employees in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales has increased by 2,100. The great trouble in the industry was to get the men to man the mines. That trouble has now passed. The colliery proprietors have spent £11,000,000 on improving their properties since this Government came to office. Programmes are in course of preparation for the expenditure of a total of £2,000,000 on further improvements to underground mines in New South Wales. Three washing plants have been installed and three more are in course of construction. Washing plants represent a tremendous advancement in mining methods and those that I have mentioned involve a capital investment of about £400,000 each. The industry is moving forward as a result of the expenditure to which I have referred and because of improved industrial conditions and an adequate work force. I do not wish to engage in any criticism, but I should like to mention that the basic error that was made in relation to the coal-mining industry before the election of this Government was that it was not realized what a great contribution the industry itself could make towards securing the right industrial atmosphere and conditions. If the Joint Coal Board, when it was first established in 1946, had granted reasonable prices for the sale of coal, and if the colliery proprietors had beau given the same taxation concessions as other mining industries had been given, this would have obviated the need for large government expenditures on the purchase of coal-mining plant.
The Government has made good progress. We have plenty of coal. Much better industrial conditions obtain throughout the industry. Mining properties are being improved, methods of mining are becoming more efficient and a great feeling of friendliness is developing among those engaged in the industry. At individual mines the relationship between employers and employees is quite good. There is not the slightest doubt that the miner, personally, is a friendly, hospitable soul and a. good citizen. Yet it would be idle for us to assume that the industrial position on the coal-fields is nearly as good as it should be. Far too many irresponsible stoppages are still occurring, but I see great hope for an improvement in the future. The coal-mining industry is a volatile one. Changes occur quickly. At present some coal is being produced in excess of requirements .and, because supplies .are ample, the coal consumer is becoming more selective. He is demanding the coal that suits his requirements and, naturally, refuses to accept any coal that may be sent to him. We have not put any coal in stock piles since June, 1953. There is a good deal of talk of the coal-mining industry facing a crisis. For the 23 weeks ended the 19th June, 1954, production on the New South Wales coal-fields amounted to 704,000 tons, being 10 per cent, higher than it was during the corresponding period of last year. That is a very significant figure.
At .present the Government is proceeding with a re-organization of the industry in order to enhance the prestige and desirability of coal by providing better quality coal. One large consumer is at present being given the coal that it wants instead of the kind that was formerly sent to it. That consumer is the State of South Australia, the trade of which is valuable to the coal-mining industry. Employment is decreasing at some mines because coal is not being taken from them. Employment is increasing at other mines but not to the same extent as it is decreasing elsewhere, because there is some surplus production. We are taking the opportunity to level that down. lt is not simple to arrange these matters. There are always complications in the pattern. There are 19,500 employees in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. Due to all the personal reasons that arise such as illness, retirements and change of residence, about 300 changes take place in employment each month. That is to say, 300 men leave their jobs and 300 others take their places. Despite the influx of men into the mines the industry is still unable to obtain all the employees that it wants. It has been short of men. So there is an opportunity to carry out reconstruction by refraining from producing coal which is not in demand and by concentrating on coal for which there is a demand. That, in the final analysis, is a very desirable 3tate of affairs for the industry, not only from the short-term point of view, but also from the long-term point of view.
The coal-mining industry is an intensely active industry. Criticism has been made of this re-organization and that criticism, coming from the source that it does, is never fair and reasonable. The facts are these Up to the 29th July, ISO men had been dismissed from mines from which coal was not in demand. Another 35i men will be dismissed on the 19th August. That is a total of 212 men who will have been dismissed by the 19th August. However, at the 29th July only nineteen miners in the Newcastle district were registered as unemployed and those miners had available to them a choice of sixteen vacancies in the Newcastle district, 88 vacancies in the Cessnock mines and 600 vacancies in general industry in Newcastle. In other words, what is being done is being done carefully with due regard for the interests of everybody affected. It is not being done in a haphazard way. The Joint Coal Board, the miners’ federation, the Colliery proprietors organizations and the Department of Labour and Industry have established an organization which considers what action should be taken as each new move is made. It is significant that there are 600 vacancies in general industry in Newcastle. Surely the time to make a re-organization is in a period of over full employment and such a period exists now. Industry in Newcastle is desperately short of men. In citing employment figures, I have made no mention of the fact that between 250 and 300 vacancies exist for miners in the south coast district of New South Wales. One of our embarrassments is an embarrassment of riches. In the last eleven month*. 542 additional employees have come into the coal-mining industry, adding to the need to provide for miners’ requirements.
I want to deal with the future of the coal-mining industry and examine the consequences that will follow the completion of the big oil refinery building programme. There is no doubt that oil is replacing coal as a fuel in a number of industries. There is no doubt that when refineries are completed, substantially increased supplies of oil fuel will be available in Australia. Coal has lost trade to oil in Australia, as elsewhere. Diesel locomotives have taken over from steam locomotives. Soon, gas will be produced from the by-products of the refineries and some portion of industry is turning to oil-fired furnaces. To some extent, this is the march of progress. It is partly due to the greater suitability of oil as a fuel for some purposes and partly due to the fact that it has been difficult to obtain supplies of coal in the past for industrial requirements. Up to this stage the position has been clear cut. The great development that has occurred in secondary industry has more than offset any loss of markets to other fuel. It is estimated that oil refineries now under construction will be in operation in J 956, and in that year very substantial supplies of residual oil will come on to the market. “We must face realistically the fact that the extent to which oil displaces coal depends very materially indeed upon tie extent to which the coal industry improves its efficiency, maintains regularity of supplies and, above all, maintains a supply of good quality coal in the face of that competition.
The degree to which the demand varies will depend on the further growth, which I believe is inevitable, of Australian secondary industries. The position is not an easy one to define. Events have shown the great difficulty of estimating trends of consumption. Figures that I have seen indicate that the oil refineries will come into stream in 1956, that there will then be substantial quantities of fuel oil available, and that by 1960 the further development of Australian industry will solve the problems that have arisen. There will be, therefore, a four year period during which the industry must provide against contingencies which are hard to foresee. For instance, one very important factor is that State instrumentalities, such as the railways and electric generating plants, are large users of coal. The policy that they adopt may well be a decisive factor. If we look into the crystal globe, therefore, we shall see that, at the present time, the industry is developing and producing at an appreciably higher level than it was last year, and that there is no reason why that position should not continue until early in 1956. The industry must realize that from 1956 onwards it will enter into a more competitive stage than it has previously known.
I have spoken only of the New South Wales position because that is the only part of the industry that is under the control of the Joint Coal Board. However, the coal industry cannot be isolated into States, because it is the foundation of other industries, such as the steel industry. New South Wales is a greatmanufacturing State. Its manufactured products, including steel, have a very material effect indeed upon the prosperity of the other States of the Commonwealth.
