23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator (he Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware that the Tasmanian Government ‘has passed legislation permitting certain qualified dental mechanics to deal directly with the public, subject to certain safeguards? Will the Treasurer advise whether persons who purchase dentures from such dental mechanics will receive the same income tax concessions as they would have received if they had purchased dentures from a dentist?
– I am not aware of the matter referred to by the honorable senator. I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Treasurer, and get an answer from him.
– I should like to preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, by referring to a recent statement by the Minister for Trade to the effect that the Australian production of ingot steel has doubled in the last ten years and now stands at 2,870,000 tons a year; that current plans for the industry provide for an increase of the rate of ingot production capacity to about 3,600,000 tons within two years; that against this the demand is likely to call for an increase to 4,000,000 tons by 1962; and, therefore, that our import bill for steel may still be in the vicinity of £20,000,000 a year in the early 1960’s. I ask the Minister: Is the problem of manufacturing coking coal from Collie coal any nearer to being solved? Has Western Australia large deposits of high-grade iron ore, and is this ore now being supplied to the eastern States? Is it a fact that other requirements of the steel industry, namely, manganese and chromite, are also delivered from Western Australian sources? If the answers to those questions are in the affirmative, would the Minister use his influence to persuade Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited and/ or overseas companies to establish a steel industry in Western Australia capable of producing 1,000,000 tons a year?
– I do not challenge the honorable senator’s presentation of the statistics he has mentioned. I remind him that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has never claimed to be able to provide Australia with a self-sufficient steel industry, to provide all the nation’s steel requirements. What it says, in effect, is that it will endeavour to supply the major items. It says that probably we will have to import some items, but that the items imported probably will be offset by the items that are exported. The company does not expect that it will be able exactly to match supply and demand for each particular category of steel. The establishment of a steel industry in Western Australia depends, as the honorable senator himself has suggested, very largely upon whether the Collie coal can be transformed or used in such a way as to produce coking qualities.
I cannot express a technical opinion, but certain countries with coal deposits of that kind are conducting research, experiments and investigations in an effort to transform the coal so that it will be suitable for coking purposes. If the Collie coal could be so transformed, Western Australia’s opportunities for the establishment of a steel industry would be very substantially increased because, as the honorable senator points out, all the other raw materials required are within the borders of that State. I remind the honorable senator that already rolling mills have been established in that State.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation the following questions: Is it a fact that during the current half-year ex-servicemen on the administrative staff of the Repatriation Department in Hobart are to be dismissed and replaced by young people? Is it correct that the exservicemen concerned staffed the department in the immediate post-war period when many applications for all types of benefits were received and that therefore they are knowledgeable in most aspects of repatriation administration? Does the Minister think ii is desirable that young females should be employed in positions in the Repatriation Department where their duties could entail a perusal of the medical files of adult male persons, which often contain reports of a very confidential nature? Does the Minister think that the employment in the department of these young females, who have no knowledge of ex-service problems, could result in a decline of sympathetic treatment by the Repatriation Department of ex-servicemen with grave mental and physical problems? Finally, will the Minister see that the dismissal notices that have already been issued are countermanded and that an examination is made to ascertain whether, in the light of customary wastage due to retirement, resignations, transfers, &c, the ex-servicemen liable to dismissal can be given continued employment?
– I regret that I am not able to answer all the honorable senator’s questions straight away. Naturally, in a department of the size of the Repatriation Department people of various ages are employed. The honorable senator mentioned the female staff. There is a female staff, because there is a lot of typing to be done, as well as a lot of clerical work for which females are suitable. But that should have no effect at all upon the medical care of a patient or a person who attends for out-patient treatment. Such persons would be dealt with by the proper medical staff or members of the male staff. I might add that almost 99.5 per cent, of the male staff are ex-servicemen, and a very large number of them have a disability. I suppose the department is the greatest employer, as a unit, of exservicemen who have a disability.
– But they are being dismissed.
– I shall look into that matter. I can assure the honorable senator there will be some reason for it. I should like the honorable senator to place his questions about the other matters on the notice-paper. I will have a thorough examination made of the position.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. As it will be a gala occasion when the “ Princess of Tasmania “ makes her maiden voyage to Devonport, the gateway to Tasmania, will the Minister provide for a naval escort on this voyage, in order to mark the festive occasion?
– Before I can answer the question “Yes” or “No”, it will be necessary for me to find out, from the Minister who is meeting the needs of Tasmania for such a service by putting this ship on the run, the date on which this proposed voyage is to take place, and then to consider the commitments into which the Navy has entered. But I am sure that, either with or without naval escort, the “ Princess of Tasmania “ will be of great benefit to Tasmania.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of Australia’s increasing activity in the Antarctic area and the necessity for a ship or ships to . make regular voyages to that area, will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, with a view to making arrangements for a suitable ship or ships to be constructed in Australia? Does not the Minister agree that owing to the heavy cost of chartered ships - about £800 a day - and because of the benefit to the Australian shipbuilding industry, it would be preferable for the Government to provide Australianbuilt ships for this purpose? At present, of course, all money spent on chartering these vessels leaves Australia.
– From time to time I have had discussions with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, about the possibility of building in Australia an Antarctic vessel. Indeed, I think it will be recalled that Senator Laught, with Senator Marriott, has shown a continuing interest in this matter. The stage that has been reached now, after my most recent discussions, is that a design plan has been drawn by the Australian Shipbuilding Board and it is under examination by the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs. Whether or not the proposal goes forward will depend, of course, on the decision of the Minister made on the advice tendered to him by his department. The plan which has been forwarded is, 1 understand, under detailed examination. 1 must emphasize to the Senate that a vessel of this type would be extremely costly to build and to operate, particularly having regard to the fact that she would be in service for only a limited time during any one year. Without in any way anticipating, or attempting to anticipate, what the judgment will be - I have my own hopes in that matter - I do point out that that judgment will be made on the relative economics of chartering and purchasing a ship which must, of necessity, have only limited use.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen the claims which have been made in the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph “ of 1st March and 8th March last, relating to many miracle cures of the diseases of old age at the Institute of Geriatrics at Bucharest, Rumania, through the use of the so-called wonder drug H3, an improvement on novocaine? Will the Minister make an investigation of the subject and give consideration to the sending of a panel of health people to the Bucharest Institute of Geriatrics to further investigate the matter so that, if the reports are correct, this panel would then be able to disseminate its findings throughout Australia? By the term “ health people “ I do not mean only doctors. I have in mind others, such as nurses, who would be concerned in this matter.
– Only the Minister for Health is qualified to answer this question. I have noticed the advertisements to which Senator Wood has referred, but I am not able to state whether the drugs they mention are of some value or not. If the honorable senator will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall refer it to the Minister for Health and obtain a considered answer for him.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether it is a fact that Canada is the leading producer of uranium concentrates in the
Western world? Did Canadian production rise from 6,557 tons in 1957 to 13,537 tons last year? Did the production of the United States of America rise from 8,495 tons to 12,560 tons, and South African production from 5,700 tons to 6,200 tons in the same period? Can the Minister obtain for the Senate the figure for Australian production last year and inform honorable senators of the increase compared with the production in 1957?
– The honorable senator doubtless recollects that the other countries were earlier off the mark than we were in this matter. They are also more thickly populated than is Australia. So the search for uranium has not yielded in Australia the spectacular results that it has in other countries. Canada has been particularly fortunate, or particularly blessed - whatever the right word is - in finding the tremendous deposits that she is now developing. For our part, we have not done badly. We have opened up the Rum Jungle field in the Northern Territory and the Mary Kathleen field in Queensland, and we hold high hopes that the areas now being prospected in the Kimberleys-
– What about South Australia?
– Further deposits have also been discovered in South Australia. I shall obtain the actual figures for the honorable senator and let her have them.
– I direct my questions to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. What conditions are imposed on subscribers seeking to share a telephone connexion which is commonly referred to as a duplex connexion? Does the consent of the holder of the original telephone have to be obtained before his connexion is changed to the duplex system?
– I think I can answer the second part of the honorable senator’s question. As far as I know, it is a fact that no telephone can be converted to a duplex connexion without the consent of the original holder. However, if the honorable senator places her question on the notice-paper I shall obtain for her a considered reply from the PostmasterGeneral.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen an article emanating from London contained in a Sydney newspaper to the effect that a secret report compiled by seven top-level engineers attached to the British Overseas Airways Corporation alleges that the corporation is over-staffed, inefficient on the ground and beset with restrictive union practices? As Australia has an interest in this corporation, will the Minister make inquiries to see whether there is any truth in the allegations?
– Senator McCallum has said that Australia has an interest in the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I want to correct that misunderstanding at once. Australia has not an interest in B.O.A.C. in the form of a stockholding or a financial investment of any kind. Our interest springs from an operational partnership which is conducted between our own airline, Qantas, and B.O.A.C. Naturally, we would be very interested in the general efficiency and operating and maintenance standards of B.O.A.C.
I want to say at once that while I have not seen the report referred to, and have no official notice that such a report exists, I should be surprised to learn that the position, as described in the article, exists; indeed, Qantas has derived considerable satisfaction from its operational association with B.O.A.C, and I know that the pilots and staff of Qantas hold the corporation in high regard as a fine operating agency.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether there is any truth in the rumour that the department’s installations at Cloncurry are to be dismantled and removed to Mount Isa. If so, what is the estimated cost of such removal?
– I know that the Department of Civil Aviation is making some inquiries into the facilities and navigational aids that exist in that part of Queensland which includes Cloncurry and Mount Isa. But I emphasize to the honorable senator, because I have become aware that the removal of the installations is a matter of some importance to Cloncurry, that at the moment the only action being taken is that an analysis is being made of the aids and facilities which exist in the area with a view to deciding ultimately how we can derive the most economic operating result. Our thinking is in its very early stages, and I certainly am not in a position to give an estimate of the cost because as yet no firm decisions have been taken in any direction.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation tell the Senate what is meant by the term “ professional education “ as related to the extra livingawayfromhome allowance recently granted to the children of war widows? Do children who are over sixteen years of age and who are pursuing their studies towards matriculation, with a university course in view, receive the additional away-from-home allowance if they are internal students at secondary schools?
Has the Minister yet considered the extension of medical benefits to such children who are full-time students and who are not in receipt of any income other than their repatriation benefit? The Minister will recall that questions on this matter were asked in the Senate last year.
-“ Professional education “ refers to education given to children eighteen years of age and over. The ordinary education allowance as paid to children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years is £1 5s. a week when a recipient is living at home and £2 15s. a week when a recipient is living away from home. In addition, pensions of £1 lis. 6d. a week for the first child and £1 2s. 6d. a week for second and subsequent children are paid.
– What about the children between sixteen and eighteen years of age?
– They receive £2 15s. a week when living at home and £4 5s. a week when living away from home. Children over eighteen years of age come under the professional education provision. They receive £4 5s. a week when living at home and £6 10s. a week when living away from home. In addition, all their fees are paid for them and they receive all books and so on free.
The second part of the honorable senator’s question related to medical benefits. I inform her that children over sixteen years of age receive no medical benefits. To children up to sixteen years of age, medical benefits are granted. This matter has been looked into, but so far we have not been able to go beyond granting children up to sixteen years of age free hospital and medical benefits.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy. In the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s “ Guest of Honour “ feature last Sunday night, an eminent American Antarctic authority indicated the great support that units of the United States Navy gave to the United States’ participation in the International Geophysical Year in Antarctica. Will the Minister be good enough to let me know whether there have been any discussions within his department on the possibility of units or personnel of the Royal Australian Navy being used in support of the highquality work that is being carried on by Australians in Antarctica at present? If there have been discussions, then what has been the outcome?
– The short answer to the honorable senator is that there have been no discussions within my department about the Royal Australian Navy giving support to Australians working in Antarctica. There is a very material difference between what Australia is doing and what America is doing in that area. The whole of the American operation is entirely under the control of the United States Navy. The Americans have not only their main base at McMurdo, but also a base at the Pole itself, and bases at Byrd, Little America and other such places. It is necessary for them to supply these out-bases by air, and for that purpose it is necessary for them to have at McMurdo - and they have at McMurdo - four or five Globemaster navy aircraft, four or five Neptunes, two or three Super Constellations, half a dozen DC3 aircraft and the necessary numbers of men to look after them - as well as other men to look after those men. That means that there are about 400 men at that base alone.
Australia’s operations are entirely different. They involve one, and now two, reasonably small bases. I do not believe that the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs seeks any Navy participation or help, though it is, in fact, getting some help from the Royal Australian Air Force.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I understand that the embargo imposed last year by the Government on the exportation of monazite has prevented companies in Western Australia from disposing of their product - with serious results for those companies. Will the Minister say what the Government proposes to do to rectify this situation and enable Western Australian companies once again to sell their product?
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers has come to my notice. Monazite is an ore from which thorium is derived. Thorium is correctly described, I believe, as a fissionable material. It has a great potential use in the production of atomic power and atomic weapons, and for that reason is high on the list of strategic materials. Moreover, it is the subject of international agreements by which Australia is bound. Therefore, we are not in a position to make arrangements lightly concerning what we do with monazite and thorium. Some little time ago, realizing that some monazite could be obtained from our beach sands, we decided to stockpile and buy at what was a reasonable world price. After we made that decision it became likely that large deposits were available in Western Australia. We did not then contemplate any need to buy large quantities for stockpiling purposes. Therefore, what we have done, consistent with our international obligations, is give the Western Australian companies the opportunity to export in some directions, where that has been possible. We have also given an undertaking that we will keep in close touch with them and see what further we can do to assist them if they can find markets overseas.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has now supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact -
In view of the importance to Australia of an indigenous film industry, will the Government endeavour to introduce a reasonable Australian quota system to provide an outlet for Australian TV films without imposing undue hardship on local stations or alternatively, to provide a small subsidy per film for suitable Australian films?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: - 1. (a) The Minister does not agree that the proportion originating in Australia is insignificant, although it is true that a large proportion of imported film is used. (b) The Minister is not aware of the actual terms upon which overseas film has been acquired by Australian television stations, (c) Nearly all the filmed commercial announcements are produced in Australia, but many other Australian films are also used.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
– by leave - Honorable senators are aware that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) will be unable to attend the Parliament because of his duties associated with the Ecafe conference at Broadbeach. During this week and next week the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will attend to the parliamentary duties of the Minister for External Affairs.
Debate resumed from 26th February (vide page 243), 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.
.- When the Senate adjourned last Thursday, 1 was speaking to a point raised by the Governor-General in his Speech, namely, that this is Queensland’s centenary year. I was dealing with one or two matters which 1 think should be expressed very strongly in this chamber. Speaking about the Mount lsa railway line, 1 stated that 1 was very concerned because nothing had been done in Canberra to enable this line to be rebuilt to a standard which would enable it to cope with the flow of material which will come from the great Mount Isa mine when full development there has taken place. 1 am very concerned because 1 feel that Queensland is not receiving from Canberra the consideration that it should receive.
From information 1 have received, 1 understand that the Commonwealth expects the Mount Isa company to pay for this line completely out of the proceeds received for the products of the mine. The Government wants the company to tie itself down to such an extent that it will promise to pay completely for the line. 1 do not want to quote the State government, but I think that the opinion in authoritative circles in Queensland is that the company should not be expected to meet the whole cost of that railway line. Anything that will step up production from the Mount Isa mine will benefit the whole of the Commonwealth very considerably. As I said previously, the products from Mount Isa can be sent overseas to help build up very badly needed overseas credits. I re-emphasize that the great manufacturing States are always looking for more money to purchase modern equipment. Money earned overseas by industries such as Mount Isa Mines is therefore of great benefit to these manufacturing concerns. The Commonwealth authorities should take a broad outlook when considering the requirements of this undertaking.
The line at present caters for traffic other than that associated with Mount lsa. I understand that almost half the traffic has to do with other people in the north-western areas. Therefore, I think it is only sound and reasonable to suggest that the Mount Isa company should not have to bear the total cost of the re-building of the line.
– Is that one of the conditions?
– I understand that it was said that Mount Isa was expected to provide sufficient loadings to pay eventually for the new line. 1 feel very strongly on this matter, because the Townsville-Mount Isa line is one which the Queensland people consider to be of very great importance. The people living in this area are occupying a very sparsely populated part of the State. Governments should encourage in every possible way the population of sparsely settled areas, because the more development is balanced in Australia the better it is for Australia in general. As far as the products from the Mount Isa mines are concerned, we should take the longrange view. We should ask: What will the Commonwealth in general get out of it? What will the State get out of it? To what degree will it affect the welfare of the people? I believe that, if we take the long-range view, any improvement of that line will be for the betterment of that part of the State and the Commonwealth generally. Therefore, I think easier consideration ought to be given to the project.
I know, of course, that there is a fear in the minds of some people in Canberra that the benefit of the project may be a little bit Mount Isa’s way; but, as I said on 26th February, the Mount Isa company comprises people who have had the courage, the initiative, and the determination to invest millions of pounds in the area. As I also said on that occasion, these people stayed there for over twenty years without receiving a penny in dividends. They are the kind of people who should be backed up to the hilt by the Commonwealth Parliament. They are the kind of people whom we should encourage. They have the spirit of adventure and the determination to stay put in the place. I express myself strongly on this point, because those people in the northern regions, to which many people in the south would not go, need every encouragement. Let us in Canberra adopt an easier and broader outlook in the matter.
