23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr. President, I desire to ask you a question. May I preface it by stating that during the last week we have had various questions asked by Government senators, principally of Senator Spooner, to which no answer could be given other than an expression of opinion. They have been questions known, in parliamentary parlance, as “ Dorothy Dixers “, and they have been asked as propaganda items for the Liberal party in the various State election campaigns that are now being held. One might expect such questions to be addressed to Senator Spooner, who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, since he was until 1949 the president of the Liberal party in New South Wales. In view of the fact that the instructions printed on the back of the “ Notice of question “ paper state that a question seeking an expression of opinion should not be asked, I ask, Sir, whether you would be good enough, in your usual impartial manner, to see that questions that conflict with this rule are disallowed.
– I am rather interested to know that at least some one turns the “ Notice of question “ paper over and reads the instructions on the back. I had thought that honorable senators had forgotten to do so. There has been a considerable looseness in the asking of questions, and I hope that your question, Senator Kennelly, may lead to more careful drafting of questions. I shall look into the matter.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, the Treasurer announced that there recently had been the most successful public response to a government loan for more than 40 years. Although I am aware of the old adage that one swallow does not make a summer, I ask: Could the Leader of the Government indicate the possible benefit to every Australian if necessary and succeeding loans of the Government’s current borrowing programme were equally as well supported?
– I am quite certain that Senator Laught does not ask me for an expression of opinion in answer to that question. I read the Treasurer’s statement, as reported in the press this morning, with a great deal of interest. I construe it to mean that the loan raisings so far this financial year have totalled £143,600,000, being to this stage some £28,600,000 greater than it was thought they would be at the commencement of the year.
– Are they cash raisings?
– They are the figures of cash raisings. As I have said, they are some £28,600,000 higher than was contemplated at the beginning of the year, and there are in prospect further cash raisings, further loans, which will increase that total. lt is. of course, an extraordinarily good result. I think, though, it should be measured against the fact that the Budget was based upon the foundation that our expenditure would exceed our cash income from all sources by £110,000,000, so that although there has been a spectacular result from this loan raising, it should be realized that the cash receipts in the hands of the Commonwealth for the year will not cover the cash outgoings.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate three questions, as follows: - (1) Is it not a fact that all political parties are apt to handle the truth rather carelessly when arguing that they have received the support of the nation, especially when they are trying to justify the passing of controversial legislation? Of course, there may foe exceptions to that.
– Such as the Liberal party!
– There may be exceptions, of course, as there were among the democratic demagogues of Denver. (2) Will the Minister ascertain, for the enlightenment of the nation, the number of votes that were cast at the recent federal election and state the totals for the Liberal and Australian Country parties, the Labour party, the Queensland Labour party and the Australian Democratic Labour party? The “ also rans “ can be lumped together. (3) Will not these figures give a truer picture of the position than we get from the naturally elated politician and the self-adulatory utterances of an up-in-the-air and joyful Government parties’ spokesman? Of course, the last question might amount to an expression of opinion.
– Mr. President, I can only do my best to answer the honorable senator’s questions. As to his first question - whether all political parties handle the truth carelessly - I can only say that I repudiate any such suggestion. As to the second question, I point out that the actual numbers of votes that were cast at the recent general election are on record; there is a statement of them. I shall treat this question as being on the notice-paper, and obtain the figures for him. I cannot remember them offhand. The third question was what the figures show, or whether they give a truer picture of the position. I can only say that it is a matter of opinion. I think that, in the final analysis, you can only say that the opinion of the nation is reflected in the actual election of the members of each House of the Parliament. That is the test.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Navy by saying that he has intimated that certain units of the Royal Australian Navy will be taking part in the Seato exercises and that they will pass through Fremantle some time in March. Will the Minister consider allowing the people of Western Australia an opportunity to inspect the very modern and efficient unit, the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “? If this is not possible, will he consider permitting other units to be open for public inspection?
– I will discuss with the naval staff the possibility of throwing open the “ Melbourne “, a unit of the Royal Australian Navy component of the ships that will be in Fremantle, to inspection by the public of Western Australia. Since it is our desire that the people of Australia should have every opportunity to see the naval forces they provide, I hope very much that I will be able to give an affirmative answer to the honorable senator..
– I ask the
Minister for National Development, who administers the War Service Homes Division, whether he is aware that page 6 of the report by the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1957-58 shows that the division has granted assistance for the discharge of mortgages on existing properties in accordance with the following table: -
I am not complaining about these numbers; I think they should be greater. Does the Minister know that there is a large number of ex-servicemen who, on their own initiative, are endeavouring to solve their urgent housing problems and are acquiring homes by taking over existing mortgages? Further, is the Minister aware that many thousands of ex-servicemen who have adopted this course of action are being penalized as a result of the refusal of the War Service Homes Division to discharge those mortgages, thus forcing the ex-servicemen to take up loans at exorbitant rates of interest? Is the Minister aware that the division is thus depriving those ex-servicemen of the benefits of the provisions of the act such as lower rates of interest, insurance and supervision? Will the Government give serious consideration to the question of removing all impediments to ex-servicemen buying either new or old homes through the division?
– The honorable senator’s question, which goes right to the heart of the administration of the War Service Homes Division, is very difficult to answer in brief terms. The number of applications for war service homes, instead of abating as we anticipated would happen in such a long period after the conclusion of the war, has increased. Despite the fact that the Government has made record amounts of money available - annual amounts of £35,000,000 over the last few years - those appropriations have not been sufficient to meet all requirements, with the result that for some years now we have directed that money, as it becomes available, primarily towards helping ex-servicemen who do not have a home to acquire one. We, therefore, make the loans available to those ex-servicemen who do not have a home of their own instead of to those who already have a home and would improve their financial position by receiving a loan from the division at the very attractive rates of interest that such loans carry. I do not think any objection can be raised to that aspect of the administration of the act.
With regard to the discharge of mortgages, in those cases where the applicant intends to build his own home he first approaches the division and produces his plans. An arrangement is then made whereby funds will be made available to him at some date after the home is completed. He is required to find his own finance to build the home but, when it is completed, he is allotted the funds necessary to discharge the existing mortgage, according to the position he holds on the list of such applicants. That principle is applied in the main to the construction of new homes.
I was intrigued to hear the honorable senator’s reference to the discharge of mortgages on old homes. I shall have a check made to ascertain the details of those particular cases.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a news items in a recent issue of the “ Financial Review “ describing the export, as an experiment, of 2,000 tons of liquefied natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico to the United Kingdom for use by the North Thames Gas Board which supplies much of the Greater London area, with gas? If the Minister is aware of this experiment, will he- comment on the possible use of natural gas in Australia, having in mind the considerable amount of that gas which has been found in the course of the search for oil in Papua and New Guinea?
– r am in a position to give the Senate some information on this question. Great technical issues are involved with which I am not qualified to deal, but I take a. considerable interest in the matter. When I visited the oilfields at about this time last year the engineers told me that they were concerned as to whether a market could be found for the gas that had been discovered. Large quantities of natural gas have been discovered overseas. I think that outside the United States of America half as much natural gas is available as petroleum products but so far, the uses to which that gas can be put have eluded the people who own it The experiments being conducted are along the lines of transforming its character in some way so that it can be shipped from one part of the world to the other. I forget the size of it, but this is the first experiment conducted in the sending of this gas to Great Britain. If the experiment is successful, the cost of town gas in Great Britain could be lowered by about 50 per cent, and the great reserves of gas in the Middle East could be. brought into active use. It will be appreciated, therefore, that everybody is watching the experiment with very great interest indeed. I should add that from Australia’s point of view, the indications are that if these experiments are successful the effect would be to add very materially to the value of oil discoveries already made in Papua, even though the present thought is that, for various reasons which are mainly technical in character, gas shipped from Papua to Sydney could not compete with the town gas. in Sydney.
– I wish to address a question to you, Mr. President. In view of the numerous changes made recently in the office accommodation of honorable senators, and in view of the steady intrusion of honorable members from another place into the Senate side of Parliament House, will you consider the advisability of reprinting, at an early date, the internal telephone directory of this building and the inclusion in. that reprint of the room number, as well as the telephone number, of honorable senators and honorable members?
– I shall look at that matter. Obviously, if the list is not up to date, it should be brought up to date, and I shall have the matter investigated.
– Recently, the Minister for National Development announced the granting of contracts totalling £28,000 to seven Australian universities to support research on behalf of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission into the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Will the Minister ensure that the commission, when considering grants for similar purposes in future, will give full and sympathetic consideration to the facilities available for such research at the University of Tasmania so that Tasmanians can play their part in this important work, just as they do in other aspects of Australian life?
– I can only say that I shall have a talk with Professor Baxter, Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and ascertain his views on the proposal that the honorable senator advances.
– Can the Minister for National Development tell me when he can supply me with an answer to my correspondence of 4th December, 1958, relating to damage caused by a merger heater to a bath in the home of a Mr. V. Followes, who is a returned serviceman?
– I am sorry to saythat I do not recollect the case to which the honorable senator refers, but, when the Senate rises, I shall have a look at the file and let him have what information I can.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister to a statement in a leading newspaper this morning to the effect that a correspondent in Moscow had asked Russian Foreign Minister Gromyko about the resumption of diplomatic relations between Russia and Australia. Mr. Gromyko is reported to have stated that discussions had taken place in Washington, but that nothing had emerged therefrom. I ask the Minister whether negotiations are proceeding and, if so, whether he is in a position to make a statement upon the matter.
– I can only say that I have no information on the point that the honorable senator raises.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation what alterations to air services provided by individual airlines have been made to date under the rationalization provisions of the Airlines Agreement Act. Can a detailed answer to my question be given in time to permit the information to be used in the debate on the Australian National Airlines Bill 1959?
– I will endeavour to supply up-to-date information to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in sufficient time for him to use it during the debate that he mentions. I take this opportunity to inform the Senate, especially Tasmanian senators, that as a result of a meeting to-day of a committee of all the airlines - which frequently meets, without a chairman - a long-felt need will now be satisfied by the provision of tourist services to Tasmania. Such a course has often been advocated by Tasmanian senators on both sides of the chamber.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade been directed to a statement by Mr. Douglas Cox of Melbourne, manager of the “ Delos “ trade ship mission, urging the sending of a governmentsponsored mission to examine fully the opportunities in South-East Asian markets which were disclosed by the visit of the “ Delos “? In view of the importance to Australia of increased trade with South-East Asia, will the Government give early consideration to this proposal?
