22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade aware that there is more unnecessary and costly trafficking in materials imported for the manufacture of foodstuffs than there is in respect of other materials? Will he make a statement on the unsatisfactory situation as regards the importation of sausage casings, and state why an industrial organization .of employers, namely, the Master Butchers Association, was granted a licence to import casings from which it makes a profit of many thousands of pounds annually?
– I do not know of the dissatisfaction to which the honorable senator has referred, nor do I know that the practice mentioned by him applies to foodstuffs more than to other materials that are the subject of import licensing. This question of sausage casings has been a hardy perennial. It has been referred by the Government to the Tariff Board, and it has been the subject of Government decisions. All I can say is that I shall place the honorable senator’s question before the Minister for Trade.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen the announcement that the United Kingdom Government has decided to withdraw its request to United Kingdom shipping not to use the Suez Canal, and will he state whether the Australian Government has been kept informed on this matter, and what attitude the Australian Government has adopted in regard ot it?
– I expected a question on this subject, and am able to reply to the honorable senator in a statement which has the authority of the Deputy Prime Minister. T.he Prime Minister of the United Kingdom last night announced that the United Kingdom Government had decided to withdraw its request to United Kingdom shipping to avoid using the Suez
Canal. The Australian Government has had official confirmation of this decision, and has been kept informed by the United Kingdom of its deliberations on the subject. In all the circumstances, including evidence of the intention of the shipping of most other countries to re-commence using the canal, the Australian Government supports the United Kingdom’s decision, which will have the practical effect of relieving a substantial amount of world trade of the cost of using alternative routes.
The establishment of a satisfactory permanent regime for administering and operating the Suez Canal is another matter. The arrangements which Egypt offers still fall short of satisfying the interests of the world in this public utility. Specifically, the arrangements, while now somewhat better than those originally offered by Egypt, continue to fall short of the six basic principles which the Security Council of the United Nations unanimously laid down for the operation of the canal. Therefore, users of the canal are making it clear that they regard themselves as participating in a de facto arrangement. It is the Australian view, shared by a great many other governments, that continued efforts must be made, inside and outside the United Nations, to obtain Egyptian agreement to an effective international instrument governing both Hie method of operation of the canal and assurance of the right of passage for world shipping and trade. What originated as a dispute between Egypt and Britain and France now directly concerns the United Nations. The question of Egypt’s conformity to the principles approved by the Security Council remains on the agenda of that body, and it may be expected that this subject will be pursued.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade or to the Minister for Customs and Excise, whoever is the appropriate Minister. In view of the widespread publicity that has been given to the possibility of Australian housewives being able to obtain good quality Chinese tea at 5s. per lb., will the Minister give the Senate any information that he may have concerning the prospects of importing supplies of this tea? At present, the price of tea in Australia is extortionate, and by the importation of quantities of this good quality Chinese tea housewives may, in some measure, be relieved of the burden that tea now places on their housekeeping budgets.
– Although my authority for saying so is a press announcement, I understand that a licence has been granted for the importation of tea from Formosa. I had the pleasure of seeing samples of Formosan tea when I was in Formosa only about nine or ten months ago. I brought back some samples, and discovered that the quality of it was quite good. Whether or not this trade will develop will be governed by the question of exchange, and is a matter of policy for the Department of Trade.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to figures that were released yesterday by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician,’ Mr. Carver, which show that private bank deposits in the special account in the Commonwealth Bank rose by almost £20,000,000 last month? In view of the fact that the special account rose to £339,553,000 in April, will the Government take some action to ensure that more credit is made available to farmers in drought-stricken areas, and also for assistance to intending purchasers of homes?
– I shall place the honorable senator’s question before my colleague, the Treasurer.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it would be possible for me, with the approval of a certain widow, to see the Repatriation Department file relating to her appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal arising out of the death of her late husband.
– If the honorable senator will come to my office later and give me a little more information concerning the case he has in mind, I might be able to help him. Generally speaking, if a member of the Parliament presents at the departmental office in the State in which the member or the widow resides a written permission from the person concerned to see the ‘file, facilities are provided fdr the file to be seen. There are some cases in which it would not be right to divulge information that is contained in a file. To do so might not be of any assistance or might even be dangerous, but I repeat that the general principle that is followed is that, if permission is given in writing, the file may be perused. If the honorable senator gives me the name of the person concerned in this case, I shall be very pleased to take up the matter.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in relation to the forthcoming hydrogen bomb tests at Christmas Island. Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made into the following matters: First, what arrangements have been made regarding the staff of the cable station at Fanning Island, which is approximately only 150 miles away from Christmas Island? Secondly, is it to be, or has it been evacuated? Thirdly, what effect would evacuations have on cable communications between North America and Australia and New Zealand. Fourthly, if the island is not to be evacuated, why not?
– I have no doubt that the matters to which the honorable senator refers have been duly taken care of, but for his satisfaction I think it would be as well if he put the question on notice and I asked the Minister for Supply to give him an answer in specific terms.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of war service land settlement. Has he any reply to the matter I raised in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate some months ago in connexion with John Edward O’Shea, who I consider has been persecuted by the powers that be? Has the Minister anything to say in reply to my protests on that occasion? If not, could he, during the day, return the portion of the file that I gave to him on that occasion? I intend to raise the matter again to-night in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate if I receive no satisfaction in the meantime.
– I remember that the honorable senator raised the matter of Mr. O’Shea in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate some time ago. I have passed the file on, as I said I would, to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and I understood that he would take action. If action has not been taken, I shall see the Minister to-day and find out what has happened.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a published report that a German doctor has claimed to have successfully advised the Russians on how to treat blood diseases caused by atomic radiation? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether any research to this end has taken place in Australia? Will the Minister have an investigation made of the German claim, with a view to the use of the appropriate drug in Australia if the necessity arises?
– I have seen the newspaper report that the honorable senator has mentioned, but I suggest that she put the question on the notice-paper so that I can get a fully considered reply from my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– I direct a question t o the Minister for Shipping and Transport. By way of preface, I would say that the Minister’s recent statement that the Bass Strait vehicular ferry was to be built at Newcastle at a cost of £2,000,000, that the keel was being laid and that it was hoped to finalize construction by December, 1959, caused much favorable comment in Tasmania, owing to the urgent necessity, in the interests of the State, for this ship to be in operation at the earliest possible moment. Will the Minister give favorable consideration to allotting to the building of this vessel top priority in the shipbuilding programme and expediting its construction, so that the vessel may be in operation at a much earlier date, if at all possible?
– The terms of the contract under which this ship is being built provide for its completion in November, 1959. When the contract was let, all concerned realized that the ship would incorporate many novel features, a great many of them quite new to Australian ship construction. That was taken into consideration in fixing upon November, 1959, as the date for the completion of construction. However, the contract contains provision for a penalty to be imposed if the work is continued after November, 1959, and for the payment of a bonus as a reward if the ship is completed before that date. There is an inducement, therefore, for the shipbuilders to complete the work as soon as possible. The honorable senator may rest assured that work on the vessel is proceeding at the rate that was intended, and that there is no undue delay. The ship will be placed in service just as soon as it is possible to do so.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General request his colleague to induce the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to expedite an answer to a letter that I wrote to the department following a reply I received in the Senate from the Minister on the development of television in country districts in Victoria? In my letter, I suggested that certain places in Victoria - Mount Alexandra, Mount Turrangower and Mount Macedon - be explored for suitability as sites for a television station. I have not yet received a reply. I notice that the Premier of Victoria mentioned the matter recently, and the next day he received a reply from the Postmaster-General. I am anxious to know why I cannot have a reply as quickly as did the Premier of Victoria.
– I shall refer the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator to the Postmaster-General, and will see personally that I get some explanation.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health to an article that was published in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ of 13th May, in which Dr. Paul George, previously Director of Experimental Physics at Sydney University and now in charge of the Physics Department at St. Vincent’s Hospital, is alleged to have made some very sensational and frightening statements about X-rays. Has the Minister noted that Dr.
George is alleged to have said that British doctors making a nation-wide survey of leukaemia reported last year that a diagnostic X-ray of pregnant women may predispose the unborn child to a variety of complaints? Has the Minister noted that Dr. George is also opposed to X-rays of the chest and teeth, and is reported to have used the expression, in regard to these two types of X-ray, that he and his family adopt the same attitude as they have towards a pedescope X-ray, namely, that “ they will not be in it “? In view of the nature of this statement which, in parts, cuts across accepted medical practice, and bearing in mind the Commonwealth’s commitments, involving some large sums of money annually under the Commonwealth-State Tuberculosis Agreement which provides for a compulsory chest X-ray of every citizen, and in view of the prevailing practice of taking dental and pre-natal X-rays, will the Minister examine the statement made by Dr. George and give a considered reply? Will the Minister also ask the British Medical Association to make a report on Dr. George’s views?
– I have seen the newspaper article to which the honorable senator has referred, and I have had a brief discussion upon it with Professor Baxter, chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The points raised are extremely technical. Dr. George is a physicist engaged in research work at St. Vincent’s Hospital. He is not a doctor of medicine at the hospital. As I understand the position from my discussion with Professor Baxter, the views that Dr. George has expressed have been supported by scientific articles written by high authorities in both the United States of America and Great Britain. In Australia Sir Macfarlane Burnet also expressed himself in somewhat similar terms. The honorable senator referred to chest X-rays, and X-rays for teeth, pregnancy and so on. Because of the great importance and undoubtedly wide interest in questions of X-rays and matters such as that where views expressed have apparently strong professional backing, I think I should ask the honorable senator to put his question on notice and I will get the views of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission as. soon as I can and have them made public, as soon as practicable.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. A short while ago the Minister was good enough to promise to obtain information for me from his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, regarding the construction of Commonwealth public buildings in Adelaide for essential purposes of government. In my earlier inquiry I particularly directed his attention to two valuable sites in Currie-street, Adelaide, owned by the Commonwealth. Has the Minister any report on the matter for the Senate?
– I have an answer which I received from my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I am sorry I have not made it available to the honorable senator. It is as follows:: -
At present no action is being taken to group any more Commonwealth offices in Adelaide apart from what is being done in relation to the Da Costa building. However, the situation is constantly under review and, if an opportunity presents itself, further grouping will certainly be done. The question of the provision of Commonwealth buildings in Adelaide has to be considered in relation to the provision of similar buildings throughout the Commonwealth. There is at present a greater need for these buildings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. A start has been made on the Melbourne project and the Sydney project is at present under consideration. It is anticipated that a start will be made in the near future on a building in Brisbane where the preliminary work has reached the stage where construction can soon be undertaken. Initial consideration has already commenced for the construction of a Commonwealth building on a site in Currie-street, Adelaide, and every effort will be made to press on with design commensurate with development in other centres.
– By way of preface to my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, I should like to point out that at the present time the Australian Aluminium Production Commission has reached its full capacity by producing 13,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year and that there are hopes in the northern part of Tasmania that the Commonwealth Government will go into the matter of expanding the production of this important plant. In view of the situation that has developed as a consequence of the establishment of the aluminium production plant at Bell Bay where a substantial centre of population has been built up surrounding the industry at Georgetown but at which no opportunity exists for the employment of the female section of the community either clerically, industrially or domestically, will the Minister give early consideration to the establishment of ancillary industries in the Bell Bay area to provide employment for the younger women who live in this area?
– I myself have no idea of what the Minister for Supply has in mind for the further expansion of the aluminium works at Bell Bay. If the honorable senator would be good enough to put his question on notice, I will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. As import restrictions are to be eased to the extent of £70,000,000 during the next twelve months, can the Minister say whether this increased business will be available only to the established importer, or will provision be made for a share to be made available to those desirous of entering the import field?
– The honorable senator has raised a very vexed question. Those who have been in the importing business for considerable periods are very critical of proposals that would result in newcomers to the business being given import licences. On the other hand, young men say that unless they are given import licences they will have no opportunity to engage in the importing business. The Department of Trade has adopted the principle of giving preference to those who have been established in a particular line of business, who have had a sequence of transactions and who have a record which entitles them to receive import licences. That is the general principle. Of course, there must be variations from time to time, but, as far as possible, the practice is to grant licences to enable men to continue in the businesses that they have established.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior by stating that a very serious accident occurred on the Commonwealth
Bridge in Canberra last Saturday night. One of the victims, unfortunately, lost an arm. Will the Minister say whether it is a fact that, for some time past, the Commonwealth Bridge has been outmoded and inadequate for the traffic that it is required to carry? Has not the position been investigated by parliamentary bodies, which have recommended as urgent the widening of the bridge in order to provide additional traffic lanes? Can the Minister say whether the recommendations of those bodies have been considered? If so, when is it expected that the necessary work will be commenced?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for the Interior and obtain a reply for him. When I was a member of the Public Works Committee, the question of the adequacy of the Commonwealth Bridge was referred to that committee for investigation and report. If my memory serves me correctly, we recommended that two new high-level bridges be constructed - one on King’savenue, to which first priority should be given, and one on Commonwealth-avenue as a second priority. However, I shall obtain a full answer from my colleague for the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a statement which appeared in the week-end press to the effect that certain doctors are forming themselves into a proprietary company in order to reduce their income tax liability? Has he also seen a statement alleged to have been made by a Queen’s Counsel in New South Wales to the effect that the doctors, in order to obtain the desired protection, would have to arrange for their accounts to be sent out by, and for payment to be made to, the proprietary company, in which case their patients, including pensioners, would be ineligible to receive Commonwealth medical benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled? If the newspaper statement is correct, will the Minister take such steps as are necessary to protect the interests of the patients concerned, particularly those who are pensioners?
– I did see a reference in the week-end press to the matter that the honorable senator has raised. I think the best I caa do is to bring his question to the notice of my colleague, the Acting Minister for Health, and obtain a considered reply for him as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Recently, he said he would make inquiries regarding the steps taken to improve the road in the Northern Territory from Alice Springs to the South Australian border. Has he anything to report to the Senate on this matter?
– I asked the Department of Territories to give me what information it had about the construction of this road, to which Senator Laught referred one day last week. I am informed that the road in question is to run south from Alice Springs to Kulgera, which is near the South Australian border. Survey work was commenced late last year, and it is expected that in this financial year an amount of about £30,000 will be spent in re-locating and re-forming the road. It is proposed that the road shall be re-formed and graded, that the bad spots shall be metalled, and that creek crossings shall be constructed. I mention that because it is not a highway, as was stated originally in the newspaper article to which the honorable senator referred when he asked the question. From Kulgera the road turns east to Finke, where it joins the Stuart Highway, and it will run south through South Australia by that route.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to inform me when it is expected that the standard gauge railway from Port Augusta to Marree will be completed and whether any plans are in hand to continue that railway further north in the direction of the Northern Territory border.
– It is expected that the line will reach Marree about July or August of this year. Subsequent to that there will be a considerable period in which the track will be ballasted and formed after the line itself has gone through. At the moment, there are no firm plans for continuing the line beyond Marree.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, I should like first to congratulate the manufacturers of the Australian Holden car upon launching their vehicle on foreign markets.
– Order! Will the honorable senator ask his question?
– I refer to the recent press announcement that the car may be supplied to purchasers in Japan at a price £A.200 cheaper than that of competitive Japanese cars. Can the Minister say whether this price is possible because of the absence of a heavy sales tax in Japan? If it is, will he consider a substantial reduction of the heavy rate of 30 per cent, sales tax at present charged on all motor cars in Australia, when compiling the next budget?
– The honorable senator concludes his question on the right note. It is one that will be decided at budget time, but I would not advise him to build his hopes too high on the outcome.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health following that asked by Senator Anderson concerning the views expressed by Dr. George on the ill-effects of X-ray examinations. As the Minister has told us that Dr. George is not a doctor of medicine, could he tell us whether these views expressed by Dr. George conflict with those of medical doctors?
– I am sorry to say that I can only tell the honorable senator that I do not know the answer to that question. I assume that the medical profession is watching this position very closely as a medical practitioner has to take responsibility for the advice that he gives his patient. It was because of the importance of the issue raised by Dr. George that I requested that the two questions that have been asked be put on the notice-paper. I shall do my best to see whether Professor Baxter can give me an answer by Tuesday so that the opinion of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission on this matter may be made public as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following reply: -
The only way the Minister for Immigration can endeavour to prevent an Australian citizen from leaving Australia is to refuse to issue passport facilities to that person. The existing passport policy does not preclude the issue of passports to Australian citizens solely on the grounds that they are Communists or that they intend to visit Communist countries. Mrs. Gandini has not applied for an Australian passport, but if she does so, her application will be considered in accordance with the existing policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has furnished the following replies: -
– On 4th April, Senator Wardlaw asked me the following question: -
In view of the fact that the Postal Department will derive increased revenue this year, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider reducing the charge for telephone installations in remote country areas? I am sure that he realizes that people living in those areas need telephones, especially in the event of sickness, but many of them are unable to afford to pay the present high installation charges. I remind the Minister that, according to the tables appended to the 1956-57 budget, the Postal Department expended about £29,000,000 on telephone and telegraph services in 1955-56, and derived revenue of about £49,000,000. There was, therefore, a trading profit on telegraph and telephone services of about £20,000,000. Despite this fact, the last budget increased telegram and telephone charges. Does the Minister believe that it is necessary to charge prospective telephone subscribers in country areas an amount varying from £300 to £400 for telephone installations?
As promised when replying to the honorable senator’s question of 4th April, I brought the matter of the provision of telephone facilities for residents in country districts to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General. The PostmasterGeneral has now furnished the following reply: -
In accordance with the Government’s policy of developing rural areas and assisting residents in such areas, steps were taken in 1950 to liberalize the conditions under which telephone facilities are made available. Previously a maximum amount of £100 was expended in providing a subscriber’s service whilst under the conditions now in force an expenditure up to £480 is permitted. In many cases the annual rental charge for the service is as low as £4 7s. 6d., representing less than 1 per cent, per annum on the capital expenditure and does not reimburse the department even for the cost of maintaining the service.