The Mount Isa company anticipates spending approximately £40,000,000 on development and extensions. That is an indication of its faith in the area and of its preparedness to undertake further development, from which the Commonwealth and everybody else will gain. When I last spoke, I mentioned, too, that a copper refinery is being built at Townsville, on which the company is spending about £4,000,000.
The reconstruction of the TownsvilleMount Isa railway line will cost approximately £30,000,000, and the Queensland Government is prepared to do its part by contributing £7,000,000. That leaves £23,000,000 still to be provided. An approach has been made to the World Bank, but there has been so much messing around for so long that I wonder whether we will get anywhere. 1 take the view. Mr. Deputy President, that if the World Bank is not prepared to do something about the matter, the Commonwealth Government should get behind the project and say, “ Even if we do not get the total sum back by way of redemption, we can regard it as being the subsidization of an industry that is playing a very valuable part in the development of this country and in the earning of internal credit “.
– There would be development all along the line.
– In looking at the question of development we must realize that, with an increase of population in various areas along the line, freight could be forthcoming noi only from the main industry that exists at the moment but also from the development of other industries. I believe that within a number of years, as we developed these areas, we would be surprised at the timidity of the people of to-day in trying to retard development along this railway line.
To me as a Queenslander, consideration of the project has gone on for too long and I think it is time that something definite was done. I say that, irrespective of who is concerned in the matter. I am not concerned about the directors of the Mount Isa company or about whether they may be a bit too clever for our State parliamentarians as some of our federal parliamentarians think. I believe that they have done a job and are still doing a job. Therefore, let us take a broad view of the matter.
Perhaps the Commonwealth Government will suggest that the line should be built but that the money involved should be paid back in full. Let us run through what has been done in other States. I want it to be understood clearly that I am not objecting to what other States have received. If they are being developed, good luck to them! Let us consider what happened with the Aus tralian Aluminium Production Commission in Tasmania. It was estimated originally that that project would cost £3,000,000, which was to be shared equally by the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian Governments. The revised estimate shows, however, that the cost was £11,200,000 and that the Commonwealth contributed the additional £8,200,000. That means that the Commonwealth’s total contribution was £9,700,000 and that Tasmania contributed £1,500,000. That is an instance where the Commonwealth entered the picture and did something. It helped to establish that industry and we appreciate what it did. I bring that to the notice of those who are dillydallying over the Mount Isa project.
Now let us consider the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth. That scheme affects New South Wales and Victoria, two large industrial States. It is estimated that at the termination of this financial year £129,000,000, or almost £130,000,000, will have been spent on the project. It is estimated that the total cost of the scheme will be £419,000,000. That scheme, which will provide water for both irrigation and electrical power, is being undertaken by the Commonwealth. I am not objecting to the scheme; I am pointing out the money that is being spent.
I turn now to the standardization of the South Australian railways. The Commonwealth is paying out money for the conversion of the south-east division to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. The Commonwealth will recover 30 per cent, of the cost from the South Australian Government over a period of 50 years, and it is estimated that at the end of this year the expenditure will have been £5,414,985.
– Quite right!
– I want it to be clearly understood that I am not objecting to it. I am trying to point out what could be done for Queensland in the light of what has been done elsewhere. Moreover, the Commonwealth has undertaken to contribute the cost of the standardization of the railway between Albury and Melbourne. Negotiations are now in hand in respect of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria. The present arrangement is that the Commonwealth will provide all funds for the work, New South Wales and Victoria to repay over a period of years an agreed portion of the total expenditure. That is just another little sum that the Commonwealth is paying towards projects in the southern part of Australia.
Let us see what has happened in Western Australia. Queensland has a kindred feeling with Western Australia, because that Slate, too, experiences great difficulties in development. It is only right that the people of Western Australia should be helped and encouraged in the development of their vast areas. The Commonwealth has been very generous to that State and is, within specific limits, assisting Western Australia to finance the cost of constructing the comprehensive water supply scheme, which involves the reticulation of water to townships and homesteads in a wheat belt area of about 4,000,000 acres inland from Perth, the reticulation of water to towns along the Great Southern railway from Beverley to Katanning, and increasing the supply of water to the Eastern Goldfields area of the Slate. The estimated expenditure as at the end of this year will be £3,95 1 ,766. So that represents another contribution by the Commonwealth Government.
Honorable senators will have noted the recent announcement that £2,500,000 will be made available for the development of the northern part of Western Australia. The quotation I have before me reads -
The Federal Government will make available £2i million over the next five years for development of the north of Western Australia.
This was announced in the House of Representatives to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
He said the grant would be for development of the area of Western Australia north of Port Hedland.
That is very good work and is the kind of thing we should encourage; but it is not being done for Queensland! I am going through this file of papers that I have before me to ascertain whether anything is to be done for Queensland.
I come now to the Commonwealth’s provision for railway work. The following extract is taken from the annual report of the South Australian Auditor-General and relates to railway standardization works in that State -
Under the Railway Standardization Agreement between the State and the Commonwealth, the whole of the funds required for standardization works are provided initially by the Commonwealth, but the State must repay from Consolidated Revenue, over a 50-year period, 30 per cent, of the amount contributed by the Commonwealth towards the cost of such standardization works together with interest thereon. The total liability of the State in that regard to 30th June, 1958, was £1,445,000 of which £104,000 has been paid.
The total expenditure on standardization works to the 30th June, 1958, was £4,715,000. This expenditure was incurred on the following projects: -
Total funds provided by the Commonwealth to 30th June, 1958, amounted to £4,817,000, of which £102,000 were in hand at that date.
That is just another indication of what is being done for one of our States. Then we have the Stirling North-Brachina-Leigh Creek-Marree railway, on which the Commonwealth will have expended £12,155,000 to the end of this financial year.
– Those are Commonwealth railways.
– Yes, but in the State of South Australia.
– But they are Commonwealth railways.
– Senators Mattner and Hannaford are great stickers for their State of South Australia, for which I admire them, but they forget that there was already a railway line in existence there and that the total cost of re-building was met by the Commonwealth Government. In addition to the construction of that railway, South Australia also receives the benefit of a lower freight rate on coal hauled over the railway.
– Why is the honorable senator attacking South Australia all the time?
– I am not attacking iL I merely think that we in Queensland are due for something on the basis of the assistance given to South Australia.
When you run through the list of items, Mr. Deputy President, you will see what has been done for other States, and I think that we are justified in claiming that somethins should be done by way of assistance in connexion with the Mount Isa project. I do not think the Mount Isa mines should have to pay the total cost of the line. In view of all the circumstances, and having regard to the record of the company, its contribution to the development of that part of the State, and the overseas credits that it is earning for this country, I believe that we should take a broad outlook in the matter, bearing in mind that whatever development takes place now will be nothing compared with the development that will occur in the long run.
Let me return to a point with which I have already dealt - the roads question. Last week, I pointed out how vital it was for States such as Queensland and Western Australia to have as much money as possible for road construction, since road construction contributed so much to development of their large areas.
– You said that last week.
– Yes, and I shall say it again because it is the truth. I am sure that Senator Scott, as a Western Australian, will support to the hilt what I have to say. I said, when I spoke previously, that there was a fear that the basis on which funds for roads were distributed to the various States by the Commonwealth would be altered.
– And they have made the alteration.
– Yes. It was made last week at the Premiers conference. I went to Melbourne at the week-end after the Parliament rose and I read in the Melbourne newspapers reports concerning what was to take place at the Premiers conference which were practically identical with the events that actually happened there. I do not know whether that was an indication that, because of the Victorian influence in this Government, information was given to Victoria and that the Victorians thus knew what they were getting, but I want to say, as a Queenslander, that I object very strongly to the alteration of the terms of distribution of those funds and that when the proposal comes before this Parliament I will fight it and oppose it because I believe that it is a bad deal for Queensland and, particularly, for Western Australia.
Commonwealth Ministers travel throughout my State, and probably also throughout Western Australia, and talk of the great opportunities that exist there. I suggest that now they have a chance to show that they really mean what they say. I believe that the large States, because of the great drawbacks that they experience in the settling of people in outback areas, should receive more consideration than they receive at present. I am sorry that this Government has been responsible for altering the basis on which the roads funds are distributed, particularly because of the effect that the alteration will have on the sparsely populated areas of the Commonwealth. States such as Victoria, particularly, and New South Wales have benefited greatly at the expense of Western Australia and Queensland. I think that that is most unfortunate.
Of course, we know that every State needs more roads, but I contend that no State, with the possible exception of Western Australia, has a greater need of basic roads than has Queensland. When we think of the conditions that people in outback Queensland have to put up with and of the damage that is done to the roads by the torrential rains and other climatic conditions, surely we must agree that more consideration should have been given to retaining the existing basis of distribution of roads funds. I know that people in the smaller States are apt to say that their roads are bad, but in comparison with the roads in Queensland they have little to complain about. In fact, they are wonderfully well off. I know, too, that there is a lot of talk about what States like Victoria and New South Wales contribute to the Commonwealth. As I pointed out last week, goods are manufactured in those States behind a high tariff wall. The people of Queensland and of other primaryproducing States buy those goods at higher prices because of that tariff wall, but they do not object to that system because they take an overall Australian view. Surely it is possible for the people of other States to take a similar view when they are dealing with such matters as the distribution of funds for roads.
So Mr. Deputy President, I view with very great concern the fact that this Government should have altered the basis of distribution of roads funds. Previously, the basis of distribution was 60 per cent, according to population and 40 per cent, according to area.
– I would remind the honorable senator that Queensland is not the only State in the Commonwealth.
– I appreciate that, but when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was in Queensland a few months ago he was staggered by its possibilities, and he regarded it as the State with possibly the greatest future. The position is that the basis of distribution of funds for roads has been altered so as to favour the areas with the greater populations. Distribution on the basis of one-third according to the number of motor-cars, one-third according to population, and one-third according to area is just poppycock to my way of thinking, because population and the number of motor cars run parallel, so that it really comes down to distribution on the basis of 66J per cent, according to population and only 33i per cent, according to area. When all is said and done, the area of a country dictates the extent of its roads, and therefore T think that the size of the States should receive much greater consideration from this Government in the making of the new agreement. In the States with large areas of land there is more difficulty in settling people than there is in pockethandkerchief States such as Victoria. The distance from Townsville, on the coast, to Mount Isa is approximately 600 miles. When one thinks of the vast size of the whole State, one must realize the difficulties that confront the people there. Therefore, I say once again that I very strongly disagree with the change in the basis of distribution of road funds to the various States. I feel that my State of Queensland has had a bad deal in this field. I want to say that I am a representative of Queensland in this chamber, and I am prepared to stand up for my State in this particular regard.
– Will you vote against the issue?
– I am certainly going to vote against it because I do not agree with it. I am going to stand up for the rights of my State. I want to make that quite clear. I am absolutely opposed to the change, because it is wrong as far as the people of my State are concerned. I am well aware of the difficulties that confront them.
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy President, to have to sound that critical note, because I commenced my remarks by referring to the fact that this is Queensland’s centenary year. We know the great development that has been achieved by the people of Queensland during that State’s first 100 years, and I believe that, despite the many difficulties that confront it, considerably more progress will be made during the next 100 years. Queensland has been richly endowed by nature, but a large amount of money is required to develop the State as it must be developed. It deserves assistance of the highest order from the Commonwealth Government, and if that assistance is forthcoming Queensland will be a very bright star in the Commonwealth of Australia constellation. Over the years, more and more benefit will be derived not only by this Government but by the people of Australia generally. I look forward to a period of terrific development in the north. There have been very important finds of bauxite in the north. The find at Weipa has not yet been fully proved. I believe that when it is fully proved that find will be shown to be the biggest in the world, and possibly as big as all the known deposits of the world combined. As honorable senators know, aluminium is made from bauxite. It may be necessary eventually to invest over £200,000,000 in order to bring the Weipa deposit to full production. It is destined to be a very big project. It will be the largest single private enterprise investment in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– We want roads up in that area, too.
– Yes, as Senator Maher, who knows the Queensland outback very well, has remarked, roads are badly needed in that area, to assist in its development. I believe that it would be to the benefit of Australia to encourage more population in areas like Weipa. Far-sighted Australians do not want empty spaces to exist in the north of Queensland, in the Northern Territory, or in the north-western area of Western Australia. Therefore, I believe that the development of north Queensland will benefit the whole of Australia. I pay a tribute to the people of Comalco, who are developing that area. I pay a tribute also to the Queensland Government for the way that it has handled the Weipa deposit. The Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr. Ernest Evans, is a broad-shouldered and broad-minded Queensland and Australian, who has done a great deal to preserve the rights of Queensland and of this Country generally. I believe that the very capable manner in which he has handled this project will, in the long run, prove to he of real benefit to everybody concerned. I think that a great deal of credit is due to him for the down-to-earth manner in which he has dealt with the people of Comalco. But, as Senator Maher has said, there is an urgent need for road development in that area. Indeed, many areas of Queensland are calling out for development. I feel that the Commonwealth should give very close and sympathetic attention to the needs of Queensland.
– Why does not Queensland help itself?
– Unfortunately, Senator Wade has been out of the chamber and he did not hear the list of Commonwealth assistance to other States. I know that the road to Mary Kathleen was subsidized by about £400,000. That was done not primarily in the interests of development, but because it is a defence project. As we know, all of the Mary Kathleen production has been commandeered by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
– That is development.
– The subsidy is based on the defence aspect. That is the major reason for it. About the only other assistance to Queensland I know of is the provision of a few thousand pounds to develop the road to Callide, so that Victoria was able to get coal.
– That is development.
– What about the sugar industry?
– Sugar is such a sweet subject. The thing that gets me is that whenever a plea is made for assistance to develop Queensland a cry always goes out, “ What about the sugar industry? “ as though the people of Victoria have given us something. Let me say here and now to Senator Mattner that the sugar industry has never been subsidized. The Queensland sugar industry is the most efficient sugar industry in the world. The people of Queensland have disproved the theory that white people could not live in the tropics and develop the sugar industry successfully. Over the years they have developed techniques for extracting the utmost quantity of juice from the sugar cane. They have developed better types of cane, and tests have been continually applied to discover pests and means of eliminating them. Furthermore, steps have been taken to speed up the transport of sugar by the establishment of bulk sugar terminals right along the coast of Queensland. In my own city of Mackay a ship can now be loaded with sugar in one day whereas previously this task occupied three weeks. This improvement in loading facilities has been accomplished without any assistance from the Commonwealth Government. The Queensland sugar industry is a self-reliant and self-helping industry. One port after another has switched over to a bulk handling basis.
– We have had it in Victoria for years.
– But not for loading sugar.
– I was referring to the loading of wheat, which is just as important as sugar.
– I am not suggesting that wheat is not as important as sugar, but I point out that there are a lot more problems associated with the bulk handling of sugar than with the bulk handling of wheat. Over a period of years, many of those troubles have been eliminated. In Queensland, over a period of years, bags were opened and emptied into the holds in order to carry out tests, and the result was completely successful. Whereas formerly, because of the industrial turmoil along the coast, the shipping people did not want to send their vessels to certain ports for sugar, they now fight to get sugar cargoes under the bulk handling method. That illustrates the improvement that has taken place.
I have said that ours is the most efficient sugar industry in the world. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who sits in another place, has said publicly - and 1 am sure that our Country party colleague, Senator Wade, would not disagree with one of his own party, because he is very sound on primary production - that the sugar industry is the most efficient of Australia’s primary industries.
– Every Australian pays a proportion to make it so.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) paid a tribute to the industry at a conference of sugar people. He said that our sugar industry is wonderfully efficient. In reply to Senator Wade’s interjection that everybody contributes to the efficiency of Queensland’s sugar industry, let me tell him that the people of Victoria have not paid a penny towards it. Over a period of years the price of sugar in this country has been fixed by the Commonwealth Parliament. If that had not been so, the people would have had to pay an average of £1,000,000 more a year for their sugar. Does my colleague from Victoria know the basis on which sugar is supplied to the canning fruit processors and the manufacturers of fruit products in that State? It is supplied on the basis of the world price for sugar landed in Australia, or the Australian price, whichever is the lower. If the world price rises above the Australian price, as it does at times, the sugar is still supplied at the lower rate, so the canned fruit industry benefits in any case. In addition, a rebate is also paid to the fruit processing industry by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.
– Who provides the money for the committee?
– The consumer.
– That is exactly what I have been trying to tell the honorable senator.
– But the Queensland sugar growers provide sugar at a lower price than the cost of production. During the war years the people of Australia were able to purchase sugar at one-fourth or one-fifth of the ruling price overseas. The British Government has always been grateful to the sugar producers of Queensland and northern New South Wales for the low price at which their product was supplied during the war. To-day, the British
Government pays the sugar growers of Queensland a higher price than the Victorian fruit processors pay on the basis of the average Commonwealth cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit. If the Queensland sugar industry failed and went out of existence as a result of the Victorian manufacturers losing their markets, Australia would be faced with a first-class depression and unemployment would be rife. The sugar industry is much more valuable to the people in Victoria and the other southern manufacturing States than they realize After having heard my remarks on this matter, my colleagues from the southern States will probably feel that the sugar growers should receive a higher price for their product than they do now.