– The mission of the “ Delos “ was such’ a success that I have no doubt at all that my colleague, the Minister for Trade, will give very close consideration indeed to any proposals emanating from its leaders.
– I should like to preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by saying that it refers to the provision of a standard gauge railway line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. Two parliamentary committees have recommended that this work be carried out, and the Western Australian railways are suffering extensive loss of revenue as a result of the standard gauge terminating at Parkeston, and goods being sent on from there by road. Can the Minister give any indication when the work of providing a standard gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, thus alleviating the parlous position of the State railways, will be commenced?
– I regret that 1 am not in a position to give the honorable senator any indication when this important link in the inter-capital standard gauge railway line will be commenced.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that State branches of the Department of Immigration advise the central office of details of all representations made to the department on immigration matters by honorable members and senators.
– I am not aware of the details of this aspect of the administration of the Department of Immigration. 1 would say that probably the State branches of the department do pass on to the central office details of representations such as those mentioned by the honorable senator. The Minister for Immigration dealt with this matter yesterday in answer to a question by the honorable senator, when he said that he had neither the time nor the staff to do the great amount of detailed work that would be required to meet the request made by the honorable senator in the question. I think that is the answer to what the honorable senator is trying to get at now.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the high prices of petrol in country districts compared with the price in the cities, does the Minister consider it beyond the ingenuity of the Government to determine a uniform price for petrol throughout Australia?
– I know that a lot of time and thought have been devoted to trying to work out a scheme along those lines. I know that the oil companies themselves have tried to find a working arrangement, but, as I understand the position, it has proved to be impracticable to do so, not only because of the varying distances from terminal ports, but also because of the necessity to provide storage plants of different sizes and different categories. I cannot give all the reasons offhand, but I know that, although the problem has been given a lot of consideration, a uniform price system has been proved to be impracticable.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the success of the direct telecast of the third test match from Sydney to Melbourne recently, will the Postmaster-General again follow up previous requests that a permanent direct telecast from Sydney to Canberra be established immediately or as soon as possible?
– The Postmaster-General has furnished me with the following reply: -
The question of the extension of television services to Canberra and the major provincial and country areas of the Commonwealth will be again considered by the Government at any early date.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How much time was devoted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to its news services in - (1) January, 1949; and (2) January, 1959?
– The Postmaster-General has furnished me with the following reply: -
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the ‘Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the following terms: -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That thirteen members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in these resolutions;
the members of the committee shall hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time;
the committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being;
three members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee;
the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copiesof the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives for his confidential information;
subject to the Minister for External Affairs being informed, the committee shall have power to invite persons to give evidence before it;
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to call for official papers or records;
subject to paragraph 4 (e), all evidence submitted to the committee, both written and oral, shall be regarded as confidential to the committee;
the Senate be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on such committee.
That the committee have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs appointed in the previous session relating to any matter on which that committee hadnot completed its inquiry.
Debate resumed from 25th February (vide page 214), on motion by Senator Branson -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and I welcome the opportunity to associate myself with those honorable senators who have expressed one again their loyalty to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen. I say that you, Mr. President, and the other persons in authority in this place are to be commended for permitting and arranging for the televising of the opening of the Parliament. There are many Australians who had never previously had the opportunity to see the Parliament opened. There are many Australians so intensely loyal to Her Majesty that they were pleased indeed to see her personal representative open the National Parliament. There are, too, in our midst many new Australians who have fled their countries and sought shelter in Australia in their search for freedom. I believe that their minds will have been impressed with this vision of the heritage that has been ours for so many generations.
I wish to welcome, my two new colleagues, Senators McKellar and Branson. By their utterances we shall judge them, and I am sure that the judgment of all of us at this stage is that both honorable senators bring to this chamber a specialized knowledge that must in the ultimate be of real value to our deliberations.
The Address-in-Reply debate, which occurs so soon after the opening of a new Parliament, affords the members of the Parliament a unique opportunity to indicate to the people who sent them here just what their attitude is to the problems that face the nation. I believe that the people seek from us the fulfilment of the policies that we expounded when we sought their votes. They want to know whether we wish to live in the past, or whether we are prepared to face the problems of the future. In the few minutes that I have at my disposal, I want to borrow and make use of a phrase that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has used, a phrase which I think captured the imagination of many people in Australia. It is “ Australia unlimited “.
As I discuss Australia unlimited, I am very mindful of the fact that we, as a people, are determined to develop our country and that that task is an inescapable obligation to humanity, particularly to our neighbours to the near north. I believe that the development of Australia unlimited is irrevocably tied to those responsibilities and obligations that we as a nation are forced to face. Accentuating our obligations. Sir, is the fact that Australia is an outpost of western democracy in this area. The world is shrinking before our eyes. Many more millions of people have been brought closer to us in recent years than we ever anticipated. Our isolation has gone. If we are to justify our existence as a nation, we have to take cognizance of those peoples in the areas to our near north who are searching for a better way of life - under-privileged peoples who, in many instances, are determined to make their countries great. They are looking to Australia to see what we can provide for them in their struggle for a better way of life.
I am sure that the two chief requisites of our development programme are a greater population and an expansion of our overseas credits. I say very bluntly that I support in its entirety the immigration policy of this Government. It is a policy that has been well established on a foundation laid by a Minister of a former Labour government. That being so, I wonder why it is that honorable senators opposite desire to emphasize so much to the people the unemployment problems that admittedly exist and1 are matters of concern, not only to members of the Opposition but to every honorable senator who appreciates his responsibility to the people he represents. This year, the immigration policy will result in our total population reaching approximately 1.0,000,000 people. It is true that this represents a splendid rate of progress for a young country, but by world standards our numbers are insignificant.
I urge the Government not to be stampeded into any reduction of the quotas that it has decided upon. I point to the Snowy Mountains scheme, and if I were tempted to become poetic, 1 might describe it as the fulfilment of a vision splendid. I remind the Senate that 80 per cent, of the worK force of that undertaking has been supplied by new Australians. Having regard to the accomplishments of new Australians in relation to that scheme and other projects throughout Australia, we must admit that they are playing a magnificent part in the development of this country. The Government should resist the suggestion thai, because there is a pocket of unemployment here or there, due to seasonal conditions or other unfortunate happenings, its immigration policy should be reviewed. I say to the Government that I believe its policy is the right and courageous one, and that no other would satisfy our needs.
One of our basic requisites, Sir, is to expand our overseas credits. When I speak of overseas funds, the first industry that comes to my mind is the wool industry. It is a matter of national concern that to-day this industry is faced with a falling market. I do not intend to state the case solely for the woolgrower; I shall try to state the case for the economy of Australia, because I put it to you, Mr. Deputy President, that if a commodity that supplies 50 per cent, of our overseas credits languishes, the repercussions are felt throughout industry generally. Our overseas credits permit the entry into this country of the oil, the heavy equipment and all the other things that are so necessary for our secondary industries.
The questions that one is inclined to ask when examining the causes of the fall in the price of wool are these: Is the market over-supplied? Are world stocks of wool so high that there is no demand for wool to-day? To answer those questions, I propose to cite a statistical analysis headed “ Estimated world supply stocks of raw wool - millions of pounds - clean basis “. I shall not weary you, Sir, with a mass of figures, but shall merely pick out those that may be of particular interest, and state the aggregate of world stocks.
In 1955-56 the Australian stocks were 10,000,000 lb. and in 1957-58 they rose to 15,000,000 lb. In those years respectively the New Zealand stocks were 12,000,000 lb. and 10,000,000 lb- a reduction of 2,000,000 lb. The Argentine stocks declined from 55,000,000 lb. to 38,000,000 lb. The United Kingdom Strategic Reserve held 96,000,000 lb. in 1955-56, but last year only 79,000,000 lb. were held. The United States Commodity Credit Corporation which had 68,000,000 lb. in 1955-56, held only 10,000,000 lb. at the end of 1957-58. In the aggregate, there was a reduction of world stocks of 112,000,000 lb. So, according to the best authorities from whom we can obtain figures, it is obvious that it is not world stocks that are depressing the market. Because of the importance of this industry to Australia, I believe that this Government, which is vitally concerned with the economic health of the country,’ should have a look at one or two proposals that I shall put to it, in an endeavour to assist this industry.
Our industry is in two categories, the home market and the overseas market. It is true that our home consumption takes a mere 10 per cent, of the whole of our production. It could be said that is an insignificant amount, but if we can take any remedial measures to push this industry to where it belongs, they should be considered. The first suggestion I should like to make to the Government is that it should again consider the advisability of imposing duty on the synthetics, the competitors of wool, which come to this country. Now, Sir, there may have been very good reasons for the original allocation of duty-free permits to enable synthetics to enter this country, but I believe the time has come when they should be reviewed. If, for instance, our wool was accorded similarly favorable treatment on the American market, I would suggest, perhaps, that we had better leave this subject well alone, but in actual fact America charges an import duty of 37 cents on every pound of wool that enters the United States, plus a 20 per cent, duty on the value of that wool. So we, as a nation, are obliged to suffer the effects of the imposition of heavy import duties on our product as it enters a country that supplies us with the chief competitor of wool, and we allow that competitor to come in duty free. I say again it applies to only 10 per cent, of the industry, but I suggest that the Government re-examine that position and give consideration to imposing a duty on synthetics.
I believe, too, Sir, that greater financial assistance could be given to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This organization has done a magnificent job, not only for the wool industry but also for many of the other primary industries of Australia. I shall not weary you, Sir, with a long dissertation on these industries, for most of us are acquainted with them, but I do believe that the C.S.l.R.O. has only scratched the surface. The value to the nation of the contributions it could make to soil analysis and all of those aspects of primary production that have a bearing on the costs of production cannot be gauged in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. I am hopeful that the time will come when superphosphate, which is such a burdensome commodity - both physically and financially - to handle, will receive the attention of the C.S.l.R.O. I hope that that organization will, in the foreseeable future, develop a concentrate which will eliminate all the heavy handling and the costly process of applying superphosphate.