The more favorable conditions have proved of distinct advantage to rural dwellers. The great majority are now provided wholly at departmental expense except for the £10 service connexion fee required for all applicants since 1st October, 1956 to recoup the department to some extent for telephone installation costs which now average £250 per line.
In some instances because of the distance of an applicant’s premises from the exchange, he is required to erect and maintain privately a portion of the line or if he so desires, the department will undertake the erection of the line to a point beyond that permissible at public expense subject to his paying the additional cost. Only in isolated cases would the cost to the applicant be more than £300. Most contributions would be well below this figure and in any event would only be payable where the Postal Department must spend some £480 in erecting the departmental section of the line. These cases will always occur despite the application of the most liberal departmental policy of providing services.
The honorable senator is assured that the communication needs of residents in country districts are kept well in mind and any improvements which are found to be possible in this respect will certainly be introduced.
– On 8th May, Senator Kendall asked the following question: -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Territories aware that the M.V. “ Southern Cross “, which was formerly owned by the Melanesian Mission, has been bought by the Bougainville Company of New Guinea? Is he aware that registration was refused that vessel in Sydney, and that it was also refused by the Ministry of Shipping in Great Britain on the ground that New Guinea was outside Her Majesty’s dominions? Therefore, the vessel had to proceed to New Guinea without a flag. Will the Minister investigate the present position of vessels that are owned by companies having their own head office in New Guinea as any vessel not sailing under the flag of some country is liable to be apprehended on the high seas?
The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answer: -
I have had inquiries made and have been informed that the facts as outlined by the honorable senator are correct. Conditions for registration of British ships are laid down by an Imperial Act, namely, the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. Under this act only British subjects and bodies corporate established under and subject to the laws of some part of Her Majesty’s dominions and having their principal place of business in those dominions may qualify for ownership of a British ship. Judicial decisions are to the effect that while the Territory of New Guinea is a place within which Her Majesty has jurisdiction it is not part of Her Majesty’s dominions. A British company with its principal place of business in the Territory, therefore, could not register a vessel under the Imperial Act. As the position now stands, vessels owned and operated within the Territory of New Guinea are registered under the Coastal Shipping, Ports and Harbours Regulations, but such registration cannot be granted until survey is carried out at a Territory port. There is no provision in these regulations for the provisional registration of vessels en route from a port outside the Territory to the Territory. I agree, therefore, that the position is anomalous and I am arranging for the matter to be fully investigated.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 594), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the bill, but it will offer a little judicious comment which might be accepted by the Government. Perhaps a very brief survey of the sulphuric acid position in Australia will be of interest. The problems that are associated with the production of this commodity have existed for many years. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in his second-reading speech, told us that Australia’s annual production of sulphuric acid is approximately 1,060,000 tons and that almost 95 per cent, of the capacity to produce it is being used. Approximately 45 per cent, of the production is from indigenous or local materials, mostly pyrites. The rest is manufactured from imported sulphur, most of which comes from the United States. In the last five or six years, a little has been imported from Japan, and within the last couple of years there have been importations from Mexico.
Eighty per cent, of the acid that is produced in Australia is used to make superphosphate, and 5 per cent, to manufacture ammonium sulphate. These are the most valuable fertilizers that are available to Australian farmers, so the importance of the development of the production of sulphuric acid in Australia is obvious. At present, the bounty is paid in respect of sulphuric acid that is produced from local pyrites and which is used for the manufacture of fertilizer.
The bill provides for two amendments of the existing legislation. First, it seeks to extend the bounty to all sulphuric acid that is produced from local material. It provides that sulphuric acid need no longer be used for fertilizer production, but that all sulphuric acid will attract the bounty. The second amendment seeks to remove the limit of £600,000 that at present exists.
As I said earlier, this problem has confronted various governments over the years - first, from the viewpoint of its use for the manufacture of fertilizer and, secondly, because the imported raw product comes primarily from dollar countries, which places a severe drain upon our dollar resources* In the latter part of the term of the Labour Government, I, as Minister for Supply and Development, set up a sulphur committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Cochrane. That committee did not rest upon the wide base that the present committee rests upon, but I am sure that the work it did was used1’ as a basis by the present Government t& establish, in 1951, the present Sulphur Development Committee. The importance” of the committee in the eyes of the Government is obvious when one notes the calibre* of the men who comprise it. The chairman is Mr. Joe Cochrane, who was an officer of the Department of Supply and Development when I appointed him to the sulphur committee. Also on the present committee are Mr. Gazes, of the British Phosphate Commission; Mr. M. E. McCarthy, who is now a member of the Tariff Board, but who was formerly Prices Commissioner; Mr. Percy Nette, who was formerly an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; Mr. Bulcock, who is one of the most prominent officers of the Department of Primary Industry; and Mr. Duggan, of the Department of National Development. They comprise the committee from which this Government, is taking its advice.
In my ignorance, I thought, when I appointed the sulphur committee, that I was not giving to Mr. Cochrane the hardest task in the world; but the more one sees of the pressure that is being exerted to develop this industry, the more one realizes the very difficult nature of his task.
The introduction of this measure is the third definite attempt that has been made by the Government since 1951 to increase the production of sulphuric acid in Australia. We compliment the Government upon its effort, although we cannot compliment it upon the results that have been obtained. The fact that this is its third attempt to obtain increased production is in its favour. During the latter years of Labour’s term of office, four ammonium sulphate factories were established by the Department of Supply and Development. The management of those factories was provided by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. There is a very faint chance that my memory will fail me, but, as far as I can recall, we established one plant near Echuca, on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, one at Villawood, in New South Wales, one at Albion, and one at Deer Park. Production of ammonium sulphate at that time was just under 50,000 tons a year, and the information that was given to me as the then Minister for Supply and Development showed that it was felt that the production would go a long way towards meeting the need for ammonium sulphate. Of course, 1 have not been able to keep in touch with what has happened since that time. The bounty has been worth approximately £2 a ton, but it has been applied on a variable scale, which I do not attempt to understand. The Minister might explain it to us afterwards, because the figures in his second-reading speech and the other information available to us seem to be contradictory.
– It depends on the landed cost.
– That is right. In 1950, when the Government was talking about setting up the committee which was established in 1951, it anticipated that Australia would by now be producing approximately 65 per cent, of its acid requirements from local pyrites. The position is, of course, that it is producing only 45 per cent., instead of 65 per cent., and there is no doubt in my mind that the efforts of the Government and of the committee must not stop until 100 per cent, of the requirements are produced. I say that because the importation of sulphur is very important. What would have happened had a committee not been appointed, I do not know, but the story is not a very happy one, even with the committee’s efforts. In 1951-52 we imported 83,000 tons of brimstone, worth approximately £981,000. In 1955-56 the imports of brimstone had risen to 205,000 tons. Despite the efforts of the committee, our imports of sulphur have nearly trebled. I will skim through the figures for the intervening period. In 1952-53 the quantity imported had risen to 132,000 tons, the great bulk of which came from the United States of America, but in that year Japan became a strong exporter to Australia. I shall not go into the details of the break-up between Japan and the United States of the value of the quantity imported.
In 1953-54, we imported 191,000 tons, valued at £2,644,000. The value of the amount imported from Japan was £327,000, and from the United States of America just over £2,000,000. The amount imported rose steadily. By 1954-55 it had increased to 192,000 tons, which had approximately the same value as the amount imported the previous year. In 1955-56 the amount imported had jumped to 205,000 tons, with a value of £2,700,000. This was the first year that Mexico really came into the picture as a supplier, with exports to Australia valued at £594.000. In the nine months that ended in March, 1957, we have imported sulphur to the value of £1,391,000, of which just over £1,000,000 worth came from the United States and £320,000 worth from Mexico. I know that it is impossible to follow figures like this, and I produce them with the greatest of diffidence. I know that when I listen to figures of this kind being given I cannot absorb them. Sometimes one cannot absorb them on reading them. The fact remains that in the short period since 1951-52 the. tonnage imported has risen from 83,000 tons to 205,000 tons, so we can appreciate the urgent necessity of getting on with the job of encouraging local sulphur production. That is one point I try to make when I cite the figures.
The next point is that during those five years over £10,000,000, almost all of it in dollars, has gone out of the country to buy something, the meains of producing which are at our hands in Australia. There is nothing to stop us from producing what we require. If the will is here, and concentration is applied by governments and industry, there is no reason why all of Australia’s sulphur requirements should not be produced in Australia. That is why I compliment the Government on this further effort, although the picture so far has not been very bright. The Government has not had the success that I hoped for, but this further amendment may bring the success that it really deserves.
There is one aspect that the Minister could clarify for me. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) mentioned in another place, that in 1954-55 the bounty was paid on 132,000 tons of acid, as shown by the report of the Comptroller-General of Customs. In 1955-56 the bounty was paid on 237,000 tons of acid, which was 80 per cent, more than the quantity in the previous year. According to the Minister’s second-reading speech, the payments in 1955 were £472,000, and in 1956, £446,000. Although there was an increase of 80 per cent, in the sulphur produced locally, the bounty paid was £25,000 less. My thought, as a simple man approaching this matter, is that as the production of sulphur rises, we should keep on encouraging it. That is not the time when the bounty should be withdrawn. It is obvious that the producers need very great help, particularly at Norseman. To reduce the bounty when the production has increased by 80 per cent., but is still far below what we need, is not right from an economic point of view. My inclination would be to apply a type of bonus increasing according to the development of production, rather than to reduce the bonus with increasing production. Whether the bonus has decreased because of increasing production, I do not know, but that is what I am reading into it. There has been less bonus for more sulphur.
Norseman is a town about 100 miles south of Coolgardie in Western Australia. It has a population of between 2,500 and 3,000, and it lives on gold and pyrites production. Gold at all times is a fickle product, but pyrites need not be fickle. Pyrites production could be a lasting industry in a part of Australia that really needs all the help that the Government can give it. The more help we can give to Western Australia to produce pyrites, and the greater the strength and wealth of that State, the better it will be for all of Australia.
Finally, there should be a little improvement in the Commonwealth grants to that State. According to the Government, we cannot differentiate between the States in the matter of bonus, and we have to make the bonus apply uniformly throughout the Commonwealth, but the honorable member for Werriwa, in another place, developed a very interesting thought on this question. He said that under section 90 of the Constitution the Government has power to grant subsidies, but they must be uniform. His suggestion is that this provision may be overcome by using section 91 in conjunction with section 96, under which grants are made to States. Under section 96, grants could be made to Western Aus tralia to encourage sulphuric acid production, and then power could be given to Western Australia under section 91 to enable that State to pay a particular bounty. I think this suggestion is well worth looking at, because the town of Norseman can provide a great deal of the sulphur that is needed by Australia and save a heavy drain on our dollar resources. I suggest that the Minister should not just idly pass this by, because the responsibility is on the Government. After six years, the rate of importation of sulphur to Australia has nearly trebled, so even the most optimistic of the Government’s supporters cannot be patting themselves on the back for the great success of their efforts. I believe that honest men on the Government side will admit that the story is a sorry one although they wished to make it a story of success.
It is obvious that the Government would not have pegged away at this proposition for the past six or seven years if it had not desired to make Australia independent of overseas supplies. Therefore, if the Government has not been able to achieve its objective by the methods it has used for the past six or seven years, why does not it look for new methods? No doubt if Norseman were given the extra encouragement, there would be tremendous improvement in the production of sulphur from that source alone.
The Opposition supports the bill. There are many angles that could be argued, but I do not see much point in arguing whether there should be a limit on profits of 12i per cent, or 10 per cent. The Tariff Board has covered that ground very well. The Government and the Minister have indicated that they have been fully convinced, and I do not see that there is much to be gained by arguing the point. The main problem is to get more sulphur. Whatever the Government does in that direction will have the support of the Opposition, and we will applaud any success the Government achieves.
– I am glad that the Opposition does not intend to oppose this measure. Apparently, I am in complete accord with Senator Armstrong who has just spoken for the Opposition. The desire of the Government and the Opposition should be to promote the manufacture of sulphuric acid from indigenous materials. This measure is intended to alter the existing act so that the limitation of £600,000 on the amount that may be paid by way of bounty may be removed, and the Government may make available an unlimited amount for that purpose. The other amendment of the act that is proposed is designed to extend the field of the bounty to cover all sulphuric acid produced from prescribed materials, irrespective of the use to which the acid may be put in Australia.
Both those amendments will have a desired effect. However, as we have been able to increase the production of sulphuric acid manufactured from pyrites only to 45 per cent. of the total that we require, would it not be more advisable for the Government to increase the bounty or to lift the starting point where the bounty begins to operate? I should like to have that information from the Government.
I believe that, under the 1954 legislation, the bounty was to be paid on sulphuric acid produced by pyrites at a rate equivalent to £2 a ton of 100 per cent. sulphuric acid when the landed cost of imported brimstone was £20 10s. a ton with the following provisions: -
I would suggest that the amount of £20 10s. a ton could be raised by £2 a ton, making the total £22 10s., when the bounty would be £2 a ton, and that the rise and, fall clause should then operate. When the cost of brimstone reached £27 10s. or £28 a ton, the bounty would cease to be paid. Since 1950 the Government has been trying to encourage the manufacture of superphosphate, which uses 80 per cent. of the sulphuric acid imported into Australia, and to encourage manufacturers to install plant to manufacture sulphuric acid. It has done much towards that objective by various means, including import duties, therefunding of sales tax and in other ways, but it has not increased the percentage of sulphuric acid manufactured from pyrites to the total of 65 per cent. that was anticipated when the legislation was submitted in 1954. We have raised the total only to 45 per cent., but it is expected that the total manufactured from pyrites will reach about 50 per cent. in 1957. We are progressing, but not as quickly as I should like.
The Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government have adopted a policy of assisting the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites. No doubt they have been trying to save dollars and have also appreciated the need to have assured supplies of superphosphate for Australia and Great Britain. We must never be placed in the position of having inadequate supplies of superphosphate for our primary producers as could happen in the event of war. Those are the lines on which both Governments have worked.
I believe that the United Kingdom Government has used a system of import licensing to prohibit the importation of brimstone for certain purposes so as to force manufacturers of sulphuric acid to revert to the use of pyrites and other materials. I know that we are not disposed to do that, but I think the Minister should examine that proposition. Despite all attempts to increase the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites, we have not achieved the desired result.
While I believe that this bill will go a little way towards improving the situation, I suggest that the limitation of profits to 121/2 per cent. is another reason why capital is not forthcoming for the industry. I believe that, since 1952, investments in the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites have approached £10,000,000. Obviously more money is required, but investors are not likely to invest in this industry if they know that profits are to be limited to 121/2 per cent. I believe that the Tariff Board suggested that there should not be any limitation of profits. When the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) replies, I should like him to state why Cabinet decided to limit profits to121/2 per cent. since there is no limitation on the capital to be used for the construction of plant for the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites. We, in Australia, are very dependent on superphosphates. Our pasture development in Western Australia is carried out with the aid of superphosphates and sometimes associated with trace elements. We have no land in the good rainfall areas of the south-west capable of growing wheat, or any crop at all, or for that matter even pasture, without the aid of superphosphate. As I have already stated, we are very dependent on the manufacture of superphosphate, and I would hate our State to be placed in a position, through an act of aggression, whereby it would not have adequate supplies of sulphuric acid for the manufacture of superphosphate. I believe that the Government, having this in view, is doing its utmost to bring about a state of affairs in which we, as a nation, will not be dependent on the importation of brimstone.
Although we have not achieved the desired objective at this stage, it is pleasing to note we have got within a few per cent, of the quantity we wanted when the first measure was brought down in 1954. I hope that the amendments in this bill will help to step up the production of sulphuric acid from the use of pyrites. I sincerely hope, within the next two or three years, the Government will be able to come back to this chamber with a report that the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites has increased from the present figure of 45 per cent, to 100 per cent.
– As Senator Armstrong has stated, the Opposition does not oppose this measure. The Opposition accepts it with reservation, because the Government, after an experience of three years of experimentation to achieve an objective, is continuing along the same channel without showing any imagination. The use of pyrites in the manufacture of sulphuric acid for use in superphosphates has diminished considerably. 1 am from Western Australia and am particularly interested in that State. In the year ended 30th June, 1955, the production of sulphuric acid in Western Australia, from material on which a bounty was payable, was 74,919 tons. For that year Western Australia was the highest producer of any of the States. In the year ended 30th June, 1956, a slight drop of some 6,000 tons occurred, Western Australia’s production then being 67,709 tons. In 1956, there was a terrific drop.
– The figure which the honorable senator has in mind is for a half-year only.
– Yes. For the halfyear to 31st December, 1956, production dropped to 37,752 tons. A bounty is payable, but the mining companies anticipated a considerable drop in the year to June, 1957.
Let us have a look at the 1954 report of the Tariff Board on this subject to see whether we can find the cause of the Government’s failure. I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), after listening to the analysis that has been made, to tell the Senate whether the Government has any answer to the very apparent difficulty. Mr. Homewood, representing the Sulphuric Acid Executive Committee stated -
That stage has been reached and of course, we have found that not only did we fail to do that, but we have slipped back over the period. At another point in the report Mr. Sinclair, representing Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited stated -
Conditions of payment of any future bounty should be re-examined in the light of current conditions surrounding return on capital invested, lt is considered that this suggestion is supported by the Commonwealth Government’s recent statement .to manufacturers on the price of superphosphate under conditions of increasing costs.
There again, inflation has a bearing on this matter. The Government has done nothing about it. Mr. Sinclair continued -
This statement acknowledged the need for a reasonable return on new capital as an encouragement to acid manufacturers to convert their plants, to burn materials other than brimstone.