– If sugar could be grown in Victoria the retail price would be ls. 6d. per lb.
– My friend from Queensland is probably quite right. If sugar were grown in Victoria the growers would probably want a much higher profit than the Queensland growers now receive.
The cotton industry in Queensland could have a great future. Although it has had a lot of ups and downs, the guarantee given by the Government should assist it to develop to a much greater extent in the future than it has in the past. Many other opportunities exist to develop the distant regions of Queensland. We want sympathy and consideration, and assistance whenever possible. If we receive such treatment, this centenary year of Queensland will be a stepping-stone to great development during the next 100 years. I am sure that when the next centenary year comes around the people of Queensland will be able to say that their State achieved a much greater rate of development in the second century of its history than it did during the first 100 years of settlement. Queensland has great prospects for the future, and I hope that the centenary celebrations will be an inspiration to the people of that State and an indication to the rest of the Commonwealth that Queensland is well worthy of every possible assistance to continue its development. If Queensland had a larger population Australia generally would benefit.
– What about the tourist industry?
– I am grateful to the honorable senator for reminding me of the tourist industry. The centenary year advertisements refer to Queensland as the “ Sunshine State “. 1 have never referred to it in that way because I do not regard that as a fair description. Queensland should be called the “Wonderland State”. It is rich in tropical beauty and in scenic beauty and natural wonders in the southern region. Queensland has some outstanding features to appeal to visitors, not only from the southern States, but also from overseas. I have referred to the overseas credits being earned by the Mount Isa mine and other such industries. I repeat what I have been saying since I first came to this chamber in 1949 - the tourist industry in Queensland could well be responsible for earning large overseas credits for us in the form of spending money by overseas visitors. Queensland has tremendous possibilities in that direction, not only from the scenic point of view, but also because of its various unusual features, one of which is the Great Barrier Reef, acknowledged to be the most outstanding creation of its kind. The Great Barrier Reef could have international tourist appeal if it were publicized in the proper manner. When the tourist trade in this country is developed to a much greater extent, Queensland will play a large part in that development.
– How much does Queensland spend overseas on tourism?
– The Queensland Government is determined to develop the tourist trade as much as possible, but the amount being spent by the State overseas is but a drop in the ocean. I am sorry that the Commonwealth Government is not applying itself with much greater vigour to the development of our tourist trade on a national level. lt is most unwise for any State, as such, to advertise its attractions overseas. Such publicity should be on a Commonwealth basis, and the Commonwealth should join with the States in advertising Australia overseas. None of the American States features itself in overseas publicity. We do not see such advertisements as “ Come to California “.
– Yes, we do.
– No, not in Australia; we see, “ Come to the United States “. I confidently challenge any honorable senator to prove otherwise. If any State in the United States of America advertised itself overseas, people would ask, “ Where is that State? “ The same remarks apply to Australia. Our publicity overseas must be on a national basis. Queensland is determined to build the tourist trade to great proportions. With its wonderland of islands along the coast, the Great Barrier Reef, the beautiful tropical vegetation and the many other aspects of beauty and interest, Queensland will be a shining star in the firmament of Australia’s tourist traffic.
I hope that this centenary year will be a very bright year for Queensland and that it will implant in the minds of the people in the southern States the belief that Queensland is worth while fostering, encouraging and helping in every possible way to achieve its full destiny and to play its full part in the development of this great Commonwealth of Australia.
– In rising to participate in this debate, I desire to associate myself with the sentiments of loyalty expressed in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and also to congratulate Senator Branson, who proposed the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and Senator Mackellar, who seconded the motion, upon their speeches. I feel sure that both honorable senators will make many other worthwhile contributions to debates in this Senate.
I desire to deal, first, with that part of the Speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral with deals with the economy of this country. It was more or less on a par with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) just prior to the federal elections when he said that equilibrium had then been restored to our finances and that, because of the efforts of his government, our economy was back to a stable basis and everything in the garden was absolutely grand. I know that many residents of the Commonwealth who are to-day on fixed income, and many age and invalid pensioners who are attempting to balance their budgets on the magnificent sum of £4 7s. 6d. a week, have entirely different ideas concerning the stability of this country under the maladministration of the present Government.
We all know that at the conclusion of World War II. inflation affected all countries. Most countries dealt with this problem according to their own particular views and took the action necessary to curb the menace. We, the people of Australia, together with the people of other countries, have had to face this problem. The MenziesFadden Administration was elected in 1949 because it promised to arrest inflation, to keep prices down and to put value back into the £1. I may say that most of the problems which have arisen in this country since 1949 have arisen because the Government lacked a definite and positive policy to deal with inflation, because of the numerous mistakes made by the Government in attempting to deal with this problem in a piece-meal manner and because of the complete inability of the whole of the Cabinet to understand the fundamental causes of inflation and take the steps necessary to control it.
By June of last year, retail prices in this country had increased by 70 per cent, over what they were in June, 1950, and wholesale prices had increased by 71 per cent. Never before in the history of this country have we witnessed such unbridled inflation. To-day, the inflationary position is absolutely abnormal, and for that reason requires abnormal remedies to bring it under control. Most of the problems facing this country to-day have been encountered and dealt with by other countries. The United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and many other countries have had to face up to this problem. Because they were able to implement rigid controls, because they were not tied to a Constitution drafted in the horse-and-buggy days, they were able to keep prices down and to stabilize their economies. But prices have continued to soar in Australia!
In 1946, and again in 1948, the Chifley Labour Government, realizing the danger of inflation to our country, sought to procure amendments to the Constitution which would permit the government to deal with this problem. All of the forces opposed to Labour, including every member of the Menzies-Fadden Administration, did everything possible to make sure that those amendments would not be carried. We remember what they said on that occasion. I have a vivid recollection of the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, taking the people of that State for a walk down the garden path, telling them that the States could do the job better because they were much closer to the people.
Apparently the policy of the government on that occasion was to permit prices to find their own levels. If Great Britain had followed a similar policy, she would not be the great and powerful nation that she is to-day; she could easily have been relegated to the position of a second or third-rate power. If the United States, Canada and other countries had followed similar principles, they would not have been able to implement the rigid controls which they did implement to stabilize their economy. Time and time again, the people of Australia have been told by the Prime Minister what his government was going to do to stabilize our economy. One of the first acts of the government, upon taking office, was to abolish capital issues control which had been utilized by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments for the purpose of ensuring that whatever surplus capital was available would be directed into certain channels for the manufacture of essential commodities. When the present government abolished capital issues control, most of the money which was previously available for the purpose mentioned found its way into non.esssential industries, to the general detriment of the community.
Then, out of the blue, the government decided to dismiss 10,000 Commonwealth public servants. Why the number should have been 10,000, I have never been able to ascertain; but that was the number decided upon by the government without any investigation of any description. The decision was that 10,000 Commonwealth public servants were to be dismissed. At the same time, the government decided to increase postal and telegraph charges, and no doubt expected that the Postal Department would continue to operate as satisfactorily and effectively as it had done in the past, notwithstanding the fact that 5,000 of the 10,000 Commonwealth public servants dismissed were taken from this department. What was the result of the Government’s action?
State governments, who were then short of labour, were able to engage the dismissed Commonwealth public servants and
State instrumentalities were able, for the time being, to operate a little more effectively and efficiently.
Overnight, the Government decided to reinstitute capital issues control. The Government divided industry into three categories - essential, less essential, and nonessential. To implement its policy it introduced a series of drastic credit controls. These controls affected our economic way of life in an astounding manner. Things commenced to happen with startling rapidity. Retailers classed as non-essential were unable to obtain the capital that they needed to carry on their businesses. Manufacturers, though classified as essential, were often unable to dispose of their product. A case in point was the textile industry, from which there were thousands of dismissals. Davies Coop (S.A.) Limited, almost closed down. The same sort of thing happened throughout the Commonwealth, yet the goods that these people were producing were in short supply and urgently needed by the community.
The building trade was unable to obtain the finance necessary for the continuance of housing projects - yet because of our rapidly increasing population, we required more and more homes. Thousands of persons, dismissed from their employment, were denied their right to a decent standard of living for themselves and their dependants, simply because of the maladministration of this Government in reinstituting capital issues control.
We remember the wool boom in 1952. Thing are a bit different to-day! We recall the millions that it brought into this country, and the way in which it stepped up our trade balances in London. Once again we found the Government remiss in meeting its obligations to the people. A wise and prudent government would have kept a tight rein on the quantity of goods coming into the country, but this Government did nothing at all about it. I have a vivid recollection of a speech on the Budget of that year by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the House of Representatives. He claimed the utmost credit for his Government for permitting, to the greatest degree possible, the importation of goods into this country. Five months later came the dramatic announcement by the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, that, because of the serious deterioration in. our overseas funds, imports would be restricted overnight. We remember the chaos that that caused among manufacturers who imported raw materials. Perhaps never in the history of the British Parliament had stronger things been said against Australia. It was said that it was no good making contracts with Australia because we repudiated them. Men were thrown out of work everywhere.
The Government, for some reason known only to itself, decided to increase interest rates. This action affected our economy in an even more adverse fashion than had the credit restrictions to which I have referred. The increased rates depreciated the capital value of bonds to such an extent that the Australian people became bond shy. and refused to invest in Commonwealth loans. There were immediate repercussions. State governments which depended upon the Australian Loan Council for public works finance were obliged to restrict such works. Each State could tell its own story of frustration, difficulty and hardship in its efforts to complete or even continue urgent public works
A case in point was the Cairn-Curron reservoir in Victoria, from which 600 men were dismissed - though that project had been commenced for the express purpose of stepping up primary production. Men were thrown out of work everywhere, not because there was no work for them to do, or because they could not be fully and profitably re-employed, but because of the Government’s stupid action in increasing interest rates.
While all this was going on the Government was steadily disposing of the people’s assets - assets built up over a long period by Labour governments. The Government disposed of its interests first in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and then in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Government then subsidized Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, a private company, to the extent of several million pounds, so that it could compete with Trans-Australia Airlines which, for the first time since its establishment by a Labour government, had shown a profit. The Commonwealth whaling station in Western Australia had been profitable but it was handed over to friends of the Government at bargain prices. Last, but not least, came the sell-out in regard to the Commonwealth Bank.
I want to say in regard to that proposition that arguments then advanced by outside interests were based on purely fictitious reasoning and supposition which bore a striking similarity to the arguments advanced by kindred interests in 1911, when legislation to establish the Commonwealth Bank was being discussed in this Parliament. On that occasion the Melbourne “ Argus “ said that the whole scheme was conceived in idiocy, that it constituted a malicious use of funds to compete with private interests which enjoyed the full confidence of the public. This newspaper also said that there was not the slightest justification for the scheme and that it would be abandoned after a few months of inglorious experimentation. The success of the Commonwealth Bank since its establishment in 1911 provides the complete answer to such propaganda, and the insidious outpourings of those who now propose amending the Commonwealth Bank’s powers are just as false. The passage of time will prove the truth of that assertion. Just imagine any responsbile government handing over to those who control the private banks the right to control the financial affairs of the people! Immediately World War II. concluded, and the private bankers realized that their assets and skins were safe, they came out of their fox holes and indicted the Chifley Labour Government by innuendo, claiming that during and after the war Australia had indulged in a glorious financial spree. This is what they said by innuendo: “ In the cold dawning light of the morning after, with nerves on edge and twitching fingers, ‘this national financial drunkard, the Chifley Labour Government, must be made to realize that such conduct cannot be continued, and it must be duly chastised in the interests of the nation “. That was the story splashed across the front pages of the vested-interest press from one side of Australia to the other at the conclusion of World War II. This insidious propaganda paid dividends in 1949, when the Chifley Labour Government was defeated. Immediately after the present Government took office we found that money revealed an unaccountable tightness. Disorganization of industry with mass unemployment became stern realities, and the people of this country, struggling against this tide, found themselves left high and dry on the shores of disappointment and disillusionment. Because of the action of this Government in reconstituting the Commonwealth Bank Board, we found that the sovereignty of power vested in this Parliament had overnight removed its residence from the legislative halls of Canberra to the board rooms of the associated banks. That was the result of the action of the Government in reconstituting the Commonwealth Bank Board.
We remember the policy of these people during the last depression. It was their same policy that seriously embarrassed the Scullin Labour Government when it required £11,000,000 to get the unemployed back into employment, which was responsible for the 10 per cent, wage cuts and the scaling down of age and invalid pensions, which was responsible for thousands of reputable business firms throughout the Commonwealth being insolvent, and which was the greatest single factor in the disastrous wave of unemployment which swept through this country like a bushfire. I put it to honorable senators to-day: Would anybody be prepared to hand over to these people - the people who control the trading banks of this country - the right to control the financial affairs of this country? The answer is certainly “ No “.
We remember the Commonwealth Bank under an entirely different set-up - under control of a government. We remember that in the early months of World War I. the private trading banks found the position beyond them. A depression similar to the last one seemed about to settle over our primary and secondary industries, but the Commonwealth Bank, in spite of the fears of private enterprise, undertook the stupendous task of financing our wool and wheat production, and, incidentally, at the same time, of financing the Army, the Navy and the rest of the war effort. On that occasion the Commonwealth Bank found millions and millions of pounds for purposes, not of construction, but of destruction. If the bank could do that under those circumstances, it could certainly do it to-day when every £l’s worth of credit it would be asked to issue would be backed by our primary and secondary industries and our great public works. In the final analysis, Mr. Acting President, that is the real wealth of the Commonwealth. After all, the £1 note is merely the medium of exchange - and a very poor one it is to-day under the maladministration of the Menzies Government. You know, and I know, which £1 the people of Australia would prefer to-day - the Chifley £1 of 1949 or the Menzies £1 of to-day. However, I leave the position there.
In conclusion, I just want to say that I was very disappointed by the Speech submitted by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I expected some mention of definite action to provide homes for the thousands and thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth who are seeking homes to-day. I thought there would be some mention of definite action on unemployment, automation and increased mechanization. I thought there would be a mention of definite action to increase age and invalid pensions to provide an increased standard of living for pensioners. I felt sure something would be said about the restoration of the quarterly cost of living adjustments, which have been suspended over a period of years. I do not know why I expected those things, in view of the miserable record of this Government, but I did. I hoped we would be told of some concrete attempt to put our economy back on a stable basis and to deal with the major problem of inflation.
– This is without doubt a time for felicitations. First, T should like to compliment the mover of the Address-in-Reply, Senator Branson, and the seconder, Senator McKellar, on their maiden speeches. It is something in the nature of an ordeal, as every one of us knows who has, in his day, in other times, when a newly elected member of a parliament, had to deliver his maiden speech before a deliberative assembly. I must say that the two senators concerned acquitted themselves very well indeed. Then I must congratulate our newly created knights, Sir Neil O’sullivan and Sir Walter Cooper, on the high honours accorded to them by her most gracious Majesty the Queen.
I should like to pay a special tribute to Sir Neil on the completion of a long and responsible period of service in the Cabi- net and in the Senate, first as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber before the Menzies Government came into power, when there were only three senators on the Opposition side, and later, when Mr. Menzies became Prime Minister, as Minister for Trade and Customs and, later again, as Attorney-General. Right through the last nine years he has been the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I consider that the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate is a man-sized job in itself, without a burdensome ministerial office in addition. Senator O’sullivan, as he then was, had the task also of implementing the early import restriction system. That was a job heavy enough to break the back of a dromedary. Now that Sir Neil has stepped down from his onerous duties, we shall look forward in the Senate debates to the benefit of his good advice and counsel on the various matters that come up for consideration.
Then there is my old friend, Sir Walter Cooper, who has a long record of meritorious service in the Cabinet and in this Senate. Over the years he has richly earned the signal honour which he has received. Few men can equal these splendid citizen qualifications possessed by Sir Walter. He served his country with gallantry and distinction in time of war and he has a splendid record in the Parliament in these more peaceful times.
Then two very capable men have moved up in this new Parliament. I refer to Senator the Honorable W. H. Spooner, who has become the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and Senator the Honorable Shane Paltridge, who has become Deputy Leader. Each of them by the quality of his work in the Senate has earned the laurel wreath. I congratulate them accordingly. We rejoice too, at the promotion of Senator John Gorton to the office of Minister for the Navy. The appointment represents the emergence of youth at the helm. There is room to build up the strength of the Royal Australian Navy, particularly by the development of antisubmarine devices and advanced methods of beating off air attacks, apart from other important phases of naval attack and defence. Senator Gorton ranks amongst the readiest and most skilful debaters in both Houses of the Parliament, and he has the necessary drive to make a great success of his ministerial office. 1 am indebted to Sir Douglas Copland for some figures that he used in a broadcast over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s network in a talk entitled “Australia Looks at the World “, which was delivered on 1st February last. In the development of our country, we must look for investments from public and private sources. We in Australia have depended largely upon substantial private investment in various industrial fields, upon government investment in the public works programmes of the Commonwealth and the States, and upon foreign or overseas investments.