While I am on this subject, let me say that 1 believe the Government at this stage, in order to give this industry the shot in the arm that it must have, should examine the wisdom of re-introducing the subsidy on superphosphate. I have made this suggestion before in this chamber, and I have already heard some murmurings in my vicinity from those who are concerned with the thought of a subsidy on superphosphate. I say that the Government should reintroduce a subsidy that in the early years of its term of office did more, I believe, to develop the pastoral industry of Australia than any other single factor. The subsidy encouraged growers and graziers all over Australia to develop their pastoral areas, and when I tell you that the sheep population over the last four years alone has increased by some 23,000,000, that is an indication of the story that might be told if our development is continued. But the grower to-day is saying to himself, “ My wool cheque is cut in two, so I will have to cut my costs “. The first thing he looks at is the magnitude of his superphosphate bill, and that is about the first thing he puts his pencil through. It is a matter of ex pediency. I believe that if that position is allowed to develop and our highly improved pastoral leases are allowed to go back, the economy of this country is going to suffer.
I believe, too, that the broken selling season for the wool industry is a relic of the past, lt was originally brought into this industry to allow the buyers to have two months’ leave to go home to see their kinsfolk, but to-day a buyer can get on a plane in London or Paris and can be here in two or three days’ time. The manufacturer claims that this break in the season does upset his programme. If he purchases, and if prices later fall he is at the mercy of his competitior who has not purchased. This element of caution is having a depressing effect on the market. This is another aspect that the Government should have a look at.
We have heard a lot, too, about wool promotion. I should like to have time to discuss that matter, and perhaps I could be caustic. I am awaiting the opportunity to comment on some of the thinking in Australia to-day. I expect to get the commendation of Opposition senators when 1 say the best method of promoting wool is for a concerted effort to be made to lower the costs, not of the wool producer but of the manufacturer, the wholesaler and the retailer. When I point out that less than 30s. worth of wool goes into the average woollen suit - and you gentlemen know how much you pay for a suit of clothes to-day - surely there is some cause to have a look at costs. Any one who speaks of promotion and does not consider that aspect talks with his tongue in his cheek. These are some of the things that I believe to be of great importance to the industry, and I know that they are of great importance to the Government.
We have heard a good deal lately about the desirability of a floor price for wool. Any suggestion that contributes to the stability of this industry is worthy of consideration. The champions of a floor price for wool quote the results obtained in New Zealand and South Africa. But the technical difficulties involved in a floor price scheme are not the only difficulties to be overcome. Australia provides 45 per cent, of the wool that is available to world markets, and we must bear that fact in mind when we talk of a floor price which is, in effect, a reserve price. In the ultimate a floor price will mean the withdrawal of wool from sale. We cannot accept the operation of the scheme in New Zealand and South Africa as a guide for Australia because, owing to the difference in the quantities involved, there is no analogy. However, if the wool-growers in their wisdom can evolve a scheme which, I believe, must be based on the retention of the auction system, into which is woven a reserve price, consideration should be given to that scheme because it is obvious - and has been so for many years - that anomalies exist in the present system. That fact was highlighted by the recent inquiry into the boycott of the Goulburn wool sales.
It has been freely admitted that the operations of pies and cartels - the pie so called because there are so many fingers in it - have had a detrimental effect on the wool price. I cannot speak with any authority on the cartel issue which suggests a large and vicious pressure group designed to force down prices but, if we are to make our contribution to the world’s economy, consideration must be given to all matters associated with this great industry because of its value, not only to the wool-growers but also to Australia as a nation. The success of our developmental programme depends upon it. For that reason the time has come when the representatives of all growers’ organizations should meet on a common level and discuss this problem. If they reach the stage at which they can speak to the Government with one voice, I believe their pleas will be heard.
Having spoken about our major industry I shall now deal very briefly with some matters that must go hand in hand with our determination to develop Australia. We have heard so much of late about a subject which means so little - decentralization. In ‘talking of this matter we must realize that the Government’s hands are tied to a great extent because decentralization is, in the main, the responsibility of the States. The banking legislation, which the Government has signified it intends to re-introduce at the earliest possible date, presents a much happier prospect for decentralization proposals. During this debate honorable senators opposite have traversed the history of the banking legislation over the past few )«ars and, in the main, their analysis of lates and times has been correct. They have chided the Government with being indifferent to the needs of the people. They have said that the Government presented this legislation on two occasions last year when the Senate was evenly divided. That is true, but there was a very good reason for it. For the first time in ten or twelve years Australia was faced with a depressed rural market and, in the opinion of the Government, the banking legislation was the means by which the rural industries could be stabilized. Many rural towns and cities are languishing to-day because of insufficient finance to promote secondary industries in their midst. The proposed banking legislation will be their life-saver.
Each year many scholars complete their high school education, and are to a degree qualified to take positions in the professional and business world. Those students leave their country high schools fully equipped to make a contribution to the community in which they live, but because of the lack of secondary industries in the rural areas, they are obliged to go to the city. They are lost to the country forever.
– The honorable senator should be on this side of the chamber. Those are our sentiments.
– We, on the Government side, are able to .think for ourselves. We also have a humanitarian approach to this problem. We are determined to play our part in bringing secondary industries to the country areas. That is why I say that the banking legislation that was fought so vigorously by the Opposition - and, mo doubt, will be fought again equally vigorously but this time abortively - will play a magnificent part in the development of our country.
The Government could well consider also the question of providing television in rural areas. Why should the city dwellers have such an advantage over the country dwellers? Because their numbers are so much greater, should they for all time have the amenities that the country people are denied? I must point out that I am not advocating any extension of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television service into the country areas.
– One of the advantages of living in the country is ‘that there is no television.
– I presume the honorable senator has in mind the “ Goon Show “. I do not advocate the provision of national television in country areas while they are languishing for telephones and rural automatic exchanges of which there is a real dearth. The Postmaster-General’s Department is doing its best to develop communications in Australia with the limited finances at its disposal; the Government should consider helping the department with loan money. For many years now the wise policy of developing the department out of revenue has been pursued, but because the people in country areas are entitled to the best possible communications and to television on a commercial basis, the Government should consider my proposal. Many country people are eager to form companies designed to provide television for rural dwellers. In reply to a question this morning Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson),! indicated that the Government is considering that matter. I feel sure that everything possible will be done to make this dream of country people a reality.
My final plea is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I wish he were here to hear me, although I must admit that he is nearly always in the chamber. During his term as a Minister, he has achieved for himself the reputation of being a man with a broad national outlook. Humble as he is, I think that if we could only gain his confidence we should learn that he prides himself on his broad national outlook. My belief that he possesses this broad national outlook fortifies me in my confidence that although he is a Western Australian he will listen to my plea and pass unbiased judgment on it.
I wish to refer to the crisis that is developing in the road transport system of Victoria and I shall be interested to hear the comments of my colleagues on both sides of the Senate, to discover their reactions to a policy that is crippling a vital part of Australia. I believe that, irrespective of the States from which they come, my colleagues are just as keen as I am to see the whole of Australia develop. Let me point out that Victoria, with less than 4 per cent, of the area of Australia, with nearly 30 per cent, of Australia’s population and with 30 per cent, of Australia’s motor vehicles, contributes 31 per cent, of the total petrol tax revenue, but receives only 17 per cent, of the Commonwealth Government’s road grant, and, out of this 17 per cent., it is expected to maintain and improve roads of a mileage equivalent to 26 per cent, of Australia’s constructed road system. According to an estimate, Victoria contributes £24 for each registered motor vehicle, but receives back only £8 15s. for each vehicle.
– You are lucky to be able to get that much.
– Surely my colleague it not serious in suggesting that wc are lucky to get back £8 15s. out of £24! Surely he does not intend to pursue a policy such as that! I believe that he is big enough to realize that although, as some cynics say, Victoria is only the size of a cabbage patch, that State contributes to the development of Australia as a whole, and I emphasize that Victoria’s contribution will be severely handicapped if a greater allocation is not made. I emphasize that I am not asking that the shares of other States be reduced; I am pleading that Victoria’s allocation be increased.
– The broad national outlook.
– 1 submit that honorable senators have not a broad national outlook if they condone a system that perpetuates the imposition of a levy on every Victorian householder who moves into a new area which has to be serviced with water, sewerage, light and roads. After having bought his block of land, built his home, and paid for his water, sewerage and light, the Victorian householder is confronted with a cost ranging from £200 to £400 for the construction of his street, his kerbing and his footpath.
– The same applies to Queensland.
– The same does not apply in Western Australia.
– It does in Queensland.
– In reply to those of my friends who taunt me about a broad national outlook, I submit that we are not taking the broad national outlook when we condone a system under which the householders in new suburbs of other States are not confronted with the prospects of a levy such as that which the Victorian householder is expected to meet. I hope that when the renewal of the agreement which expires on 30th June next is discussed, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, with his broad national outlook, will give very favorable consideration to the requirements of Victoria.
My time has nearly expired and I have been able to deal only with some of the things which I think are of great moment, but I shall summarize the points I have tried to make by saying that I believe that we Australians are bound to do all we can to promote an Australia unlimited. We have a moral obligation to admit quite frankly to our neighbours that we realize that it is up to us to make our contribution towards a better way of life for them. I say that because I believe that nothing else will justify to the rest of the world our monopoly of this country. I commend the Government for the action it is taking and for the action it will take to make Australia a great country.
– Mr. President, may I join with the proposer and seconder of the motion for the adoption of this Address-in-Reply, and with those speakers who succeeded them in expressing loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. I also express appreciation to His Excellency the Governor-General for his attendance in this National Parliament in this National Capital to deliver his Speech. I congratulate Senator Branson and Senator Mackellar upon their maiden speeches in this place. Both honorable senators developed interesting topics, without any circumlocution, and in a direct manner. I am confident that over the years the Senate will benefit from the judgment those two honorable senators will be able to bring to bear on national problems.
This morning, I intend to devote my time to dealing with only two aspects of His Excellency’s Speech. On page 4 of the printed copy circulated to us, we find this paragraph -
My Government will set up a competent and independent public investigation of Commonwealth taxation laws.