It appears that the manufacturers of superphosphates and of sulphuric acid find that brimstone is a much easier material to handle. They are equipped to handle it as the result of introducing a considerable amount of new capital into the industry. That has permitted them to get the same result as they would from pyrites. There is a big variation in the costs of the two methods. It may have been magnified to some degree by the manufacturers, but there is a definite reluctance on the part of the people who are now treating our Australian pyrites to continue to do so. They find it more profitable and less trouble to use brimstone. They have failed to convert their plants to enable them to use the Australian material. That is obvious, because they are not using it. They complain that the expense of conversion is such that they do not propose to make that conversion unless the Government gets tough with them in some way or other.
This bill improves the bounty but it is doubtful whether it will improve the position. We have evidence from Mr. Charsley, the director of one of our biggest pyrites mines in Western Australia, in which he clearly asked the Government to guarantee that if the mining companies developed their plant and brought to the surface sufficient pyrites, the Government would protect them by endeavouring to regulate the importation into this country of brimstone and sulphuric acid. The result would be that the manufacturing companies, because the material was not readily available, would have to use pyrites. That appears to be the only way to get at the problem.
Anybody who has followed the position closely will find that the diminution in the use of the Australian material for the manufacture of superphosphate has come about because countries such as America, Japan, and to some degree South America, have supplied the material at a low cost. The materials have been readily available to the Australian plants and have been absorbed in great quantities. That is proven by the figures quoted by Senator Armstrong. We find that 83,000 tons of brimstone and sulphur were brought into this country in 1951. In 1956, the quantity had increased to 205,000 tons. Therefore, it is obvious that we have failed to achieve our objective. The Government is not prepared to say that the manufacturers must use a certain quantity of Australian pyrites, or to prevent brimstone from being imported in order to force the companies to help it to achieve its national objective. It is quite idle for any one to say that if war broke out and we were unable to obtain brimstone from overseas, the Australian manufacturers of sulphuric acid would be able to maintain their output by the use of pyrites. They could not do so because they have not installed anything like the plant necessary to use the pyrites at present on the surface. The position becomes more delicate by reason of the fact that the Government has to bear in mind that the price of the superphosphate used by farmers must be kept within reasonable limits.
I shall now quote from correspondence that has passed between the secretary of Norseman Gold Mines No Liability and the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale). Honorable senators will see from it how well the mining companies respond to what was almost a guarantee that their pyrites would be used. They were told that if they developed their plant and lowered their costs of production - even at a time of inflation - they need have no fear that the pyrites that they brought to the surface would be utilized, but I have cited figures to show conclusively that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid have failed miserably in this connexion. They have slipped back.
– In what way have they slipped back?
– They are not now treating as great a quantity of pyrites as when the bounty was introduced. Before the commission, they said that they would convert their plants to burn pyrites, but they said that if they invested further capital, they would need a guarantee of a reasonably profitable return. They explained how expensive it would be to install the new plant. Since then, however, their plant has not been expanded or altered to the extent necessary to enable them to treat Australian pyrites in the quantities in which it is available. The letter from the secretary of Norseman Gold Mines No Liability to the Minister for Defence Production reads -
My company is gravely concerned that the application of the Sulphur Bounty Act has proved entirely ineffective, and that for the coming year it is faced with a considerably lower demand for pyrites than even the present uneconomically low tonnages.
This letter was written on 31st January, 1957, so it is fairly recent. It proceeds -
Before proceeding with plans to develop and equip our mine and treatment plant to permit production to meet 65 per cent, of Western Australia’s sulphur requirements, I wrote to the then Minister of your department seeking, amongst other things, protection for a period of twenty years against competition from low-priced imported sulphur.
A letter in reply dated 5th February 1952, was received from the Minister giving the following assurance: -
With respect to security the Australian Sulphuric acid manufacturers have been advised that the Commonwealth Government gives a definite assurance to the industry that it will be effectively protected whenever necessary against the importation of brimstone at an imported cost within the meaning of the Sulphur Bounty Act 1939-44 which might render uneconomic the use of indigenous sulphur bearing materials as a source of sulphur dioxide gas. The benefits of this assurance would extend to your own Company and would it is considered, provide the measure of protection against competition from low priced imported sulphur which your Company requests.
Although less pyrites is being used, increased quantities of sulphur are being imported.
– What is the date of the letter?
– It is dated 31st January, 1957. The company then sets out a reasonable complaint. The letter continues -
As a direct result of this assurance my Company proceeded with the mechanization and development of its mine and we now claim that even working at only one-third capacity, as at present-
That is a desperate position. This wellequipped mine is only producing at onethird of its capacity because the Government’s assurance has not been honoured. Sulphur is coming into the country in such large quantities that the pyrites available is not being used. The letter goes on - our underground mining costs are lower than any other mine of comparable tonnage in Australia. We are now informed as stated earlier in this letter that, as from 1st July next, the tonnage that we will be asked to supply will be still further reduced.
As I have said, the mine is at present operating at only one-third of its productive capacity - ‘
In an endeavour to encourage the use of pyrites my Company voluntarily reduced the price of its product by sixpence per unit as from 1st July, 1956. However, instead of increasing their usage of pyrites the Sulphuric Acid Manufacturers have intimated that their requirements will be some 15,000 tons less as from 1st July next.
We have discussed this matter at length with the Sulphuric Acid Manufacturers. We have told them that we are quite certain that, based on a tonnage to produce 65 per cent, of their sulphur requirements, our costs of production would be lowered to such an extent that this feature alone, ignoring the more important aspects as they affect the national economy, of which’ you are so well aware, is sufficiently important to ensure that your Government will take whatever steps are necessary to implement its express policy in encouraging the use of indigenous sulphur bearing materials?
There is no mention here of what the Government promised to do. This company, rightly and legitimately, expects the Government to honour its promise. The letter goes on -
My Company has a proven deposit of high grade pyrites sufficient to take care of the sulphur requirements of Western Australia for the foreseeable future, and its mine and treatment plant are so highly mechanized that, given a throughput based on 65 per cent, of Western Australian sulphur requirements, it could favorably compete with imported brimstone.
Not only have the Sulphuric Acid Manufacturers failed to complete the conversion of their plants to burn pyrites, but they have also restricted their usage of pyrites to tonnages far below existing pyrites burning capacity because of the availability of brimstone.
That is a serious charge, and one which I think the Minister should answer. Although the manufacturers of sulphuric acid have the plant to burn pyrites, the indigenous material, they are not using that plant to capacity. The letter proceeds -
My Company contends that the most effective means of encouraging the use of indigenous sulphur bearing materials would be the imposition of some restriction on the importation of brimstone.
Things are going haywire. The manufacturers are bringing in what they like, when they like, irrespective of the Government’s policy in relation to pyrites. The letter goes on -
It is suggested that the restrictions might be imposed in progressive stages culminating’ in a complete ban on imports up to 65 per cent, at the stage fixed for the completion of the conversion of acid plants to pyrites burning.
That would be pretty serious action. Probably the Government cannot go that far; I do not expect that it could. The members of the Government are not honest when they speak as if they have really done something to prevent a recurrence of the position that existed during the war and immediately thereafter when Australia was absolutely denuded of this material for the manufacture of superphosphates. If the present policy is continued, we shall reach a position when no pyrites will be available and when the capacity to burn pyrites for conversion to sulphuric acid will be extremely limited. If that should happen; it will be a tragedy. Certainly such a position could not be calculated to assist the expansion of agriculture and industry. The letter to which I have referred continues -
The failure of the Sulphur Bounty Act to achieve iia objective is, I think, undisputed, and I understand that an Inter-departmental Committee has for some time been considering what other steps could be taken that would be effective. I also understand that the recommendations of the Committee will be considered by Cabinet in the near future. I respectfully ask that Cabinet consider the practicability of import restrictions on the lines discussed above.
My company would be glad to arrange for its representatives to discuss these matters with you in Canberra if you would grant them an interview, and I await your advice herein.
That is a very unhappy story from the point of view of the mining companies, which have done an excellent and most efficient job; They have lowered costs, and they have voluntarily reduced prices in a time of inflation; but they cannot get any satisfaction from the Government despite the fact that on the figures it cannot be denied that sulphur and brimstone are being imported into this country in ever-increasing quantities.
There is another matter which is most unsatisfactory; indeed, it is most distasteful, and here again I feel that the Government has been dishonest. The Tariff Board has made a full inquiry into this matter, but the relevant papers have not been released. No doubt they are available to the Minister and to Cabinet. This is a matter of extreme importance, not to the economy of Western Australia alone, but to the national economy for, if we do not develop this industry so that it may again achieve the position it once held, we shall not have any materials for the manufacture of superphosphates and our position could become desperate. Some six or seven months ago, the Minister told me, in reply to a question I asked in this Senate, that inquiries would be made and figures would be made available. Mr. Charsley requested that the information be made available. Although the Government has the information, it will not release the details. As the information is not available to us, the best we can do is turn to the report of the Tariff Board, made in 1954. I emphasize that is the only information we can obtain, despite the fact that a report was available for presentation to this Parliament before this bill was brought down. That is wrong. So wrong is it that I feel honorable senators on the Government side should be as incensed about it as I am. The latest report has been kept the close preserve of a few Ministers in the inner Cabinet who seem to say, “Although we must admit failure, we do not intend to make that fact too apparent “.
– To which report is the honorable senator referring?
– The report of the investigation made by the Tariff Board into the question of superphosphates. That report has not been released. It has not yet been tabled despite the fact that we have been told here that it is available. Whether the Minister intended to tell us, I do not know; but he did indicate that this report has been in the hands of Cabinet. He gave that indication during the course of his own speech, and I should like to know why the document has not been made available to the Parliament.
The Government may claim that it is doing something commendable, that it is, in fact, giving money away, whereas the essence of the position is that the objective of this guarantee - the development of these undertakings - is not being achieved. The present policy adopted by the Government is. not calculated to achieve these excellent results quickly. Unless the Government makes a real attempt to help these companies, not only by means of a subsidy but also by impressing upon the combines a realization of the importance to this country of their actions, the position could become much worse.
What would these combines think of an offer by the Government to subsidize them for the building of burning plants or the conversion of existing plant to use pyrites instead of brimstone provided their profits did not exceed 10 per cent, or 12± per cent.? They would simply laugh at such an offer because their profits are exorbitant. No offer of a guarantee such as that would have any effect upon them. While these people have been making exorbitant profits, the Government has restricted the payment of bounty to mining companies making only small profits and nothing has been done to encourage the use of the materials they produce.
I suggest that the Government should make an honest and candid report upon this matter, and that it should no longer cheat both itself and the people by paying bounties which have proved ineffective in stimulating the use of pyrites in sulphuric acid production. In fact, the Government has dishonoured the guarantee made to those mining companies which have succeeded in producing efficiently and cheaply, by the installation of the most modern plant,, a material which is of extreme national, importance.
– It was not my intention to take part in this debate but I should like to comment upon one or two of the. statements made by Senator Cooke. First, I should like to draw attention to the figures he quoted, because I think that inadvertently he has made a mistake. He stated that Western Australia produced 74,919 tons of sulphuric acid in the year ended 30th June, 1955, and that the production for the year ended 30th June, 1-956, was 67,000 tons. I remind him that the next, figure he cited - 37,752 tons - related to only half a year.
– I made .the correction in reply to an interjection.
– It will be seen, therefore, that there is no likelihood of a reduction in production in Western Australia. I do agree with Senator Cooke’s suggestion that the bounty has not achieved the results for which it was introduced. That is quite understandable because the manufacturers of fertilizers are not willing to install machinery to treat pyrites unless they have a guarantee that in a year or two, or perhaps a little longer, we shall not revert to the use of brimstone. That attitude is only reasonable. If the manufacturers are given a guarantee that cheap brimstone will not be available, I have not the slightest doubt that they will, swing, over, to a greater use of pyrites than at present.
It has been suggested that manufacturers are getting a return of 50 per cent, of sulphuric acid from the treatment of pyrites. That is not accurate. They are getting 50 per cent, return from the treatment of indigenous materials, not from pyrites alone. The latest figures 1 have been able to obtain refer to 1955 and, I think, they indicate that the quantity of brimstone used in that year was the greatest since the introduction of the system of burning pyrites. I think only 24 per cent, of the production resulted from the burning of pyrites that year.
– Is that the figure for the current year?
– No. I asked for the figures last year, but the Minister concerned would not give them to me. My reason for asking for their production was to ascertain the quantity of indigenous material that was being used by the various manufacturers. It will be remembered the interdepartmental committee mentioned by Senator Armstrong predicted in its report that by 1956 we would be using 65 per cent, indigenous materials, and an appeal was made to the manufacturers to convert their plant to that extent. As is usual with my State, Western Australia immediately did its best’ to carry out the Government’s request with the result that we have been using between 47 per cent, and 48 per cent, pyrites in the manufacture of superphosphates.
When I was inquiring ino this matter in about 1951, I interviewed one firm and asked how much pyrites it was using. I was told, that it was not using any pyrites. Its representative asked, “Why should we use it? “ That firm was using brimstone. It is obvious that other companies were more or less following the same policy. They have not converted their plant to the use of pyrites,, with the result that we in Western Australia are paying a higher price for superphosphates than is being paid in any other State.
In the evidence given before the Tariff Board, it was pointed out that some of the companies were obtaining indigenous materials for even less than £3 a ton. In Western Australia, farmers are paying £8 a ton. That may be due to the fact that Norseman, is producing pyrites solely for their pyritic content.. There are no other materials to share the cost. At Mount Lyell, in Tasmania, and at Mount Morgan, in Queensland, there are other materials, such as gold, silver and zinc, to share the expense. That is one reason why costs are greater in Western Australia.
Senator Armstrong said that we could not alter the present state of affairs because we cannot differentiate between the States in the matter of the bounty, but I suggest that there is a simple way to overcome that difficulty. During the war, all the brimstone available was purchased by the British Phosphate Commission. Brimstone was obtained from the United States for about £13 a ton. Supplies were obtained from Sicily also, and I understand the cost was about £20 a ton. By purchasing all the available brimstone, the British Phosphate Commission was able to make it available to users at a uniform price at about £19 a ton. A similar scheme could be employed to-day. If the commission were to purchase all the pyrites required, it could make the material available at a uniform price. In such an event, the bounty also could be uniform. I believe that such a plan is feasible, and I pass on the suggestion to the Government for its careful consideration.
There is no doubt that the use of superphosphate in Western Australia, and also the production from the land in that State, are being curtailed by the high price of superphosphate. When I made inquiries on this subject some time ago, I was informed that Western Australia was the second largest user of superphosphate among the Australian States. It was apparent then that, in a year or two, Western Australia would be using more superphosphate than would be used by any other State. That situation has not yet been reached, simply because of the higher price of superphosphate in Western Australia. I strongly urge the Government to do something along the lines I have indicated, and to purchase pyrites so that it can be made available to manufacturers at a uniform price. If that were done, I believe that the price could be reduced, and, in turn, the reduced price would stimulate the use of superphosphate, and so increase production from the land.
There is another aspect of this subject to which I desire to refer, and I am sorry that I have not with me the figures that I should like to have. Last year and the previous year, an appeal was made to the producers in Western Australia to use more pyrites. They consented to do so, provided that the total superphosphate used was not more than 10 per cent, above the quantity used in the previous year. That limitation was wrong, particularly in Western Australia, where it is desirable to use as much superphosphate as possible in order to increase production.
I hope that the Government will do more than merely renew the bounty. It should do something to encourage the manufacturers of superphosphate to increase the use of pyrites, because, in absence of a guarantee against cheaper brimstone being placed on the market, they may fear to go ahead. When the departmental committee submitted its report, all the information available was that the supply of brimstone in the world would last for only about another twelve years. At that time it was stated that supplies of brimstone were running out in the United States. That country did, in fact, ration supplies. But the situation has changed since then. Other sources of supply of brimstone have been found, chiefly in Texas, I believe, with the result that brimstone is now more plentiful than it was. and it may become cheaper. Manufacturers are seriously concerned about the situation facing them.
I join with Senator Cooke in making a plea on behalf of Norseman. Those engaged in the industry there have not had very good treatment from this Government, or from the previous Government when it originated the pyrites industry. If superphosphate manufacturers will convert their plants to use pyrites, they can get more than 60 per cent, of their requirements, and that larger quantity will enable them to supply superphosphate more cheaply. I support the bill.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the reception given to this measure and for the suggestions that have been made. Many of them have been of great interest to me, and I have noted them for consideration by the Government.
Senator Cooke gave some figures relating to production and I had intended in my reply to point out that some of them were incorrect. However, Senator Seward has made the position clear. Apparently, Senator Cooke cited figures for a half-year instead of a full year. Reference has been made to the Tariff Board’s report. The last report by that body on this subject was furnished in 1954. The report has been tabled and has been available to honorable senators. There is also an additional report in relation to sinter gas which has nothing to do with the production of superphosphate from pyrites. I referred to it in my secondreading speech. All the information obtained on the subject has been made available to honorable senators.
Both Senator Armstrong and Senator Scott referred to the fact that, although a good deal had been accomplished, we had not done as much as we hoped to do. The Government realizes that its efforts have not been as successful as was expected. Reference has been made to the Tariff Board’s review of the bounty in the light of additional costs. When the Tariff Board’s report is received we hope that it will further encourage the industry to produce superphosphate from pyrites and other indigenous materials.
Senator Armstrong said that the production of acid in 1954 amounted to 132,000 tons, but although it amounted to 237,000 tons in the following year, the bounty paid was less. The explanation is that, as the price of brimstone rises so the bounty falls. That is only natural. There have been considerable rises in the freight on brimstone, and that also has caused the bounty to fall.