Since this Government has been in office it has done a great deal of good for the coal mining industry. It has provided the national requirements of coal and has also established a reserve stock which amounts to approximately 1,250,000 tons. At the same time, a stable level of employment has been maintained in the industry. Indeed, the present level of employment is perhaps more stable than ever before. In addition, the Government has been able to place the industry on such a basis that it can show a reasonable return to the proprietors, and conditions have been established under which the industry is progressing in efficiency, whilst the total amount of capital, plant and equipment has increased. I hope that in the future, the Government may be able to do as much for the industry as it has done in the past.
– I associate myself with the expressions of loyalty that were stated so well by the mover and seconder of the motion before the Senate. I ask for leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - The following statement was made this afternoon in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.” Casey) : -
Honorable members will wish to have an account of how the present situation in Southeast Asia came about - the events, the circumstances, and the negotiations, that have led up *o the present position - and what is likely to flow from it. This will be a factual account, reflecting, amongst other things, the part that Australia has played in the great drama that is being played out in South-East Asia.
Do not let us fall into the error of believing that the present situation in Indo-China has come about only in recent months, or even in recent years. The fact is that when I was first in Indo-China, in 1951, the situation was not greatly different from the situation that existed just before the armistice a few weeks ago. In 1051, and indeed for some appreciable time before 1051, the Communist Viet Minh were in varying degrees of control of a large proportion of Viet Nam. The recent and rapid deterioration was only the final crumbling of hi. edifice that had already been very seriously undermined. It can be said now that in the recent negotiations, the non-Communist side negotiated from a position of weakness, and the Communists from a position of strength, in that they had not only become dominant in the field, but also had, over a period of years and by one means or another, undermined the political allegiance of a formidable proportion of the population of Viet Nam.
The French had never really re-established their control of the country after the end of the second world war and, although the three associated States, Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, had been given independence within the French Union, it was very difficult for any one to say exactly what this independence meant. Consequently, large numbers of Vietnamese, and to a lesser extent Cambodians and Laotians, did not think that they could exercise effective independence through co-operation with the French authorities. There is no doubt that the Viet Minh, though completely under Communist, control, originally had a strong nationalist basis and continued to have nationalist elements in their ranks. On the other hand, the non-Communist regime did not have sufficient nationalist appeal of its own, with, the result that large numbers of nonCommunists i remained neutral in the struggle rather than offering active resistance to the Communists. It must be remembered that the French Government consistently held, over the years, that the problem of Indo-China was a domestic matter, and that they would not agree to the fighting being internationalized or the matter being brought before the United Nations.
When M. Letourneau, the distinguished French Minister for the Associated States, visited Australia in 1953, at the invitation of the Australian Government, he made the views of the French Government known to us. However, France was willing to accept an appreciable gift of military and other equipment that the Australian Government was glad to make available as a contribution to the military effort in Indo-China.
At the beginning of this year, the Communist Viet Minh were in positions of considerable strength in a great many areas throughout Viet Nam. They were especially strong in the North, which, of course, was adjacent to Communist China and which was able to give them encouragement and supplies. Their military strength grew steadily. The French, despite all their efforts, and despite great sacri/iS ( of French life, never really succeeded in rallying the Vietnamese themselves to resist the Communist Viet Minh. It became obvious that, if a solution was to be achieved by military defeat of the Viet Minh, the French could not do it alone. It is hard to see what even outside military participation would have achieved in view of the attitude of a large portion of the Vietnamese population.
This was the background of the Geneva Conference that was called together in an effort to restore peace in Indo-China. The conference on Indo-China was attended by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Soviet Russia, Communist China, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and the Viet Minh. It will be seen that the conference was confined to its original convenors, Britain, America, Russia and France, and to those States that were directly involved in Indo-China. Australia and New Zealand agreed not to press their claims to be parties to the conference so long as the membership was not extended beyond that which I have mentioned. Thailand and Burma, which have a common border with Indo-China, were not members, nor was the Philippines, which was much closer to the conflict than we were. If the Indo-China Conference had been larger than it was, it Would have become unwieldy and the chances of success would have been reduced.
I was present at Geneva myself from the 24th April to the 3rd May, and again in June, after the Australian general elections, when the Geneva negotiations were reaching their climax. While overseas I ensured that our Australian views were kept prominently before the representatives of the principal countries concerned, particularly the British, Americans and French. During my absence from Geneva, the Australian delegation was led by Sir Alan Watt, the Australian Commissioner in Singapore. I also had intimate and prolonged discussion with the leaders of a number of Asian countries, including Mr. Nehru in New Delhi, and some of the Pakistan Ministers in Karachi.
On my way to the Geneva Conference in April, I spent several days in Saigon in order to acquaint myself with the situation there. AsI reported to the Government at the time, the political nature of the problem was clear, and also the limitations to what could be achieved by military means. The very considerable military effort of the French and Vietnamese had not achieved a solution, and did not 001. like achieving one. In addition, the Indo China question had to be viewed as part of the wider objective of keeping South-East . Asia independent and out of Communist control. I felt we should look for a political settlement of the problem in Indo-China - a negotiated settlement - recognizing the realities of the situation. I may say at this point that our Australian diplomatic posts in South-East Apia have proved of very great value in making it possible for us to have an up-to-date appriciation of this complex situation at all stages. In London, prior to Geneva, I had discussion? with Sir Winston Churchill, Mr. Eden, and other members of the British Government.
The Geneva Conference achieved no appreciable result in the first six weeks or so of its meetings.I will not complicate the story of Indo-China my dealing now with the discussions on Korea which were going on at the same time at Geneva. It is enough to say that no Korean settlement was agreed upon. In April, the French and Viet Nam forces were waging an unequal conflict at Dienbienphu against the Viet Minh. Talk of intervention, particularly in the air, in order to save the situation, was being widely canvassed. Our Australian view was that such intervention would be wrong for the following reasons: it would not have the backing of the United Nations; it would put us in wrong with world opinion, particularly in Asia; it would probably embroil us with Communist China; it would wreck the Geneva Conference; and it was most unlikely to stop the fall of Dienbienphu. These were the views that I expressed on behalf of the Australian Government to Mr. Dulles, Mr. Eden, and othet leaders at Geneva.
In the course of the early stages of the Conference, a meeting of the Anzus Council was held at Geneva. I took the opportunity, on behalf of the Australian Government, to push the proposal that a meeting of military representatives of relevant countries at the highest level should be held as soon as possible so that we would have established by the most competent military opinion whether a lasting solution in Indo-China could be reached by continuation of the fighting. We also wanted to have a military evaluation of the situation that would confront us in South-East Asia if no negotiated settlement was reached at Geneva. I also pursued independently with Mr. Eden this question of a meeting of high military representatives. These military talks eventually took place in Washington on 3rd June,and resulted in a report which has been of considerable value to the Governments concerned. As a result, the shane and size of the military problem in South-East Asia is much better understood.