According to the figures used by Sir Douglas Copland, which 1 accept as being correct, private investment in Australia over the eight-year period from 1948-49 to 1956-57 represented about 65 per cent, of our total investment. Public investment, that is investment in public works, amounted to 35 per cent, of the total investment. Everybody knows that public works include governmental undertakings such as the construction of roads and the provision of water and irrigation facilities, fuel, power, education and health facilities. I think the figures quoted by Sir Douglas Copland will be of extreme interest to the Senate. They give a true indication of the remarkable increase of population and productivity since the Menzies-Fadden Administration assumed office in 1949. From 1948-49 to 1956-57 the total volume of public investment, that is, money provided by the Commonwealth Government for its own purposes and for the purposes of the States, ran to the order of £3,113,000,000.
Senator Nicholls has made certain comments which seem to me to flow from his experience of a war-time economy. He regretted the abolition of capital issues control. If he thinks a little more deeply on the subject, I think he will agree with me that 65 per cent, of our total investment, or nearly double the sum of £3,113,000,000 that was invested by the Commonwealth Government in public works on its own account and on account of the States in the eight-year period I have mentioned, was invested privately - in other words, in the expansion of secondary industry. If capital issues had been restricted, as Senator Nicholls advocated a little while ago, Australia would not have made the phenomenal advance that she has made over the term to which I referred.
The really astonishing fact that emerges from an analysis of these figures is that of governmental expenditure of £3,113,000,000 on public development no less than £2,498,000,000 was financed from revenue sources. That means that 80 per cent, of our great public works programme over the eight-year period to which I have referred was financed from revenue - a substantial achievement, indeed! That situation was forced on the Government, whether it liked it or not, by competition from hire purchase companies and other concerns which raised the bid and made it difficult for the Commonwealth, or the Australian Loan Council, to secure loan funds at the lower price that was offered for the money.
Senator Nicholls said that Mr. Chifley was able to secure money far more easily than this Government has been able to obtain it. But the whole scene had changed, and the progressive development of this country in the postwar period has created a tremendous demand for money. One very significant fact which should be taken account of by all is this: If high rates of interest are being paid for money to-day, it is because of the demand for money. Without doubt, the demand arises from the fact that the whole of industry is prospering and there is a need for money to enable expansion to take place. Of course, that makes it more difficult for the Loan Council to secure sufficient money for public funds on the basis of an interest rate of 5 per cent. In recent days, I have noted that hire purchase companies have offered 10 per cent, for a three-year period. Such offers, of course, attract a lot of money from the investment pool.
The figures I have quoted indicate that the Government, by skilful financing during its term of office, has been able to provide from revenue sources sufficient money to finance the great bulk of Commonwealth and State expenditure on public works. That is a mighty achievement. The Commonwealth has handled these funds in a remarkably capable way. I find it impossible to support or to enthuse over any scheme or move to restore taxing powers to the States. I could do so, Sir, only if 1 was under a definite instruction from the Queensland Government. Being members of the Senate, we are answerable to the government of the State we represent.
Over the eight-year period 1 have mentioned, the Commonwealth Government has been able to marshal the financial resources of the country and to allocate the available funds for the benefit of the whole Commonwealth far more effectively than if the task had been left to the respective State governments. Under uniform taxation - I emphasize this point - the more prosperous States are obliged to make some extra contribution to the development of the less prosperous States. That represents the true spirit of federation, the true spirit of Australianism. The less prosperous States have provided uncomplainingly their share of the vast expenditure from revenue in the construction of the great Snowy Mountains power and water project. Over the last eleven years, no less than £130,000,000 has been expended from revenue on the construction of this project. The smaller or less prosperous States have paid their share of that cost, well knowing that the major benefits of the scheme would accrue to New South Wales and Victoria and, to a less extent, to South Australia. The people of the less prosperous States accept this financial burden-
– Does not the honorable senator mean “ less developed States “?
– I think that they are consequentially less prosperous because they are less developed. I accept Senator Marriott’s correction, and I say that the people of the less developed States accept this financial burden because they realize that the Snowy Mountains scheme, when completed, will help to make Australia greater. They see the vision splendid of the benefits that will flow to all Australian States through the increased wealth which will result from that scheme.
By way of contrast, Mr. President, at the Premiers’ conference that was held last week in Canberra, I regret to say that the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, and his Ministers took up an attitude which seemed to me lacking in broad national outlook. Mr. Bolte submitted a tax plan which, if it had been adopted, would have meant much more money for Victoria from the uniform tax pool and less money for the development of States with less wealth but much greater areas, such as Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Victorian manufacturing interests would have a very thin time without the growing markets foi their merchandise in the less developed States. It is to the advantage of Victorian manufacturers, in particular, to see that every help is afforded to those States to enable them to develop fully, to increase their population and to expand their productivity, because the bigger the market in those States the better it will be for the manufacturers in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, and in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales.
That was bad enough, Mr. President, but it was Victorian pressure, too, which resulted in re-adjustment of the road grants formula. The new formula, as agreed upon, will provide the small State of Victoria, old established, tidy and highly improved, with more money than Queensland. That, 1 contend, is not equitable. Under the new plan, Victoria will move up from fourth place to second place. The change in the formula will cause the State of Queensland to receive £1,500,000 less over a five-year period than would have been the case under the old formula.
– What are your instructions from the State government on thai one?
– I have no particular instructions. I am standing for my own principles in these matters. I stand for what I believe to be best for the welfare of the less-developed States of Australia, including Tasmania, which is so misrepresented in this Senate by Senator Aylett. Queensland is seven times the size of Victoria. It stretches away for 1,500 miles from the Tweed River on the New South Wales border to Cape York Peninsula and Thursday Island. The distance from the Queensland seaboard to the Northern Territory border approximates 700 miles. The whole geographical area of Queensland consists of quite useful country. Admittedly, the rainfall is sparser and less regular in the far-western parts of the State, but the soil is good and the land is occupied and producing wealth. However, it is in urgent need of trafficable roads which can be used in all weathers, in order to attract added population and increase production.
Under the new scheme, Victoria will get more money and Queensland will get less. If there were a true national spirit, that position would be reversed. Small States such as Victoria would receive less and large States such as Queensland would receive more. Victorians should learn that when Australia is attacked - as some day, according to the lessons of history, it must be - the invading legions will not come up from the South Pole to attack Melbourne. They will come down from the north. Therefore, it is the northern areas of Australia that we should develop; it is in the north that we should strive to increase our population and our productive industries. It is important to Victoria’s security that that should happen. The thoughts of Victorians should be along those lines instead of “ Victoria uber alles “. It is a pleasure to have Victoria in the society of States, in full co-operation but not in domination.
Mr. Evans, the Minister for Development, Mines and Main Roads in the Queensland Government, after hearing of the new roads formula, is reported to have said in a press statement -
Queensland got the crow, while most other States, except Western Australia, got the turkey.
When we glance over the record of expenditure from the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue fund on capital works and services for the ten-year period between 1949 and 1959, there would appear to be some justification for Mr. Evans’s rather picturesque criticism. Senator Wood referred to these figures and I do not wish to repeat them. I merely say that the figures that he gave showed that, during that ten-year period, expenditure from Consolidated Revenue on capital works and services in States of the Commonwealth other than Queensland amounted to £163,000,000, and that during that period Queensland got nothing. New South Wales and Victoria received substantial sums, while South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania also benefited. I am not objecting to that. Good luck to the States that have enjoyed advantages derived from such Commonwealth expenditure, but it is passing strange that Queensland has not shared in the largesse which has fallen like rain from Heaven on other States of the Commonwealth.
On this showing, Mr. Evans could very well vary his simile by saying that Queens land did not get even the crow. However, I like to be fair, and I add that, although Queensland received nothing whatever from Consolidated Revenue during that ten-year period, there was a sum of £400,000, as Senator Wood has acknowledged, provided from the defence vote for an important road connecting Cloncurry with Mary Kathleen, in the northern part of Queensland. There was also the sum of £1,168,000 which was provided for Queensland from another vote, not from Consolidated Revenue, to improve meat production, for which purpose sums were made available to other States as well. Queensland received that amount of £1,168,000 over the ten-year period for the construction of roads out into the Channel country, which is in the far west of Queensland. Those are the only two items related to the improvement of Queensland itself, and they are infinitesimal compared with what some other States have received. We think that there is a good case for Queensland to get a better deal in that respect.
I should like to say - and it is well for members of the Government to realize this - that the new roads formula has had a very bad reception in Queensland. It has created a very poor impression indeed, and as the extent of the disadvantage to Queensland becomes more widely known, the intensity of the feeling of protest will increase. This plan has been dumped on to the States by the Commonwealth Government as a fait accompli without reference to the joint Liberal and Country parties. The parties have bad no voice in the roads plan decision. I make that statement in this Senate because I think that when a big change in the roads formula is contemplated, it is the duty of the Government to outline the proposed change to the senators and the members of the House of Representatives from all States and to let them have a voice in the decision. No such opportunity - as far as I know, anyhow - was given by the Government to the members of the joint Liberal and Country parties.
– Did not your State Premier agree to it?
– He did not agree to it. He was in the position of having to accept it.
– Victoria has been doing that for years.
– It is the Victorian influence that has been responsible for this plan, and that is what I am criticizing today. I think that the Victorians are taking a very narrow attitude about their obligations to the whole of Australia by seeking this advantage over the big outlying States that are crying out for development. The Victorians are strongly represented in the Cabinet, and the introduction of the new plan does not please me, for one. I shall have something more to say on this matter at a later stage of the session. It all goes to show that the Senate should resist any attempt by the Constitution Review Committee to weaken the Senate’s powers in any respect.
I come now to a more agreeable topic. I am sure that every honorable senator was pleased to note that the recent Commonwealth loan appeal was over-subscribed to the order of £35,000,000. This added amount of loan money should enable both the Commonwealth and the States to maintain a vigorous public works programme in the current year. There is so much work to be done in the development of this big country that our funds for this purpose should be expended to the utmost limit. It will all help to enable immigrants and unemployed Australians to obtain gainful employment. I shall leave it at that. 1 regret to say that all is not well in the Australian economy to-day. Our export industries are being squashed by the continual rise in costs, and cannot be allowed to remain unprofitable without dire peril to the whole country. The value of farm income has declined by 30 per cent., and our wool prices are not showing any signs of picking up in any worthwhile manner. Wool to-day is costing at least 50 pence per lb. to produce, and the woolgrower is not getting that amount back for the wool which he sells having regard to the cost basis on which he produces it. I regret to inform the the Senate that all through our sheep-raising districts in Queensland to-day, there is much unemployment amongst bush workers such as fencers, ring-barkers, scrub-fallers, and tank-sinkers because the individual woolgrower has not got the funds to maintain men in employment for the very useful pur- pose of improving his property. There is deflation - definite deflation - in the sheepraising areas of my own State. There is a deflated condition, and business is bad, whereas in the big manufacturing cities, Melbourne and Sydney in particular, and Brisbane and Adelaide to an extent - although I have not had the experience of Adelaide - there is definite inflation and a vast gulf is developing between citydwellers and the people who are the salt of the earth, the people who are the wealth producers and, indeed, the people whose hard work and industry provide the overseas funds without which the whole of our economy would collapse. The country people are being crippled. They are caught up between the ever-rising cost factor in handling their enterprises and the high prices, under our tariff protection laws, of all the goods that are manufactured in the big cities of Australia. That is a condition that cannot go on. There must be some approach to its solution. I could suggest several means of meeting the problem, but at this stage I shall confine myself to saying that it is a problem that has to be faced squarely, and that pretty soon.
I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) a question this afternoon about a rumoured proposal to dismantle the civil aviation installations at Cloncurry and to remove them to Mount Isa. I have received strong protest from business people and others at Cloncurry against this proposal. I thank the Minister for his courteous reply to my question. I realize that the matter is only in the early stages of consideration, that no decision has been given, and that no estimate has been made of the cost involved. But I should like to say here that there would be a substantial cost involved in dismantling the installations at Cloncurry and removing them to Mount Isa. The people up there tell me that the removal would be only to suit the convenience of the airline operators and that there is no reason, from the standpoint of civil aviation, why the control of incoming and outgoing aircraft cannot be exercised from Cloncurry equally as well as from Mount Isa. That may not be a right view, but if it is I hope that the Minister will just hang a question mark on it, anyhow, in his consideration of the matter. The distance by road between Cloncurry and Mount Isa is approximately 70 miles by a roundabout route, so 1 should say that the air mileage would be considerably less than that. 1 cannot see any reason why a more efficient service could be given by the civil aviation people at Mount Isa than is being provided at Cloncurry, lt should be possible for the airline operators to adjust their travel schedules to meet the existing situation. The taxpayers of Australia are already investing enormous sums of money in the extension and strengthening of airports. That expenditure, no doubt, is necessary in places where air transport is essential, but there is no point in expending money unnecessarily on such schemes as appear to be in contemplation in regard to the transfer of installations from Cloncurry to Mount Isa. Cloncurry is a fine old town in north-western Queensland with a long history, very prosperous in its heyday as a result of the copper and other mineral deposits in the vicinity, but in later years it is having a hard struggle to maintain its prosperity because of the decline in mineral production in the area. Added to that factor is the competition from the newly risen star of Mount Isa. I cannot vouch for my information which has been furnished to me by the people of Cloncurry, but I have been informed that the removal of the installations and personnel of the Department of Civil Aviation from Cloncurry to Mount Isa will deprive Cloncurry of at least £2.000 a week. Honorable senators can see the blow that will be felt by the business people of that town. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will carefully consider the proposal to transfer the installations to Mount Isa.
This is Queensland’s centenary year. On 10th December, 1859, the first Government Gazette published in Queensland proclaimed the Letters Patent “ erecting Moreton Bay into a Colony under the name of Queensland and appointing Sir George Ferguson Bowen, K.C.M.G., to be Captain General and Governor-in Chief of the same “. In 1 859 Queensland’s population was 27,000, but the figure has now risen to well over 1,000,000 and the State is blessed with flourishing cities studding the northern coast, with good harbours and loading installations. The early political leaders avoided the mistakes of the other States by building a grid-iron system of railways which directly connect the inland districts to the nearest coastal harbour. Queensland’s steadily expanding sugar industry has helped to settle the tropical northern areas of the State, and the rich mineral industries of lead and copper at Mount Isa, uranium at Mary Kathleen and the discovery of bauxite at Weipa in the Cape York peninsula are all adding to the population and wealth of the tropical districts. Beef, mutton and wool are produced on the rich pastoral lands and, when the demand for wheat widens, and a market can be found for the increased yield, the area under cultivation can be increased enormously, particularly in the southern districts of the State. In addition, the wheat produced in Queensland is of the hard protein type which is in premium demand throughout the world. The orchards and dairy farms are also making a contribution towards the prosperity of the State.
Without wishing to strike a political note in Queensland’s centenary year, I remind honorable senators that in the last year or two the State has gained strength in its secondary industries. Queensland has everything to attract and hold manufacturing industries - cheap hydro-electric power in the north, mountains of coal within reasonable distance of the coast, high rainfall, an abundance of water along the whole of the eastern fall on the Great Dividing Range, and a delightful climate in most parts of the State.
Queensland is destined to be one of the brightest stars in Australia’s firmament. The advances made during the past 100 years have been striking, and the celebration of a centenary of autonomous government is a symbol of our progress and development. We look forward to the arrival of the young Princess Alexandra who is assured of a great welcome from the warmhearted and loyal people of Queensland. Her visit will set the seal on the centenary celebations
May I conclude, Sir, by quoting one stanza from the jubilee ode written by George Essex Evans of Toowoomba in 1909 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Queensland. Although the ode was dedicated to Queensland for that special occasion in 1909, its lofty and beautiful thoughts apply with equal force to this centenary occasion. The ode is entitled “ Queen of the North “, and the stanza I shall read is as follows: -
Stand forth, O daughter of the Sun
Of all thy kin the fairest one
It is thine hour of Jubilee.
Behold the work our hands have done
Our hearts now offer unto thee
Thy children call thee 0 come forth
Queen of the North.
.- I should like to congratulate His Excellency the Governor-General, for the most dignified way in which he delivered his Speech in opening this Twenty-third Parliament. However, I cannot offer similar congratulations on the contents of the Speech, which was prepared for him by his advisers. The Speech was empty of substance apart from two matters on which the Government feels certain it can override all opposition. I refer, first, to the banking legislation which the Government intends to reintroduce, and, secondly, to the conference foreshadowed in the Speech to discuss the question of peace in space. The Government need feel no fear that the banking legislation will become law. Equally, it need feel no fear of the outcome of the conference on space problems, because our knowledge of outer space is so meagre that no repercussions will be felt there and peace will continue to prevail in space. However, this planet would benefit if those people who talk so much about peace and who do so little to foster it were to board a space ship and travel to space to hold their conference.