During the debate references have been made to import licences for brimstone. In the House of Representatives the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) made a statement on the subject. He said that manufacturers have been advised that, in view of the need to conserve overseas funds, applications for import licences for sulphur would be reviewed in the light of the practicability of new plants using local material and old plants being converted to do so. Provision is being made for a review of licences, and, therefore, manufacturers would be well advised to note that they can no longer rely on the same quantity of brimstone being available as in the past. Should supplies be reduced, the Western Australian plant at Norseman should benefit. Norseman is 450 miles from Perth, and consequently the plant there is at a disadvantage because of the long rail haulage. It is true that there has been some reduction of freight charges, but the reduction is small. If honorable senators were to use their influence with State governments with a view to reducing freights, the result could be an increased use of pyrites. I repeat that manufacturers would be well advised to take to heart the statement of the Minister for Supply that import licences will be reviewed, and that there is a probability of reduced quantities of brimstone coming into Australia. I listened with great interest to the statement that the manufacture of superphosphate from pyrites amounted to less than 45 per cent, of the total production. South Australia’s reaction to the bounty has been very good; it is the biggest manufacturer of superphosphate, using pyrites. Fifty-five per cent, of its output of superphosphate was manufactured using pyrites, 40 per cent, from Port Pirie sinter gases and 5 per cent, from brimstone. South Australia has set a good example for the rest of Australia.
– Without expending dollars.
– That is so. South Australia is producing the whole of its output from Australian materials, and is to be congratulated and encouraged to continue. The rest of Australia should follow suit.
Reference has been made to the profit limitation of 12i per cent, on the funds invested, and the fact that the Tariff Board has not prescribed a tariff limit. This matter has been raised both in another place and in this chamber, and perhaps some reply should be given to the queries that have been raised. I have before me the following report: -
The Tariff Board considered that there would be considerable difficulty in ascertaining the capital and profit related to pyritic acid production by reason of the activities being combined both with the manufacture of acid from brimstone and the subsequent production of fertilizers.
– What report is the Minister reading?
– I am reading from a statement that has been prepared by the Department of Customs and Excise. Because of the number of times this matter has been raised, I thought I should obtain a report on it to present to the Senate.
– From the Tariff Board?
– No, from the Department of Customs and Excise. The report continues -
The Chief Accountant of the Department considered, from an investigation previously conducted into the industry, that the difficulties would not prove insurmountable and with this in mind together with expressed desire of the Tariff Board that the profits made should be kept under observation, the Government favoured the retention of the profit limitation provisions in the Act but raised the limitation to 121/2 per cent. to cover the circumstances under which bounty was being granted.
Discussions immediately ensued between officials of the Department and the applicant companies and arrangements were amicably arrived at under which the capital and profits concerned in pyritic acid production have been ascertained without necessitating the keeping of any additional records.
I ask Senator Cooke, who is interjecting, to withhold his questions until I finish reading this statement. I shall do my best, at the committee stage, to answer them. If he waits, he will have all the answers and will not continue to go off half-cocked, as he did in relation to the production in Western Australia. The statement continues -
The two main problems presented for solution were: -
Firstly: The material difference in construction costs in new plants as compared with oldestablished plants.
Secondly: What was the sale price of the acid where the producer further processed the acid and sold the final products in the form of fertilizer?
It was found that it is the custom in the acid industry to keep the plant up to full efficiency and even to increase the capacity of the plant by the constant replacement of parts. Once this feature was recognized, no difficulty was experienced by the Accountants in devising an equitable calculation of the capital employed.
On the grounds that the plant does not, in fact, depreciate through wear and tear, the full construction expenditure is taken into the calculation of capital funds employed. On the other hand no charge for depreciation is allowed against profits.
Obsolescence does occur. The competitive advantages of production from old and new plants is important and raises many questions most of which are outside the ambit of bounty legislation. The Government does however favour the installation of new plant capable of producing acid from pyrites or the conversion of old plant for this purpose. Further the Government is concerned that the consumer of the goods will share materially in these advantages; hence, the profit limitation.
Attempts were made to establish a recognized market selling price for sulphuric acid used in the production, of fertilizer. The production of acid and fertilizer is however so closely connected in Australia that this avenue had to be abandoned.
Nevertheless the Accountants were equal to the occasion and selling prices have been calculated.
Briefly stated the profit made on the sale of the final product has been apportioned to the several avenues of production according to the ascertained costs and that part relating to bountiable acid has been added to the cost of production of that acid to determine the appropriate selling price.
The Tariff Board was well aware that the bounty could be in excess of the needs of some manufacturers. It believed that some of the excess, if not all of it, would be used to reduce the price of superphosphate.
The confidence of the Tariff Board was well placed. The bounty has been shared with the consumers of superphosphate even to a greater extent than that contemplated. In the first year of the operation of the bounty, some superphosphate prices were reduced by way of a deferred rebate operative over the year’s purchases. The bounty was only one of the factors taken into consideration in the amount of the rebate but it undoubtedly did affect the amount. Equally it has helped to keep down current prices of superphosphate.
In another instance, a higher price has been paid in the purchasing of pyrites; thus there has been a sharing of the benefits of the bounty with the pyrite producer in accordance with the views expressed by the ‘Tariff Board in its report on copper.
I think that answers most of the questions that have been raised by honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not wish to delay the committee, but I should like to direct a question or two to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). The Minister, in his second-reading speech and again just now, stated that the request of Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited that its sinter gases be regarded as eligible for the bountyhad been referred to the Tariff Board. He said that the Government had received the board’s report and that it was being considered. I expect that he will tell me that he cannot express the Government’s opinion until it has fully considered the report, but I hope that that consideration will be given at the earliest possible date.
The Minister has also been good enough to inform the Senate that next year South Australia’s production of sulphuric acid from Port Pirie sinter gases will be about 40 per cent. of its total output. That is of importance to both Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited and the South Australian primary industries that are dependent on superphosphate, because, no doubt, the cost of production will have a bearing on whether the bounty is payable on sinter gases. I presume that, if they do become eligible, they will be so prescribed in the act. I should like the Minister to clear up those two points.
– I should like to refer, briefly, to the problem that exists in Western Australia. It was referred to by Senator Seward, and I do not propose to canvass it again. I think it is unique to Western Australia; but, with great respect, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) did not deal with it in the long report that he read at the second-reading stage.
I repeat that I do not propose to canvass again the merits or demerits of the problem, but one very important aspect of it could be considered by the Tariff Board if, and when, it meets. All I wish to do now is to ask the Minister whether he will ensure that the local aspects of this matter, as it affects Western Australia, will be fully placed before the Tariff Board before it makes a determination.
– In answer to Senator Pearson’s comments on the Tariff Board report and sinter .gases, this matter has been under consideration and, naturally, I could not make any comment on what the final decision will be. The honorable senator is quite right in saying that the act states that these sinter gases will be proclaimed if that is in accordance with the Government’s decision. That is the way in which the act works. In reply to Senator Vincent’s comments, I suggest that if the people at Norseman and in Western Australia generally do not take the opportunity of placing their case properly before the Tariff Board it is their own fault. They are the people who have the facts, and a tariff inquiry is for the purpose of finding the facts. The honorable senator should keep those persons in Western Australia well advised about when the tariff inquiry is being made, and should . ensure that they present the full facts. In that event there is no doubt that the facts will receive the proper consideration of the Tariff Board.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) indicate any occasion on which the representatives of goldmining companies, mining pyrites in Western Australia, have not given the fullest evidence, attention, time and figures, to the Tariff Board in any inquiry on the subject? Secondly, is the Minister aware that the company in question has written to him, seeking a consultation with a view to having a further inquiry made, because it is willing an’d anxious to place fully before the Tariff Board the many deficiencies that exist and the difficulties generally with which it is confronted?
The Minister, quite wrongly, took as correct Senator Seward’s statement that I misquoted the production figures in Western Australia, whereas in fact I used the production figures cited by the Minister. When Senator Seward introduced the matter, I immediately made it clear that I was giving the figures for the half-year to the end of December, 1956. I do want the Minister to take into consideration that the company advised the Government that it had been informed by the persons using its product that there would be a reduction of 15,000 tons in their requirements for the next half year. It would be horrible for the Minister, as a result of either lack of intelligence or not having listened to the debate, to report back to the Government that he misunderstood the case to such an extent as he has made clear to the Senate he misunderstood it on this occasion.
– I did not misunderstand. I lisened very carefully, and I followed through, on page 2, all the figures that Senator Cooke read. He said that in 1955 Western Australia produced 74,919 tons. He said, “ Next year they were down a little to 67,709 tons. In 1957 we face a huge drop to 37,754 tons for the year “. That is not correct. That figure is for the first half year. If it is doubled, we get a figure of 75,000 tons, which will represent an increase. Those are the figures to which I referred.
– I should like the Minister to understand that my reference to a reduction was based on the company’s submission that its production would be reduced by a considerable number of thousands of tons in the following half-year.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 540), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the following paper be printed: -
Parliament House, Canberra - The case for a permanent building - Statement by the Presiding Officers and report by the Secretary, Joint House Department.
– The Senate now has before it a statement by the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, our President, and Mr. Speaker from another place, and they present for consideration - to use their own terms - “The case for a permanent building “. They support their statement with a report from the Secretary of the Joint House Department, Mr. Emerton. I propose to comment upon the supporting report before I advert to the statement that has been made by Mr. President and Mr. Speaker. The report incorporates the views on this matter of five of the parliamentary officers, the Clerk of the Senate, the former Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the Librarian, and the Secretary of the Joint House Department, and attached to Mr. Emerton’s report are submissions in writing from the last three departments.
The report begins by tracing the history of the development of this Parliament, and I think it is well that I should direct the Senate’s attention particularly to what has been written so that we have the background before we embark upon a consideration of the statement. Mr. Emerton sets out -
I pause there to draw the Senate’s particular attention to the fact that the committee suggested alternatives -
The erection of a nucleus of the permanent building on Camp Hill- which is, as the Senate knows, to the rear of this building - or, alternatively, the erection of a provisional building on its present site.
Parliament, on 26th July, 1923, agreed to the erection of a provisional building, and work thereon commenced on 28th August of that year.
So the building in which we now function was intended from the beginning to be merely provisional. It was completed and ready for occupation in 1927, was officially opened on 9th May, 1927, and the cost of erection was £750,000. The Senate will observe that we completed three decades in this building when we finished work in the chamber on Thursday of last week. The building has stood all that time, despite the gaseous explosions that have taken place inside it from time to time.
When the provisional building was thought about, there were only 36 senators and 73 members of the House of Representatives, a total of 109. To-day, there are 60 senators and 124 members of the House of Representatives, a total of 184. That is almost double the original figure. It was thought in 1 927 that sufficient room had been allowed for a contemplated expansion, to 112 members of the House of Representatives and 56 senators. Those figures were considerably lower than the number of persons who now function in the premises.
Some other aspects to which Mr. Emerton directs attention were worth mentioning. In 1927 there were only thirteen Cabinet Ministers. To-day there are 21, and last year there were 22. Accommodation has to be found for all of them. That great growth in the number of Ministers needing accommodation in this place was not, of course, foreseen by those who designed the building. Nobody foresaw that the Ministers would have staffs totalling about 100 officers who would also need to be accommodated in this building, nor was it thought that the Press gallery, then numbering 25 persons and now numbering 75, would have such tremendous development, or that it would need so much in the way of accommodation in the building.
The third aspect to be considered is that it was never contemplated that the administrative staff of the National Library would have to be housed in the Parliamentary building. Moreover, the original plan contemplated that no member of the House of Representatives or senator of less than ministerial rank in the Parliament would have the privilege and convenience of a room to himself. All honorable members and senators were expected to function together in their party rooms. There has been a development away from that opinion in this more enlightened age, and everybody will agree that it would be simply impossible for an individual member of the Parliament to attend to his work adequately unless he had the privacy and convenience of a separate room.
So, Mr. Emerton has directed attention in this report to the situation that existed then and that exists now, and he points to the inadequacy of the provisions that are made for our benefit. If honorable senators will refer to paragraph 40, at page 21 of his report, they will note that Mr. Emerton has put there very plainly the basis upon which his report is presented. He stated -
This report deals exclusively with the accommodation of the building as originally provided and as it exists at the present time, and of the difficulties under which the occupants are now working.
That is the whole basis upon which he has presented his thoughts to us. The report gives a most factual statement of developments in connexion with the building. It traces the history of the additions and improvements to the building from 1927 to date, showing a capital expenditure of £478,368. At page 10, Mr. Emerton has directed attention to the great increase in annual maintenance costs. I invite the Senate to consider those and to note how maintenance of this building has risen from only £2,460 in 1928-29 to £31,199 in the financial year 1955-56. The Senate will notice that there has been a great increase in the cost of maintenance during the past eight years, from £11,415 in 1947-48 to £31,199 in the last financial year.
Mr. Emerton has pointed out what has come true - that the building needs infinitely more maintenance than ever before, and that more staff has had to be engaged. He gives details of that staff at page 11 of his report and has shown, of course, that there has been a general rise in costs, salaries and expenses as well. It is certainly true that the cost of maintaining this building in anything like good condition becomes a greater burden each year, merely because the building is ageing. Mr. Emerton has dealt with the difficulty of keeping the roof of the parliamentary building free of leaks. He has shown that that is a major problem.
At page 17 of his report, Mr. Emerton discusses an alternative use for the present building. He has proposed that the presenParliament House should be devoted to the purposes of the National Library, except for certain portions of it which he details al page 20. Very briefly, what he has proposed is that the whole of the building should be turned over to the National Library, which would then have the whole of its assets and facilities under one roof.
The areas that he has suggested should not go to the National Library are detailed at the top of page 20. He would exclude the House of Representatives chamber and the whole of the outside rooms on the main floor running from the front door round to the Speaker’s suite. He would exclude the Press gallery and the whole of the new wing running out from the Speaker’s Gallery on that side of the building. He points out with advantage in paragraph (ii) that the rooms running round the House of Representatives, with the House of Representatives chamber, might well constitute a conference unit, which would be available for government and other conferences. The existence of restaurant services in the building would provide an added conference facility. I direct the attention of honorable senators to that suggestion, and then refer them to Mr. Emerton’s conclusion at page 21, paragraph 41. The last sentence reads -
I think that would be the experience of each and every one of us. I suppose it is true to say that each member of this Parliament has an affection for this building where he or she has laboured in the interests of the nation, and represented a constituency or a State and a political party. There are so many personal associations connected with the building that we have come to have a warm regard for the building itself. It is also true that, in its conception and its present form, the building is inadequate. It is not a dignified or beautiful building, and I would say that it. does not, in any way, adequately symbolize the thoughts to which it should give expression in some form or other. I have not done justice - or even attempted to do it - to the report of Mr. Emerton, but I take this opportunity of complimenting him upon the presentation, form and content of the report. It is a most comprehensive treatise on the subject, posing all the problems and discussing them from a very objective point of view.
I should like to turn now to the statement made by you, Mr. President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I notice that the presiding officers have dealt with this matter, under six headings, in paragraph 4 of their report. They are -
Parliament House as a symbol of freedom and democracy,
Selection of a site,
Competition for a design,
Time for design and construction,
Landscape development, and
The use to which the present building could be put.
You deal with them in that order.
Coming to the first item, “ Parliament House as a Symbol of Freedom and Democracy “, I say at once that I agree with every word that is said by the Presiding Officers under that heading. The only suggestion I make is that there might be a shift in emphasis in the terms of the heading itself. I point out that many parliaments throughout the world are symbols of these two things - freedom and democracy - but this is the Parliament of Australia. I should like to regard it first andforemost as a symbol of Australian nation hood with due acknowledgment to the great ideals that are mentioned by the Presiding Officers. I want to indicate that the Presiding Officers have not overlooked that because in paragraph 8 on page 2 of their statement, in the closing sentence, they say -
Australia has progressed to the status of nationhood - a free country with free institutions.
The idea there expressed is the one that is the dominant consideration in my own mind and perfectly puts things into perspective. In other words, the Presiding Officers say that Parliament House should symbolize Australia’s nationhood and at the same time pay due tribute to our basic ideals of freedom and democracy. I agree, too, with what I believe to be your thought, sir, that the building should incorporate features in acknowledgment of the fact that there are six States from which federation came into being. I think the new building could usefully include a feature acknowledging that we are part of Asia, and part of the Pacific, and it should be a record of the important historical fact that in the last great war we had the most intimate associations with the United States of America. It should instance the fact that we desire a permanent association with our English-speaking brothers across the Pacific in the North American conntinent, both Canadians and Americans. I suggest, too, that we should not overlook our very good friends in the Pacific - those in New Zealand. I express these thoughts for no other reason than to say that, in my own view, there ought to be the broadest, boldest and most imaginative approach to the establishment of a new Parliament House in Canberra.
– Like the Opera House in Sydney.
– The notes might not be as sweet in one place as in the other. I suggest that the two places symbolize very different things. A new Parliament House might be able to express more fundamental concepts than perhaps an. opera house, desirable as that may be.
Despite these suggestions I make about the incorporation of particular featuresin the new Parliament House, I still think that the dominant note should be that of Australian nationhood. That, in itself, is the sum of Australian history, its aims and ideals, and above all the character and distinctive hopes of our people. It is a concept, of course, that cannot be visibly expressed; it is a concept that rests in the minds and hearts of Australians and, accordingly, it is intangible. Because it is intangible, I think we should be reminded of it from time to time and, if it is possible, in some kind of visible form. I consider there is no better reminder of it to the people of this nation than an Australian Parliament House intended and designed to symbolize it.