On 4th June, before I left Australia for Geneva again, the Australian Cabinet had a full discussion of the Indo-China question. By this time, of course, Dien Bien Phu had fallen and the French Union forces were making further withdrawals in the Red River Delta. It was already clear that there was no prospect of the French reinforcing their already substantial forces in Indo-China nor of increasing the scale of their military operations there if a settlement on reasonable terms was at all possible. In fact, the French Government was under considerable pressure in Paris to come to terms with the Viet Minh. Against this background the Australian Cabinet believed that the most practical and realistic course open was to secure a settlement on the best terms possible. Cabinet was of the opinion that Australia’s efforts should be directed towards bringing about the following results: -
1 ) consideration of the situation in Laos and Cambodia separately from that in Viet Nam;
the withdrawal of Viet Minh forces from Laos and Cambodia;
a division of the State of Viet Nam on the best possible terms that could be achieved by negotiation;
an international “guarantee” of the settlement with provision for its enforcement ;
5 ) the association of the free Asian countries, especially India, with the settlement and the guarantee;
a regional defensive arrangement within the framework of the United Nations Charter in support of this settlement in Indo-China, but with a more extensive purpose.
I may say that I believe Australia did much to get acceptance for the proposition that Laos and Cambodia should be regarded as in a category different from that of Viet Nam, and that this should be made a point of substance in negotiation with the Communists. The reason for this was that the peoples of Laos and Cambodia are racially distinct from the people of Viet Nam. The Communist Viet Minh were largely, if not practically wholly, of Viet Nam origin. Consequently, the presence of Communist Viet Minh troops in Laos and Cambodia could be properly regarded as an invasion, whereas their presence and activities in Viet Nam could be regarded as in the nature of a civil war.
When I left Australia for my second visit to Geneva, the talks had reached a point of deadlock and it appeared that the negotiations might break down. However, on 10th June there was some movement in the Communist position which had hitherto been completely non-co-operative. In particular they agreed to treat Laos and Cambodia differently from Viet Nam. From that date, events moved fairly quickly towards the ultimate settlement on the 20th July. M. Mendes-France, the new Prime Minister of France, who assumed office on the 20th June, undertook to bring the Indo-China war to an end within a month or resign. The later stages of thenegotiations with the Communists were entirely in his hands. He succeeded in his self-imposed task. Agreements for an armistice were reached on the 20th and 21st July, and the fighting came to an end a few days later.
To sum up: at the Geneva conference, the views of the Australian Government on IndoChina that I made known in private to our friends, can be summarized as follows: -
That the French should give genuine independence to the States ofIndo-China;
That the situation of Laos and Cambodia should bo considered as a separate proposition from that of Viet Nam;
That the integrity, autonomyand the right to govern themselves of Laosand Cambodia should he guaranteed by the relevant powers;
That whatever solution of theIndoChina problem might emerge from the Geneva conference shouldbe in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations ;
That the other South and South-East Asian countries should be moved to associate themselves with whatever settlement emerged from Geneva;
That the only chance of a political settlement in Viet Sara lay in a division of authority in that country between the North and the South;
That there should be a declaration of pacific intent - of non-aggression - by all countries concerned with South-East Asia;
That there should be, in addition,a South-East Asia treaty organization in which those countries which felt themselves able to do so should engage themselves to resist any further aggression by force of arms if necessary.
On the 24th July the Australian Cabinet reviewed the settlement reached at Geneva, and the Prime Minister issued the following statement on behalf of the Government: -
The Australian Government takes note of the agreements now concluded by the participants at the conference at Geneva on Indo-China. The Government welcomes the ending of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and VietNam, and expresses its willingness to play its part in the consolidation of peace in the area.
The United Kingdom, France, Soviet Union, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Chinese People’s Republic and Viet Minh have undertaken, in the relations with Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam, to respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of those States and to refrain from any interference in their internal affairs. The Australian Government welcomes this undertaking.
For its part, the Australian Government will, in regard to the settlement, apply the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including Article 2(4) in which all Members have pledged themselves to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State. The Government of Australia would view aggression in violation of the Indo-China settlement as a threat to international peace and security.
It would be quite wrong to say that the Indo-China settlement is all that we would have wished for. It must be remembered that the settlement was reached by direct negotiation between M. Mendes-France and the Communists, and that other States were not parties to these negotiations. It is, however, in my opinion, the best settlement we could have “hoped for in all the circumstances. It is easy to pick holes in the settlement. What is there to be said in its favour? In the first place, the settlement means that Laos and Cambodia will have complete independence. The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, Communist China, and the Viet Minh, as well as the non-Communist representatives at
Geneva, agreed to respect the integrity of these States. I attach importance to this. It is the earnest hope of Australia that a large number of Asian countries will follow suit and recognize Laos and Cambodia too. It has become quite clear that true independence is a pre-requisite to any real resistance to Communism. People must have a stake in their country; then they will realize that if they are overrun, their independence will be lost irrevocably. This loss of freedom has happened in countries with a greater tradition of liberty and independence than the new States in Asia. We must remember that independence will not flourish unless it is nurtured and unless people are ready to fight for it.
In the second place, the settlement has brought the fighting to an end. This in itself reduces the possibilities of a world war developing. Whenever the armed forces of two or more countries are face to face, there is always the danger of incidents which might broaden out into more severe hostilities. Wars do not stand still. They either expand or contract. The ending of hostilities is in itself an achievement.
In the third place, the settlement in IndoChina gives us a basis on which to try to build a wider settlement in the Far East. No one is very happy about the motives of the Communist powers in making this settlement, and none of us believes that Communism has abandoned itsobjective of world domination or its tactics of taking over countries one by one by infiltration and subversion. But it may be that the Communists will see that it suits them no less than us for the States of Indo-China to be genuinely neutral and to be an area geographically separating the Communist and non-Communist worlds. If so, the settlement in Indo-China may turn out to be a substantial contribution to achieving the security of the South-East Asian region - but only if a collective defence is built up in South-East Asia to balance the Communist military potential to the north of Indo-China.
We must not forget the ordeal of the people of Indo-China, especially of Viet Nam. They have suffered heavily, in life and in property, during the fighting over the years. Many of them are now passing under Communist rule. I am thinking, in particular, of the Catholic communities which are so numerous and so important in the Red River Delta in the North. Christianity in Indo-China is of long standing, as it goes back to the early seventeenth century, nearly 350 years ago. Those who wish to be withdrawn from the north and resettled in the south must have every opportunity to do so, as promised in the Geneva settlement.