I was amazed to hear Senator Maher accuse any honorable senator of misrepresenting Queensland. In this Parliament that State is represented by seven members of the Australian Labour party and 21 members of the Liberal-Country parties. I have never previously heard a government castigated for its maladministration in the allotment of funds in such strong terms as I have just heard from the two Queenslanders, Senator Wood and Senator Maher. At one stage, Senator Maher informed us that he was in this chamber not as an Australian but as a Queenslander under instructions from the Queensland Government.
– Who said that?
– Senator Maher said it. I am reading from my note which is an exact record of his statement. A few minutes later, however, he repudiated those remarks and said that he was in this chamber as a free man, speaking on his own volition. The honorable senator said that he agrees entirely with the policy of the Commonwealth Government in providing the money for the construction of the Snowy scheme out of Consolidated Revenue, regardless of Queensland’s potentialities and the amount of money that the governments of Queensland and Tasmania may have to borrow at high rates of interest for the development of similar projects in those States. If it is fair and just, as Senator Maher claims, that £130,000,000 should be paid out of Consolidated Revenue for the purpose of developing the Snowy scheme-
– I said that the money was paid out, not that it should be.
– I am aware of that. I do not want to misquote the honorable senator, who said that it is fair and just that the money should be paid out of Consolidated Revenue. He also claims that it is fair and just that the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania should pay high rates of interest on every penny that they spend in developing their hydro-electric schemes. New South Wales and Victoria will receive only an indirect benefit from those schemes in the same way that the Snowy scheme indirectly benefits Queensland and Tasmania. All States should derive a pro rata indirect benefit from any scheme, whether it be developed in Queensland, Western Australia or Tasmania as will be derived from schemes developed in New South Wales or Victoria. Senator Maher seems to be proud of the fact that the Snowy Mountains scheme is being paid for by all the taxpayers of Australia. If it is fair that the taxpayers of Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia should contribute to the cost of that scheme, then it is equally fair that hydro-electric and other schemes in other States should be financed from the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund on a pro rata basis.
– Tasmania got it in Bell Bay.
– Bell Bay was a defence project, just as were many projects that were developed in Queensland during the war years. We did not stint Queensland during the war years. In those years we did not consider pounds or even millions of pounds; those schemes were developed in the interests of defence. Those projects are still operating there just as the aluminium industry is operating in Tasmania. I sincerely hope that we have in this Senate enough honorable gentlemen who are big enough Australians to see to it that our aluminium industry and the defence projects in other States are not sold out to some monopolistic private enterprise.
Let me revert to the point I was making. If what Senator Wood and Senator Maher have said is true, if their allegations about the allocation of funds to other States are true, then no State is more misrepresented in this Parliament than is Queensland. The reason for this favouring of other States could be that the Government, knowing that it already has the numbers from Queensland, rests on its laurels and says, “We have no need to spend any more money in Queensland; we are already getting enough votes from that State; we must now spend our money in the two big industrial States on hydro-electric or other schemes that will return us the votes we need there “. That could be the reason why the Government is deciding to pour money into New South Wales and Victoria. After listening to the speeches by the two honorable senators whom I have mentioned, I think that the Liberal members of the Queensland Government have no reason to feel proud because that State is in a parlous financial condition at the moment.
– What about talking a bit of sense for a change?
– Senator Scott has never yet been able to say anything that has been of interest to honorable senators here. He cannot properly claim that he has talked common sense in the past. If he thinks he has talked common sense in the past, then he is the only one who does think so.
I rose to deal with something altogether different from the matters raised by the two honorable senators who have criticized their own government’s treatment of Queensland. I rose to speak about something that concerns not only Australia but probably the whole world. I refer to the conditions developing in various parts of the world.
Every day we read in the press headlines about the catastrophe that might overtake Berlin. Every day we read headlines about developments in Nyasaland and other parts of Africa. All these are matters which could affect the peace of the world in the near future.
Let us look at Africa first. Africa is a vast continent, and disturbing conditions are developing everywhere there. Similarly disturbing conditions could have arisen in Australia if the aborigines had been in greater numbers and if the Australian Government had not been more sympathetic in its treatment of those people over recent years. As an instance of what 1 mean, I mention the case of the aboriginal girl who was reported in the Melbourne press the other day as having said that she will not pay 10s. 6d. in order to become an Australian citizen. She claims she has that right by birth, and I agree with her. She says that she enjoys all the other privileges enjoyed by school teachers and that she has a right, by birth, to the privileges of Australian citizenship. She claims that she is an Australian by birth and, therefore, has no need to affirm her allegiance to the Crown. Being an Australian by birth, she declares that she is entitled to all the privileges of Australian citizenship. This Government would do well to look into that matter.
But the Africans are in a parlous position. In 1954, by the courtesy of this Parliament, I had the privilege of travelling through Africa. I did not make that trip with my eyes and ears shut; I kept them open in order to learn all I could. When I was there, conditions in Kenya were not very bright. The Mau Mau movement was at its height, so much so that the powersthatbe conducted a big round-up before we arrived because they had received certain secret information about an impending upheaval. Needless to say, that was scotched. The same position threatens to develop in Nyasaland to-day. The authorities have secret information about an impending disturbance there.
Tremendous hatred of the white race is developing among the natives of Africa. This could be prevented if the Europeans there were a little more tolerant towards the natives. We found this hatred growing even at the time when we were in Kenya.
When we spoke to the Europeans about their treatment of the natives, they replied that it was no use doing anything for the natives because they had not the intelligence to benefit from it. Let me tell the Senate now that there are some palatial buildings in Nairobi and they were built by the African natives. All the roads were built by the African natives and all the government buses are driven by African natives. Apart from the work done by a few Europeans who are in charge, all police duties are carried out by African natives. Yet the Europeans claim that the African native has not the intelligence to do these things! Why, there would have been no Nairobi but for the native labour.
The natives have been clamouring for years for greater consideration but have been kept down by the governments. The various governments claim that they are trying to help the natives and point out that many are being sent to the universities in England and given a higher education there. I spoke to one of the natives who had obtained a degree in engineering from an English university. He said to me, “ I attended the English university and obtained my degree in the same way as anybody else. While in England, I had to pay the full tariff where I boarded, but when I return to Africa I find that the law here provides that a native with an engineering degree is to be paid only three-sevenths of the amount that would be paid to a European, while an Indian would receive fivesevenths of a European’s pay for that work. Am I going to stay here? Of course, I am not! I am going back to England where I will be paid the full European rate.” That man has become discontented in his own country. Actually, instead of doing him a great service in sending him to England to be educated, the government did him a great disservice. Because of the differentiation in the rates of pay, he is discontented, he is a rebel.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was drawing a comparison between the remuneration allowed an African who had obtained a degree and that paid to a European or Indian. The African is paid only three-sevenths of the full rate. A similar attitude is adopted towards African workers such as bus drivers, tradesmen and labourers, though these are the very people who have built the roads, schools and public buildings of Africa. They have actually built Africa. The pay that they receive is so small that they object very strongly indeed. When you impose such conditions upon free people in their own country you are merely asking them to revolt.
Naturally, I do not agree with what the Mau Mau did, and I can honestly say that I have never heard of anything more revolting than their rituals. Nor could I support the dastardly and brutal murders that they committed. However, they were demonstrating their opposition to conditions that had been forced upon them by those who were then in charge of affairs in Kenya. One has reason to be thankful that the States of Africa are not all alike.
In Uganda we found a much better setup. The administration is European, and the Africans, who are elsewhere said to have insufficient intelligence for the task of government, do in fact govern themselves. The Prime Minister and the Ministers are Africans. These people legislate for themselves, the Governor having the power of veto. Theirs is a very effective advisory body, and the system in Uganda is certainly working harmoniously. Indeed, I would think that the administration there is more akin to that of Australia in New Guinea. The Africans are adopting the western way of life. They have schools and colleges and are receiving the education that they need if they are to take over the reins of government.
The laws of that region are entirely different from those of Kenya and some other parts of Africa. A European cannot go to Uganda, push a native off his property and make a slave of him. The native knows that and, very properly, classes himself as an important citizen. I believe that it will not be many years before the Africans of Uganda are fit to govern themselves entirely. Indeed, that seems to be the ambition of the Europeans also, for they are working in co-operation with the Africans to this end.
Upon going to Tanganyika one feels that here is a place where trouble could commence. However, it has so far been prevented by the wise counsels of the Governor, Sir Edward Twining. He has set out to win over the Africans and has certainly succeeded. He has formed a multi-racial government - called a council - comprising one-third Asians - mostly Indians - and one-third Europeans. He has retained the power of veto, and is clever enough to get his own way without trouble. I should think that he would be able to keep peace in that province only through his personal ability to handle the different types of person there. We found things going along fairly smoothly, though the Africans were not as advanced in Western ways as were those of Uganda.
We went then into the regions where trouble is occurring at the present time. Conditions were much less satisfactory. South Africa provides the greatest example of race and colour hatred to be found anywhere. I was invited to go to South Africa but I did not do so. One reason was that, after listening to some of the South African delegates at the convention, I was afraid that if I spoke my mind I might be lucky to get out without being charged or arrested. I could see the great hatred that existed, and how it was spreading into Kenya. Nothing was being done to prevent it from spreading. It was also spreading to some extent into Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Some of the conditions in Southern Rhodesia are not so bad, but employers of Africans are earning very good dividends each year, the profits of some big estates and mining ventures amounting not to hundreds of thousands but to millions.
We passed from there to some of the luxury spots of Africa, such as the Victoria Falls. We found Africans herded into a compound. They worked on the railways and the land generally but were not allowed to build their mud huts or grass humpies outside the compound. Two hundred yards away was a palatial hotel, where every kindness was visited upon guests. However, the very waiters at the hotel lived in this compound with their wives and children, and had to subsist on a very meagre wage. This sort of thing is surely at the root of the present trouble. It arises from oppression by the Europeans of Africans in their own country.
Honorable senators could not imagine the disgust that a Rhodesian delegate expressed when I mentioned these things. Unfor- tunately for him I had already been to the compound and knew all about it. I had not believed what I had been told, and had taken the trouble to see for myself. I had also taken another delegate to see what was there. The dust was 6 inches deep and if it had rained the compound would have been a quagmire. The little African children who lived there would have been obliged to walk through the mud, and it would have run into their rough shelters as well. Outside of the compound there was beautiful country where grass humpies or huts could have been built, but that was not permitted - because these people were Africans.
– Where was this?
– At Victoria Falls. If my memory serves me correctly I invited the honorable senator himself to have a look at this place. Those Africans were living in some of the most deplorable conditions that I have ever seen. In saying that I am not exaggerating. I made that statement at the hotel at Victoria Falls. I have made it previously in this chamber, and I make it again now. I was not the only delegate to see those deplorable conditions. What can we expect when we, as European members of the British Commonwealth of Nations force such conditions upon people in their own country? How can the Africans obtain redress? I am not going to say whether the suggestion that they intended to massacre every white is correct or not. But it would be possible for them to be driven into such a state of mind that they would take such steps. Can any honorable senator tell me what other means they could use? They have their own representatives in the parliament there, but what happens? They are in opposition, and as soon as anything contrary to the wishes of the government arises, their organization is declared to be illegal. What evidence have we got that they were committing illegal acts? This Government would have just as much evidence, probably, on which to declare small political parties illegal in this country. It is just as though the Government here were to declare the Opposition illegal if it found that the Opposition was doing something that might enable it to take over the reins of government.
The position in Africa is that the few Europeans there can see the numbers of
Africans becoming so great that they fear that the Africans will take over the reins of government and will be the ones to forward advice to the British Government on what should be done and what should not be done. The point I wish to make is that we could do a great deal in the British Commonwealth of Nations to keep peace on earth by acting a little more humanely to people in countries like Africa who have the misfortune not to be in the favoured position that we are in. We could do it in the way that the Governor of Uganda is doing it. If the same type of administration were operating in Nyasaland and Northern and Southern Rhodesia as is operating in Uganda, you would find a completely different state of affairs in Africa. If that can be done in Uganda, why cannot it be done in Nyasaland and in Northern and Southern Rhodesia?
– You were there; you should be telling us.
– I was there. In reply to the honorable senator, I say that the reason is that the British Government has picked the wrong team as administrators. There are many millions of Africans in Africa, but the best land has been sold to Europeans. The natives have been treated in the same way as we treated the aborigines of Australia. They have been pushed back into one corner while the Europeans have taken the cream of the land. We did the same thing in Australia but, fortunately, we are acting in a different way to-day. We are treating our aborigines a little bit better than we treated them in the past, but there is still room for improvement. There is room for vast improvement in the countries of Africa, particularly in those where the disturbances are occurring to-day.
The press gives one side of the story, but both sides should be given. Nobody should condemn the Africans without hearing both sides of the story, without being told of the wages and conditions that Africans are receiving and comparing them with the wages and conditions of Europeans who live in those countries. That would give a completely different picture. The British Commonwealth of Nations could do a lot to keep peace in the world. We in Australia send delegates to conferences of countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations, as we send delegates to the
United Nations organization. It is their duty to make themselves acquainted with the working and living conditions of the people in Africa, where these disturbances are taking place. I am telling Senator Vincent what can be done; I am giving him the answer. I am telling him what Australia could do if our delegates had the initiative to try to bring some pressure to bear on the powers-that-be to make conditions slightly better and more tolerable for the people of Africa in the places where this trouble is brewing to-day.
What is happening in Africa to-day is only the start of what can be expected if the situation is not handled very carefully and very quickly in the right manner. Hatred and racial prejudice have spread from South Africa into the British portions of Africa, where there are between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 Africans, compared with only 3,500,000 whites. The picture is completely lopsided. As I said earlier, if we think we can make doctors, lawyers and engineers of some of these people and then tell them to go back to their countries and live under the same conditions as they were living under before they took their degrees, we are making a great mistake. If we give them only three-sevenths of the European wage we are doing nothing but breeding rebels. We turn them out amongst their own people, to whom they talk in their own language, and they explain to the others the conditions that have been imposed on them after we have made them educated gentlemen. What else can we expect but trouble?
Were we to examine the position in Nyasaland to-day, we would probably find that that is the way in which the trouble there started. The trouble in Kenya has not ended. The government there has had to put its foot down in order to stop an uprising. Had the position not been handled very gently in Uganda at the time when King Kabaka was expelled, the whole country would have blown up like a powder keg. It was like a keg of powder until the British Government saw that the demands of the Africans had to be met and King Kabaka allowed to return. If the British Government can put its foot down and bring about peaceful conditions when pressure is put upon it in one portion of Africa, it should be prepared to do so again when pressure is brought to bear on it in other portions of Africa. The difference is that in Uganda there are administrators who have a more humane outlook than those at present in Nyasaland.
asked what we could do. As I have said, we could instruct our delegates who attend conferences of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers to see whether something could be done to bring the administrations of these countries into line. Were we to start mowing the natives down in New Guinea, what would the United Nations have to say? We have to handle the natives in New Guinea with kid gloves, and honorable senators opposite know that it is true. We have to handle them in a humane way and bring them to the stage where they can govern themselves. If we were to treat them like slaves and turn the guns on to them at the first sign of dissatisfaction, we would be put on the mat by the United Nations.
If we want peace in the world, we must start in our own homestead - the British Commonwealth of Nations - and be a little more humane to those less fortunate than ourselves. We must see to it that we do nothing in our own Empire that would start a world war. Africa, as well as Berlin, is a danger centre from which there could be started a fire that might engulf the world and bring millions to slaughter, as we have seen happen in the past. That is something we do not want. It could be prevented by our being a little more humane. Our delegates at these conferences can get to the core of these troubles. If I have made any false statements tonight, honorable senators have the opportunity to tell me where I am wrong.
.- I have not had the benefit of meanderings in Africa like those of Senator Aylett to support me in this debate, so I propose to direct my attention to affairs within Australia and within our own cognizance and jurisdiction. In the first instance, I desire to associate myself with the loyal sentiments that have been embodied in the Address-in-Reply and to congratulate the proposer of the motion, Senator Branson, and the seconder, Senator McKellar, upon the confident and facile manner in which they delivered their maiden speeches. As I think Senator Vincent has already indicated, both honorable senators took as their theme the development and expansion of Australia - an expanding Australia in which the Government and the people could anticipate marching forward to even better and brighter things.
As to the material methods whereby we may march on to the Promised Land, I think the speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) was most heartening. The honorable senator spoke of the search for oil in Australia and her Territories. The importance of the strike at Puri cannot possibly be overemphasized from the viewpoint of the possibility of balancing our books in regard to overseas exchange and, even more importantly, the viewpoint of national defence.
It is simply a truism to say in 1959 that the whole economy of civilized nations is geared to oil. It has been estimated that without oil 33 per cent, of the entire work force of Great Britain would be out of employment within a fortnight. When a commodity is as essential to our survival as is oil, the Government is to be commended for its recent grant in aid of stratigraphic drilling and the work that the Department of National Development has done under the administration of the present Minister. But I should like humbly and respectfully to suggest that even greater efforts should be made to secure oil, and not necessarily from a hole in the ground. Our own crude oil supplies are liable to disruption. Reading to-day’s press, one learns of the trouble in Iraq. I do not intend to be pessimistic enough to prophesy that that will lead to a cutting off of our oil supplies, but one would be foolish to deny that that possibility exists in Iraq or in any of the other explosive Middle East countries. We must bear in mind that 65 per cent, of the crude oil deposits of the entire world are located in the Middle East - an area that has been noted over the last few decades for its unstable political administrations.