On the same page, there appears a para.graph relating to overseas trade.
I desire to deal first with Australia’s overseas trade and the methods by which I think that trade can be expanded. About six or seven months ago, it was my privilege to represent the Commonwealth Parliament at a conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Brazil. At my own instigation, I moved through parts of Asia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America when proceeding to the conference. In doing so, I was able to make some observations in connexion with overseas trade and immigration which I think will be of interest to the Senate.
Hong Kong was the first place where I stayed for any length of time. It is, perhaps, one of the last of the greater British colonies. There are, of course, others in the Pacific and in Africa but Hong Kong is only seven or eight hours’ flying time from Australia and very important to us from the point of view of trade. Certainly, the Department of Trade has established there a Trade Commissioner and a small staff, and that organization is able to service, in quite an adequate way for the time being, the amount of trade that goes through Hong Kong, which, honorable senators know, is a great shipping port. It is really the gateway to Communist China. It is also the gateway through which trade would go to Nationalist China and also, possibly, to Indo-China as well.
I feel that a great opportunity exists for the sale in that region of Australian primary products, especially meat. I should like to mention at this stage the possibility of exporting animals on the hoof from the Northern Territory and Queensland to the market in both the Philippines and Hong Kong. I was interested to hear over the air an observation by one of our officers, Mr. Keith Rossignal, who recently returned from the East, to the effect that there was a receptive market for such cattle in that region. In journeying through the Northern Territory I realized the great scope that existed for the exportation of cattle, not of prime variety, from Darwin to the near north. We are doing an excellent job in Hong Kong, but I do not think that we are bringing enough pressure to bear upon that market for the sale of butter, cheese, wine and the like. I did notice in the shops, and among Europeans, little knowledge of some of the delectable products of Australia.
Passing on to Rome, I was very interested to watch at close quarters the processing of immigrants bound for Australia. I then went to Brussels, and to the Trade Fair. I felt that we missed out in not being represented there, for it was one of the great events of post-war Europe. One could not help being impressed by the enormous size of the exhibits of Soviet Russia, and of a number of countries which have newly taken their place in the world economy. 1 refer, for instance, to some of the North African republics, which were represented in a most significant way.
Planning for such a great undertaking must have begun three or four years ago. I feel that we did not then look at the Brussels Trade Fair from a general, overall point of view. The Government might have thought of it from the stand-point of potential markets in countries close to the scene of the fair only, but Australia surely missed an opportunity to present to northern Europe evidence of the great potentialities of immigration to Australia.
At the Canadian exhibit I saw illustrated some of the great primary and secondary industries of Canada, but I also noticed that as much effort was put into attracting migrants as was put into telling the world what Canada had to sell. The theme of the immigration display was, “ What Canada means to you - the immigrant “. Many Belgians went to the fair once, twice or three times, and it was inevitable that, during the European summer, millions would also come from France, Holland, Russia and the Scandinavian countries. They came, too, from England and America and from the central European countries. Moreover, they came willing to be convinced.
Our failure to be represented was clearly an oversight. A combined approach should have been made by the Department of Immigration, the Prime Minister’s Department and, perhaps, the Treasury - which may at any time have to enter the European market to raise loans. Our great record in developing New Guinea could equally well have been portrayed. The French were certainly keen to show what they were doing in Algeria. We could have shown Europeans that we were dealing with the important cultural problems of New Guinea in a very sound way. Our work in the field of nuclear science, and in the production of uranium and the like could also have been demonstrated. We could have directed attention to the Flying Doctor service and to the pioneer work that we are doing in medical science. I make these points in order to show that Australian trade, culture and immigration should all be more adequately presented to the people of Europe.
His Excellency referred to the pursuit by the Government of an active trade policy, directed towards the consolidation of existing export outlets and the development of new trading opportunities. I should like for a moment to refer to our existing trade outlet in the United Kingdom. Obviously, the United Kingdom is our best customer and I hope that that state of affairs will continue for a very long time. It is unfortunate that we are not better known there. Sir Eric Harrison, Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, drew attention to that very fact only a few days ago. I was rather flabbergasted to read in the London “ Times “ that quotations for mining shares in Mount Isa, Broken Hill North and Broken Hill South appeared under the heading, “ West African and other Mines “. There was not even a section devoted to Australian mines. That will give honorable senators some idea of our standing in stock exchange circles in London. I hope that in due course the Department of Trade will be able to inform the English press of some of the facts concerning the great mineral potential of Australia. Then a person who wants to refer to the financial columns to find the present state of the share market relating to important mines such as Broken Hill South. Broken Hill North. New Broken Hill, and Mount Isa, will not have to look under the heading “ West African and other mines “. I mention that just in passing. That is not typical of the whole British attitude, but it illustrates that we still have a certain distance to go with the financial writers of the leading newspapers in the United Kingdom.
Now, may 1 say a word or two about our trade promotion activities in the United Kingdom. I feel that what is being done is good, and I know that figures have recently been published showing increased sales of Australian products there. I was very interested, when I went to the provincial city of Norwich to watch our officers actually at work. As you know, the New Zealand people appear to promote sales of their butter and primary products by means of big advertisements in London on the buses, in the railway stations and that sort of thing, but, apart from an electrical sign right in the heart of London, our efforts seem to be made more in the provincial centres. To use a colloquial phrase, our Department of Trade “ does over “ an area for a month or so. In Norwich, I was very interested to see that the department was conducting an Australian sales promotion campaign by means of radio programmes and addresses to groups, guilds, Rotary clubs and that sort of thing. The department was able to obtain the services of some excellent young ladies from Australia, who were in Great Britain at the time, to act as assistants in a number of leading grocery stores. 1 can assure honorable senators that the grocers whom I met in the stores where these young ladies were working - acting more or less as shop walkers - spoke very highly of them. In the main, they also spoke very highly of our products. However, I did get the comment that the products were somewhat damaged as far as the labels were concerned. The labels appeared to be badly rubbed. When a tin of beautiful peaches has a badly rubbed label, the customer reaction will be unfavorable. More attention should be given to the separation of the tins of fruit during the voyage out. Separation by means of cardboard placed between the tins is possibly all that would be required.
I feel also that there should be more control of the actual marketing. One grocer showed me a tin that had on the outside the word “ seconds “. In London, the electric sign reads “ Australia sends her best “, yet at Norwich the grocer showed me a tin which indicated that certain fruit was being sold, quite openly, as seconds. These are small matters, but I feel they can bring about customer resistance if they are not watched.
I think we are very favorably known in the United Kingdom through our great efforts at development. Everybody that I spoke to in the House of Commons and in trade and banking circles was rather thrilled learn of the development going on in
Australia. The information is getting through, but I feel that perhaps the television programmes about Australia recently released by the B.B.C. have not been adequate. I hope that the News and Information Bureau of the Department of the Interior will give some attention to the promotion of Australia by making sure that the television programmes circulated in Great Britain have been vetted so as to sound the true vibrant note, not the note of drought and despair that seems to be too frequently sounded on television programmes in England.
There are some other aspects of trade which are possibly more significant than those I have already mentioned. I refer to trade with South America. I am conscious that very little has been done to promote Australian trade with that area. Little has been said in this Parliament about that enormous Dart of the world. Honorable senators will recall that the South American continent is vast. It extends from north of the equator almost to the Antarctic regions. The largest of the republics is the United States of Brazil, which in area is larger than the United States of America, at any rate before the State of Alaska was admitted. It is certainly larger than the continent of Australia, including the off-shore island of Tasmania. Brazil has a population of 62,000,000 and has almost everything in the way of natural resources. Our trade with Brazil at the present is worth only £200,000 a year. Brazil is a place of enormous resources, and it is going ahead fast. For 300 years it was known as an outpost of Europe, but about 50 or 60 years ago a significant increase in immigration took place, with the result that the country has been greatly benefited. All the main European countries are sending migrants there without restriction. Japan is sending some of its finest people.
At least two cities in Brazil are larger than any city in Australia. I refer to the capital, Rio de Janeiro, and the modern new city of Sao Paulo. In order to give some idea of this country with which I am hoping we will develop trade, let me mention one or two facts relating to transport. The roads and railways are not up to date, but they are progressing. The country has a very good internal river transport system. However, what is making Brazil at the moment is the expansion of its air services. Between Sao Paulo and the capital, a distance of about 250 miles, there is a plane service virtually every quarter of an hour. Some 400 to 500 planes a week ply between those two places. Possibly the planes ply more frequently between those two cities than do the municipal buses between the suburbs and city of Adelaide. It is a pity that Australia is not doing a greater trade with such a country.
Admittedly, Brazil’s finances are a little bit upside down. Admittedly, its government is subject to the stresses and strains that certain democracies experience. Admittedly, there seems to be greater dominance of the Government by the military forces than in countries such as our own and the United Kingdom. Admittedly, too, there are the problems of a young nation; but so many things are happening so quickly in that country that there must be something which our nation can supply and things which we can buy. I feel that at the moment Brazil is in the stage we were in between 1946 and 1950, when there was a great shortage of everything and we wanted to do a lot of things in a hurry.
Sao Paulo is the fastest growing city in the world, the reason being, perhaps, that it will be the industrial centre of South America. All the great concerns such as General Motors, the Philips company, and the various tyre and battery companies, are congregated there. It will be a great industrial Chicago, or whatever you may like to call it. It has the advantage of tremendous volumes of water stored at height so that electrical power can be generated easily. I feel that we ought to do more about Brazil than we are doing.
I shall pass on to some of the other South American republics that I visited and then conclude my South American story, at any rate, by offering some suggestions. From Brazil one goes about 1,400 or 1,500 miles to one of the most beautiful cities in the world - Buenos Aires, the capital of the Argentine. The Argentine, of course, is a great primary producing country. There, too, industry has built up. But our trade with the Argentine amounts to a bare £200,000 or £300,000 a year. Although it is much smaller in size than is Brazil and has fewer national resources, because of the advent of more advanced processes of government and of stability - that appears to be coming now that the Peronista regime is a thing of the past - and because of the discovery and utilization of oil resources there as well as in Brazil, the Argentine could well be a country for future trade with Australia.