The big question mark hanging over the settlement is the partition of Viet Nam. Under the Geneva settlement this partition would be temporary only, and elections are envisaged for 1950 to unify the country. The settlement has not made the military demarcation line the permanent political boundary, as such a solution could not be agreed upon. Among the Vietnamese the urge for unity of their country is very strong. Preparations are to be made by the representatives from the north and from the south of Vict Nam for the elections to be held in 11)56 under the supervision of a commission consisting of India, Canada and Poland. Many difficult questions will have to be resolved. It is up to the rest of us to give the people of southern Viet Nam whatever assistance and encouragement we can in developing democratic institutions and genuinely nationalist aspirations. I may say that I hope to be in a position to table copies of all the agreements reached at Geneva shortly, possibly tomorrow. Some of these documents have not yet been made public.
From what I have said it will be seen that there have been two strands in the thread of our policy in South-East Asia. The first was the Indo-China question, where we sought a negotiated settlement in accordance with the realities of the situation - which did not unfortunately make practicable « solution at all closely in accord with our wishes. As an essential part of the Indo-China settlement we wanted to get an understanding among the countries of the free world - and a treaty organization to implement it - that they would not allow the freedom iron for Laos and Cambodia in these negotiations, and the agreed arrangements for the disposition of Viet Nam, to be destroyed at some time in the future by the threat or use of superior force in violation of the Geneva Agreement. This seemed to u« to be an integral part of a settlement in which concessions had to be made to the superior bargaining strength of the Viet Minh and Chinese Communists. This leads naturally to the second of Australia’s aims, the achievement of a collective defence in South-East Asia.
Australia has long sought an increased degree of understanding on defence matters in this region. We have, in the past participated in various discussions with a number of powers. From April onwards the movement towards such an arrangement gathered momentum. The meeting in Washington of the Five Power military representatives, of which I have already spoken, helped to give a common basis for the military judgments of a number of the countries which were ready to participate in the arrangement. It has been the consistent policy of this Government to work quietly through diplomatic channels and through private discussions - not loudly through the press, radio, and conference chamber - to direct and attract the interest and attention of outmost powerful allies to the importance of South-East Asia. These efforts of ours have not been without success, and we greatly welcome the growing interest and concern of the United States of America over the past five years in Fast and South- Boat Asia. Let us never forget that, had it not been for the sacrifices of the people of the United States of America, Korea would now be a Communist State and the threat to Japan would be greatly increased.
We in Australia considered, in common with the United Kingdom, that the calling of a formal political conference on collective defence should be postponed until after there had been an adequate opportunity for a settlement on Indo-China to be reached at Geneva. We did not want any action taken which might be seized upon by the Communists as a pretext for breaking ofl’ the Geneva negotiations. Wc wanted moreover to have every opportunity to explain to the Asian countries the objectives cif a SouthEast Asian pact, so that they would understand our purposes and believe in the sincerity nf our objectives, whether they themselves decided to come in or not. The chances of wetting a sympathetic attitude in Asia towards the pact are greatly increased by the fact that a settlement has now been reached at Geneva; the prospective pact is no longer related even indirectly to the fighting that was then taking place in Indo-China, and can therefore be seen more clearly as a collective defence of a long-term nature, and not as an alliance reached hastily for possible11% in the Indo-China fighting. We urged thee views to our friends. I cannot stress too much the importance in all this of having Asian opinion in accord with us.
Prior to the Geneva conference, I said publicly chat it was the policy of the Australian Government to give great consideration to the views of the free countries of South and South-East A.-ia and to work closely with them, in particular in all matters affecting the future of South-East Asia. And when I say these things, I do not say them only as a matter of my country’s policy. I have added personal reasons for saying them. I say them because I have lived and worked in a position of responsibility amongst these people of Asia - and I have respect and liking for them. It is easy to criticize aspects of their policy with which we may not be in agreement, but I invite honorable members to bear in mind the history of these countries, the experiences of the individuals who now govern them, and to import more human tolerance and understanding into our opinions of their policies. Looked at from the Asian mainland, this Australia of ours does not seem to have all the qualities of logic and reasonableness that we for our part often expect the rulers of the Asian countries to possess. My discussions at New Delhi and Karachi were consistent with the Australian Government’s policy of close and friendly association with the South and South-East Asian countries. In public statements in India and in Pakistan I said that Australia attached special importance to the views of the countries of Asia. Tn my discussions with Mr. Nehru and with the Pakistani Ministers, I said that we believed that the situation demanded, first the mobilization of Eastern and Western public opinion against any further aggression in South-East Asia - aggression which might come from only one source. Communist imperialism - and, secondly, a collective security arrangement comprising all the Eastern and Western countries concerned, wit)) teeth in it. to deter potential aggressors. I also expressed our conviction that the independence and sovereignty of the Asian States provided the only basis for peace in this region and hence for our common security. I said that it would be anomalous if the integrity of these small Asian States that stood in the path of communism were to be guaranteed largely by Western powers.
Wc in Australia are well aware that the Asian countries, having just emerged from a period of outside domination, are always on their guard lest proposals for new international organization should turn out to be a subtle way of imposing outside domination once more upon them. The fact remains however - and I said this publicly in various places in Asia - that the only threat of outside domination to-day comes from aggressive Communist expansion, which seeks to swallow up other countries one by one and subordinate them to control from a world centre of communism. In asking the countries of South-East Asia to come together with other countries of the free world in mutual defence, what we are trying to do is to preserve the national independence of each of us, Asian and non-Asian alike. Any differences of outlook between East and West become trivialities when faced with the major danger of international communism.
This Asian area is of great importance to our Australian security. One hundred and seventy million Asian people live within a radius of 2,000 miles from Darwin. It is in these Asian countries to the north-west of Australia that the largest share nf the world’s supplies of tin, rubber, rice and other important commodities are produced. This area also provides the most obvious route for potential aggression against. Australia. Bearing in mind the man-power and resources and the territorial ambitions of nearby Communist Cil inn, it is doubtful whether the individua l South-East Asian countries could resist Communist infiltration and aggression solely on their own resources. Indeed, in the modern world, no country anywhere cun depend for its security on its own unaided efforts. This means that the independence and liberty of the countries of South-East. Asia will need to be SUPported and helped by the aid of the other free countries which are in a position to help.