I have said before in this chamber, and I hope I will be pardoned for repeating my feeling in relation to Australian nationhood, that I do not think Australia was born on 1st January, 1901, when the Commonwealth was established. My thought is that it was then only conceived, and in the minds of relatively few. I feel that it was born when the people of the States came together for the first time in Australia’s history as nationals during the holocaust of World War I. Established for the first time, there really began to emerge on a grand scale the feeling that we were Australians perhaps first, as well as peoples of the States. I think Australia got its baptism in World War II. when, again, there was an aggregation of people in a supreme effort of sacrifice in the interests of the survival of this country.
I can go back to the time when the concept of Australian nationhood was accepted in very few minds indeed. I recall particularly an occasion when I was in the cinema with one of my brothers and the first Australian ship was projected on the screen. It was a crowded cinema and my brother was vastly enthusiastic and applauded vigorously and loudly. Everybody in the place looked around to see who was ‘the lunatic. This was the first Australian ship to appear on the screen for the first time and the fact that somebody was enthusiastic about it evoked complete surprise. I recall the day, too, when Australians treated with scorn anything that was made in Australia. They would walk into shops and say “ the imported article, please “. Now, happily, with the passage of time and the proud and outstanding performance of Australians in all fields, those days are gone. Australia’s nationhood is now, I would say, exceedingly well established. I believe the people of
Australia are ready to pay tribute to their nation and to recognize it in some form conforming to their appreciation of it.
I now come to the practical side of the statement submitted by the presiding officers. On the question of the selection of a site, they indicate at the outset that on their advice this new building will take some ten years to complete from the time the beginning is made to plan it, prepare the site, determine the design of the building, and go into all the details that will be preliminary and essential to its establishment. They favour, of course, Capital Hill as against Camp Hill as one that gives infinitely more scope and one that would not be overlooking this building and its environs. I like their recommendation for a competition for a design of the building. Apart from the spiritual elements I think should be incorporated in the building, it goes without saying that the building must be of practical use and of practical application for the purposes of the Parliament. It must serve all the real needs of the parliamentarians and those associated with the life of Parliament. In other words, it must be practical. Next, it must have an eye to future development. We do not want any unimaginative approach to the development that may take place in this country. Above all, from beginning to end, it should strike the notes of dignity and beauty - both of them.
I come now to another phase, the development of the site in the reasonably near future. Mr. President and Mr. Speaker have adverted to the fact that trees take a long time to grow, and that having regard to the likely dimensions of a building of this type - it is likely to be monumental and large and create the impression of greatness - it would be inappropriate not to have the structure surrounded with trees. They point out that the type of trees required would probably take 30 years to mature and that the trees might only give some substantial evidence of their presence at the end of ten years. They suggest that, in the meantime, the grounds should be laid out, that regard be paid to roads of access, that plenty of room be left for the construction work that will be associated with the new building, and that trees be planted so that they will become established within the time to which reference has been made..
With their thoughts in that matter I say I completely agree. They approve the suggestion that is made in Mr. Emerton’s report for the use of this building for the purposes of the National Library. They reached their conclusion, the Senate will find, on page 5. I turn straight to that. In paragraphs 40 and 41 they say -
Mr. President, I can speak at this stage only for myself, because the statement and the report have not had consideration by the Opposition as a whole, but when I express myself as supporting the proposition of the presiding officers, I undertake to advance that viewpoint to my party. I have every confidence that it is one that my party would need very little persuasion about. I think it would be impressed with the report by Mr. Emerton and, above all, with the matter that has been put before it by the two Presiding Officers.
I am not advocating at this minute that the new Parliament House be built. The decision to build it might well be postponed. I commit myself to the personal view that I would like to see it proceed from now and go straight ahead to conclusion. I would like that, but I realize that over a ten-year period economic conditions, even local conditions, and the demand upon manpower and resources might make it undesirable to have a firm time-table. However I cannot see any reason why the planning should not now begin, why the site should not be determined firmly, why there should not be competitions for the design, and why all those interested should not be called upon to give of their best thought. Undoubtedly, for the reasons that are stated quite clearly in the report and the statement of the presiding officers, it will be a considerable time before we get round to the practical step of erecting the building. I would be most happy to lend whatever influence I have in the Parliament to the cause of furthering the planning, the land- scaping, the tree-planting and the holding of a competition to determine the form and the scope of the building. Finally, I would like to congratulate you, Mr. President, upon the part you have played in bringing this matter forward for consideration, and on the very valuable contribution to thought on this subject that both you and Mr. Speaker have made.
– I wish first to congratulate you, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Emerton and the officers of the House on the two reports. I think it is an indication of a definite change of policy on the part of both Parliament and the Executive. I wish, too, to thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for his close analysis of the report, which will save me the trouble of going through it in the same way. I think we all feel that the growth of the national capital and the building of a permanent Parliament House have been delayed by a number of untoward events, and partly by a policy of drift and dawdling. I am very gratified to have this report in my hands.
On this matter, I can speak, not only for myself, but also for the select committee that inquired into the development of Canberra. I shall read its recommendations with regard to Parliament House in their brief form. Recommendations 64, 65 and 66, of the committee’s report, which was dated September, 1955, read -
I think all members of that committee are gratified to find that their labours have resulted in this report and debate.
I think I might explain why the select committee recommended Capital Hill rather than Camp Hill. Griffin had, as honorable senators know, some grandiose ideas about what he called a Capitol. The committee tried to get something solid and material out of that. We examined witnesses, but the whole thing remained nebulous. I think it should be recalled that Burley Griffin was an American, who drew up this plan before he came here. He had a number of philosophic and general ideas that the average Australian finds rather hard to understand. As we know, he did come out here eventually. Indeed, he spent a good part of his life here and, in addition to planning this capital, he planned the beautiful suburb of Castlecrag in Sydney. Altogether, he did good service to this country, and probably before he left it he had a better understanding of our outlook. But we still found it very difficult to understand his idea about Capital Hill. We gave careful consideration to it, but decided finally that we could do nothing with it.
There was another reason why we recommended Capital Hill in lieu of Camp Hill. Camp Hill is a very good site, in itself, but when we went to Camp Hill we came to the conclusion that the view was spoilt by this building, which is not in the Griffin plan. It is an interpolation. Although it is a temporary building, it will suffer the lot of all temporary buildings and will survive for a long time to come.
That is a material consideration that you, sir, Mr. Speaker, and the officers have taken into consideration. We can set off against the cost of the new Parliament House the uses to which this building can be put. I think the care and attention that you and your officers have given to .the uses to which this building will be put is thoroughly commendable. I do not think it matters whether it is used for a library or whether we find some other use for it. It will not be wasted. I can suggest another use, not intending to rule out the idea of the library. We all remember that recently an important conference was held here. There was no place to house the guests from abroad, and this building had to be used. That was something which none of us liked, but I think we submitted with due grace because we could not treat our guests shabbily.
There is another reason why I think we should speedily have the permanent Parliament House. This building has become a secretariat.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I agree with the recommendation in the report that the new Parliament House building should be a symbol of freedom and democracy. That applies, I think, to both the internal and external appearance. I have some faint recollection, that when the word “ symbol “ came up in my early childhood it meant something like an outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual grace. I suppose if this Parliament House is to be the grand building we hope it will be, that should be an encouragement to all of us to show a spirit worthy of it. It is important to-day, when despotism, veiled and open, is prevalent in many countries, that we should be proud of our tradition of freedom, and that we should show it by boldly displaying it in this building.
There are at least two - there are more, I suppose, but I know of at least two - great buildings in the world which do attempt to reflect a spirit of freedom and representative government. One is the Houses of Parliament near the Thames in London, and the other is the Capitol in Washington. The Houses of Parliament in London may be of a style which many people to-day would not approve, but it is a great and magnificent building. I think the Tower is one of the most impressive things in the whole of London, and the interior of both chambers is very impressive, as are the corridors and lobbies. What I remember most clearly, and I remember it from World War I., because on my last visit I had no time to look at them, was the series of great frescoes which portrayed the history of the great parliamentary system in Great Britain.
Senator McKenna said that the new Parliament House here should be distinctively Australian and should reflect our Australian tradition. I agree with that statement fully, but it will take some little thought, and, I think, a great deal of work on the part of the people who prepare the data for the architects as to what that should embody. We have a short tradition, but a great one. The things I think all of us recall with pride are the explorers, the pioneers, the opening up of the land and the people who took their part in it, our social advances and our political tradition.
Unfortunately, our history is- not yet written, hut I am hoping that within the next five years it will be. As honorable senators know, we have a national university, and recently there came out, to take charge of the school of social sciences a great Australian historian, Sir Keith Hancock. I am quite sure that under his direction and guidance the long-delayed problem of accurately writing our history will be undertaken, and I hope that when this building is completed we shall see, not just a jumble of pictures, but something carefully thought out to express the whole of our tradition, both political and social.
But I do not draw any sharp division between our Australian tradition and that of the lands from which we come. Senator McKenna mentioned that there was a time when the Australian tradition was not recognized. I think somebody tried to form a premature Australian nationalism. Back during last century, there were people who attempted to deny the British inheritance. There is a great difference between our development and that of the United States of America. Unfortunately, the United States had a clean break with Great Britain through war. We have not had that.
We have reached a position of independence which is also inter-dependence, but we carry on the tradition, and our parliamentary tradition does not go back to 1855, or even 1842, or even to the 1820’s; when the first legislative council was formed; it goes back at least to 1265, it goes back to Simon de Montfort. That, may I say, being of Scots and Welsh descent, is essentially an English tradition. There being so many good traditions for all the other people from the British Isles, I am prepared to regard the political tradition of the British Parliament as peculiarly English because- it was actually the English House of Commons which really developed self government.
In the thirteenth century, there were popular assemblies in all the countries of Europe. Curiously enough, the first one to have a popular assembly was Spain, but in many countries it died, and in others it just languished on. The Scottish Parliament existed, but it was not a great parliament; it was only when it was united in 1707 with the English Parliament that we got our great British. Parliament. After all,, the whole British race, everybody from the British Isles, whatever his ancestry, has in the great House of Commons, representation of which he may be proud. There you will find the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. One of the greatest parliamentarians of our own day was the late John Redmond, probably the greatest Irish parliamentarian of all times. Then, of course, we have only to think of Lloyd George. He was Welsh. The present Prime Minister is a Scot, and the English are innumerable. Probably the greatest parliamentarian of all was Disraeli. I hope that we shall not try to make this an exclusive, unreal Australian tradition. In addition to the British tradition, there is the whole European tradition.
Self-government goes back to the Greek city states. I heard some one mention Asia. We are close to Asia; we are adjacent to it.
– We are not Asians.
– We are not
Asians. We are not part of Asia. Australia is a continent, the only continent which contains one nation, and one nation only. Its tradition is European, and it will remain so.
I come now to the question of architecture. On this, of course, one has to be very careful, because, as soon as one criticizes- anything modern, one is told that one is simply traditionalist, that one must accept the spirit of the day, and so forth. In’ every age, whether the architecture is good or bad, there have been great architects and poor ones.. AH I can say is that we must get for this building the finest architect we can find, and so long as it has the grace and dignity of the great buildings of the past, I personally would not attempt to prescribe what particular style it should follow.
I have just one more word. This, like every other building which is not immediately utilitarian, or related to the personal needs of the people, will be attacked on the ground that the money could be spent better in some other way. That will always be said. I understand that what the President and Mr. Speaker propose is a longterm plan with so much money voted each year, and the present need is simply to plan it. I point out that if, before 1929, there had been a number, of good plans in existence, and if the governments of the day had. been able immediately to assemble people to work on them, there would not have been nearly so much unemployment, and we could have reaped something from the depression. It is an accepted principle to-day that when employment falls off, when private industry lags, the government may legitimately use means which it would not use at other times in order to provide employment. If we had these blue prints in existence, for this and a large number of other buildings as well as other projects in this city, and even if there unfortunately came a period of depression when the building, trade in this and other cities was lagging, we could steam ahead with the construction of the new Parliament House building. I do not mean to say for one minute that we should not do anything on this new Parliament House until such a period arises. I hope that we shall never see such days again, but I think that it could safely take its place with the other buildings; and I also hope we will not hear complaints that we are taking materials away from housing, roads or any other important work because we are planning this Parliament House and because we wish to complete it within a measurable time. This is not a subject about which one needs to speak at great length, but having taken part in some inquiries regarding the development of the national capital, and with my colleagues having produced a report which, whether good or bad in itself, has been a spur to activity, I felt that I should speak, to-night. I commend the President and Mr. Speaker and the officers of the House upon their report, and hope that this work will be undertaken.
,- I rise to compliment the secretary of the Joint House Department, Mr. Emerton, as well as the Presiding Officers of this Parliament, on the comprehensive nature of the paper that they have presented to the Senate on this very important subject of the future building to house the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Mccallum have presented their views eloquently, and I should now like to make a few observations which I hope will be in place when dealing with such an important subject. During the six or seven years that I have been a member of the Public Works Committee, my colleagues and I have investigated a number of proposals affecting Canberra and its surroundings, and on each occasion we have met people who, for various reasons, have stressed the need to prepare for the future expansion of the nation’s capital. Those honorable senators who have recently travelled around Canberra have seen the rapid strides that are taking place in the provision of housing in the various parts of the city. While this development is taking place considerable pressure is continually being exerted - pressure which amounts to a challenge to the original Burley Griffin plan for the city. Perhaps it is a good thing that these pressures exist, because they keep those who are responsible for the development of the national capital alive to the necessity for taking a long-range view. However, the final responsibility rests with the Parliament and, therefore, it behoves all of us to take that long-range view rather than submit to the needs of the present and act only in the interests of expediency. It is easy to disregard the interests of future generations in order to meet an immediate need.
I am reminded that it took the people of Australia a long time to realize the advantages of federation and the need for an all-Australian outlook. Similarly, it took 40 or 50 years for the States to agree on a scheme- to harness the waters of the Snowy mountains as a great national project. A similar time lag has occurred in connexion with the important matter now under consideration. There is no time like the present to commence the basic planning and the initial decisions in connexion with this most important project. There is, for instance, the vital matter of the selection of a site. If that were determined now, a start could be made with the planting of trees in the area in which the Parliament House, will eventually be built. At very little expense, work of that kind could be commenced almost immediately. If that were done, it would at least show that the members of the Parliament in 1957 were alive to their responsibilities, and had done something to give the project a start. The point mentioned by Senator McCallum when he said that the construction of a new Parliament House could, in the event of any considerable unemployment in Australia, fill a gap, was a good one.
The question whether the design for the new building should be thrown open to competition should be thoroughly investigated. In this connexion, I desire to compliment the architectural branch of the Department of Works on the high standard of architecture revealed in the plans submitted to various committees over the years for Commonwealth buildings throughout Australia. I have only to remind honorable senators that officers of the department were successful in winning a competition for plans for the Olympic swimming pool in Canberra. That undertaking illustrates the high standard of their work; it is equal to the standard in any other part of the world. By throwing the design for a new Parliament House open to competition these officers will be given an opportunity to show that they are as good as the officers of any other organization throughout the world, and at the same time the competition will cause the people generally to take more interest in the essential characteristics of permanent buildings in Australia’s capital city.
The eventual use of this building in which the Parliament is now housed can, I think, easily be foreseen. One of the main barriers to the early construction of a national library has been the cost of its construction. This building would lend itself ideally to the housing of the national library. The cost pf alterations to this building, and of its maintenance as the meeting place of the Parliament, is a factor which, on the economic level, is a strong argument in favour of going on with the project of establishing a new Parliament House on a site to be selected. The report presented to us emphasizes that the central position of this building would make it an ideal home for a national library. In the interests of efficiency in the working of the library I believe that, as soon as possible, it should be properly housed in a central position. Unfortunately, as things now are, many valuable art collections are stowed away in obscure places where, perhaps, they are deteriorating. The proper housing of these treasures is something we must face in the near future. This is an argument which should carry weight when considering the report presented to us. It may well be that the presentation of this document in the Senate for discussion will lead to some of us being remembered with gratitude by those who will follow us, .if for nothing else than that we faced the task and accepted the responsibility of taking action to establish a permanent edifice for the Parliament of the Commonwealth. If in this matter we show a breadth of vision we may be remembered for having done something which will not only be a monument in itself, but a monument to us. The people of Australia have great faith in the future of this country. A new Parliament House could be a symbol of that great faith and of the strength that this country will inevitably achieve.
I again compliment those who are responsible for having initiated this move for the groundwork, which I hope will be commenced in the very near future. I hope that the project will be followed through to a very successful conclusion at least within the time that has been proposed.
– I rise to speak because I think it is desirable that a Minister should say something about the Government’s view on such an important matter. In making a contribution to the debate, I suffer from two disabilities. First, I believe that, as the Government has not yet made a decision on this proposal, I am debarred from expressing personal views. I do not think that a Minister should express personal views before a Cabinet decision is made. If the views that he expressed were adopted by the Cabinet, he might claim the credit for having influenced it; if they were not accepted, he might claim credit for having fought for a popular cause. The second disability from which I suffer is this: I say, with respect, that I am following three very good speeches in which most of the things that need to be said were said.
However, I wish to offer a couple of comments. This is the main one. I read this report on Sunday afternoon because I knew that it would be discussed this week, and I was left with the impression that it was a good report. That the President and Mr. Speaker have placed before the Parliament a well-documented statement that can be examined and criticized by the responsible officers is a credit to them. Having prepared a factual report on what might be called the departmental level, they have, by using more vivid colours, a larger brush, and a wider canvas, painted a picture that must stimulate in every member of the Parliament a recognition of the need for and the desirability of a new Parliament House. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and other honorable senators in congratulating the President, Mr. Speaker and the officers concerned on the manner in which the proposal has been placed before us.