I went over the Andes to the long narrow republic of Chile, where I was able to spend a few days. Chile has problems very similar to our own, but her industries are not nearly as developed as are ours. Let it be remembered that the Chileans live opposite us; they are one of our Pacific neighbours. I feel that development of aerial transport between Australia and that section of South America is not far off. Possibly the development of the Easter Island air base, which that great Australian, Sir Gordon Taylor, was able to survey for us some years ago, could lead to an easy air transport contact between here and Chile. I mention also the republic of Peru, which lies on the Pacific coast more towards the equator. I think there could be greater contact between Australia and that country than there is at the present time.
What must we do about all this? First, I think we should look at our representation in these countries. The only representation that Australia has in the whole of this vast South American continent is one legation in Rio. As I have indicated, Rio is 1,500 miles from Buenos Aires, a city of 3,000,000 people, and 2,000 miles from Santiago. This one gentleman to whom I have referred, who has the status only of a minister and1 not that of an ambassador, with one Australian assistant, has to cope with the whole, of our representation in the trade, consular and diplomatic fields. In the capital of Brazil there are possibly 20 or 30 legations, all the heads of which have ambassadorial status. Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, France, Germany and South Africa all have legations and all are really going to town, to use another colloquialism, in the matter of representation. At any ceremony that is held, the Australian representative is received about twentieth or thirtieth down the line.
It is not as though we are represented anywhere else in South America; that is our only representation. It is true that in the capital of the British West Indies we have a trade post, but our Government expects our representative there to service the whole of South America from the trade angle. It is like servicing Australia from Hong Kong. There away in the realm of the British West Indies our man has to cope with all the problems of Portuguese-speaking Brazil and1 Spanish-speaking Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, and of various other parts. We have set our trade representative there a tremendous task; I think it is altogether too great.
I make the point, therefore, that we should increase the status of our diplomatic representation in South America by raising the post at Rio to that of an embassy. As honorable senators may know, in South America discussions at the diplomatic level are of tremendous importance in matters of trade. Discussions about import licences, quotas and such like are best conducted in that atmosphere. I feel that a competent man, preferably one who can speak Portuguese and Spanish, should be one of Australia’s important representatives in that place. When you move from Brazil to the Argentine you move from a Portuguese world to a Spanish world and I think that in the Argentine we ought to have a diplomatic representative, and as this would be a newer post, perhaps he should have a lower status than the representative in Brazil. He could deal with the people of Spanish culture in that area. There seems to be some rivalry between the two cultures which has existed over 300 or 400 years, and I feel we should respect that fact in considering diplomatic representation in South America.
I feel also that it is time we considered inviting representatives of some of the South American republics to visit us. We invite representatives from Japan. Singapore, Malaya, India, and1 of course from America and the United Kingdom, but I think tha! the people of this vast continent of South America would be very interested if their Presidents, Vice-Presidents or senior Ministers were invited to visit us. I think they would get as much of a kick, if I may use (hat word, out of a visit to us as did their athletes when they visited us for the Olympic Games.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Standing Order 14 Suspended
Consideration of message received from the House of Representatives (vide page 220).
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
– The question of the appointment of this committee has been before the Senate on a number of occasions. I have at length, on various occasions, stated the objections of the Australian Labour party to our being represented on it. I was one who, in the early stages, was a keen advocate of the Opposition joining the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament. We had conferences with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) seeking certain alterations of the committee as proposed. Those alterations were not made, and for the reasons that I have given on many occasions, we did not join the committee. We do not regret that decision, having regard to the way in which the committee is constituted. I think that the committee was reconstituted in both 1957 and 1958. I did not speak on either of those occasions because they were merely the breaking of one parliamentary session and the resumption of another, but in 1956 I addressed myself at length to the proposal. I have looked at what I said then, and there is not one word that I want to vary. My speech appears in “ Hansard “, of 29th February, 1956. I feel that, even at this distance of time, I could not improve on what I then said. I do not want to take up the time of the Senate, nor do I want to ignore the importance of the matter. I suggest that any honorable senator interested in the views of the Opposition may find them in “ Hansard “ of that date. If honorable senators wish me to read them, I point out that they cover some four and one-half pages and that it would take me ten, twelve or fifteen minutes; but if 1 am not bound by time I shall be happy to do so. However, unless there is a request from the Government side that I should do so, I do not propose to take up the time of the Senate in a matter upon which our views have been presented so often and stated so clearly. If debate on the matter is desired, I shall take portions of what 1 said in February, 1956, and put them before the Senate. I am entirely in the hands of the Government in that respect, but I repeat that 1 do not want to take up time unnecessarily upon a matter on which our views are well known.
– The honorable senator had better read them a few words from his speech.
– Senator Brown suggests that I read the Senate a few words. 1 blush to confess that they are not a few words, but quite a number of words. The matter is dealt with rather extensively, and that is the reason for my diffidence in taking up the time of the Senate.
– We will go quietly.
– I shall take that as the Government’s decision that it does not wish to hear me. I think that that is a proper outlook, too, having regard to the number of times that I have stated the position.
I conclude by making particular reference to two aspects of the matter: First, that this would not be a true joint committee even if the Opposition were to join it. It is not a parliamentary committee because it does not report to the Parliament as of right, lt is in the discretion of the Minister for External Affairs whether the committee ever makes a report to the Parliament. Secondly, it is not truly a committee that represents parties, because the representatives selected from our own party would be bound in secrecy. They would not be able to report to the body that nominated them and would not be free to disclose their knowledge to anybody until the ukase was issued by the Minister for External Affairs. Accordingly, we regard the committee as a useful one for those who participate in its deliberations, but no more useful than the foreign affairs committee of our own party which, at its own expense, addresses its mind to the very important matter of international affairs. For that reason, I indicate on behalf of the Opposition not only that the Opposition is not prepared to join the committee under its present constitution, but that we think that the Government should not pay for the activities of a committee of this type. Accordingly, we will oppose the appointment of the committee.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the following terms: -
That a joint committee be appointed to -
examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the “ Commonwealth of Australia Gazette “ on the nineteenth day of November, 1925, as previously modified or varied, which are referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior; and
examine and report on such’ other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior.
That the committee consist of two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
That every appointment of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
That the committee elect as Chairman of the committee one of the members appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the deputy chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as chairman of the committee at any time when the chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to such a sub-committee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That the committee have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory appointed in the previous session relating to any matter on which that committee had not completed its inquiry.
That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That five members of the committee, including the chairman or deputy chairman, constitute a quorum of the committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the sub-committee.
That in matters of procedure the chairman or deputy chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the chairman or deputy chairman have a deliberative vote only.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Debate resumed (vide page 230).
– When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the importance of inviting people from the South American republics to visit this country. I believe, Sir, that the visits could be on the level of Heads of State, the Presidents of the republics, diplomats, parliamentarians, heads of parliamentary institutions, traders and bankers. I am encouraged to make this suggestion because, within the last few years, some very important persons, including the Head of State of Viet Nam, and the Prime Minister of Japan have visited Australia. From time to time we are host nation to important people. I am encouraged also by the fact that bankers from the South-East Asian area have foregathered in Sydney under the chairmanship, I understand, of Dr. Coombs, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
I feel there are many ways in which the people of this country could get nearer to the people of the vast South American continent which has such a great potential. The exchange of visits by heads of State is most valuable in forming new friendships and maintaining older ones. We are reading from day to day, with great expectancy, of the visit of Mr. Macmillan to Moscow. I put the point quite fervently to the Senate that we should not neglect the South American republics. It would be folly to neglect them when one considers their importance in the United Nations. I was privileged on a day I was in New York to be invited to be an Australian delegate to the United Nations, and I took my place on the floor of that body to hear the President of the United States address it. When I saw the representatives of many nations there, I realized how important it was for Australia to be known by, and to know other nations and other people because no matter what your political views about it may be, the United Nations is a force in this world. At New York, where that organization holds its sittings, and at Geneva where certain committees and other bodies of the United Nations meet, these contacts are important. I am also encouraged by the tremendous impact that
Australia made at the Olympic Games on the athletes from South America. We are making an equal impact on the people in responsible positions whom we invite here, and that impact would be greater if we saw more of them here and at the United Nations.
I feel that it is not impracticable for a trade mission at some later date to go to South America. We are assimilating reports that have come forward about the trip of “Delos” to the north. Why, yesterday a mission left by air for the west coast of the United States. I believe that it will be away for only a few weeks. I think that, in the course of time, South America could be reached quite well by a floating shop window as it were because it should be remembered that 90 per cent, of the population of South America live on the sea coast or within a few miles of it; only a small proportion of the population lives inland.
Although the suggestion may not be adopted for many years, the proposal to exchange trade ideas has some merit. Already we have seen some startling developments in trade. When shipping charter rates are low, the export of coal to South America is an economic proposition. Since the Suez crisis, the shipping position has become more stable, freight rates have been fairly advantageous to us and we have exported coal.
The tremendous development taking place in places such as Sio Paulo in time will bear fruit, but for the next few years such areas may provide valuable markets for our manufactures. The people there are in much the same position as we were in ten years ago, having many things to be done but not the materials at hand to do them. To my knowledge, ready-mixed concrete making machines and other mechanical aids manufactured in Australia are being used in the building industry in South American countries. We are also exporting irrigation equipment to them. Such opportunities for exporting our products are becoming available to us because the cost of producing such items in the United States of America, which would be the ‘normal supplier, is rising considerably. However, I sound a note of warning. The establishment of overseas markets for our goods may mot be an easy task for us, and in the initial stages of developing our trade with South American countries the Export Guarantee Corporation, recently created by the Commonwealth, may be called on for aid to finance sales. As the trade is developed, however, our exporters may not find it necessary to have recourse to the corporation. I hope that the honorable senators and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents the Minister for Trade in this place, have gleaned some food for thought from my remarks. We should develop our diplomatic representation and our trade with South America with a zest that befits a young, energetic nation such as ours because the people of the South American countries are basically friendly towards us in much the same way as we are basically friendly towards them.
In his Speech the Governor-General said -
My Government will set up a competent and independent public investigation of Commonwealth taxation laws.