The two countries outside the area to which we have to look principally are the United Kingdom and the United States nf America. Fortunately, we are in intimate and confident relationship with each of them. The United Kingdom is already making a tremendous contribution to world defence. Its total regular, national service, and reserve forces represent a total of over 1.000,000. Eighty per cent, e.f its eleven army divisions are serving overseas. There are substantial British forces already in this Asian area. Obviously there are limits to what Great Britain can do in addition to what it is doing now. The United States of America, which is bearing so very formidable a burden throughout the world, and is already the main safeguard of our own security here in the Pacific, cannot be expected to shoulder the burden for the whole free world. The other countries of the region must play their part, not the least, Australia itself. The countries of Asia have varying approaches to this. Thailand, which is next door to Indo China and might well lie the first victim nf Communist aggression, has declared from the outset its desire to be a party to a collective defence in the region. Of all the countries of South-East Asia, Thailand is the only one that during the: past century has not had a period under foreign rule, and its independence and nationalism cannot be doubted. It wants to join a collective defence because it wants to remain independent - it wants to survive. The Philippines, which was a victim of violent Japanese aggression in 1041 and which would be threatened again in another Avar, lias also indicated its intention of participating in a conference on a South-East Asian defence organization. As for the so-called Colombo conference powers - Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan - I regret to say it does not appear as if all of them, or even a majority of them, will be willing to attend u conference.
Recently, I have seen it suggested by some of the Asian States that Chou En-lai’s stated intention of living at peace with his neighbours should be taken at its face value and tested. Meanwhile they maintain that there should be no defensive grouping of powers. If, however, they say, Communist China did not stand by its word and committed aggression then would lie the time to consider a defensive alliance. It is easy to see why this view is not adopted by Thailand and the Philippines, who are in the direct path of an aggressive China. For them it would be too late to joint in collective defence once aggression had occurred, for they would be already under attack from short range. I suggest that some other Asian States might be following different policies if they were in the same position vis-a-vis Communist China. I remember very well a conversation with Mahatma Gandhi that has relevance to the attitude of some Asian countries as regards their participation in a mutual security pact in South-East Asia. He had taken very courageous and successful action at my request. 1,v his personal intervention in a major security problem in Bengal. Needless to say, I thanked him in the most sincere terms that I could. He said that I need not thank him in such terms, anr! went on to speak of the personal and moral responsibility of the individual for events. He made the point that a man has to accept responsibility both for what he does and for what he does not do. He went on to say, with truth, that if a man refuses to take, or fails to take, a certain action, and if things go wrong by reason of his refusal, then he has to accept responsibility for the consequences of his inactivity.
An important step towards a South-East Asian pact was made when Sir Winston Churchill and Mr. Eden visited Washington in late .lune. During the course of these talks, it was decided that a joint American-British study group should make preliminary examination of the political and other implications. of a collective defence arrangement for SouthBast Asia. This study group met for about ten days in July, and made considerable progress in pointing up the main issues involved fu the negotiation of such a pact. Australia and New Zealand were associated through direct consultations with the United Kingdom on the one band, and through the Anzus relationship on the other. A meeting of Anzus was, in fact, held in Washington immediately after the Churchill-Eisenhower talks. I attended this meeting, which devoted most of its’ consideration to the problems of SouthEast Asia. Meetings of the Anzus deputies were also held.
The Australian Government is already expressing views to other Governments about the South-East Asian Treaty Organization, and I will outline them to the House on another occasion. In what I have endeavoured to say on this occasion, I have taken pains to conline myself to the history of events or negotiations that have led up to the present. As I have said, the Australian Government’s agreement with the Indo-China settlement was taken in the light of the knowledge that a collective defence would be established in the South-East Asian region to support that settlement and to deter any breach of it by the Communists. It is essential that any collective defence should bc understood by the free countries of Asia and if possible have their active support. It is also essential that we should not devote all our attention to the military aspects of the problem, because economic factors arc at least as important. The countries of Asia, who have so recently won their independence, want to keep it. Australia’s own independence is bound up with the independence and welfare of these other countries, and in that common interest there is a basis for a free partnership between us and, not only the United Kingdom and the United States, but .also the countries of Asia.
South-East Asia - Ministerial Statement, 10th August, 1954
Motion (by Senator Spicer) put -
That Standing Order 14 be suspended to permit the moving of a motion for the print ing of the paper and debate thereon, before the Address-in- Reply is adopted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vid’e page 107).
, - The Governor-General outlined what “the Government proposes to do during this session of the Parliament. The Speech was very enlightening in some ways. The Government presented a weak, anaemic and indefinite programme. There was no mention in the Speech .of many of the promises that were made to the people during the general election campaign. Much was said during that campaign about repatriation and what the Government would do for ex-servicemen. Incidentally, returned servicemen’s organizations and patients in repatriation hospitals were issued with a brochure, printed at government expense, that was nothing more than a propaganda vehicle, but the hospitals - I do not criticise the:, for it - refused permission for other political parties to issue political propaganda to the patients. That piece of electioneering, done at government expense, was to say the least, most distasteful. The brochure was posted by the Repatriation Commission. One returned servicemen’s organization has raised the matter with the Premier of Western Australia, and I hope it will be ventilated in other places.
I want to deal specially with the position of partially blind ex-servicemen. A deputation representing them waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day. I have no doubt it was received courteously. Other deputations have been received with courtesy while this Government has been in office, but nothing has been clone for them. Partially blinded ex-servicemen have a strong case for an increase of the rate of disability applicable to them. In this matter, I speak with the backing of my party. We have attempted previously to persuade the Government so to amend the schedule of the Repatriation Act as to give these men what is undoubtedly their right. An ex-serviceman who has lost the sight of one eye is classified as suffering from a 50 per cent, disability. Provision is made for an increase of the degree of disability if the sight of the other eye deteriorates. That degree of disability is too low, in view of the disadvantage under which these nien labour. I know my friends opposite will find solace in saying that 50 per cent, was the rate applicable while Labour was in office. That is the attitude that is usually adopted by the Government. If we try to correct an injustice, it immediately runs for cover and says that the present position has obtained for years. We say that the degree of disability suffered by a man who has lost the sight of an eye is at least equal to that suffered by a man who has lost a limb. The degree of disability for the loss of a limb is 75 per cent. I want to make is quite clear that I do not suggest that a man who has lost an arm, a hand or a foot is not entitled to be assessed as Suffering from a 75 per cent, disability, but I want to impress on the Government that a man who has lost the sight of one eye, which may result in a progressive deterioration of the sight of the other eye, should be regarded as suffering from at least a 75 per cent, disability.
We know that a person who is born blind suffers from a great disability, but we know that the disability suffered by a person who loses his sight is far greater. Practically 80 per cent, of people whose sight is impaired, whether they be professional men or tradesmen, are precluded from following their occupations. If a man’s sight has been damaged, he cannot, for instance, work amongst machinery. If a man loses an eye and is supplied with an artificial eye, it will fit into his eye socket but it will be of no real assistance to him. At this stage of scientific development, a man who loses a limb can be supplied with an artificial limb which, although it may not be as good as the natural limb, is of great assistance to him. The Government should amend the schedule of the Repatriation Act to provide that a man who has lost the sight of one eye shall be regarded as suffering from a 75 per cent, disability.