As to a possible alternative, I think we could turn in 1959 to the production of synthetic crude oil from coal. That is not a new thought, but the methods of obtaining it that are available to scientists, industrialists and producers in our era are new.
Between June and October of last year, three interesting reports on this subject were made available in the Library. The first report was that of the committee that was set up to report to the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments on the possibility of a coal-based chemical and liquid fuel industry.
– Who comprised that committee?
– The members of the committee are set out in the report. The committee was under the chairmanship of Mr. S. F. Cochran, chairman of the Joint Coal Board. It also comprised the Honorable J. B. Simpson, M.L.A., representing the New South Wales Government; the Honorable E. E. Warren, M.L.C., of A.C.A. (R.) Limited; Mr. L. Lewis, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; Professor T. G. Hunter of the University of Sydney; Professor D. W. Phillips, of the New South Wales University of Technology; and Mr. C. W. Williams of the Joint Coal Board. Mr. F. Oliver was secretary.
I had not intended adverting to the report at particular length, because the committee was concerned primarily with the economics of the production of liquid fuel from coal. Also, it directed its main inquiry to the production of oil and fuel from black coal. There is a reference, at page 1 of the introduction, to the more modern developments in regard to brown coal. In a short explanatory memorandum, the chairman of the Joint Coal Board said - . . interest was sustained in Victoria, and out of it has come the Morwell Brown Coal Gasification Works. This plant makes a substantial contribution to Melbourne’s gas supply and produces some valuable by-products, such as benzole and oil. The addition of synthesis units to this plant would enable motor spirit to be manufactured from the gas, and a decision has been made to order the first of these units. This means that Victoria is well on the way to having an integrated plant producing gas and motor spirit.
In truth and in fact, since that report was delivered the Victorian authority concerned has produced cupfuls of petrol in its present experimental plant, and the time is fast approaching when it anticipates it will be producing, as a by-product, motor spirit at the rate of 80,000 gallons a year. That is only a drop in the bucket compared with
Australia’s national requirements, but it is an interesting figure. The committee recognized that fact for what it was.
An interesting paragraph in the report to which I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators is this -
The Committee is of the opinion that, so long as no oil is found in Australia, we must think continuously in terms of oil and chemicals from coal. This thinking should be backed by a well planned programme of research and development designed to carry out work here on a gradually increasing scale and to keep in close touch with developments elsewhere.
The committee went on to say that it had examined the matter principally with New South Wales black coal in mind. It added this footnote - the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria were at present planning to add to their Lurgi gasification plant using brown coal briquettes at Morwell a Fischer Tropsch synthesis unit for the production of rich gas and incidentally of liquid fuel. The experience of the operations of this plant could clearly be of great importance in determining whether further production of liquid fuel from brown coal should be contemplated.
It is because of the encouraging results achieved from early experiments with this equipment that I propose to go a little further along that path this evening.
Shortly after the report of this committee became available, the London “ Economist “ ran a leading article dealing with the gas industry of Great Britain, the methods of carbonization and gasification in that industry and its connexion with the steel and iron industries. It wound up with the prediction that with modern methods of gasification the day was fast approaching when the production of liquid fuel from coal in Great Britain would be cheaper than the refining of imported crude oil. Since Great Britain is made almost entirely of coal, it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of a chemical and engineering development of that magnitude.
The third report to which I wish to refer, Sir, is that of an address given by one of the outstanding chemical engineers of the world, Dr. R. S. Andrews, who is chairman of the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation. I have had the benefit and the privilege of certain discussions with that outstanding scientist and engineer and have had reference to his lecture on the subject. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that, for security reasons and for reasons of exchange control and conservation of exchange reserves, we must investigate the possibility and the probability of using these modern developments in coal gasification.
If I may devote a few minutes to semitechnical matters, because I am not qualified to become really technical on the subject, may I say that the method used to obtain the crude liquid from which petrol is subsequently refined is simply that coal, be it brown or black, is heated in open ovens or retorts. In the presence of steam and oxygen the coal is chemically dissociated and you get the liquid gas, from which it is a simple matter to produce the liquid fuel which we use in motor cars. Actually, a full range of fuels, including benzol, a most important by-product, is available when petrol is made from synthetic materials. The plant required for this work is costly, because it is enormous in size and requires considerable planning in its implementation. The oil which has kept the world going for almost the last century, so far as proper consumption of it is concerned, comprises only 3 per cent, of the energy reserves of the world. The amount of coal which is distributed throughout the globe, so far as surveys can show, comprises very nearly 92 per cent, of the entire fuel reserves.
When we come down to Gippsland, in Victoria, we are moving in territory which is almost made of brown coal. It is practically impossible to estimate the exact amount of brown coal which is available - easy of access, easy to work and cheap to obtain - in Gippsland. Looking at the other side of the picture, 40 per cent, of the world’s black coal is located in the Soviet Union and China, while America is the largest single holder of black coal. I give these percentages and figures, Sir, to show that even though at the outset there may be certain economic difficulties besetting the proposition, it is of such cardinal importance to our survival that these problems must be faced squarely and met, ultimately by subsidy if necessary.
When the German High Command was cut off from sources of outside supply of fuel it produced 29 per cent, of the petrol and oil requirements for its mechanized forces - for its army, navy and air force - from black coal and brown coal. The
Germans, of course, at that time were not particularly interested in economics. They had to have the fuel and they produced it regardless of cost. I am not suggesting that we should use the methods that the Germans were compelled to use in those years. About twelve or fifteen years before the war, two German scientists called Fischer and Tropsch had produced, on a small basis, an experimental plant which had been successful in producing liquid fuel at an economic rate, but unfortunately from their point of view, they were unable to translate that achievement into large-scale production. Since the war, American interests which had been providing 65 per cent, of the world’s supply of crude oil and petrol in the immediate post-war years, have become interested in the production of fuel from coa] and also from natural gas. British scientists have given some attention to the problem. At the outbreak of war, two German scientists, Dr. Danulat and Dr. Hubmann, produced at Lurgi the first effective method for turning brown coal, as opposed to black coal, into petrol. The method adopted was simply that, in the presence of iron as a catalyst, large open ovens or retorts of brown coal was gasified by having a stream of gas, oxygen and some hydrogen passed over them, the result giving an excellent crude, to be used in the manufacture of petrol. The by-products, I think, although I am not certain, included some methane gas.
After the war, the Victorian Government investigated the American plant, and I am prepared to pay a compliment to the work which the Victorian Labour Government did in assisting this plant to come to Victoria. We now have in that State a modern gasification plant which makes 36,000,000 cubic feet of gas a day. Each unit uses 3,000,000 cubic feet of air an hour. The resultant gas is pumped under high pressure all the way from Morwell to Melbourne, a distance of about 100 miles. Approximately one-third of the gas consumption of Melbourne is now piped into the grid from Morwell under pressure from the Lurgi plant. The problem that faces us is, of course, to produce a sufficient quantity of fuel from brown coal so that we may make the desired impact on our security and economic arrangements.
About 40 miles from Johannesburg, the South African Government has set up an enormous gasification plant. In this instance, South Africa is getting some technical assistance and advice from our own Dr. Andrews. I think the capacity of the unit will be about 200,000 tons of liquid products per annum. If this plant is a success - at the present time there is every indication that it will be successful - it is anticipated that, with extensions, it could make South Africa completely independent of external sources for its requirements of liquid fuel. 1 suppose it is not much good pretending that this is a cheap process. It is not. The cost of the South African project was £40,000,000 for the one plant. On figures which I have been given from plant costing £40,000,000 I believe that we in Australia could produce 10 per cent, of our liquid fuel requirements. The problem, of course, is that our coal costs a good deal more than coal in South Africa. The technical difficulties of taking brown coal and putting it into ovens and retorts and treating it are very great, because 60 per cent, of brown coal is moisture. It has to be dehydrated - I think that is what the scientists call it. At any rate, the water has to be got rid of so that the useful fuel material may be reacted upon.
I have had considerable interest in this project because it is one which lends itself to use throughout Australia. Within reasonable range of every capital city, with the possible exception of Adelaide, there are deposits of brown coal suitable for the operation of plant of the type which I have mentioned. Melbourne is probably in the best position, but all the other capital cities except one have adequate supplies of brown coal to enable this process to be carried on economically. I hope, therefore, that the Government will continue its diligent endeavours in the search for oil and that it will also divert some of its time and activities towards obtaining some oil from synthetic sources.
Before I resume my seat, I should like to say that there was one other matter in His Excellency’s Speech which struck me as being particularly promising. Senator Laught has already made some reference to it. That is the proposal to set up a committee to inquire into the general taxation laws of the Commonwealth. It is no part of my duty here this evening to speak about rates of taxation, uniform taxation, or any thing of that kind, but I do want to make a passing reference to two abuses in the taxation laws which I hope the Government will examine and which, I feel sure, working in a spirit of liberalism, it will wipe out. In saying this, I make no criticism whatever of the taxation officers who have been compelled to implement the law. Whenever I have had any contact with them, either professionally or personally, I have always found the taxation officers to be both reasonable and very helpful. But the power which is given an investigator of entry and search of private premises for the purposes of obtaining information which may or may not have a bearing on a taxation assessment is one which wants very careful scrutiny.
The right is held at the moment for an investigator to call upon any person whom he believes may be able to give some information in relation to a taxpayer’s affairs or return. Any person in the community may be picked upon to provide this information, the only test being whether the officer thinks he may be able to provide it. This person may be caused expense, embarrassment and inconvenience by having a taxation officer camped on commercial premises for some days whilst inquiries are made and information given. I think it is grossly unfair.
– They are the exceptional cases, are they not?
– I agree with the implication of Senator Benn’s interjection that these powers have been used wisely and, I think, with restraint, but at the same time the principle is there and if this survey is to be made this is one aspect of our taxation laws that might be substantially amended.
The other matter relates to the power of the Commissioner of Taxation to make a declaratory assessment. This, in itself, is bad enough. If the Commissioner has reason to believe - and the matter is within his discretion - that a taxpayer who makes a return of, say, £250 has in truth and in fact been practising as an S.P. bookie and his real income is £10,000, he is entitled to make a declaratory assessment that the man’s income is £10,000. It would not matter if he were an archbishop; a declaratory assessment could be made that his income was £10,000. No matter how absurd the assessment is, the taxpayer has no option but to pay the tax, even whilst he fights it. He may appeal to a taxation board of review, and ultimately he can get to the High Court, but in the meantime - I had an instance given to me in Melbourne last December - it is open to the Commissioner of Taxation to press for payment of the tax at the exorbitant declaratory rate. He may press for payment at this exorbitant declaratory rate even while the appeal is pending. It is a state of affairs that exists in no other litigation of which I am aware, that whilst an appeal is pending a party who has arbitrarily assessed an amount is able to obtain judgment and to proceed upon it. The example - I shall not quote names at the moment - given to me in Victoria in December was the case of a man against whom, whilst an appeal was pending, judgment was obtained and the Commissioner of Taxation was going to put in the sheriff to seize the man’s goods and sell them. An application to a judge obtained a short stay, sufficient to enable the matter to be settled.
The difficulty I point out there, Sir, is this: If a compulsory sale were effected by the sheriff, the taxpayer could suffer very substantial injustice because in the case of a forced sale the prospects of obtaining a reasonable return on the goods sold is, as I think any of my legal colleagues will bear out, very remote. I hope, therefore, that some of these great powers which, fortunately, have been used very wisely and with some restraint will receive the attention of the taxation committee. I hope that the committee will have a careful look at this type of thing to see that the onus is not placed on a civil servant to put a rein or a bridle upon the implementation of this type of legislation.
I greatly appreciate the remarks contained in the concluding paragraph of His Excellency’s Speech, and in a humble way join with His Excellency in the hope that the deliberations of this Parliament, which is just commencing, will receive the blessings for which he so earnestly prayed.
– This will be my final speech as a member of this Senate to which I was elected by the goodwill of the Western Australian Labour movement and the electors over 21 years ago. Now, because of age and ill health I am compelled reluctantly to retire from political life. I have had a varied career in civic affairs and in the Parliament for the last 30 years, and I am very .pleased to say that I retire undefeated.
I thank the officers of the Parliament, from the lowliest cleaner to the highest official, for the courtesy that they have extended to me. Strange to say, despite the fact that at times I display a temper, I have never had an argument with any of the parliamentary officers. I pay a tribute to the whole of the staff, and to “ Hansard “ who very often make our speeches read as they should. I thank the Clerk of the Senate, the Clerks Assistant and the Usher of the Black Rod for their many courtesies and the good advice that they have always given to me. As I look at the Government benches opposite I see only one honorable senator who was in this chamber when I entered the Parliament. I refer to Senator Sir Walter Cooper, the Minister for Repatriation.
I was privileged, Mr. President, to be a member of the Government that held office during the critical years of World War II. That in itself was a great experience. The Prime Minister who took office on 7th October, 1941, the late John Curtin, will go down in history as the greatest Prime Minister Australia has ever had. Deakin and the other Prime Ministers who have held office since federation were probably outstanding statesmen, but none of them had to accept the responsibility placed on the shoulders of John Curtin and his offsider, Ben Chifley, of defending this country against aggression. John Curtin was a remarkable man. Too much has been written of his weakness but not enough of his greatness. I knew John Curtin long before he entered Parliament. He was one of the greatest men Australia has ever produced, a true son of Australia.
On 17th March, 1942, I had the privilege of welcoming General Macarthur to Australia on behalf of the Government. Early in 1943, just after the defeat of the Japanese at Milne Bay, I interviewed General Macarthur at his new headquarters in Brisbane. At that time I held office as Minister for External Territories and Assistant Minister for Supply and was travelling to Milne Bay. I had the great honour of talking with General Macarthur for over an hour. At the conclusion of my interview with him, General Macarthur said, “You know, Senator, we have been blessed by having great men to lead us in this war - Churchill, a great man, a great leader who has inspired the people of Great Britain; and my own President, a great man, a brave man, and a great leader. I sometimes wonder, Senator, whether the people of Australia know the great leader that they have in John Curtin.” That was a fine tribute to a great man. As I have said, John Curtin’s weaknesses were stressed by those who did not know him and did not want to know him, by the press and by the authors of certain booklets. They did not know John Curtin as I knew him. When thinking of great leaders of the past I remember Ben Chifley, one of the greatest financial brains since Theodore and one of the greatest treasurers this country has ever known. He will always be remembered for his work of reconstruction after the war. I shall say no more about our great leaders of the past.
In the course of my parliamentary life I have met and made many friends inside and outside the Parliament. I regret that I must leave them, but the time arrives when each of us, whoever he may be, must accept the inevitable. I leave the Senate reluctantly, but I leave it in the interests of the electors of Australia. I am unable to travel through the country as I did in the past before the system of proportional representation was instituted. Nowadays, if a senator is able to cultivate within the metropolitan area and the inner districts of his State a certain number of people who will give him their first or second preference at an election, he is sure of holding a seat in this Parliament. I sometimes wonder whether the system of proportional representation has the merits that we thought it had. I have not touched on His Excellency’s Speech. 1 leave that in the good hands of those who remain behind. I just want to say now to both sides of the Senate that the greatest menace confronting this country to-day is communism. I do not hate a man or a woman because he or she is a Communist; I hate their philosophy; and I remind the Government that the seeds of communism were sown in this country way back in the 1930’s, during the depression years. I do not believe in the banning of communism. These things have got to be brought to the surface, and I tell the Government that the greatest bulwark against communism is full employment and prosperity for the people of the country.
Let me now say to my colleagues here, “ 1 have been criticized, as you will be when you become Ministers of the Crown “. There comes a time when some people say, “ He is no good; I am better “. But there are three cardinal principles for the guidance of man in the public life of this or any other country. They are truth, honesty and sincerity. I have endeavoured to follow those three cardinal principles ever since I entered public life, and, when I leave here, I shall go back to Western Australia thankful that I was still able, in this place, to thank all those people who gave me their confidence over the years.
I have already mentioned what General MacArthur said about the late John Curtin. I should like to add that General MacArthur also said at the conclusion of that interview -
Senator, I do not want you to use that on the public platform. I am not a politician; I am an Army man.
This is the first time I have mentioned those words in public since that date. General MacArthur, like myself, is getting on in years, and I think it fitting that I should put on record what he said about a great man whose responsibilities, as some of us on this side know, were so heavy. Those of us on this side who were Ministers al that time know that John Curtin went through sleepless nights and worrying days. I submit that John Curtin and Ben Chifley were two of the greatest men this country has seen. It is all very well to hark back to the days of Barton, Deakin and others, but I point out that they never had to face the responsibility that confronted the Labour government from 1941 to 1945.