I warmly commend the proposal because I think such an investigation is long overdue. Honorable senators may ask, “ Are not the taxation laws being overhauled constantly? “ The answer is, “ No! “ In the life of this Government two such attempts have been made. One of the first acts of this Government after its election to office in 1950 was to set up the Spooner committee which held most of its meetings in secret and dealt only with specific matters referred to it by the Treasurer. The Government then set up the Hulme committee on depreciation, which also did valuable work but was limited to dealing with matters of depreciation. We must go back to 1932 to find the last occasion on which a comprehensive survey of Commonwealth taxation laws was made. Honorable senators may be interested to know that the Letters Patent for the Royal Commission on Taxation were issued in 1932 and that the commission presented its report in 1933 and 1934. However, it was not until 1936 that the income tax law was revised. The commission comprised the late Mr. Justice Ferguson of the New South Wales Supreme Court and Mr. E. V. Nixon, two tremendously knowledgeable men in matters of law and accountancy. Since that time no worthwhile survey of the taxation laws has been made.
Paragraph 277 of the second report of the commission rather intrigues me. It is in these terms: -
During the year ended 30th June, 1933, the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States collected in taxes upon income (including under this heading Unemployment Relief Taxes) approximately £31,000,000. The magnitude of this amount, and its effect both on national finance and the taxpayer, warrant careful consideration of the principles underlying the method of assessment and collection.
If, in 1933 income tax amounting to £31,000,000 appealed to the imagination of the committee to such an extent that it was prompted to suggest “ careful consideration of the principles underlying the method of assessment and collection “, how much greater is the need for investigation when one realizes that the enormous amount of £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 is collected at the present time?
The whole face of Australia has changed since the ‘thirties. At that time we were predominantly dependent upon the export of our primary produce. To-day, we are exporting metals and manufactured goods at a rate that may even exceed our exports of primary products. That change has taken place in the short space of about 25 years. I understand that the principle of uniform income tax will be the subject of spirited debate by representatives of the States and the Commonwealth in the next few years. Many reasons exist why a complete overhaul of the principles of taxation is long overdue.
At this stage I make no mention of rates. The rates of taxation affect merely the government of the day and its responsibility to get money to carry on the services of government. I am referring now to the importance of reviewing the principles of taxation. I could address the Senate at very great length on this subject if I were to exhaust all arguments relating to the matter, but I shall content myself with giving only one or two illustrations of how important the question is. Tn the last ten years or so, a large number of companies, both private and public, have been incorporated. When the last review of taxation was made, the number of companies incorporated in Australia was much smaller than it is now. Company taxation has developed into a maze of law and practice which is extremely hard for all but a few experts to follow. The other day I read in the Melbourne “ Herald “ the following advertisement, which clearly demonstrates that there must be something wrong with our taxation laws -
Shares wanted in merchandising or distributing company with accumulated losses vicinity £15,000 or £20,000.
That advertisement indicates that it is fruitful for somebody to buy shares in a company which has accumulated losses to the extent of £15,000 or £20,000. It points to the fact that all is not right with our company taxation laws when persons find it to their advantage to buy shares in companies with big accumulated losses.
I come now to general taxation of private companies. This is probably the only government in the world that has three bites at taxing private companies. First, it levies the general tax on a company’s profits; secondly, it taxes the undistributed profits; and thirdly, it taxes the dividends paid to the shareholders. The tax on a dividend is levied on the shareholder to whom it is paid. The effect of all this has been to change completely the method of financing companies. Instead of raising finance by the normal method of issuing shares, companies tend to issue notes. Because the interest paid on these notes is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes, companies are able to pay a high rate for the money they obtain from the issue of notes. Possibly that is one of the reasons for the high rate of interest that many of the companies are offering. I suggest that it could even be a cause of inflation in this country.
So I submit that there are many good reasons why, in the public interest, company taxation should be examined, and I can think of no better way of analysing the position than the inquiry envisaged in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I think I ought to move along now to taxes other than income tax. It will be remembered that the Governor-General did not restrict his mention of taxation to income tax. and in passing I point out that a great deal of work has been done in the United Kingdom in connexion with taxation. In 1951, there was appointed in the United Kingdom, the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income. This famous commission has issued a report of about 500 pages, and stress is laid upon the importance of bringing up to date a nation’s thinking on the question of taxation. I hope that the committee which is to be appointed will have as its guide the report of the work that was done by the Royal Commission on Taxation of Profits and Income in the United Kingdom. I understand that there was a similar commission in the United States a few years ago. 1 do know that the internal revenue code of the United States was completely re-written in 1954. I understand that similar work is being done in New Zealand, and I feel that we are now beginning to see a bit of daylight on this question of taxation. Hitherto, the system in Australia seems to have been developed by trial and error. Hitherto, it would seem that taxation was imposed by parliaments without hearing evidence from qualified persons in industry or in agriculture or even in the acountancy profession. Such evidence could be of great help to the Government and I hope that the proposed public inquiry will offer the opportunity for evidence to be given by such people. 1 come now to sales tax. Here, 1 feel that the tendency has been to introduce too many categories. I understand that when sales tax was introduced by the Labour government In 1930 there were only two categories. Over the years, more categories were added. I was very proud of the fact that a tew years ago this Government reduced both the rates of sales tax and the number of categories. I was pleased to see that happen ‘because, after all, a big charge is imposed upon commerce and industry in having to act as tax collectors, as it were, for the Government. This cost becomes even greater when the tax has to be collected in respect of a number of different categories. I do hope that the proposed committee will pay particular attention to the need for reducing the number of categories.
Then there is the ever-present question of sales tax on freight. I shall not develop that point now except to suggest that it should be possible to abolish sales tax on freight, for this only adds to the cost of goods needed by the people in the country.
I submit, too, that the proposed committee should look into the pay-roll tax. I am referring now, not to the rates of payroll tax, but to the question whether payroll tax has an inflationary effect upon costs in industry. It will be remembered that two or three years ago the Tariff Board declared that pay-roll tax definitely does have an inflationary effect upon the cost of producing goods in Australia. For those reasons, I should like this committee to be charged, not with a political responsibility such as that imposed upon us as .senators but with the pure responsibility of examining the whole question of pay-roll tax and determining whether it is inflationary.
I should like the committee to deal also with estate duty. Great credit is due to the Government for the amendments that it has made from time to time in this direction. I recall that five years ago the concessions allowed formerly only to widows were extended to widowers. Two or three years ago the exemption, in the case where the. estate went to the widow, widower or children, was raised from approximately £2,000 to £5,000. I remember more recently that adopted children were granted the same exemptions as natural children, widows and widowers. This Government has shown great understanding in these matters, but I feel that there are still some questions relating to estate duty that a nonpolitical committee could well deal with.
One aspect that comes to mind is the preparation of returns. As we all know, each State reserves to itself the right to levy death duties, or succession duties, as the case may be. That has been a privilege of the State ever since colonial days. It was not until about 1914 that the Commonwealth entered into the estate duty field. Though only one person dies two sets of returns are required. The same assets under the will or intestacy must be passed by two departments in each State, each of which is concerned with the relevant fiscal aspects of the death.
The committee might very well consider the possibility of establishing one collecting office for death duties. That would not deny the State the right to approach the matter in its own way, whether through estate duty or succession duty, but it would ensure that only one return need be supplied, and only one payment made. I think that such a proposition is practicable because, after all, values do not differ as between State succession duty and federal estate duty. The deductions, by way of debts, or mortgage debts, are the same in both cases and the values should be the same. In fact, the State has the first look at the papers furnished after the death of a deceased person, and any dispute over values is undertaken with the State. Then, I understand, the assessors of federal estate duty adopt what the State assessors have already done. This certainly cuts down some of the work but, from the stand-point of the taxpayer and the estate of the deceased person, a good deal of form filling and legal expense could be eliminated. I hope that the committee looks at the possibility of having only one return. This could be done in such a way as not to affect the sovereign rights of the respective parties when it came to a matter of assessing actual succession or estate duty, as the case may be.
I should like to refer now to gift duty. I do not feel that the Government has given gift duty the consideration that it deserves. Estate duty has been looked at by the Government over the years, and the limit of exemption has been raised from £2,000 to £5,000, but it is about ten years since the limit in respect of gift duty has been altered in any way. Ten years ago, if a person gave away £2,000, the payment of gift duty started at that point. That exemption limit has not since been altered. Gift duty is the same whether the recipient is the wife or son, but a lower rate of federal estate duty is paid in the case of widows and children. The committee could well look at the possibility of making some concessions in the case of gifts to near relatives. After all, I think we should encourage, not completely discourage, gifts to close relatives. In the old days, many a farm was held by the father of the family long after he was able to attend to it properly. Gift duty has, I feel, been a deterrent to the dividing up of property. The committee could well examine such angles of the matter. There may well be less severe taxation on gifts than there is at present. I would especially hope that there would be some relief in the giving of gifts to the family of the donor.
It is a matter for regret that this is the last occasion upon which His Excellency the Governor-General will deliver the opening Speech to this Parliament. One cannot help remarking that he has ennobled the process of parliamentary government by his regular attendance in this way. Once again I offer my congratulations to the* proposer and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and* heartily support the sentiments expressed in the Speech itself.
Senator HANNAFORD (South Australia> [3.3]. - Mr. Deputy President, I am sure that every honorable senator greatly appreciated the speech just delivered by Senator Laught, for he touched on matters of great importance to this country arising from his visit to the South American continent. He has had an opportunity to see the development in that part of the world and he has told us something of the prospects there if we chose to develop our trade in that region.
I am sorry that there were not more honorable senators present, especially on the Opposition benches, to hear what he had to say. We on this side are becoming rather accustomed to seeing empty benches facing us. If anything is conducive to the destruction of the Senate it is complete apathy, of the kind so frequently displayed by members of the Opposition, towards the debates in this House. I am appreciative of the fact that I have even three honorable senators opposite while I am speaking. Often there is no one, or only one honorable senator, over there. I do not know about Senator Toohey, one of the Australian Labour party senators from South Australia. I have an idea that he is campaign director for the election that is taking place in that State. He is paid to be here but apparently he feels that the State election is more important than doing his job as a senator, and absents himself accordingly.
– There are not many on your side at the moment either.
– I agree that 1 have not tremendous support at this juncture, but, taken by and large, we on this side keep the Senate going very well. It is a disgrace to the Labour Opposition that it pays so little attention to the debates that take place in the National Parliament, and in the Upper House at that.