There are other related matters to which consideration should be given. If an ex-serviceman loses the sight of an eye due to war injuries, and, as a result of strain, the sight of his other eye deteroriates progressively, perhaps to a point at which a cataract develops, he has to establish that the cataract is war- caused and has formed because of the strain on his good eye. About 50 per cent, of such claims are challenged by the Repatriation Department. That is niggardly and parsimonious. Men who have lost the sight of an eye in the service of their country and probably will lose their sight entirely, should not be treated in that way. If the sight of a partially blind ex-serviceman deteriorates, the Repatriation Department should not argue that the deterioration may be due to his age or to other causes. Such a man should be entitled to treatment in a repatriation hospital as a right. I am sure that the Prime Minister received the deputation of partially blind men courteously and sympathetically, but I hope he will agree to do something to help them. If the Government does not take appropriate action, I shall try to secure an amendment of the fourth schedule of the act to provide that the compensation payable to these men shall he that to which they are undoubtedly entitled.
I turn to the question of assistance to the gold-mining industry. When the Prime Minister came to Western Australia recently, much was said about what he was prepared to do for the goldmining industry. His statements from public platforms might have led one to believe that he really had the interests of the industry at heart. We have heard a lot from Senator Vincent about the industry during the last four or five years. With a wealth of words, he has said that the Government really intends to do something for the gold-mining industry, but from the time the Government took office it has given the industry nothing but words, words, and more words. I shall read to the Senate some of the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister about this matter, and I urge Government senators to ensure that the promises will be implemented reasonably soon. On the 12th May, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. Hawke. That was in the heat of the election campaign. The letter stated -
I wish to refer to your letter nf the. 16th March supporting thu case which has been presented by the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia for financial assistance to keep marginal gold mines in production.
The idea was not born in the Prime Minister’s mind, as he would have the public believe. The Chamber of Mines had been pressing for a number of years forsome assistance from the Government. The letter continued -
This letter will confirm the statement I made in conjunction with my policy speech on the 4th May that my Government has decided, after consultation with the industry and a close examination of: the facts, that it will pay to approved producers a subsidy on gold produced equivalent to three-quarters of the part of the cost of production in excess of £14 10s. per ounce subject to the following conditions: -
The minimum subsidy is to be £1 10s. per ounce.
Where the payment of subsidy would result in a profit exceeding 10 per cent. on the capital actually used in mining, the subsidy will be reduced accordingly.
The subsidy will be payable to approved producers, being those principally engaged in gold producing, operating mines in areas where townships supporting considerable population depend almost entirely on gold mining, and maintaining adequate cost accounts and records.
The amount of subsidy will be re duced by the amount, if any. received from the premium gold rates in excess of the buying price.
There will be reasonable provisions as to the amount to be included for development in the costs of production and as to maintaining a reasonable grade of recovered ore.
The subsidy will be payable for a period of two years.
On the 15th June, 1954, the Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Prime Minister as follows: -
Dear Mr. Menzies,
I refer to your letter of the 12th May (270/2/3), advising that your Government proposes to pay to approved gold producers a subsidy on production.
I would strongly urge that further consideration might be given to the basis on which the subsidy is to be granted and that the formula submitted by the industry might still be adopted.
It is also suggested that the assistance to the gold-mining industry might be extended to embrace prospectors and small producers such as syndicates and working miners.
These have felt the impact of rising costs to a very great extent and encouragement given them would undoubtedly have the effect of increasing the search for new deposits and of further developing the sparsely populated gold areas.
The State Government assists prospectors as far us it can consistent with its resources, but, because of the many calls on such resources, is not able to provide all the help which might well be given.
It will be appreciated also if I could be informed as to the date from which the subsidy will commence and how the scheme will be implemented.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) A. Hawke, Premier.
The attitude of the Prime Minister in this matter shows that he has not a clear appreciation of the difficulties and problems that beset the gold-mining industry of Western Australia. Undoubtedly some of the big mining corporations receive some relief. By the introduction of a proper system of accountancy so that returns could be checked, in order to prevent abuse, there is no reason why relief could not be extended to many people in the back-blocks who keep the industry alive. There should be no differentiation between a company and independent gold-miners who carry on in a small way. On the 15th July, 1954, the Western Australian Minister for Mines, Mr. Kelly, commented on the Prime Minister’s reply as follows: -
The keen disappointment I felt on receiving this advice will no doubt be echoed throughout the entire industry.
Prospectors and small producers have been entirely ignored. These are the pioneers and the ones mainly responsible for the decentralization of the industry. We have a vast auriferous area, and for its exploration must mainly depend on these types of operators.
Additional strings and qualifications now indicated before eligibility for assistance to deserving producers can be established, virtually reduces likely aid to impotence and it is highly questionable whether any real benefit to the gold-mining industry will finally result.
Delay in reaching finality is causing grave concern to at least four of our leading producers, and the Prime Minister should immediately signify his intention to apply any assistance granted by proposed legislation on a fully retrospective basis.
To be of any real assistance to the goldmining industry, the subsidy should be generous enough to enable miners, including the smaller ones mentioned, now undergoing a difficult period, to increase development and pursue a vigorous mining policy.
A token interest is not good enough. (Signed) L. F. Kelly.
– No. It is a minute by the Minister for Mines in Western Australia. This matter has been raised on a number of occasions since I have been a member of the Senate, but the Government has taken no action to afford relief to the gold-mining industry generally. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie in the House of Representatives (Mr. Johnson) intended to raise it in. another place, but unfortunately he is in hospital after an operation. Government senators from Western Australia have made propaganda speeches about the gold-mining industry from time to time, but no practical assistance to the industry has been forthcoming from the Government.
– What kind of assistance does the honorable senator suggest ?
– Financial assistance should be provided in order to place the whole industry on a sound basis.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that a bounty should be paid?
– Yes. The Western Australian Government has made a submission to the Commonwealth, and the matter should be debated in this chamber. I wonder whether Government senators from Western Australia would have the courage to cross the floor and vote against the dilatory policy of the Government? Representatives of the gold-mining industry who came to Canberra to make representations to the appropriate authorities were very courteously received, but they were just as. unsuccessful in obtaining relief for the industry as were the representatives of blinded ex-servicemen to whom I have referred. As I said before, a system which requires an ex-serviceman to prove that a. disability to his eyesight is attributable to war service is obviously rotten. Apart from sympathetic hearings and propaganda speeches, neither the blinded ex-servicemen nor the hard-working people in the gold-mining industry have received anything from this Government.
– But the production of gold in Western Australia has risen during the last few years.
– If the men engaged in the gold-mining industry were assured of a reasonable return for their labours, the industry would be properly developed and production would increase tremendously.