One thing John Curtin never did to my knowledge was throw bouquets to any of his Ministers. I remember that many years ago he said, “ If you make a genuine mistake, we will stand by you, but if you knowingly make one you have got to take the knock for it “. As I said previously, I have been criticized; and I should like now to read, in answer to my critic who suggested that my administration was not all that it should have been, a letter which the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has seen. He took my place ns Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services when I became Minister for Trade and Customs. I carried out the duties of Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services for three years, and I acted as Minister for the Army for a long time. The letter to which I have referred is dated 3rd July, 1944, and was written to me by Mr. Curtin upon his return from England. It reads -
Dear Senator Fraser,
I am asking Mr. Forde to resume his administration of the portfolio of Minister for the Army as from lo-day, the result of which will be that you will again be able to devote you full attention to the portfolios of Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services.
I should like to express to you my warm appreciation of the admirable manner in which you discharged the additional duties that were imposed on you during my absence from Australia. It has been indeed pleasing to hear many expressions of approval of the excellent way in which you have administered Mr. Forde’s department during the period he was Acting Prime Minister.
That is a complete answer to my critic and many others whom I could name. I regret having to leave so many friends here. I treat my enemies, whoever they may be, with contempt. I will remember the the happy days I have spent here and, of course, the many troublesome days during the war period. I hope the lady senators will not be offended when I pay tribute to my wife who has stood by me during my 30 years of public life and 50 years in the Australian Labour movement. As long as 1 live 1 shall look back on the happy days I have spent here. To Mr. President and honorable senators I say, “ God speed “, and to the great country of my adoption, T say, “ If I have done one little thing in my public life to forward your prosperity I am satisfied “.
– Tn speaking to the motion for the Address-in-Reply I should first like to extend my congratulations to the proposer and seconder of the motion, Senator Branson from Western Australia and Senator McKellar from New South Wales. Their speeches were thoughtful, and will, J am sure, be productive of much good in the various States which they represent. I should also like to associate myself with the expression of loyalty in His Excellency’s Speech, and to indicate my great pleasure at the thought of the visit of Princess Alexandra of Kent, who is to take part in the historic celebrations of the State of Queensland. So many of our problems in Western Australia are akin to those of the people of Queensland that we cast a very sympathetic eye towards that great State and rejoice in its success to date. We wish it a still greater and more prosperous future.
It is a matter of extreme pleasure to the people of Australia that the Menzies Government has been re-elected, again with an increased majority. It is surely indicative of the fact that the Australian people have confidence in the policies of the present Government and appreciate very fully the fact that this country has been and still is, experiencing the most spectacular era of development in its history. Our sane policies have commended themselves to the people of the Commonwealth and to overseas interests also. More outside capital has poured into Australia and great confidence in our future has been expressed in many other ways also. The last Commonwealth loan was oversubscribed by many millions of pounds, and bank deposits have reached an all-time high. All these factors reveal, I think, that there is not only a local, but also a world, confidence in a country which possesses, as Australia does to-day, such a stable and commendably democratic form of government.
It is, too, a matter of extreme pleasure that two of our senators have been greatly honoured by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I refer to Sir Walter Cooper and Sir Neil O’sullivan. We congratulate them upon the high honour that has been conferred upon them and wish them both long life and much happiness to enjoy their well-earned reward. It is, too, a matter for congratulation that Senator Spooner has been elected Leader of the Government in the Senate, and that Senator Paltridge has been elected as his deputy. We congratulate them too, and wish them a long period of useful service in this chamber.
It is a good thing for Australia that so many distinguished visitors from overseas have been able to visit the Commonwealth this year, and also that a great number of our parliamentarians, trade missions and businessmen have been able to go overseas - especially to our near-neighbours in South-East Asia. All these visits must tend, in the long run, to bring about a greater measure of international understanding, and must help to end the tensions that have developed in various parts of the world.
Australia is strategically situated in the Pacific, and our relations with the people of South-East Asia, especially, are very important. Much has been done to help raise the standard of living of the people of South-East Asia, through the magnificent Colombo plan especially. I think that it is only fair to mention the splendid work of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in helping the attainment of better understanding.
Honorable senators will have read in the press of the economic conference that is at present being held in Queensland, and of the fact that the Minister for External Affairs has been honoured by being elected to preside over that very important conference. I should like to quote something that he said in his opening address. It shows his great realization of the tremendous problem which confronts the people of South-East Asia, and which confronts us in Australia as we try to help them towards a better standard of living. He struck a very high note when he said that machines were not everything in a new economy such as our Asian neighbours were seeking. He went on to say -
Economic development is not an end in itself It is a means to the end of fuller realization of human potentialities.
I believe we should not forget the simple human things that it is the purpose of Ecafe to try to achieve . . . that the peoples of Asia should have more to eat, more and better clothing, better accommodation, and more of the amenities that are available in some other countries.
Tn other words, Ecafe exists to try to achieve the main purpose of finding ways to raise the standard of living of the Asian peoples.
He was ably supported1 by the Indian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kanungo, who also said that the people of Asia asked for and were entitled to more and better food, clothing and living conditions. He added -
The answer to these pressing demands has found expression in most countries of the region in development planning with higher income as its goal, and a diversification of production as a means to that end.
Both of those comments strike one as being particularly apt, and as possessing great human appeal.
The Governor-General recalled a long list of achievements on, the part of the present Government, notable amongst which were the trade agreements so successfully accomplished by the Deputy Prime Minister, the success of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, the development at Woomera, in conjunction with Britain and the United States, of guided weapons, and the wonderful work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in its many research stations in all States.
This co-operation in research work between government agencies and the producers of wool, wheat, tobacco, barley and dairy products has produced excellent results and, it is pleasing to note, will be continued in the future. The big sum of £1,250,000 has been allotted for further research work.
As a result of past research work it has been possible to hold joint farmer-scientist conferences in Western Australia. The second of these was held in February, lt took for its subject, “Water in Agriculture”. The conference was well attended by farmers from every part of the State, and by a great number of scientists and experts who were able to guide the discussion, giving addresses on each facet of the subject. The problem of water supply is, of course, widespread in Australia, but especially so in Western Australia, with its vast areas.
At the conference, experts led discussion on such topics as rainmaking, seasonal growth of wool and meat, our approach to soil salinity and getting salt land into production, irrigation and pasture management, and water in the future development of Australia. These conferences and experiments will have a very far-reaching effect.
Speaking of water, I would remind honorable senators that in previous years I have referred to the need for a scheme, along the lines of the Snowy River scheme, in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. We in Western Australia have been dismayed during the last month to read in the newspapers that federal money is not to be made available for the Ord River scheme, which has already started and for which a great deal of experimentation has taken place. However, I have been informed subsequently that further investigations are to be made into this scheme. I hope that the Government will fulfil its promise to assist some water scheme in the north-west of Western Australia, preferably the Ord River scheme. In the meantime, I hope that it will continue to carry out experiments. Any such scheme in the Ord River could provide water and power for the whole of the area north of the 20th parallel in Western Australia and also for a portion of the Northern Territory. That would be a great boon to pastoralists, settlers and the mining communities of these regions.
While on the subject of water, I once again refer to the need for a coastguard service for Australia generally, and particularly for the north-west coast of Western Australia. When I first introduced this matter in the Senate I stressed the absolute necessity for the protection of our northwest coast, where the harbours and bays are so extensive that the opportunities for hide-outs are very numerous. I quoted cases of alien ships being arrested for fishing without permission in those waters. Having introduced the subject, I find that other organizations have become interested again. They were interested before and they have become interested again in the formation of a coastguard service. I understand that the Merchant Service Guild and the Returned Servicemen’s League of Western Australia have both become vitally interested in this matter. They have submitted a very well thought out scheme to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), from whom an answer is expected. They have been inspired by the coverage achieved by the Flying Doctor scheme in inland Australia. The success of that scheme suggests that .a coastguard service could have a very wide coverage. I refer to a copy of the information that I understand has been put into the hands of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It has been submitted that there should be regular patrols over isolated sections of the north and north-west coastline, fisheries patrol, including that of pearl-fishing areas, sea rescue and medical aid to remote areas, hydrographical surveys and oceanographical research, fisheries research, supply and maintenance of lights, lighthouses and radio direction-finding stations, meteorological reporting and research, and oil pollution patrols in populated areas. It is suggested, too, that bases be established at Broome, Darwin and Thursday Island. Although these proposals have been submitted by these organizations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, it is my intention to lay the whole matter before the new Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). Along with a large number of other people in Australia, I believe that a coastguard service is a “ must “. No matter what is the transitional stage between defence weapons of the last century and this century, or of the last age and the present atomic age, I think that a navy and a coastguard service are essentials.
Last year the Australian Government presented to the Philippines Government four sea-ward vessels for defence work around the islands of the Philippines group. I endorse that gift to our near neighbour, which, I feel, is quite right in wanting ships to protect its shores. However, I would feel much happier if Australia itself had adequate protection on its Indian Ocean front. I understand that those ships have been already most useful to the Philippines. Honorable senators no doubt remember a report from Manila which stated that the Philippines Navy had boarded five Soviet trawlers anchored a mile off the north coast of the important island of Luzon in the Philippines group. The trawlers had been detained for investigation. The boarding party reported that the trawlers, en route to Vladivostok from Stalingrad, dropped anchor when one of them broke down with engine trouble and that repairs were being made. Defence Secretary Jesus Vargas ordered the boarding party to determine why the vessels were in the vicinity of the Philippine Islands. The Philippine Islands are not very far from the northwest coast of Western Australia. If the Philippines Government has found that it is very desirable to have a coastguard service - which it has virtually made of these sea-ward vessels presented to it from Australia - I think it is very necessary for Australia to consider establishing such a service.
Another suggestion I have to make is that if such a coastguard service were established on the north-west coast, it would be a great help to have a naval training ship there. Many of the adolescents of our country who fall foul of the law, often because of their adventurous spirit, are at present put into detention homes, from which they regularly try to escape, and from which they often do escape, bringing further punishment on themselves. If a naval training ship were to be established in these waters, not only would naval discipline be of advantage to some youths, and not only would sea-going exercises be good tor them, but also exploration trips could be made into the Kimberleys and other northern parts of Australia. Those trips would suit the adventurous spirit of young adolescents and perhaps interest them in becoming settlers in that most important area, which will have to be settled in the very near future.
To back up this suggestion to the Minister for the Navy, I ask him whether he has seen an article in the press by a consultant management expert who has just returned from America with an idea which he saw put to practical use in that country. He suggests the establishment of ranches just outside the capital cities of Australia for dealing with delinquent youths. Let me read a very interesting paragraph from the “ West Australian “ of 28th February, in which he is reported to have said -
The teen-ranch in the United States has proved a tremendous weapon against delinquency, and I am sure it will be just as effective a weapon in Australia. . . .
I hope to establish the first ranch just outside Sydney and make it the guinea pig.
Then he says he hopes to develop the scheme in other parts of Australia.
Another matter that concerns the people of Western Australia is that the Government has declined to go on with the establishment of a naval base at Cockburn Sound. We in Western Australia remember with a good deal of horror the fall of Singapore, when the whole of the coast of Western Australia was left absolutely unprotected against invaders coming in from the Indian Ocean. The people of Western Australia are very eager for a naval base to be established at Cockburn Sound. Cockburn Sound is of very great width.
I have been told that it could accommodate the entire British Navy and the Australian Navy at the same time. The “ West Australian “ published a challenge to the Federal Government on the establishment of a base at Cockburn Sound. It printed the following announcement: -
Britain does not intend to abandon its naval base in Singapore and will definitely not develop Cockburn Sound in Western Australia as a new Singapore. Any suggestions to this effect are wholly unfounded.
Then on the following day it stated -
Establishment of a W.A. base is an Australian responsibility. It is required not only for our own national defence and protection of vital Indian Ocean communications but for the proper discharge of our increasing obligations in British Commonwealth security and allied arrangements such as Seato.
Therefore the London official statement denying reports that Britain intended to abandon the Singapore Base and develop Cockburn Sound does not alter the case. Singapore is still a valuable buttress of collective defence in the SouthEast Asian zone but it can never again be regarded as impregnable and it is politically unsafe for the future. There must be an alternative and the best and safest place for it is at Cockburn Sound on the Western Australian seaboard.
This newspaper went on to say -
The initiative in developing the base should come from the Australian Government, and without delay. But Canberra continues to stall indefinitely. The work could not be done quickly if an emergency arose or Singapore were lost to Britain. … If the Federal Government moved the job up from its low defence priority and got it started, we would be in a better position to negotiate with Britain for a co-operative arrangement like the partnership which is working at Woomera.
They are the views of a great number of people in Western Australia who regard the defence of that State as a No. 1 priority.
The proposed introduction to Australia of bigger and more powerful airliners has led to a lot of correspondence and caused a good deal of concern in a number of residential areas. Evidence from other countries where heavy jet-powered airliners have been introduced indicates that the noise and vibration are too terrible to contemplate. I know we must expect bigger and better airliners, but I hope the Government is giving the matter sufficient thought, that it is making extensive inquiries into the results of the vibration and noise that these aircraft cause, and that there will be no encroachment on residential areas for airfields to accommodate them.
Our immigration policy is one for which the Government is to be commended. That policy has been changed in various ways, and most of the changes seem to be producing very good results. But, together with many other people in this country, I am alarmed at the number of migrants who do not seek to become naturalized Australians, lt was stated at the last Citizenship Convention that 204,000 migrants who have been here for five years or more have not yet applied for naturalization. We have in Western Australia, as the result of an immigration scheme that was in operation about 40 years ago, a number of groups of people who have not applied for naturalization. They are quite happy to have their own little racial gatherings. That is quite understandable; it is very human. But I always feel that, because of different ideas of loyalty, those groups are a potential danger. 1 think there should be some follow-up by the Department of Immigration to encourage migrants to apply for naturalization. The responsible Minister has said that no one will ever be forced to apply for naturalization; but, as I said, I think the department should devise some followup scheme whereby these people would be encouraged to take this step. They have come to this country and have received solace and refuge. Nearly all of them have been very successful and are enjoying a better way of life than they enjoyed in the countries that they have had to leave. I think it should be pointed out to them that they should become naturalized Australians so that their loyalties will never be in question.
The subject of education is worrying all the States at the present time. I know full well that education, as we know it, is not a Commonwealth matter, except where special grants are concerned. I think that the present age calls for some inquiry into Australia’s education system. Last year, a very important education conference was held in Canberra. Most of the people who attended were experts in this field. Professor Morven Brown, in his opening address, put the need for some change in our education system very well. He said -
The present speed of technological progress is bound to force us all to recognize the limitations of our present educational structure. It could be that we are “ dazzled and numbed by the very rate of technological progress “. It isn’t only in the field of satellites and space exploration that wonderful things are happening, but also in the developments of everyday life - transport, manufacture and communications. These changes come upon us with “ unprecedented and accelerating speed “. The task of education is to adapt people to these tremendous changes. Only education can do it.
He added -
But I do not of course believe that the technological age only implies the need for more trained technologists and scientists. Or even for more technicians and tradesmen, although these, too, are also part of the structure. The more society became more specialized the more general education was needed. “ Education for Citizenship “ was the sort of education that the schools could provide. Even at the university level this need was now recognized, but the schools will remain in the main places where the mass of the people get a basic general education.
When he summarized the position, Professor Brown said that the lack of buildings, the dearth of trained teachers and the lack of money for equipment were hitting every State in the Commonwealth. He added -
This sorry state of affairs has resulted from “ generations of neglect, the depression and two world wars”. As bad as the accommodation problem was, the teacher shortage was even more serious, for while much can be done in spite of bad buildings, nothing can overcome the lack of teachers or the limitations of inadequate teachers.
I think that too many children are leaving school at the age of fourteen or fifteen years. They cannot be absorbed in industry or in white collar jobs because automation is doing quite a number of the tasks that these children expected to be able to do at that age. With Professor Morven Brown, I think that the challenge is to make our schools and our education system more interesting for our adolescents, so that they will want to stay at school and thus receive a very much better education.
I know that, in the past, when deputations have gone to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and have asked him about this matter of education, he has always pointed out that it is a State responsibility. 1 suggest to the Prime Minister that a commit ee something after the style of the Murray committee which considered university education and did so much for the universities of Australia, should be appointed to investigate education generally, and that additional grants should be made to the States to help them meet their education problems. Our immigration scheme has been a wonderful success, but in one way it has penalized the States very severely, because no additional money has been allowed to them to provide school accommodation for the great number of schoolage children who have come to Australia. I therefore recommend seriously to the Government that it consider the appointment of a committee to study the whole question of Australian education in this scientific age, with particular reference to the education of the ordinary person who needs education to help him to be a good citizen.
No mention was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of relief from taxation, although there is a promise that a committee will be appointed to investigate taxation generally. I am still dissatisfied with the application of sales tax and pay-roll tax, both of which were war-time measures. It is unforgivable that in a country which has advanced as Australia has, which is as prosperous, and which has such sane policies propounded by a very wise coalition Government, we should still have sales tax and pay-roll tax. I know that only recently the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that if pay-roll tax were removed it would cost Australia something like £50,000,000 a year, and that that amount would have to be made up by other taxes, such as company tax, but I hope that the committee that it is proposed to appoint will find some way to do away with pay-roll tax and sales tax as well. If that is done, perhaps we will know exactly what tax we pay per head.