– That comes well from you!
– It certainly does. Senator Courtice cannot point a finger at me. I attend the sittings of the
Senate regularly and sit in my place in the chamber. I would say that my record of attendance here would compare quite favorably with that of anybody else. However, 1 will not pursue that subject any further, except to say it is a great pity that members of the Opposition do not pay more attention to our debates. I know the Opposition has some sick people in its ranks, but they are in Canberra at the present time, and I do not think it would cause them too much discomfort to sit in their places and listen to the debates that take place. Honorable senators such as Senator Laught take a great deal of trouble in preparing speeches on subjects of vital importance to Australia.
Senator Laught’s visit to South America emanated from his being chosen to represent this Parliament at the InterParliamentary Union conference that took place at Rio de Janiero. It speaks very well indeed for the value of the InterParliamentary Union that our parliamentarians can go overseas and glean information such as that which has been given to us this afternoon so capably by Senator Laught. I am very glad that we have linked up with the Inter-Parliamentary Union and that other people will have the benefit of going overseas and seeing what is taking place in other parts of the world.
By sheer coincidence, it so happens that I want to say a few words on trade and economic policy. My remarks will be more on general lines than on particular lines. I believe that trade and economic policy are of vital importance to the welfare of Australia, and that the Government has done a remarkable job in that field. It has adopted a policy of taking certain calculated risks, but a country, in the same way as a private individual, must take calculated risks. If it does not, it will stagnate, or, at best, find that its progress is very slow indeed. The Government has taken calculated risks.
– Tell us about the housing shortage.
– We have nothing to be ashamed of in that regard, in spite of your remarks. As a result of its economic policy, this Government enjoys the confidence of investors in overseas countries and also the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. That was proved quite conclusively by the result of the last election. Our policy has resulted in Australia being one of the most progressive and prosperous countries in the world to-day. Any Australian who goes overseas will say on his return, having seen the conditions in other lands, that Australia enjoys one of the highest rates of prosperity and progress in the world. When I think of what has taken place during the last eight or nine years and of what is likely to take place in the future, I am completely optimistic about the prospects of this great country. I know we have had to overcome certain difficulties and that we will have difficulties in the future, but I believe we will triumph over those difficulties and that Australia will steadily go forward along the lines of prosperity and progress, as it has done for almost a decade.
Australia depends for its prosperity mainly on its export trade. It is one of thgreat exporting and trading countries of the world, despite its small population. We place a lot of emphasis on our export trade because we know that if we receive good prices and the volume of our exports is maintained or increased, there will be a high level of prosperity throughout the community. That has undoubtedly been the case over the last nine years, and I believe that, because of the policy of the Government, it will continue to be the case in the years that lie ahead of us. The Government has undoubtedly pursued a policy of progress and development. One has only to look at the great public works carried out throughout Australia, not only in the public sector, but also in the private sector, to know that what I have just said is true. This Government has done great things in the short time it has been in office - and. after all, nine years is not a very long time.
As I have said, in order to enjoy prosperity we must have an adequate export industry, because if we do not have exports we cannot have imports. The Government is not blind to the fact that we are running up against some difficulties as a result of lower prices. However, I am not pessimistic about the future, because I know that in all export industries, whether primary oi secondary, there will always be fluctuations.
At times you will receive high prices for your commodities, and then, for no apparent reason, you will experience a decline in prices.
That, of course, happened to the wool industry quite recently. The decline in wool prices is causing the Government serious concern, because it knows how dependent Australia is on the great wool industry. However, we must remember that there has been an offsetting factor. The year before last a serious drought was experienced throughout Australia and our great cereals industry was adversely affected. We had much less wheat, barley and ether cereals to export. However, a? that time wool prices were fairly satisfactory. Wool brought a good price, thus lessening the effects of the drought to some degree. This year we have had a fall of approximately 30 per cent, in wool prices.
The offsetting factor that I mentioned a moment or two ago is that we have just had a remarkable cereal season throughout Australia. We have produced approximately 190,000,000 bushels of wheat and I do not know how many bushels of barley and other grain. There are fluctuations with all commodities, and seasonal conditions that we have to contend with; we cannot avoid them. So it is necessary to pursue a steady policy, as this Government has done during its term of office, taking those factors into consideration and making adjustments from time to time.
We know that recently there has been a short-fall in our export earnings; they are hardly sufficient to meet our import requirements. lt seems paradoxical, Sir, that the more a country develops its industries and its economy, the greater are its import requirements. Our import requirements are mounting, and we have had to apply certain restrictions in order to maintain our overseas balances at a satisfactory level. In spite of those restrictions, those balances have declined slightly. Fortunately, they have not declined very substantially, because we have been assisted by the inflow of capital from overseas.
The inflow of capital is something for which we can take great credit, because there is not an inflow of capital from other countries unless those countries have confidence in the stability of the Australian economy. For a number of years we have had a steady inflow of capital, and that has helped us considerably in maintaining the level of prosperity that we have enjoyed.
I was very interested to hear what Senator Kennelly had to say on this subject. What he said was only a repetition of previous speeches he has made from time to time. With a lugubrious expression, a long mournful face, he said he did not know what would happen in the future. He quoted from one or two publications, one of which I think was the “ Harbour “. That is published by the coal and shipping industries, I think. It is not a bad paper, either. I had read the article that was quoted by Senator Kennelly, but I did not place the same interpretation on it that he did. The honorable senator also quoted from the “ Financial Review “. These articles pointed out the dire results that were likely to be experienced in Australia. What must be remembered is that those articles were only expressions of opinion by certain individuals.
I could quote statements that express the opposite view. One in particular is a statement that was made at a conference of 80 senior Adelaide business executives last week by Dr. W. I. Westerman, chairman of the Tariff Board. He is quite an eminent gentleman, and one whose remarks are regarded with a certain amount of seriousness. The report of Dr. Westerman’s speech reads -
He had no doubt that total expenditure will be maintained at a level which would be adequate to support the increase in population and the work force.
Australia’s investment from current income and from overseas sources was high, in comparison with some countries, in both the public and private sectors.
For Australia to continue to develop, overseas investment would have to remain high during the next 20 years.
It was difficult to see where the necessary funds could be obtained internally for investment unless governments introduced special fiscal measures to enable greater accumulation of undistributed profits for re-investment.
In the past a large percentage of savings had come from the rural sector, which was confronted with low prices and incomes.
Much more effective liaison between industry and government was necessary in the future.
Private investment from overseas, which had been about £120,000,000 a year for the past three years, was likely to provide a continuing source of investment capital.
When such investment took the form of actually setting up a manufacturing activity, it could represent the beginning of a chain reaction of inestimable importance to economical development.
Productivity of Australian industry was the best insurance against the risks associated with development, Dr. Westerman said.
That statement could quite easily be set against Senator Kennelly’s remarks.
Senator Kennelly said that he thought this inflow of capital from overseas would lead later to a drain on the Australian economy, inasmuch as we would be paying out nearly all our export earnings in the form of dividends to the great companies. He referred to General Motors-Holden’s Limited, but I do not know why. He said that if by any chance General MotorsHolden’s were to sell out to an Australian company, it would mean the flight of £66,000,000 worth of capital from this country. Is it likely that General MotorsHolden’s would desert this country? I do not think so. I believe that firm will continue its operations here and will play an important part in our export trade, and thus increase our overseas earnings.
I believe that this inflow of capital, which is so valuable to us, will continue. I believe, too, that Dr. Westerman is right when he says that it is needed if this country is to continue its great development. What Senator Kennelly said illustrates the attitude of the Australian Labour party all along the line. There is nobody more conservative than a Labour politician. Members of the Labour party are the most conservative people in the world, and Senator Kennelly is the arch example of ultraconservatism. I do not think that the remarks of Senator Kennelly deserve much more comment from me. However, the honorable senator said that unless we can control the profits of companies such as General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and then determine the policy of the companies on how the profits should be used, we are better off without them and the inflow of capital that they bring. What a proposal! Just how much capital inflow would there be, Sir, if that were the policy of the Government? Of course, there would be virtually none, and we in this country would be the poorer.
As I said earlier, I believe that it is allimportant to the prosperity and welfare of Australia that we maintain our exports at a satisfactory level. We must have imports, of course, because without imports we could not develop the great industries and undertake the public works that we so badly need, nor could we maintain the tremendous rate of immigration that has been achieved during the last eight or nine years, with such benefit to Australia. But it would be practically impossible to carry out our great programme of development and expansion without an adequate export income to enable us. to buy the capital goods that we need from overseas. That is why I say that it is all-important for us to maintain our export industries, and for that reason it is incumbent on us to do all that we possibly can to expand our trade with other countries.
We all know, Sir, of the splendid job that has been done by the Minister for Trade (Mr. Ewen) during the last few years. Originally, the Department of Trade was associated with the Department of Customs, but, as the result of Government policy, the important portfolio of Trade was established, and we put one of our ablest men in charge of it. I pay a very great tribute to Mr. McEwen for the remarkable results that have accrued from the policy that he has followed down the years. It is not an easy matter to break into world trade. We have had our traditional markets in the past, such as the great market of the United Kingdom. We know what a tremendous part we have played in her trade and that she has played in ours. However, there has been some alteration in regard to the trade carried on between our two countries. England is not now the greatest importer of our greasy wool. Japan is the greatest importer. England does not now absorb the quantity of Australian cereals that she used to absorb. Japan has come into the picture more and more of recent years. The trade treaty that Mr. McEwen was able to arrange with the Japanese Government has been of tremendous benefit to Australia. Whether we like it or whether we do not, our future is linked with that of the Pacific countries and must become more and more closely linked with them as time goes by. I think that it was a splendid thing that Mr. McEwen was able to formulate the trade treaty with Japan. The result is that we are increasing our sales to Japan of wool, cereals and other important commodities. We have a reciprocal arrangement with that country, with mutual benefit to both our countries. That treaty was arranged under Mr. McEwen’s aegis and I believe we are the richer for having concluded it
The same thing can be said in regard to our trade relations with the United Kingdom. Under the old system, the Ottawa Agreement was working against us. Mr. McEwen, after long preliminary negotiation, went to England and negotiated with Great Britain a trade treaty which supplanted the Ottawa Agreement, and the new arrangement has been of very much greater benefit to Australia. There is no reason to believe that our trade with the United Kingdom will not be maintained at the present volume, in spite of the fact that in Europe some comparatively recent events, the effects of which we shall have to bear in the future, have been occurring. I refer, of course, to the matter that Senator Mattner has mentioned - the European Common Market arrangements. We do not know what the repercussions of those arrangements will be, and we are not likely to know for some time, but they are bound to have some effect on Australian trade. I hope that the effect will be favorable.