During this debate some honorable senators have referred to defence. Apparently the Government believes that the subject of defence can be divorced entirely from the development of roads and transport. That is not so. I commend Senator Byrne for the speech he delivered to-night. Many of his comments about conditions in Queensland apply with equal force to Western Australia. No defence programme has been carried out in the north-west of that State, and it would be impossible for mobile defence units to penetrate the area at present. It is all very well for the Government to stock-pile atomic weapons in central Australia, but roads and transport facilities are needed to transport military equipment to the north-west. Speaking of roads, His Excellency stated -
In the field of Commonwealth-State financial relations, my Government will introduce three measures . . . The second relates to Commonwealth payments to the States for roads purposes. The Commonwealth Aids Roads Act 1950 is not due to expire until 30th June, 1055; hut, because of the effect of the increasing production of locally-refined petrol in Australia on the payment of petrol tax proceeds to the States, my Government has undertaken a complete review of the existing legislation. The new legislation will provide for a new basis and a very substantial increase in the Commonwealth Aid Roads payments.
Although that would be a step in the right direction, the proposal is really as nebulous as all the others that have been placed before us. There is a strong move afoot to try to persuade the Government that all revenue derived from the petrol tax shall be applied to the rehabilitation and extension of our roads. If the Government sincerely wishes to encourage development, it should, agree to apply all of the proceeds of the petrol tax to roads purposes. His Excellency also stated -
My advisers will continue, in respect of all these matters, the’ policies already applied. In particular, in discharge of its special responsibilities; my Government is pressing on energetically with’ the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric and Irrigation Scheme, which, in the provision of power1 and water, will’ contribute to great development both in primary and secondary industry in south-eastern’ Australia.
It is good to note this change of heart, because Government senators, when they were in opposition, boycotted the opening of the scheme.
– “We have spent a lot of money on it since 1949.
– If the Government bad continued with the work at the same tempo that was being maintained when Labour relinquished office, much more would have been accomplished. The delay that occurred when this Government entered office will result in a considerable increase of the overall cost of the scheme. Of course, I realize that the inflationary trend of the last few years has added to the cost. Altogether, it is now expected that the scheme will cost twice as much to complete as was originally estimated. Projects for water conservation are needed in Western Australia. The extension of water irrigation, in the great southern areas of Western Australia ceased with the election of a Liberal government in that State. The incoming Labour Government endeavoured to revive the irrigation schemes, but loan moneys had been curtailed to such an extent that other development absorbed the available money. Unless the present loan programme is enlarged there will not be a very bright outlook for irrigation schemes in Western Australia. The Western Australian Government is proceeding fairly well with the limited money that has been allowed to it, but tremendous developmental work is still required in Western Australia.
It has been mentioned in this debate that a developmental commission will be set up, but that is a nebulous sort of proposal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has only a notion of what will be done, and no doubt he will continue to have nothing but that notion until the next general election. I heard a lot of sneers from the Government benches when I said that the Governor-General’s Speech contained nothing of importance, but that is correct. It is not the first time that the Government has prepared such a speech. Unless positive action is taken in relation to development we shall stumble along in the same old way. Mr. Menzies will have a notion which he will be waiting to develop. The Parliament will have no idea of what is happening. The Senate will have no opportunity to proceed with the matter. I sympathize with honorable senators opposite. I have no doubt that they would like to do something more acceptable to the people. If they make proposals in their party rooms are they not game to put those proposals forward in this Senate? Government supporters have spoken, but not one progressive proposal has been made. If this debate is to be of any use, such proposals should be made by Government senators. Honorable senators opposite have asked Opposition senators what they would do. I know what we would do, but we are not the Government. We want to know what the Government intends to do.
The Governor-General announced thai the Government would take action in relation to housing. The Government want? people to own their own homes. During the last three years, each State Labour Premier has written to the Prime Minister and asked him to call a meeting of the States participating in the Commonwealth and. State Housing Agreement with the object of making home-ownership possible on a low deposit and with a longer term of amortization. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) himself opposed those proposals. He said in this Senate that although the Commonwealth and State housing scheme had some merits he did not think that it was working well, socially or economically. He said that by financinghouse construction at a low rate of interest, the Government was preventing building societies, insurance companies and banks from operating in that field. But the Minister does not make that kind of statement when addressing the people. If the policy outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates a complete reversal of form I think that some Government supporter should tell the Senate that a scheme will be introduced to enable people to obtain houses at a low rate of interest on a low deposit with long term amortization. The debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech represents an opportunity for the Government to put forward its proposals and for the Opposition to assist the Government by making suggestions for the improvement of its proposals, but that procedure is not followed. Government senators speak of what has happened. They say nothing of what the Government intends to do, and when the debate closes the Minister will probably disregard all suggestions that have been made instead of giving his close attention to the matters that have been raised.
– In addressing my remarks to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply 1 to the Speech that was made by the Governor-General, Sir William Slim, on the occasion of the opening of the Twenty-first Parliament, I should like to associate myself with the loyal sentiments expressed in that Speech. I am sure that all honorable senators feel the same way about the visit of Her Majesty, the Queen, and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. That visit has strengthened, if it was possible to strengthen, the bonds of devotion and loyalty of the Australian people to the British Crown. Both the Queen and the people should go forward with a tremendous faith in a brighter future which, if democracy is what it is supposed to be, should bring a better deal for all people whatever their creed, colour or clime.
I desire to offer my sincere congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his success at the general elections. It is most reassuring that common sense prevailed among the majority of the Australian people at the recent general elections. Despite the glittering promises that were dangled by the socialist party before the people they felt that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. They rejected the promises that were made by the socialist party, considering that they were on safer ground by keeping within the wider administration of the Menzies Government. They will not regret their decision, I am sure. The record of the Menzies Government will bear any investigation despite the doleful speech that was made by Senator Cooke. It has been truly written that in the affairs of a nation the hour shall produce the man. I think that all honorable senators will agree that that has been our experience in Australia during the last few years of momentous happenings. The courage, the resolution, the wisdom and the great statesmanship of the Prime Minister have earned unstinted praise, not only from the people of Australia, but also from the people of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and other countries. Australia has been brought to a condition of prosperity that has never before been equalled, and its present wise guidance will be continued in the future years and will keep our Commonwealth on the right track of a balanced economy.
Senator Benn, in his most depressing speech, referred to the sad plight of the primary producers. His statements are not borne out by figures supplied by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra. According to Senator Benn, the average income of primary producers rose from only £519 a year in the three financial years 1943-44, 1944-45, and 1945-46 to £2,176 in respect of the financial year 1950-51. In 1953-54 the average fell back slightly to £1,777 a year. But in a report, dated the 13th March, 1954, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics shows how the man on the land has improved his financial position in relation to the rest of the community. It states that, at the end of the war, primary producers had an average income of only £519 a year, whilst other non-employees averaged £559. Now, the other nonemployees average only £1,010 a year, whereas the farmers average £1,777 a year. I admit that that is not the whole story because the butter fat, sugar and fruit producers did not share in the wool boom. But, on the whole, the primary producer has enjoyed increasingly good seasons. Better machinery is now at his disposal, new methods are being tried, and his prosperity cannot be denied.