In my opinion, we would be wrong if we minimized the controversial nature of the proposals and the recommendations. Every one who is concerned in the art of government seems to have his own pet hobbyhorse, his own pet theory. I think that the implementation of these proposals will take the matter into the field of controversy, and that there will be some people who will say that the project should not be commenced until the housing problem has been completely solved or until our transport system is 100 per cent, efficient.
– That applies to most projects.
– Yes, but I think that the proposal to spend money upon the erection of a new Parliament House will unite a lot of the views that will be expressed against it. I do not know whether governments have a great deal to be proud of in the style of the edifices that have been erected in Canberra. I said that I did not want to express a personal opinion, and I shall not do so beyond saying that, when I criticize buildings and building arrangements in Canberra, I make one exception, and that is the Australian War Memorial. I think it is the greatest war memorial in the world.
– Does the Minister think it is better than the Edinburgh War Memorial?
– I repeat that I think it is the greatest war memorial in the world, and I believe it is better than the Edinburgh War Memorial. Any one who entered the Edinburgh War Memorial and failed to be thrilled in every fibre of his being would be an extraordinarily peculiar person, but I reiterate that I believe that the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is better even than that of Edinburgh. When a new Parliament House is erected - it must come; it is only a question of when it is to come - I should like to see us rise to the heights of producing a building which, in conception of style, matches the Australian War Memorial.
Having said that, let me state the Government’s view. Knowing that the matter was to be discussed by both Houses of the Parliament, the Government discussed the matter this morning. Of course, the Government cannot yet have a view, because the report has only just been tabled and has not come before the Government. However, I am authorized by the Government to say that it will give to this report the consideration to which a report emanating from the President and Mr. Speaker, and of such calibre, is entitled. It may be said that to promise that it will receive consideration is to use a time-worn expression which does not mean a great deal, but, if some one else can produce a better form of words to express the same sincerity and earnestness, he may do so. The report and the proposals of the President and Mr. Speaker will be placed before the Government. I cannot foretell the Government’s decision, but I repeat that the matter will receive the consideration that it justly deserves.
.- Like Senator Spooner, I suffer from one chronic disability, which is that it is very hard to convince me that what most people say is right is right, and that what they say is wrong is wrong. I prefer to exercise, to the best of my ability, independent judgment, and in doing that I find that I am out of step, to a very great extent, with quite a number of people - possibly the majority. What occurs to me in connexion with this matter is that it would have been much better if there had been prepared a statement by the Presiding Officers to show how thousands of families could be better housed than they are to-day. In Senator Spooner’s own State, according to a report of the department he administers, over 60,000 people are desperately in need of houses. In Victoria, over 30,000 people are desperately in need of houses. What a magnificent job the Presiding Officers could have done if they had been instructed or advised to deal with first things first!
– What a specious argument!
– The honorable senator lives in a tent in Kalgoorlie. My conception of the position is that our national household should be organized on the same principles as a reasonably wellconducted and well-provided for private household, in which the young, the ailing and the aged receive first preference. If the national household were organized on those lines, this Australia would be a very much better country than it is to-day, and we should not have thousands of men, women and children living in slums, while nothing worth while is being done to relieve their position.
In the press a good deal is being said about a magnificent opera house in Sydney. If one looks round the industrial suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, he will find gorgeous picture palaces for the benefit of people who live in slums. We have the two extremes in this country - which is, chronologically, a young country - just as in the older countries. As a matter of fact, if Australia were as thickly populated as the older countries, we would have the same appalling position here as exists in those countries. Senator Spooner stated that something might be said about man-power and materials. Quite a lot could be said about them. As I have said before in this chamber, man-power and materials can be provided for the erection of palatial hotels, unnecessary skyscrapers and imposing residences and clubs for the owners of capital, but the bare minimum is provided for the non-owners.
Then we speak about our glorious democracy. For instance, we are told that Parliament House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. Actually, in the absolute sense, there is no such thing as freedom. We are free to do the things we must do, but we are not free to do many of the things we would like to do. We are the slaves of established custom and law. So when we speak about freedom, without any qualification whatsoever, we should remember that there is no freedom for the people who live in our slums to have access to better houses. If they attempted to take possession of better houses, they would be gaoled right away. All the talk about freedom is, to a very large extent, misleading for unsophisticated minds like mine. I do not see any absolute freedom in any country. Prominent politicians in this country and the older countries speak about the free world. One is not free to work unless with the consent of employers and at their convenience. As I have said before, we cannot exercise any freedom of access to better housing, without the consent of the landlords, although any amount of better housing is available. So all this talk about freedom is simply for the purpose of misleading people who do not know any better. I have frequently quoted the words of the late John Burns, who said -
Most people are either prisoners of phrases or slaves of shibboleths.
Every school that I know of, State as well as denominational, tries to shape the plastic minds of children to believe that what the schools say in connexion with freedom is correct. We speak about democracy. If democracy means anything, it means that the people shall have the right to determine and decide for themselves the conditions under which they shall live and be employed. But democracy in this country, as in other countries, begins and ends on election day. After election day, the Cabinet and its supporters constitute an undeclared dictatorship. The present Government has excelled in that direction. Government supporters in 1949 promised that they would put value back into the £1. There were great, big headlines in the press to that effect, but ever since then value has been going out of the £1. The people have no power, in existing conditions, to alter that state of affairs, unless they take action which would be regarded as unlawful or revolutionary. I am not concerned about people who speak of freedom and democracy.
We are told about the shortage of office accommodation, committee rooms, and so forth and so on. From 1939 until 1945 we managed to do very well with the facilities that are here. We did better, in my opinion, than the present Government has done. Honorable senators seem to do very well in the refreshment rooms. When I look around, I do not see any evidence of malnutrition. Quite the reverse is the case. When a document is submitted for public consumption, in which the inadequacies of the facilities of the refreshment rooms are referred to, what is the implication? The implication is that members of Parliament have not been properly fed, and that they should be getting more than they are getting now. The truth is quite the reverse.
The Presiding Officers in their statement comment on “ the high and ever-increasing costs of maintaining the building “. Again, that is misleading - absolutely and grossly misleading. The real cost of maintaining this institution and carrying out any other function was never lower than it is to-day if assessed in terms of labour time required to do the job. With modern equipment and machinery the actual cost, as assessed in labour time, was never lower, but the cost in terms of an inflated currency, when the private banks are acting in collaboration with the Treasury and the Government, was never higher. That position is not understood. So when the authors of this document speak of the high and ever-increasing cost of maintaining the building, it is only a half-truth.
This document goes out for public consumption to impress people who are not supposed to know any better. The over-all effect is that to which I have directed attention. The housing position is appalling. It was never worse. The psychological effect is an increase in teenage delinquency and crime and in mental illnesses. If the gentlemen who drew up this document knew as much about the science of mankind as they do about the physical sciences to which they have directed attention, they would have produced a very different document. I do not propose , to say more about that. I direct attention to another statement in the document prepared by the Presiding Officers. They have stated, referring to freedom and democracy -
A monumental Parliament House is the embodiment of the recognition of that trust.
That is to say, they are advocating a more elaborate building than this Parliament House, although it is quite adequate for the purpose for which it is used. They have said that it is a monumental trust to the people. That is true. Thousands of times in my experience extending over 60 years of agitation, the greatest obstacle we have had to overcome in meeting evil, poverty and war was the readiness with which working people acquiesced in their own subjection. If they had not done so, they would have been better off, not only in Australia but in other countries.
References have been made to “ the democratic way of life “. They are mere words; mere diversions. What is the democratic way of life? As I have said, our democratic way of life is that way of life in a class divided society where the working classes are dependent upon the goodwill and convenience of the employing class for the right to earn a livelihood. As Abraham Lincoln said in one of his saner moments -
No man is good enough to be my master, and I am not good enough to be another man’s master.
While we are operating on a master and man basis, we have all this political exhibitionism and theatricalism that is going on in this chamber at this very moment. Honorable senators opposite are the cold embodiment of their view of the democratic way of life. They want a palace to’ live in while others live in slums. So it. goes on ad infinitum as long as the people will tolerate it.
I feel it incumbent on me, in view of the speeches that have been made, to submit a corrective so that the people will reason inductively as well as deductively. They will see only a press synopsis of this document. Whether it is true or not, I would not like it to be said that I acquiesce in this report or support it. I repeat again that before we build a new Parliament House and make more elaborate facilities available for politicians and for those who are overpaid, overfed and’ underworked, we should look to the people who desperately need housing and particularly the children who look to- us for guidance, in many cases in vain, I regret to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 659), on motion by Senator O’sullivan-
That the following paper be printed: -
Australian Defence - Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 4th April, 1957.
– I had the privilege of addressing the Senate a few minutes before the adjournment, at an- unnecessarily early hour, on Thursday night, and I will not bore honorable senators with a repetition of my introductory remarks. I want the Senate to know, however, that, in speaking to the motion for the printing of the paper on defence, I do not propose to criticize the defence policy of the Government in connexion with the types of aircraft, ships for the Navy or armament that the Government proposes to buy with the defence vote. I believe that those matters rightly should be left to the experts - the career men - in defence.
I might say, on one touchy subject, that at the moment I have an open mind whether it is in the interest of defence for us to build fighting aircraft in Australia. From the point of view of providing employment and assisting the economic functioning of the nation, I believe that if we could keep an aircraft construction industry in operation, it would be a good thing, but I am not prepared to say that our defence policy is weak because we are not arranging for the construction of fighting aircraft in Australia to-day. I do not propose to go over the arguments that have been advanced in the press and in the Parliament during recent months. But in speaking to defence I say that I have three basic beliefs. First of all, I say without equivocation that Australia needs strong- and modern defence. My own opinion is that arms must be prepared to meet arms. The weak reed among nations has no place in the modern international set up. I believe the Prime Minister as is his custom - is right. That is why he is so often cruelly and unwisely criticized by the Opposition; he has not only the ability but also the means of phrasing his expressions. The Prime Minister, in declaring that we must be armed, said in his statement to the Parliament -
It is an essential ingredient in Australian defence that we make and keep ourselves ready to cooperate with our allies.
That is a very important point for Australia, a big continent with a long coastline. We must have strong modern defences, but we must also have strong friends. The Prime Minister has proved that he believes that to be so. He went on -
We cannot expect the defensive assistance of the great democratic powers unless we ourselves are prepared to take a proper part in the common defence.
Therein exists for Australia the responsibility to arm itself within its power in accordance with its economic safety.
There has been, and there will be, in the world press a lot of discussion on the advisability of having, nay, the right to have atomic and hydrogen bomb tests. It has been posed to us by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), aloof as we are from the main theatres of possible war, that we should set the example and prohibit atomic and hydrogen bomb tests and experiments. I do not agree with that idea. I believe that unless the scientists can prove to us that atomic and hydrogen tests are harming the men, women and children, we of the western countries, who are opposed to international communism, must maintain our interest and experiments in atomic and hydrogen bomb warfare. We must keep abreast of international communism. Until we have world agreement, I believe we must continue.
Senator Kennelly, speaking I presume as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said as recently as Thursday afternoon last, when speaking of the Army -
Let us equip it with modern weapons even though - and I agree with Senator Vincent on this point - we must spend dollars to get them.
Coming from a leader of the Labour party, that is an important statement. He said we should equip our army with modern weapons. I believe that even the Labour party as at present constituted in its various forms will agree that modern weapons for war and defence are atomic and hydrogen weapons. Therefore, we have from the deputy leader of the Labour party a request that we equip our services even if we have to borrow dollars. I do not know whether I am right in referring to a previous debate in this chamber in which the Opposition tried to tear this Government to pieces because it wanted to borrow dollars from America for expansion purposes. Now we read in “ Hansard “ that Senator Kennelly said we should equip our Army - equip our defence force - with modern weapons even if we have to borrow dollars in order to do so. I presume that Senator Kennelly will use his undoubted and known influence within the Labour party to ensure that that party supports future measures in this Parliament to ratify the borrowing of dollars from America?
There is only one other point in Senator Kennelly’s talk to which I wish to refer. He opposed atomic bomb tests, and then he went on to say -
In the war of 1914-18 mustard gas and other poisonous gases were used. Since then another major war has been fought, but, fortunately, no participant in it used poisonous gas.
That is all the more reason, in my opinion as a layman, why we should go on arming ourselves with atomic, and .if necessary hydrogen, bomb devices because the only reason why Australian troops in New Guinea were not subjected to chemical warfare was that the Japanese, who had the means in New Guinea - I saw them myself, and the public of Australia knows they had them there - knew that the Australian forces were not only armed against such warfare, but had the wherewithal to provide far more potent chemical warfare than the Japanese themselves possessed in New Guinea. It is my belief that the fact that we were prepared for chemical warfare, not only in New Guinea but in the Middle East and all the other theatres of war, was the reason why there was no chemical warfare in the 1939-45 war.
I believe that this Government owes it to the people to arm Australia with all the horrid agents of modern warfare - not to use them, but to be a deterrent to any one who may consider attacking this country. I will never agree, under any circumstances whatever, that we should undertake disarmament or that we should lead the world wearing the old school tie, in respect of hydrogen or atomic bombs or chemical warfare, so long as our known possible opponents do not agree to follow our line. Contrary to some views, I believe that disarmament will come through the United Nations if only the governments of the world will show some faith in it. Perhaps I somewhat contravene the opinions of leaders of our Government when I say that I believe that if we put our faith in the United Nations, and if we strive as a nation sincerely for peace through the United Nations, and through it only, as far as I can see, we will reach the stage where all the nations of the world will not only talk disarmament, but will undertake it. Until we achieve that, let us go on spending our money and taxing our people as much as we are doing now. But for goodness’ sake let us arm this country to the greatest point we possibly can because therein is not aggression, therein is our only chance of peace. My second belief, as far as defence is concerned, is that we are an outpost in the south Pacific and we must have friends.
Again, I shall avail myself of the privilege of quoting our Prime Minister, who said -
We cannot stand alone; and therefore we stand in good company in Seato, in Anzus, and in Anzam.
It is because of the high standing of our leaders in the world today that we are honoured and welcome members of those organizations. Therein lies our strength. If we were out on our own, we would have no strength. This is not only my belief. Through the ages, the British Empire has looked for friends abroad. So also, in more recent times, has a country which we honour - the country on which our security rests. On 22nd April, Mr. Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State, when addressing the press of the world - he was not talking just to a couple of his cobbers on the corner - said -
The United States has made collective defence treaties with 42 other nations.
There is an example for us to follow. There is an example that we have followed. The members of the Opposition should be careful when they criticize us for participating in these treaties and defence pacts, because there they are on weak ground and are doing no good to their reputation in Australia if such exists.
My third belief is that we need a united Australian outlook on defence. I believe in party politics. They are essential and healthy in a country such as ours. But in relation to defence and foreign policy, I think we should try to overcome the frailties of human nature, put aside personalities and petty differences and show a united front to the world. I do not want to lecture the Senate, but I say it is important, not only to the present generation, but also to those who will follow us, that we have a united outlook on defence. By all means, let us have different opinions on minor aspects of defence and the composition of our defence services, as well as on the spending of the defence vote, but let us have a uniform opinion on what we should try to achieve, and let us tell the Australian public - the electorate - that we are united in our efforts to achieve that objective.
I deprecate the outlook of the Australian Labour party on defence. From the speeches I have heard on this subject by Opposition senators, I am convinced that what they are trying to do is to arouse mistrust in the minds of the people of this country as to the Government’s defence measures. I believe that, by engendering this feeling of mistrust, the Opposition is doing a disservice to Australia. There is nothing that the Communists like more than to see one section of the people of a democratic country spreading distrust of the ability of its armed forces to defend it. I am not one of those who believe that any fellow who makes a militant speech in the the Sydney Domain or on the Yarra bank in Melbourne is a “ commo “ and should be put in gaol. Personally, I love the soap-box orators. I believe that the soapbox oratory in the Sydney Domain and on the Yarra Bank is one of the best safety valves we have, but I firmly believe that we must wake up to ourselves. We Australians must realize that international communism is on the prowl, and that a democracy divided on the matter of defending itself against its known enemies is fertile ground for international communism. The more we spread distrust of our ability to defend ourselves, the more opportunity we will provide for communism to get a hold in Australia - a hold it has not got now. It will have no chance of getting a hold in this country if we show that we are loyal Britishers and loyal Australians, true to our democratic way of life. I have mentioned that matter in this debate on defence because I believe international communism to be our greatest enemy. It will be defeated here not so much by armed forces as by the spirit of our people.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) stated, if I heard him correctly, that there is a possibility of war breaking out; but the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Dr. Evatt) has said that there is no such possibility. Therefore, there exists a difference of opinion between these two leaders as to the probability of war in our time. The Prime Minister - the man who rightly leads this country - backed by his Cabinet and by a majority of his parliamentary supporters, has stated only that we must be prepared for war. Our defence policy is to prepare the country, not for aggression, but to combat aggression if it occurs.
The outlook of the Australian Labour party on defence has been shown by its criticism of our expenditure on defence. I am not one of those who say that, because this Government is spending about £190,000,000 a year on defence, compared with the expenditure of about £40,000,000 by the Labour Government in 1949, we are necessarily doing a better job than Labour did. We must bear in mind that our revenue and our responsibilities have increased, and that the value of the £1 has decreased. I think that percentages tell the story much better. When honorable senators opposite criticize this Government’s expenditure on defence, I should like them to remember a few facts. In 1949-50 - the last year in which we were handicapped by the fact that Labour formed the Government of this country - 7.3 per cent, of the Commonwealth revenue was spent on defence. In 1955-56, this Government spent 16.9 per cent, of its revenue on defence. I am not criticizing the Opposition in this respect. I am saying merely that a comparison of those percentages shows clearly the outlook on defence by this Government and those who put it into power. It proves conclusively that the Government parties are prepared to spend more money on defence and to accept more responsibility in that connexion than was the Labour party.