We must continue to trade with the rest of the world, and to do that we have to be competitive. We must sell our wheat, flour and wool on overseas markets in competition with other countries. In respect of cereals, we have to compete with the great cereal-producing countries of North America. We know that, in the United States, Canada and other wheat-producing countries, we have serious competition.
– Very often unfair competition.
– As Senator Pearson says, often we have unfair competition, but we are doing our utmost to maintain our markets in the East, in Ceylon and elsewhere. At the same time we are placing a substantial portion of our wheat crop and our other cereal crops on other world markets, particularly in the Old Country.
We have also to compete, Sir, against man-made fibres. The great woollen industry has a very serious competitor in this respect. Unfortunately, we have a division of opinion as to what is the right course to adopt. I think that wool is the greatest textile in the world.
– At a price!
– Exactly. Wool must be produced at a price that will enable it to compete with the man-made fibres. We know how attractive those fibres are, and we also know that millions of poundsare being poured into research with the object of improving their quality. I must confess that I have seen suits made from a mixture of terylene, I think it is called, and wool, that have been very attractive indeed. I would not say that such suits would be as good as suits made of pure wool, but they serve a need, particularly in warm climatic conditions, and for that reason the fibres have become a serious competitor of our wool. Therefore, we have to produce our goods for export at a competitive price. We have aimed at that objective right through the piece. We must keep a careful check on costs in our great exporting industries. I believe that, in most instances, we are producing our goods for export at a price that is quite competitive with goods that are produced in other countries. Nevertheless, we must increase our efficiency by every possible means, scientific and otherwise. We must strive to increase the rate of production from given areas. If we do not, we shallfall by the wayside and lose our markets. This will reduce our income from overseas; and we cannot afford a loss of that kind. I cannot emphasize too strongly that, if our programme of expansion is to be maintained and if employment is to be available for all, we must increase the efficiency of our export industries, and we must have a free flow of trade within the limits of the protectionist policy that has been applied down through the years. If we do not, the whole world will suffer. It is extremely important for us to keep trade flowing. If that is not done, conditions of stagnation and depression might occur.
Before concluding my remarks, I should like to associate myself with the sentimentsthat have been expressed by the mover and the seconder of the motion. I congratulate them most heartily on their very fine addresses. As other speakers have said, these two new senators made a very good impression indeed. I sincerely congratulate them, and I hope that they will have a successful career in this chamber. I associate myself also with the expressions of loyalty that have been made by previous speakers.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) 13.381. - I have very much pleasure in associating myself with the sentiments of loyalty that have been expressed during this debate, and I compliment both the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on their excellent speeches. I shall direct my remarks to various matters that were mentioned by the Governor-General. As a Queenslander, I was very pleased to hear His Excellency refer to the fact that Queensland will celebrate its centenary this year. This is an event of which we in Queensland are justly proud. It can bc truthfully said that during the past 100 years great development has taken place in that State. Of course, Queensland has its problems. As you know, a fair proportion of the State is situated in the sub-tropical and tropical regions. Because of the climatic conditions, and for other reasons, .our problems are different from those of the southern States.
Recently, Queensland experienced a devastating cyclone. My home city of Mackay was on the fringe of the area where most damage occurred. Bowen, Home Hill, and Proserpine were the towns most seriously affected, particularly the firstnamed two. The citizens of those two towns suffered great hardship, and I have no doubt that it will take some time to repair the damage that was caused to their property. It is pleasing to know that the people living in other parts of the State are rallying to the support and relief of the citizens who were greatly affected by the cyclone. As one who has been through more than one cyclone, I know the difficulties that are confronting the people living in the damaged areas. It is a tribute to the courage and stamina of the people of north Queensland that, despite the vicissitudes associated with living in those areas they are determined to remain there, and I am sure that the State will benefit in consequence.
As I have said, we in Queensland have our problems. There are vast distances between the centres of population.
– Is Queensland as big as Western Australia?
– No, but we have a great deal in common with the people of Western Australia, because some of their problems are similar to ours. Both are confronted with problems that sometimes people who live in the more densely populated areas of Australia do not understand.
– The honorable senator does not let us forget that. We give you all the money.
– Unless we speak strongly for Queensland, we shall be lost. It is necessary to impress upon the people living in Victoria and other southern States the importance of Queensland to the Commonwealth. Senator Wedgwood says that Victoria gives us all the money. I remind her that Victoria and New South Wales are the principal manufacturing States, and that Queensland, being a great primary producing State, keeps the southern people wealthy by buying their manufactured goods. And let me say this: We Queenslanders are broad-minded people. We continue to buy our manufactured goods from the southern States, although in many instances, if the tariff barriers were removed, we could import similar goods from overseas at a cheaper price. We believe that, by buying manufactured goods from the southern States we are assisting to build a great and more solid Australia.
– Victoria obtains its sugar from -Queensland.
– Yes, our State keeps the people of Victoria really sweet. When Senator Hannaford said that wool is the greatest textile in the world, Senator Wedgwood interjected, “ At a price “. That interjection has particular relevance to sugar. It is estimated that in every year since the price of sugar was brought under control the people of Queensland and those in the sugar-producing areas of northern New South Wales have saved the people of Australia at least £1,000,000. If the sugar had been imported from other sugarproducing countries, it would have cost that much more each year. So when the people in Victoria think that they are supplying all the money needed by Queensland and thai they could buy sugar cheaper elsewhere, I remind them that if the floodgates were opened and there were no tariff barriers the sugar producers and other citizens of Queensland could buy many things at much cheaper prices than they now pay for goods manufactured in the southern States.
Senator Wade, in a very fine speech, made a plea for a greater percentage of the proceeds of the petrol tax to be allora ted to Victoria. What the honorable senator did not say was that if that plea were answered, automatically there would be a reduction of the amounts made available to the other States. I should like to remind him that very great lengths of road are required in Queensland, because of the vastness of that State. People living in the remote areas are confronted by many difficulties, as one would realize after travelling in the State, and1 the people who live in the more densely populated States :should be ashamed of the claims they sometimes make in an effort to obtain money that should go to the more remote and sparsely populated districts. We should adopt a truly Australian outlook and be proud of anything that is done to help the people living in the vast thinly populated regions of large States such as Queensland and Western Australia. They deserve every encouragement and whatever amenity we can give them to make their life a little happier and more attractive. We should aim at an increase in population in the larger States because the more widely dispersed our population, the better the country will be. No true Australian wants to see the concentration of development restricted to certain locations. Let us spread our industries and so build a greater Australia.
The people of my own State of Queensland are very disturbed at the condition of their roads. They are concerned lest the amount now allotted to their State for the construction and maintenance of roads may be reduced. Any one who has travelled in Queensland will realize that it should receive more than its present allocation in order to develop and maintain a reasonable road system. Compared to some of the roads in Queensland, those in the more densely populated areas in the south are like billiard tables.
– But the honorable senator does not travel by road, at least not in the southern States.
– Any road in the south on which I have travelled is much better than the roads in Queensland. Victoria, which is loudly voicing its claims tor a greater share of the petrol tax, is such a small State that it is hardly big enough to contain a road.
This is the centenary year of the State of Queensland, a year in which we look forward to another hundred years of achievement, development and progress. No State in the Commonwealth has a brighter future than Queensland.
– What about Western Australia?
– The Western Australians can speak for themselves. Although Western Australia has bright prospects for the future, they are no brighter than those of Queensland. When one considers some of the great developmental projects that have been undertaken over the years, and the great possibilities flowing from the discovery of minerals in Queensland, the prospects for the future are most exciting and exhilarating. Let us consider the developments that have taken place at Mount Isa. Over twenty years ago the Mount lsa company went into the north-western part of the State, invested its capital and in developing its holdings showed true courage and enterprise. For twenty years the investors in the company did not receive a dividend, but they persevered. To-day the company is a shining example to all employers in matters of staff treatment. The achievements of this company, the greatest single private enterprise undertaking in Queensland, have been remarkable. According to representatives of the World Bank who visited Mount Isa recently, the mine is one of the greatest in the world to-day. Not only has the company established a great industry; it has also built homes and provided all modern amenities for its employees, including a swimming pool. As a consequence, the life of the people in the Mount Isa area has been made very attractive. The company has demonstrated what can be done if courage, enterprise and determination are applied to any undertaking. It is doing a great job for Australia by producing and exporting commodities which build up our overseas balances, thus enabling the secondary industries of the more populous States to obtain overseas the machinery and equipment necessary for their development.
Negotiations have been entered into with a view to improving the railway line from the Queensland coast to Mount Isa.
– To enable the company to enlarge its undertaking and to send greater quantities of products to the coast. The company is spending about £4,000,000 on a copper smelting works at Townsville, £40,000,000 in enlarging and improving the mine and installing modern equipment to treat various kinds of ores. An improved railway line is a necessity to meet this expansion. For many years the State Government has been trying to have the line rebuilt, but finance has not been available. The representatives of the World Bank who visited Mount Isa highly commended the company for its standard of operations. The Queensland Government is prepared to provide £7,000,000 towards the cost of improving the line and it has asked the Commonwealth for assistance but, for some reason, nothing has been done. We need a loan from the World Bank to help us develop our State, but, for some unknown reason, our application for such assistance cannot get beyond Canberra. As a Queenslander, 1 am concerned that the Commonwealth Government will not make any further grant to my State to assist in the reconstruction of the line to Mount Isa which will facilitate greater development of the mine. The greater the yield from the mine the greater our earnings of return foreign exchange, which is so urgently needed. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 10th March, at 3 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President by telegram or letter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
Senate adjourned at 3.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 February 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590226_senate_23_s14/>.