I should like to say something about the defence of the country and the prospects of international understanding. The Governor-General stressed the fact that Australia’s defence and security measures must be strengthened. Advice of this nature, coming from such a distinguished military leader, should impress us all. We must all realize that the centre of world affairs has shifted from Europe to Asia. This fact places Australia in a very strategic position. In the promotion of international understanding and friendly relations with our near neighbours, one of the great successes of the Menizes-Fadden Administration has been the introduction, expansion and continuation of the Colombo Plan. The flow of Asian students to this country has had a very beneficial effect on our international relationships. I am sure that other honorable senators have heard the oft-repeated statement of such students that they have been glad to come to Australia to learn our way of life and to appreciate at first hand that we have no personal hatred fox the Asians because of the colour of their skins. It is high time that we devised a new method to describe our immigration -policy. The abominable term “ White Australia policy “ has caused much friction and hatred. It is time that we altered the name in order to indicate to the Asian, people that the policy which we have bo successfully tried out is not a racial but an economic one.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his statement on foreign affairs recently, gave us a very vivid picture of the As*ian situation and the commitments that Australia must be prepared to accept, perhaps in the very near future, in order to check the inroads of communism. I am sure that the nation will be 100 per cent, behind the proposals that the Prime Minister outlined. As a part of the task of setting our house in order, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has declared that a certain jungle warfare training camp in Queensland is to be re-established. I commend this course and suggest that the establishment of a similar camp in the Kimberleys district of Western Australia should be considered. In addition, the Darwin defences are to be strengthened. Darwin is to be mad? a permanent air establishment, which is a very wise move, because all thinking people appreciate that Darwin, geographically, is the focal point of our northern defences.
I turn now to social services. Australia’s expenditure social services has increased to a degree that ‘would have been deemed almost impossible earlier in the century. In 1938-39 it was £6 3s. a head, in 1940 it had risen to £11 16s. 4d., and in 1951-52 it was £28 16s. The overall expenditure in 1949 was £82,000,000. To-day, it is £184,000,000 and is still rising. That is a very fine record for a pioneering country. I do not propose to deal with individual items of social services. Senator Annabelle Rankin, in. her very able speech when moving the motion now before the Senate, dealt with this subject very thoroughly. The honorable senator pointed out a great number of the anomalies that still exist in connexion with the social services programme. Although I sympathize with the blinded soldiers to whom Senator Cooke referred to-night, I contend that the very generous provision of repatriation and tuberculosis benefits, increased child endowment, the increasingly successful health scheme inaugurated by this Government, the provision of free milk for school children and the various immunization schemes, deserve the commendation of the electors of Australia. All’ those schemes are excellent. Nevertheless, I am still not satisfied that the age and invalid pensions cannot be raised to a higherlevel. I sincerely hope that the new Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) will be able to provide pensioners with a greater measure of justice. The Government has rightly praised the work done by churches and other charitable organizations which conduct establishments for sick and aged persons in the community. Its very generous offer to provide £1 for £1 in respect of capital expenditure on buildings will hearten those people greatly. The voluntary assistance that is poured out in this democratic community of ours will brighten the history of Australia when it is written.
A matter that is arousing Commonwealthwide interest is the problem of the “ human scrapheap “. About a century ago, humanitarians declared that when a person leached 65 years of age he was finished. To-day, a person who is aged 64 years and 364 days is considered to be perfectly good physically, but the moment he attains the age of 65 years a tag is. hung around his neck, so to speak, intimating that he is of no further use to the community. According to the latest figures which I have been able to obtain, we now have approximately 320,000 men aged 65 years or over, of whom 120,000 are receiving pensions. Of course, the recent census may reveal that the number are evengreater. Serious thought should be given to this matter, particularly in view of the fact that industry is crying out for skilled and unskilled labour. In England during the war a scheme was introduced under which a person who worked after attaining the age of 65 years received a slight increase of pension for every six months that he worked. America is also concerned about this problem and is endeavouring tosolve it by drafting people into various occupations after they reach the age of 65 years. I suggest to the Minister that our ageing population may well become a great problem in this country in years to come. At this stage I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted.; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Explosives Act - Regulations - Order directing the Berthing of a Vessel.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1954 - No. 6 (Prisons Ordinance ) .
Papua and New Guinea Act -
No. 13 - Ordinance Revision (No. 2).
No. 10 - Natives’ Contracts Protection (New Guinea).
No. 28 - Bamu River Mission.
No. 30 - Pharmacy Ordinance Amendment.
No. . 35 - Animal Disease and Control.
No. 42 - Excise (Beer).
No. 43 - Coroners.
No. 45- Supply (No. 1) 1953-54.
No. 46 - Police Offences (Papua).
No. 47 - Police Offences (New Guinea) .
No. 53 - Antiquities.
No. 54 - Tradingwith Natives.
No. 64 - Roman Catholic Mission of the Order of Friars Minor.
No.66 - Married Women’s Property.
No. 71 - Building.
No. 76 - Maintenance Orders (Canada) (Facilities for Enforcement).
No. 79 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1952- 1953.
No. 89- Police Offences (Papua) (No. 2)
No. 90 - Police Offences (New Guinea) (No. 2).
No. 97 - Companies (Papua).
No. 98 - Conrpanies (New Guinea) .
No. 99 - Roads Maintenance.
No. 7 - Public Service.
No. 10 - Liquor (New Guinea).
No. 11 - Liquor (Papua).
No. 25 - Companies (Papua).
No. 28 - Companies (New Guinea).
No. 28 - Legislative Council.
Superannuation (Papua and New Guinea ) Ordinance - Second Annual Report of the Papua and New Guinea Superannuation Board for year 1952-53.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General’s - T. E.Hambling.
Interior - H. F. Hollier.
Postmaster-General’s - R. A. Bailey, H. Berglas, I. R. Butcher, R. M. Cochrane. S. C. Creage, J. M. Day,B. F. Fuller, R. H. Green, B. R. Hume, P.J. Kitchen, D. T. A. Langford, D. R. Lockwood, H. I. Maggs, H. R. Perry, M. H. Sparkman, J. A. Speed, A. R. Timmins.
Repatriation - J. Beaumont-Haynes, J. A. Blackwood, G. G. Camming, J. McP. Drummond, J. F. M. Furber, J. E. McGlynn, D. M. Piggins, M. H. Smith, G. C. Thornton, T. J. Thwaite, T. Wunderlich.
Public Service Arbitration - Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. - 1954 -
No. 33 - The Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Senate adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19540810_senate_21_s4/>.