Now let us consider the directions in which the Labour Government spent money and in which we were able to effect small savings and so spend more on defence. The figures tell an interesting story. Honorable senators opposite accuse us of waste, but I ask them to take first the expenditure under the heading “ Miscellaneous “. Every one knows that is the heading under which governments spend money when they do not want the public to become acquainted with the details of any particular expenditure.
The Labour Government spent £2,400,000 under that heading whereas we spent £2,100,000. That is not a great saving, but it is something, and we were able to expend it on defence, for which we had accepted responsibility. Then we come to “ Departmental “. This covers that great incubus, the Public Service. The Labour Government spent £5,400,000 of its revenue whereas we spent only £4,700,000 because we think defence is more important. The next heading is “ Capital Works and Services “. This covers offices and other buildings. The Labour Government spent £9,400,000 under this heading while we spent only £5,500,000 because we thought the defence of the country .was far more important than these glorified socialistic buildings, these monuments to socialism that Labour governments love to build.
Next we come to “ Business Undertakings “. The Labour Government, the members of which were the great socialists who advocate that the government should own everything, spent fi 2,500,000 of the Commonwealth’s revenue under this heading. We, believing that some business undertaking are essential, spent only £11,300,000. With all these savings, we have been able to put a little more money into defence, and the country is better defended now than it was when it was handed over to us by the Labour Government in 1949. If I may repeat words spoken by me on this subject three years ago without any fear of contradiction, I say that the Labour Government handed over to us in 1949 a defence force that was a thing of shreds and patches. Labour had left the country to the wolves, and had given away Manus Island. Yet these are the people who accuse the present Government of waste in its expenditure of £190,000,000 on defence!
It amuses me to hear these socialists, or democratic socialists, whatever their new name is - I have not read the evening papers - accusing us of waste. They know very well that it is axiomatic that in any government undertaking there is waste of money. The socialists should know that, yet every day of the week they preach to the people the doctrine that the government should own everything while all the time they are not brave enough to admit that when they owned the ships, the airways, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, when they sold the King Island scheelite deposits for a mere pup, they were losing money. When they are in opposition and have no say in the government of the country, when their ranks are torn by considerations of petty jealousy, all they can say is that we are wasting money.
During the whole of this debate, honorable senators opposite have not given a single instance of true waste. I am brave enough to admit that there has been waste, but at the same time I point out when we have a mighty defence force and when we have government control, there must inevitably be waste. We have waste in the running of this Senate; we have waste in any thing that is run by a government because, human nature being what it is, waste is inevitable in such undertakings.
Honorable senators opposite ask what we have achieved in our expenditure on defence since we came into office in the financial year 1949-50. They have not been fair enough to admit those achievements. Because they are not fair enough to admit them, they must sit and take the facts as I relate them.
– Take the year 1941 when the present Government spent virtually nothing.
– Senator Aylett has taken the bait. Senator Wordsworth told me to-day that the fishing season had ended. It seems that it has not, for Senator Aylett has taken the bait, and I have documents here to prove what I say. He asks about 1941. I happened to be in the Middle East at that time, but, thank goodness, the records stand supreme and, in face of what they say, even Senator Aylett cannot accuse me of lying. The then honorable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr. Holloway, of honoured memory, said, on 27th August, 1941 -
I do not join with those who say that Australia has failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when we compare what has been achieved with - what we thought to be possible, we realize that somewhat of a miracle has been wrought.
Senator Aylett thought that when he was elected to this Senate.
But do not let me quote only what Mr. Holloway said. Let me refer now to a very honoured man in our history. I refer to a Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin. He spoke in similar vein in the Sydney Town Hall on 12th October, 1941. I ask honorable senators to remember the date - 12th October, 1941. On that date, Mr. Curtin said-
I have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid.
– We are not denying that.
– Mr. Curtin was proud and honoured to make that honest statement. But other words he uttered in similar strain to keep the memory green for those people who would violate the truth, and violate it with full intent to mislead the public. Mr. Curtin said, on 18th October, 1941, that when he came into office -
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army was well-trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased both in respect to home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme.
I know this is hurting honorable senators opposite who are interjecting, but they have asked for it. Mr. Curtin continued -
The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally
Said Mr. Curtin - munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
I point out to honorable senators that “ weekly “ there is spelt w-e-e-k-l-y.
– But still no figures.
– That tells the story of what the previous administration had done, and honorable senators opposite have asked for it.
Getting back to the present era, and wishing to put the record straight, as I have not been completely side-tracked, I say without any fear of equivocation that the leaders of this Government since 1949 have built up Australia’s reputation abroad. They have been successful in gaining and retaining influential friends’ in a manner of which all electorates of Australia are proud. I was privileged to be in New York in November and December, where I met at a convention a leading man, who was not actually within the government but who was well appraised of governmental thought and action. He said to me, “ What do you think of the Leader of the Labour party in Australia at the moment? “. I said, “ As a matter of fact, sir, I am here as an Australian delegate; I am not taking part in party politics. My expressions here in America are Australian, and not party political”. He asked, “Why in the name of goodness did Evatt refuse Manus Island? “ I said, “ I do not think the world will ever know the answer to that question “. That shows the interest that the people of the United States take in Australia. They could not understand a Labour government in Australia refusing to allow them to take over Manus Island.
As to the principle underlying the Government’s defence policy, I state definitely, and without apology, that I stand foursquare behind the Government. I believe that it is doing a major job sincerely and efficiently, but, because of my personal interests, I deeply regret the slashing of the national service training scheme. National service training was brought in against the loudspoken, verbose opposition of the Labour party, but I believe that it has been one of the greatest influences for good in Australia during recent years. In this connexion I have the privilege of quoting from the Prime Minister’s statement, when he said -
This scheme has given great benefits to our country in instilling ideals of personal discipline, loyalty and service. We introduced it, and we are very proud of its results. Largely as a result of its introduction, we have to-day a total of over 180,000 men who have received basic training.
I fully support those views, and, as I have said, I greatly regret the governmental decision to slash the scheme in the way it has been decided to slash it. I believe that every possible examination of Commonwealth expenditure, and of possible revenue producing avenues, should be undertaken to see whether we can maintain national service training. I do not claim that, from the point of view of the defence of Australia, it has been of great benefit, especially if we think in terms of a global war or a war with atomic weapons, but I do not believe that we shall be engaged in such a war. If we have to go to war, I think it will be a war of the kind that has occurred in Korea and in connexion with the Suez Canal; and in wars of that kind the armed services, or, in other words, the fighting soldier, will be Australia’s safeguard.
I believe in national service training because, above all, I believe that the youth of to-day needs the training it gets in such a scheme. On every possible occasion I have attended the march-out of national service trainees at Brighton camp, near Hobart. Any one who has been to those parades, has seen the camps in operation, has talked objectively to the parents of the boys in them, or has talked seriously to the lads themselves, could not be other than convinced that the country has been well served by the national training scheme, because the youths of Australia have been trained in discipline, comradeship and physical culture. I deprecate anything in the nature of the Hitler Youth Movement, but I sincerely believe that in Australia to-day we need to train our young men in the spirit of discipline and of sensible command.
I know that the Government has acted on the advice of its joint chiefs-of-staff and others, and that there is not much doubt that the Parliament will pass necessary legislation, but I urge the Government not to dispense entirely with national service training in all its forms. I believe that the cessation of national service training would result in the loss of something of value to the young men of to-day. we should do all we can to train the youth of the nation along right lines, and it is for that reason that I regret that the national service training scheme is to be slashed, because such training, at any rate in the Army, is the answer to some of our problems.
If the Government is not prepared to reinstitute the national service training scheme in the form in which it has operated during recent years, I ask it to consider the need for civil defence. My colleague, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) mentioned this aspect of the subject in the House of Representatives. Had it not been that the Senate adjourned earlier than I expected last Thursday, I, too, should have brought this matter up then. I sincerely believe that we are furlongs behind the other democracies in training for civil defence, and that now is the time to train the people who may be interested in matters relating to civil defence. Those who would be most useful in that sphere are our young men of about eighteen years of age. We have the machinery, the camps and the administrative personnel, and we have the know-how. If we continue the central school at Mount Macedon now run by the Commonwealth, from which instructors go to the several States, and train our youths, ‘ not in handling rifles and machine guns, but in first-aid up to the St. John Ambulance standard, and in the care of people suffering from war attacks, not necessarily injury from atomic or hydrogen bombs, I believe that good results will follow. I hope that common sense will prevail, and that wise thought will be given to this matter, so that we shall retain, not our hold on these eighteen-year-old men - I dislike the word “ hold “ - but pur contact with them, and teach them what is necessary should this country suffer from aggression in the future. As I have already said, various leaders have prophesied that we will be subject to these attacks, whilst others have said the opposite.
I am not amazed that we have not been able to get sufficient troops to man our various services. In a time of prosperity and full employment, such as we have enjoyed for some years as the result of this Government’s wise administration, young men are less desirous of entering the fighting services. A second reason is that, with changes of government, which are always possible in a democracy, their future may be in jeopardy. Many of the . fathers of the young men of to-day have had that experience, and, accordingly, they do not encourage their sons to join the services. They know that a change of government could mean a change of policy in relation to defence, and that their security could be affected. In such circumstances, young men could find their careers interrupted, or terminated, with the result that they would be thrown on the employment market.
Thirdly, private enterprise and other governmental forms of employment provide better conditions than do the services.
So, a recruiting campaign has its difficulties and problems. I believe, however, that the powers-that-be have not conducted a wise recruiting campaign. I have seen, in the Australian press, shocking advertisements which purported to urge the men of Australia to join the defence services. A press advertisement is the most inanimate kind of thing that one can possibly think of when trying to draw people into the ser, vices. In addition, some of the advertisements, I think, have been almost insulting to the young men of Australia.
We must spend money on recruiting; we must put the subject to the young men of this country. It should be realized by now that films and radio broadcasts are the only real ways of doing so. I have been privileged to see a recruiting film that has been made by the Royal Australian Air Force, and I think that, if all the services used films, television on the mainland, and radio plays, they might attract more recruits. I am brave enough to express the opinion that they would attract more people than if they continued to rely on inanimate press advertising, which seems to give thousands of pounds to the press barons of Australia, but a:i:acts few recruits. I should like the services to conduct a gallup poll after six months’ campaigning. I think they would find that fewer than one in 64 recruits would say that they had been attracted into the services by a press advertisement.
Another, and I think more rightful, way of attracting recruits would be to display the services to the people of Australia. Ships, aircraft and army detachments are in fulltime service. If we happened to go to war, the old song, “ There is something about a soldier that is fine, fine, fine “, would not be sung throughout Australia simply to pay royalties to a song-writer. It would be played by the bands in the streets of the villages, towns and cities of Australia because the authorities know that people would be attracted to the colours. I say to the Government that there should be a concerted and systematized effort to display the three arms of our services to as many of the Austalian people as is possible.
Recently, six ships of the Royal Australian Navy visited Hobart on the occasion of the Royal Hobart regatta. But four or five Jays before the Sandy Bay regatta, which was the only real function that was held in Tasmania to commemorate our national day, 26th January, not even a sloop, but only a naval launch appeared. There are other shows in Tasmania and the other States at which the people congregate to celebrate a day or an event, but the services are not represented. We have enough Ministers in charge of defence departments to form a committee. Why do they not get together and say, “ In conjunction with our normal training programme and other responsibilities, we will ensure that the flag is shown by one or other of the defence services at this, that or the other show in each State “? That would be not only a cheap but also an effective way of helping our recruiting campaign. I express the belief, which I have formed after since re thought, that our three services lack co-ordination. The Navy is for the Navy, the Army is for the Army, and the Air Force is for the Air Force. But the point is that they are defending one country and are recruiting from one people, and I believe there should be a more co-ordinated approach to the people of the country which they serve.
The Government, through the Air Force, could assist aero clubs, which in return could help recruitment for that arm of the services. The Air Training Corps should receive all possible assistance. I believe that the naval cadets, too, should receive all possible assistance from the Commonwealth Government, because they are the people who will comprise the Navy of to-morrow.
The Army could be used, on an economical basis, to do things in the various States that would be for the good of the taxpayers. Why should not Army engineers, instead of building bridges and taking them down at the conclusion of a weekend, build on a road a bridge that would be of lasting benefit to the people? Why should not the signal corps, of which I had the honour to be a member during World War II., instead of entering paddocks and erecting lines and dismantling them at the end of a tiring day’s work, move into housing subdivisions or country districts and erect permanent lines for the good of the taxpayers? That would build up the morale of the troops and would display their work to the people in a much better way than when they are sent into isolated camps beyond the ken of the people. Australia is short of permanent telephone installations. Signal units do that kind of work in war-time. Why not let them practice it with effect - they are efficient - in time of peace? The Army signal corps to-day is minute compared with what it would be in war-time and, as happened during the last war, the bulk of its recruits would come from the Postmaster-General’s Department. Employees of that department served in all three services during the last war. The sooner they work in co-operation now, the greater chance they will have of being highly efficient should they be called to arms in the future.
Why should not our aerodrome construction units build aerodromes that would be capable of taking modern aircraft? I shall not say much about the Pardoe aerodrome at the moment. We have too few aerodromes in this country that are capable of taking the aeroplanes that would be used if Australia were attacked. I believe that the Air Force should be extended and that such personnel, instead of practising, should build something that would be, not a monument to, but an example of their ability.
Finally, I think our defence chiefs should wake up to the fact that, as Senator Kennelly has said, there will be no warning of the next war, there will not be three days’ grace. Therefore, why do we not deploy our strength? The fact that this mighty nation will be attacked without warning does not mean that we will cower within 48 hours. But we could be dealt a mortal blow if we .had all our resources stationed around Sydney. 1 am not touching on the St. Mary’s project, but I say quite sincerely that the mothball fleet of the Royal Australian Navy should be taken from Sydney Harbour and stationed elsewhere - I do not care whether it is Western Australia, South Australia, or some part of Tasmania - where, if we were attacked, it would not be the object of the first unannounced attack. We should, as a matter of defence precaution, ensure that the defence authorities give our harbour boards some indication of what would be required of them if the nation were called to arms again. With these reservations, I support the Government’s defence policy.
.- Having read the statement presented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the Commonwealth Parliament on 4th April, I am of opinion that he has been unnecessarily provocative and has made many statements that are entirely unwarranted. 1 direct attention to only two of such statements. He said -
On the whole, we believe that the Communist powers, notably the Soviet Union and China, will continue to seize every opportunity to attain their aims by means of the “ cold “ war; that is, by infiltration, internal subversion and the propagation of revolutionary ideas, terrorism and other forms of lawlessness, sabotage and economic destruction. These are the methods by which the Communists pursue their objectives of extending the boundaries of communism and narrowing the .boundaries of freedom.
In my opinion, that statement is unnecessarily provocative, particularly when all the evidence goes to show that we have not experienced anything like that in this country, no matter what has been experienced in other countries.
The other statement to which I wish to refer reads -
If a “ limited “ war broke out in South-East Asia and did not at once develop into a “ global “ war, .’it “would, in all .probability, affect those countries in South-East Asia whose safety and independence are significant and perhaps vital for us. For example, any recrudescence of Communist aggression in South Viet Nam, in Laos or Cambodia, in Thailand or Malaya, would at once affect the safety and defence of Australia.
Again, that is mere assumption, and I refer, to one of England’s leading authorities, who has strongly criticized the making of such* statements. I quote from “ Atomic^ Weapons and East- West Relations “ by Professor P. M. S. Blackett. Professor Blackett: is a distinguished British physicist who hasalso had wide practical experience in the1 application of science to air force and naval needs and in the general relationships of science and strategy. After a naval education, he served in World War I., fighting in the battle of the Falkland Islands and at Jutland, and spending the last two years of the war in small ships of the Dover Patrol and the Harwich Force.
In 1919, he resigned from the Navy and subsequently was appointed Professor of Physics at the Imperial College in London. During World War II. he was appointed to many administrative .positions. He was a member of the British Air Defence Committee from 1936 to 1940, and of the Aeronautical Research Committee from 1934 to 1940. He was chairman of the Naval Aircraft Research Committee and the Royal Air Force Aircraft Research Committee, and a member of the Advisory Committee on Atomic Energy. During the war he served as scientific adviser to the Commanders-in-chief, Anti-Aircraft Command and Coastal Command. From 1942 to 1945 he was Director of Naval Operational Research at the British Admiralty. In 1946 he received the Medal for Merit, the highest award that can be made by the Government of the United States to civilians, for his contribution to operational analysis, particularly in anti-submarine work.
Professor Blackett is a man with the highest qualifications, who has practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge. lt is an old and true saying that practical experience without theory is blind, and that theory without practical experience is futile. The man who grows up with his job, who has practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge, is the most reliable man in the scheme of things. Professor Blackett quotes Sir Winston Churchill as saying in 1948-
I hope you will give full consideration to my views. I have not always been wrong. Nothing stands between Europe to-day and complete subjugation to Communist tyranny but the atom bomb in America’s possession.
That was in 1948. Subsequently, Sir Winston Churchill was disillusioned, but such dogmatic statements are often made by people who speak without thinking. It is a very useful habit to think first and speak afterwards.
After criticizing Sir Winston Churchill and saying, in effect, that he was either foolish or stupid, Professor Blackett went on to say -
Possibly, however, it was not till after Hiroshima that Russia decided to go ahead with an atomic programme of her own. How much she was influenced by the early exaggeration of the military decisiveness of the few bombs existing at the time, one cannot tell, but the vociferous clamour of many Western statesmen and journalists may have had an effect. ‘ The atomic bomb is the Absolute Weapon: All conventional armed forces are out-moded ‘. ‘ For the moment, the United States, in terms of power politics, can dominate the world. In comparison Russia is only a vulnerable second-class power.’ Statements like these, even if but partially believed, could only have been taken by Russia as a challenge. Russia responded to this challenge by building up at high speed her own atomic energy organization, and by speeding up generally her industrial progress on which her military strength depended. Can there be any doubt that Britain, if placed in the same circumstances, would have behaved in the same way?
He was pointing out the natural and inevitable reaction of Russia to the attitude of the representatives of the Western Powers at the time, and to their unnecessarily provocative statements. Professor Blackett also stated -
In addition to the technical and industrial aspects of the atomic arms race, there were very important political ones. These were concerned with allies, frontiers and advanced bases. The Soviet Union pressed her military frontiers westward and the West acquired bases round the perimeter of the Soviet Union. Much of the intensity of the cold war must certainly be attributed to the existence of these geographical aspects of the atomic arms race.
That statement has been made by a man who is highly qualified. He has told us the position exactly as he sees it. This book was published about the end of last year. Finally, Professor Blackett made this statement -
The arguments and analyses of this book, incomplete and tentative as they are, are intended as a contribution to working out a rational defence policy in a world in which atomic and technological parity between the two main contending power groups is the only permissible assumption for planning purposes.
I do not, however, expect soon any startling outcome or final solution. Gradualness is here, I am convinced, inevitable. We have to learn to live with bombs, as we are indeed doing every year, and every year we live with them without using them is one step towards the possibility of a real agreement on how first to control them and how then to abolish them.
That statement has been made by a highly qualified authority who is widely recognized. His opinion is quite different from that expressed by the Government in the paper presented by the Prime Minister. What are the facts about Russia? Russia supported the Allies in both world wars. She surrendered to the Germans in March, 1918, mainly because of the lack of arms and supplies and because of widespread corruption at head-quarters. That is where all corruption starts. Despite that surrender, the fact is that the Russians made cause with the Allies in World War I. In World War II., they fought the Germans to the finish and were proclaimed our brilliant allies.
What happened about 1930? English and American capital was used to build up Germany’s armed strength. That was stated by the English financier Dr. Paul Einzig. In 1940 he published a book entitled, “ Appeasement “, in which he pointed out again the extent to which England and America had built up Germany’s military forces ostensibly to be used against Russia. When war came, Russia stood solidly behind the Allies again.
The Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of his Government, has stated that we have everything to fear from Russia when the normal experience is that it is just the opposite. I am quite aware that Russia, like any other country, might turn against us, but the fact is that in two world wars, Russia has supported Great Britain and her Allies. After World War I., Russia was invaded by the Allies who intended to abolish the Bolshevik government of the day. Russia is an enormous country and the Allies failed.
Reference has been made by the Prime Minister to China. When has China taken up an aggressive attitude, as a nation, against any other nation? If we study history back to the days of Confucius, we find that there has been any amount of internal civil strife in China, but China, as a nation, has never taken any aggressive action against any other nation. On the contrary, England, Germany, France and the United States of America have invaded China. I refer to the opium war and the Boxer rebellion. Both were instigated mainly by English and German forces.
The evidence is that China has never taken the attitude that the Prime Minister would have us believe China will adopt. China has done only what Russia has done. Inevitably her people have reacted against oppression and tyranny. That happened in England, in America against English rule and in France in the French Revolution. China and Russia have merely done what other nations have done when they reached a point where the great majority of the people would not tolerate tyranny and oppression any longer. That is happening now in certain countries in the East. In North Africa, there has been an inevitable reaction by the native races against France just as there was in Indo-China.
To pick out Russia and China and to imply that they will attack us, when there is no evidence to support that contention, is unnecessarily provocative, and is not in accordance with the facts. China has become more or less westernized and is becoming more aggressive against those who would exploit her and impoverish her people. The Chinese people will not accept that position.
Traditionally, China has been antimilitary, mainly because of the teachings of Confucius and his followers. The history of the Chinese people is most interesting. The ancient Chinese have many characteristics that I would like to see in Australia. None of the aged people in China were allowed to starve. It cannot be said that that is so in Australia. The Chinese have great respect for their -aged parents. My opinion is that this statement is simply scare propaganda such as is used in other countries. It tries to cultivate in the minds of the people of Australia a stronger willtowar similar to that cultivated in the minds of soldiers. To the extent that the military can control the civilian population, it claims that it functions more effectively. The high-ranking officials of the Army are most afraid of, and show most resentment towards, the civilian population.
The Government is indulging in this scare propaganda. I can remember in 1884 when I was only a small boy the cry was heard throughout Australia, “ The Russians are coming “. The people were out with their swords and Martini Henry rifles prepared for the Russians, but there was not a Russian within thousands of miles. The whole population were, as one man, prepared to resist because they believed the Russians were coming. That is the attitude of mind that the Government desires to create and most of the representatives of the military and naval forces would have it that way, too. In my opinion we are living in critical days. It is not enough to discuss peace; we must make personal decisions and work for peace. That is not the intention of the Government. Somebody interjected about waste. I do not know of any place where money is wasted to a greater degree than in the Army, where there are unnecessary officers, where all sorts of things are unnecessary. The only place in which there is no waste is in the front line when the Army is fighting. In times of peace there is colossal waste.
I should like to say finally-
– There is plenty of time; we have another half-hour yet.
– I do. not want help from the honorable senator.
– I am sorry. I was only trying to help.
– Gratuitous advice may be welcome to some people, but it is not to me. I want to emphasize that man is the only creature in the animal kingdom who organizes the massacre or murder of his own species. There is not another creature in the animal kingdom who acts as man acts to man. If we are to change this state of affairs it can be done only by men who occupy responsible positions thinking for themselves. I was a Minister for eight years and my policy was this: If a decision of major importance had to be made, I called in the responsible officers and said to them, “Well, gentlemen, the Government desires this to be done. You are the responsible men. You have grown up in your job. You know more about the technique of building aircraft or running the Post Office than I do. Whatever you agree to unanimously I ‘ am prepared to submit to the Cabinet “. We had no trouble. In nine cases out of ten we agreed and we got on very well together.
But that is not the attitude here. Take, as art illustration, the action of the Prime Minister. He went abroad and, without reservation or qualification said, “Australia is in favour of the exploding of a hydrogen bomb at Christmas Island “. That is not true. There is a very strong feeling in Australia against the test, just as there is all over the world. Yet here is a man in a responsible position who made a statement of that kind to the Japanese and others who were listening to him in an attempt to convey the impression that Australians to a man were solidly supporting the hydrogen bomb test at Christmas Island. That is the kind of statement made by men who are chronically egocentric or chronically megalomaniac. They imagine, because they occupy an important position, that they are intellectually superior and head and shoulders above all other people, whom they regard as their subordinates. When there is no opposition to speak of, they actually believe this and act accordingly.
In my opinion - and I have not exaggerated in the slightest - a careful and critical reading of this statement will reveal that it is an entirely subjective production rather than an objective production. The picture is presented just as the Government would like to see it. The Government would like us to take up the attitude that we hate every Russian and every Chinese because they are Communists. In my experience, I have not seen very much difference between humans anywhere. They all act and re-act to what is known as stimuli within or without them. Their behaviour depends on the way they are treated. There is a difference between what we call human nature and human behaviour. There is nothing at all wrong with human nature, but there is a good deal wrong with human behaviour. Human behaviour depends mainly on the conditions in which a person is born and in which he is reared. If I am any judge of the behaviour of the Prime Minister he, and quite a number of others like him; sincerely believe that they are supermen compared, with other men. To the extent that we submit to that, we are misled. We are not only misled; we suffer a good many penalties.
There are very few people I take at their own valuation. I have found in life that that is a very sound policy. I am not concerned very much with what they think; I am concerned with what they do. In this case, I am concerned with what the Prime Minister and other Ministers have done in deliberately trying to create a feeling throughout Australia that all the men in Russia and China are lawless and tyrants. Of course, there is nothing new in that. It is simply an appeal to racial prejudice. There are racial, religious, and personal prejudices. Appeals are made, not to reason, but to prejudice. Viewing the position in that light I see no reason to alter the opinion that I have formed. It is in keeping with the views expressed by Professor Blackett, who holds high qualifications as a physicist, a scientist and an administrator. If any one else said such things, he would be branded as a Communist or something else. But there it is, published for the people to read, and I have submitted it to the Senate. If honorable senators are interested in the matter, I would advise them to read the book.
I was very interested to listen to Senator Marriott’s speech. If he said “ I believe “ once, he said it 100 times, but he did not cite facts in support of his beliefs. A man may believe anything under the sun if he wants to. That is an approach which has the effect of misleading not only the speaker himself, but others. I trust that the Prime Minister and other Ministers speaking on behalf of Australia, will adopt a more tactful approach to the matters with which they have to deal. The more dispassionate is their approach and the more they reason with other people, the nearer will we get to an agreement such as Professor Blackett has mentioned. He said in one part of his book that a disarmament conference was held last year at St. James, in England, but that it failed to reach agreement to disarm. There is competitive unilateral disarmament, and Russia has set an example that the West would do well to follow.
– This debate centres round the reorganization of our armed forces, which is in line with the re-organization that is being carried out in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, although on a much smaller scale. The first matter that I should like to deal with concerns the continual cry by the Opposition that, after six years in office, we have nothing to show for our expenditure on defence. The Leader of the , Opposition (Senator McKenna) has made a< definite charge that there has been no change’ in the Navy since 1950. Before dealing with the other services, I should like to explain the changes that have taken place in the Navy since 1950. In 1949, we had one old cruiser, “ Australia “, and the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of five destroyers. There were also “ Culgoa “ and “ Condamine “’ of the 1st Frigate Flotilla, and four minesweepers of the 20th Mine-sweeper Flotilla. Those were all the vessels that the Navy had in commission when this Government came to office. Of course, there were many other ships in “ moth-balls “, but they were not in commission. Let us look at the picture to-day. We have two aircraft carriers, although one of them is used for training and transport purposes. We have two Battle-class destroyers, two Tribals and, when the last one comes off the stocks, we shall have three Daring-class destroyers. So we have seven destroyers. We also have refitted destroyers of the Quiberon class. We now have four fast anti-submarine frigates, fitted with everything needed for an anti-submarine vessel. We have also two anti-aircraft vessels and seven fleet sweepers, together with “ Tide Austral “.
In 1950, the Navy was insignificant in size and obsolete in character. To-day, we have a hard-hitting and well-balanced naval force capable of holding its own with the navies of any of the other treaty countries alongside which we shall be fighting. Before [ leave the subject of the Navy, I suggest to the Government that it investigate the possibility of building here, or of obtaining from Great Britain, a fleet escort vessel. That is a vessel with tremendous powers of endurance, extraordinarily good antiaircraft armament, and fitted for the use of guided missiles of the “ Sea Slug “ type that are in use at the moment.
– Of what tonnage would that vessel be?
– It would be from 9,000 to 10,000 tons, or thereabouts.
I turn now to the Army. In 1949 - I shall give only the combined figures, because individual figures might be confusing - we had 27,700 troops, 14,700 of whom were in the Australian Regular Army and the remainder in the Citizen Military Forces. The majority of their equipment was out of date and new equipment was in very short supply. What is the position now? The strength of the A.R.A. is 22,500, and we have 50,700 troops in three divisions of the C.M.F., making a total of 73,200. As we have heard, it is proposed to maintain an annual intake of 12,000 national service trainees, who will provide reinforcements for the C.M.F. As has been mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), a. mobile brigade group of 4,000 men will’ be formed with troops of the A.R.A. , and reinforcements for that group will Be drawn from the A.R.A. Our capital expenditure oh new types of defence equipment has been in the neighbourhood of £55,000,000. Senator Wordsworth dealt very ably with the Army, so, apart from giving these figures, I do not propose to say any more on that subject.
I turn now to the third defence service, the Air Force. I am still trying to show that the perpetual cry of the Opposition that this Government has done nothing in relation to defence is so much nonsense. As we all know, in 1949 the Royal Australian Air Force was equipped with Mustangs, Lincolns and Meteors. They have long since gone out of date and they were out of date then. To-day, our Air Force is equipped with Sabres, Canberras and Neptunes, which are the most up-to-date planes that we can have. My only criticism of the Government in relation to the Air Force is that a great deal of money could have been saved by buying these aircraft instead of building them in Australia. The Sabres cost us £250,000, instead of £170,000 each. The Canberras could have been bought for £250,000 each, but they cost about £500,000 each when built here. If we had gone about things properly, there could have been a terrific saving of money.
The argument that we need to construct aircraft in Australia in order to give efficient servicing is so much rubbish. Take the Neptunes, for example. They ‘were built in the United States. They did not have to be constructed here in order to have good servicing. All of the aircraft operated by our major airlines were bought overseas. We have the finest civil airlines in the world. We do not need to build the aircraft in Australia in order to get good servicing. I do not think the argument holds water.
Senator Toohey and others claimed that because we. have made such a great success of building motor cars in this country - many companies building almost complete cars, in addition to the Holden - we should build aircraft. That is no analogy at all. There is a tremendous demand in this country for motor cars. The companies are selling them by the thousand. But what sort of demand is there in Australia for aircraft? Why, bless my soul, if we want to buy three or four aircraft, the Government has to go to the assistance of the airlines, and guarantee the money as with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, or actually produce the money, as happened in the case of Qantas, to enable the company to buy three or four aeroplanes overseas! It must be remembered that the companies that build civil aircraft in the United States of America and England are also the companies that build war aeroplanes, and that the orders they receive are not for one, two or three aircraft but for 40 or 50. I remember that Capital Airlines bought 40 Viscounts from Great Britain not long ago, and I also remember well that United Airlines ordered 35 DC4’s, the Skymasters. The companies are turning out planes on a large scale, a scale that we in Australia could not possibly equal.
Most of us will recall that at the beginning of World War II. we sent our lads up in Wirraways and Hudsons to almost certain death. It was almost murder to send them up. We started our aircraft factories in Australia, and what happened? The Beaufighter came out in time, but the Beauforts, the Mosquitoes, the Lincolns and others were too late.
– What about the Wirraways?
– They were on time, but the majority of other aircraft were not. Even the Mosquito arrived just before the end of the war. That experience showed it was ridiculous to try to build aircraft in this country after the war was started.
As we know, a future war will be either limited or global; in other words, we will use conventional weapons or atomic weapons and we in this country will survive with the weapons we have when war breaks out, not with what we can build at Fishermen’s Bend two or. three years later. Whatever we have in Australia if a global war breaks out will be our final say in the matter. For that reason, I am very much opposed to the suggestion that we start in now and build 33 or 40 Starfighters because, when they are built in three or four years’ time, they will not be of any value at all. By that time, we shall be using guided missiles and pilotless planes, if I am any judge of what I read. I certainly say that we should build up our repair services and keep spares in this country, but we should not attempt again to do what we did before when we built Sabres and Canberras at a cost twice as much as the overseas cost of manufacture. That money would have been much better spent on armaments which would have been more suited to our requirements.
I suggest that in a global war the best form of deterrent to other nations would be the knowledge that we have something which we could use not only for defence but also for striking back. What are we doing along those lines? We should have nuclear bombs and the planes to carry them. They are available. I understand that at the present time the United States has a stockpile of some 50,000 atomic bombs. Great Britain has the planes to carry that type of bomb. There is the Vulcan, one of which was out here about six months ago. Before the end of the year, the Victor, which is the latest type of heavy bomber, will be coming off the production lines in England. Instead of spending £40,000,000 on Starfighters, as is proposed to-day, why not think along the lines of how many Vulcans or Victors we can get and how many atomic bombs we can purchase? I understand each bomb costs something like £500,000. I base that figure only on what I have read in “ Intelligence Digests “. The figure might be a little more, or it might be a little less - I do not know - but it is certainly well within the power of Australia to purchase these things. I suggest that course because I think it would be a warning to others that we have something with which we could hit back, and hit pretty hard.
We all learnt with satisfaction, and I think probably with pride, that quite recently Great Britain has been placed in a position where she can export complete nuclear reactors. I understand also that it is now possible to buy a complete missile base, together with missiles and the radar unit with which they are operated. My mind runs along the lines that these are the things which the Government should be thinking about rather than embarking upon aircraft production in this country. I said before, that if a major war breaks out, what we have in this country when that happens is what we are going to finish with. We will either go under or come out on top with what we have.
– We have not much chance of fighting with what we have now.
– I do not agree at all. I have given some idea of what we already have, and what we have is not small.
Before summarizing my suggestions to the Government, I should like to take up a few of the statements made by Opposition senators. Senator Kennelly and Senator Toohey wanted to know why we have not got any submarines. The answer to that is so clear that I am surprised they did not see it. I think every .one will admit that on present indications Russia and China are our only possible enemies, and the fact that Russia has 450 or 500 submarines does not cut any ice at all. Russia and China are one undivided whole, from Vladivostock to the Baltic, from Canton to the Caspian and Crimea. They are in one piece. Unlike us, they have no sea lanes to protect. They send their packs out to deal with us. We do not need submarines to deal with them. Everything - their transport, their factories - is internal. That is the reason why they have so many submarines, why we in Australia have none and why Great Britain and the United States have so few. Of course, there is the possibility that the Americans and the United Kingdom are waiting until they perfect their atomic submarines before they do build any more, but the only thing they would be useful for would be to attack Russian surface ships should they bring them out, and it is most unlikely that they would do so. It is most unnecessary that they should do so. As I said before, they will have no transports of any sort to send over the ocean.
The answer to their submarines, of course, would be Neptunes and Gannets, fast destroyers and fast submarine killers like frigates and ships of that kind. Those are the things we are making an endeavour to get. It is obvious that the Government has been doing so over the past five years by the conversion of the Navy and by buying Gannets and Neptunes. I do suggest that we could do with more Neptunes than we have at the present time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570514_senate_22_s10/>.