I realize that we are one of the most fortunate countries of the world so far as taxation per head is conerned. but at the same time, indirect taxation is costing every one of us - man, woman and child - £10 or £12 a year. Surely we can accomplish what we desire without the continuation of those two taxes. I commend Senator Hannan for his remarks conerning the very wide powers of the Taxation Branch and the Commissioner of Taxation. I have had brought to my notice cases of the kind that he quoted. I think that this is a serious matter, and I hope that, the committee will pay special attention to it.
Before T conclude, I want to express my extreme disappointment that we have not had one constructive suggestion from the Opposition during this debate. All the speeches that have come from the Opposi tion side so far has been directed at destroying confidence in the present Government instead of rejoicing in the fact that Australia to-day is going through an unprecedented spell of prosperity and looks forward to a great era of continued development and prosperity. I have written down some questions that I want to ask the Opposition, and I hope that they will be answered truthfully. First, can the Opposition deny that our relations with the rest of the world, especially with South-East Asia, are 100 per cent, better than they were when Labour was in office? Can it deny the success of the Colombo plan in helping our neighbours? Can it deny that our social services, such as child endowment, pension payments and care of the aged, have improved immeasurably since Labour was in office? Can it be categorically denied that the housing situation has improved immensely? Can it be denied that repatriation benefits have reached an all-time high, that land settlement of exservicemen is going ahead with vigour, and that our trade successes and our trade prospects are simply phenomenal? Can it be denied that Australia’s coal position is such that, instead of shortages, we have coal to sell? Can the Opposition deny the astonishing contribution to scientific discovery made by the Australian National Research Expedition to the Antarctic, or by the guided missiles project at the Woomera range, in conjunction with Great Britain and the United States of America? Can the Opposition deny that peace in industry has been so marked that Australia’s progress has benefited?
Those are only a few of the questions that I could ask the Opposition, but I invite honorable senators opposite to ponder those that I have put and to reply to them truthfully. Australia has a great future. With a continuance of good seasons and a reasonable rise in the price of wool, Ihe next few years should bring about the greatest advancement and prosperity that this country has ever seen. There are many subjects mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech about which I could speak, but I shall reserve my comments on foreign affairs and social services until a later date. I congratulate the Government on the wonderful work that has been done. I hope that it will take a great deal of notice of the matters that I have mentioned, which are so vital to the economy of Western Australia. I support the motion.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, Mr. Deputy President, I formally accept the challenge issued by Senator Robertson. Although I am no shorthand-writer, I think that 1 have taken down sufficient of the questions which she so forcibly asked to be able to reply in due course. I had not intended to speak in this debate at all until this afternoon, when I received the reply of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to a question which I had had on the notice-paper for some time, and also the answer to a question which I had addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). I felt that those two incomplete and unsatisfactory answers demanded further discussion in the Senate.
I had not intended to speak because I was of the opinion that the whole gist of the Governor-General’s Speech was not such as to warrant long and heated discussion, and that the Speech was notable for what it omitted to say rather than for what it in fact said. At the outset, I wish to congratulate the proposer and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. I think that it is the first time for thirteen years that the honour of proposing such a motion has fallen to a Western Australian senator. It was my privilege in 1943, and again in 1946, to perform the task which was so ably performed on this occasion by Senator Branson. I wish both him and Senator McKellar every happiness and success while they are here, but I cannot, in all sincerity, hope that that period will be very extensive. At the same time, I do hope that your sojourn in the Senate will be not only a happy one for yourselves personally, but also profitable to the State from which you come, because irrespective of the party to which we owe allegiance, we all come here with the object of doing the best we can for our respective States, and while we may differ about the way in which we think that is best done, I do not think that any one doubts the genuineness and integrity of those who subscribe to a different political viewpoint.
Before reverting to the questions that Senator Robertson has so ably raised, and also to the two matters which I have in mind to discuss, I should like to express my own sincere thanks to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, who has lately relinquished his position as Leader of the Government in this chamber, for his many acts of courtesy and kindness to me over the last nine years. Times have been for me quite difficult on many occasions and he has gone out of his way to be courteous and to extend all kinds of privileges to me which have made things much easier for me. I rejoice in the fact that Her Majesty the Queen has seen fit to honour him by bestowing a knighthood on him, and I regret his standing down from the position of Leader of the Government in this chamber. I have heard that there is a likelihood of his going overseas as our Ambassador to Dublin. I cannot think of any nicer thing that I would wish for him, because I think that is one place where he would thoroughly enjoy himself after retirement from the Senate.
– Everything is green there.
– Every bit! I wish now to mention the two questions I asked upon notice, the replies to which I consider were most unsatisfactory. I asked the Minister in this chamber who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) a question with regard to a case that came to my notice a week before last Christmas. During the last session of the previous Parliament, I mentioned the case of a worker who had come from Great Britain. He was on his way to Melbourne when, five days out from Fremantle he received a radio message to the effect that he should disembark at Fremantle where a job and accommodation were awaiting him. Although that radio message was received five years ago, that man has not yet worked for even one day at his trade as a tanner, nor has he been able to get continuous employment. He has a wife and five children, the latest addition to the family having been born last week. I have visited this family and seen the poverty in which they are living. This man was very keen to get a job. With his very nice little wife and five beautiful children, he is living in very poor circumstances. 1 approached the Department of Labour and National Service about their plight a couple of days before Christmas, because no matter how hardhearted people may be, the thought of little children having no expectation of a visit from Father Christmas at that time is a very sad one. I felt most distressed when I left the house.
When I rang the department to see whether anything could be done to provide this man with a couple of days’ work before Christmas, I was told that nothing could be done for at least three weeks. As an afterthought, the official said to me, In any case, we are not quite satisfied with the way he is spending the social service payments that he gets “. I said, “ I beg your pardon, what has this to do with the matter? What do you mean?” He said, “ One of the men in the office saw this man down the street the other day wearing a very good pair of shoes. They were more fitted for a business executive than a man on social service assistance “. That just let me in! I said”, “ Have you not heard of St. Vincent de Paul and other charitable societies that assist such people? It is pretty low to look down to see what sort of shoes a man is wearing before saying whether he is eligible for a job.”
About ten. minutes later I received a ring from the department. The official wanted to know whether this man would take a job for a couple of days. I said that a couple of days’ work, even a couple of hours’ work, would be acceptable. I added that he had worn out the executive-type shoes trying to get a day’s casual work gardening, or any other kind of work. Finally, the job came up. He was given, two days’ work before Christmas delivering beer to hotels. I took a few things over for the kiddies for Christmas, and his wife was very worried. She said that he had gone to work at half-past six in the morning - it was then half-past nine at night, Christmas Eve - and that he had taken with him only four baked bean sandwiches to eat. I have never seen a man so worn out as he was when he came home. The family had not tasted meat for three or four weeks. So much can be done by officials of government departments with a kind word here and there to those who are forced to seek aid. There is no reason for officials to act as if the money they disburse comes from their own pockets.
To-day 1 had a further set-back. I had asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a question relating to the number of civilian widows who were not eligible to receive the supplementary grant of 10s. a week if they were trying to pay off a home for themselves and their children. I received this rather amazing reply. I do not think the Minister himself wrote it, because it states -
Widows are eligible for supplementary assistance under the same general’ conditions as age or invalid pensioners, i.e., they must be paying rent and have little or no means apart from their pensions. Where they own or partly own their home they are ineligible for the allowance.
Just listen to this little bit -
In such cases they already receive a concession under the Act in that the value of their interest in the home is not taken into account as property for pension purposes. lt is not only widows who receive that consideration. Any pensioner living in his own home - he may be living in a £12,000 mansion - may receive the additional amount; so long as he is living in his own house he may receive the full pension. Yet here we are told that this is a special concession extended to widows who have an equity in a property that they are struggling hard to retain. As we know, there is a housing shortage and it is absolutely impossible for a widow with young children to get a home to rent. The fact that she has children seems to brand her as an outcast rather than a worth-while citizen. In order to get a roof over her head, she has by some means or other to get together enough money to pay a deposit on a house, and then, of course, she has to pay rates and taxes. She has no man around the house to do odd jobs - if husbands still do those things. If she wants any plumbing done, she has to do it herself or engage a plumber. She has to find money for these various things. She receives no concession with regard to labour and materials because she is a widow; she does not get cut rates. I pointed out to the Minister that it would not involve a great deal of clerical wo~k or finance to help widows in these circumstances. We have heard a great deal about what the Government is doing for the people of other countries. These widows are entitled to consideration, not as a charity but as a right. They should be able to bring up their children under decent conditions. If there is a little extra for those who suffer considerable hardship, surely to heaven these widows should be entitled to receive the little extra allowance that has been granted by our social service legislation! Like the war widows, they are facing up to their responsibilities magnificiently. The civilian widow’s finances are even more precarious than those of a war widow, because she receives only her civilian pension. She cannot go out to work, lt is beside the point to say that she is permitted to have property up to a value of £2,000. I am sure that the Minister could count on his two hands - they are not deformed hands - the number of widows who have £2,000 in assets besides the home they live in. It is too ridiculous. I cannot understand such an answer to a question asked in all sincerity. The Minister has said that the widow with children is more favorably treated than other pensioners - I am sure the War Widows Guild would like to have that statement from the Minister - that the widow can own property valued at £2,250 - good luck to her if she has it, but very few widows in Australia would be found to have assets to that amount, besides owning a home - while in other cases the qualification as to property is taken into account if the value of the property exceeds £209.
I should like the Minister to let me know the number of widows who are in this plight. He said that the number of pensioners in the various categories who have made application for the supplementary rent allowance has not been kept, but surely if a Public Service officer has time to look at the shoes worn by applicants for social service benefits, to see whether they are executive type shoes or shoes of another type, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility to classify the types of pensioners when they make application for this very valuable relief.
asked a question with regard to social services. I share the Labour party view that social service benefits to-day are much better than they were when this Government came into office. That is only to be expected. If the benefits were not much more favorable after the ten years of prosperity that God has given this country in the form of good seasons, increased incomes and so on, the Government would stand indicted. But very little that is new has been introduced by this Government. It has retained most, if not all, of the social service benefits introduced by Senator McKenna when he was Minister for Social Services during the term of office of the Labour government. I do not detract in any way from what this Government has done because any humane action by any government in the realm of social services will always have my hearty approval. Social legislation is a serious matter, and while we may talk here on international affairs and seek to put the world at right, any government worthy of the name must bear in mind that its main concern is the health and happiness of the people who comprise the nation. No nation, no matter how high it stands in the councils of the world, can be truly great if the component individuals who make up that nation are hungry or in want, badly housed or unhappy.
Senator Robertson also mentioned the housing problem. An improvement has been effected in the housing position since 1949 when this Government came into office, just four years after the cessation of hostilities. What did the Labour government do during those four years? A terrific back-lag existed in the construction of new homes. Long before the outbreak of World War II. Australia suffered from a shortage of homes. People could not obtain houses because they did not have the money to pay the rent. In my own State of Western Australia we had people living in camps. I taught children who had never lived in a house but had always existed in camps of unemployed here, there and everywhere. Many of them had never known what it was to live inside an ordinary dwelling with solid walls and a roof. That problem had to be solved when the war ended.
What was our position during the war? After Australia became a nation totally at war we had to provide not only for our men going overseas and fighting in every theatre of war, on the seas, in the air and on the land, but also food, shelter, medical equipment and supplies for our allies who came to our shores at the time when we needed them badly. Penicillin produced at the Commonwealth Serum
Laboratories in Melbourne went to every theatre of war in the southern hemisphere, including that covered by Lord Louis Mountbatten’s command, and to the men engaged in the Egyptian campaign. We had to provide the material used in the construction of easily transportable housing for our own and allied troops in the tropical islands. Moreover, during the war years Australia’s man-power was used in both the war industries and the allied services which were essential to meet our housing requirements. Everything was directed, of necessity, towards the great urgency of keeping Australia safe and of
Carrying the war to a successful conclusion. Every person in the community, irrespective of party politics, recognized that those steps had to be taken.
Immediately after the war the wheels of industry once again had to be geared for the production of peace-time articles, and gradually that job was done. We passed through a transitional period during which 1,000,000 men and women were demobilized from the various military forces and absorbed into peace-time employment without any great dislocation of industry. In 1949, when the transitional work was practically completed, this Government took office. I repeat - I do not detract in any way from what this Government has done, but any government worthy of the name would have been able to build safely and securely on the foundations that were well and truly laid during those four years of peace by the Labour government.
In my own State we have a fine record in housing. I pay a tribute to Mr. Graham, the present Minister for Housing in Western Australia and to his predecessor, for the great job they have done in building in a fine residential area of Perth a block of flats to house the aged. One person said to me, “ Those flats are too flash for old people “. I said, “ Nothing is too flash, as you call it, for those who have given their lives and service to this country “. The setup in Western Australia is excellent, and I am hopeful that the idea will extend to the other States. I understand that a block of single unit flats is proposed to house elderly women living alone for whom no provision has been made in other housing schemes. When I was in England in 1948 I saw quite a number of housing settlements in which provision was made for business girls and the older women. Every woman likes to make a place look like a home, even if it is only one room. I brought those plans with me from England and I am glad that some features of the plans are being incorporated in this latest block of flats to be built in Perth.
Western Australia also has one of the highest rates of home ownership in the Commonwealth. Despite the taunts of those people opposed to the Labour party who say that we do not believe in home ownership, nothing could be further from the truth. It is fundamental that if a person has an equity in a home he takes a much greater interest in his home than he would if he were merely renting one. A person who owns a home has a stake in the country and he will fight to preserve it. The Labour party is anxious to see home ownership extended. That is why in Western Australia we had the Workers’ Homes Board which provided cheap homes for people of humble means. That board is now incorporated in the State Housing Commission which also acts as agent for the Commonwealth Government in the matter of war service homes. Homes at greatly reduced rentals are made available to widows. That statement is not a figment of the imagination because I know many of the widows who occupy them. It is all very well to argue that the States get the money from the Commonwealth for these homes. The important question is, “ Where does the Commonwealth get the money in the first place? “ What did Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, have to say about it last week? He stated that the Commonwealth had entered into the moneylending field. It is all very well for the Commonwealth to talk about its generosity to the States. As pointed out by Mr. Bolte, the fact is that the Commonwealth Government reaps a huge profit. My friends on the Government side say that we can believe what the capitalistic press prints. I hope we can on this occasion, because the press states that Mr. Bolte has pointed out that the States will pay the Commonwealth £768,000,000 in interest on a loan of £532,000,000. The interest charged far exceeds the principal. We often refer to money lenders as usurers. I do not say any- thing about the Commonwealth Government in this connexion; I leave it to honorable senators to draw their own conclusions.
Many people seem to think that this money is made available by the Commonwealth to the States as something in the nature of a Christmas gift, and that the Commonwealth Treasurer is a benign Father Christmas who goes round filling the stockings of the States. Those people forget that the Treasurer gets the money from the pockets of the taxpayers before he makes his distribution to them. The people contribute by way of taxation to the national purse. That is as it should be. It then becomes the Commonwealth’s duty to distribute the contents of that national purse among the States according to their needs. But why charge the States such a terrific rate of interest for money that is theirs to begin with? Such tactics take all the gilt off the gingerbread!
Honorable senators opposite say that the Commonwealth Government is generous but when we realize that the States are charged interest for the money, we appreciate that the whole proposition becomes a business transaction. And honorable senators on the Government side say they do not believe in socialistic enterprises! If they do not believe in socialistic enterprises, why is the Government entering the usury business? I leave Mr. Rylah and Mr. Bolte to conduct that fight.
I should like now to mention one very interesting item of news that appeared in the “ Daily News “ published in Perth on Thursday, 5th March last. I do not know whether it was printed in toto in the press of the eastern States, but the newspaper to which I refer published on its front page a picture of a very fine native girl. It was headed, “ Meet May Miller; a citizen who isn’t “. That article brings to mind a very important problem in our national life - the problem of our aborigines. No mention is made of that problem in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
The aborigines of Australia are concentrated mainly in two or three States, of which Western Australia is one. Some years ago, a very bright and promising young man who was employed by the “ West Australian “ newspaper conducted a factual survey of the aboriginal position.
I have been privileged to have a copy of the booklet he published. I should like every honorable senator to have one, because this very promising young man is now in a position in which he could give effect to so much of what he preached back in 1939. The young man was Mr. Paul Hasluck, now the Honorable Paul Hasluck, Minister for Territories, to whom I pay the tribute of saying that he knows more about the native problem than perhaps any other member of the Commonwealth Parliament and that he has done his utmost, in the territories under his jurisdiction, to meet the challenge as posed by the aborigines. I saw some of the houses which were being built in Darwin and in the Northern Territory for the aborigines quite recently and I felt that, in that approach to the problem of the aborigines, was some of the earlier idealism shown by the Honorable Paul Hasluck.
Some of the conclusions he reached back in 1939 are very interesting. The young lady, May Miller, to whom the article published in the “ Daily News “ refers, says that she will not pay to become an Australian citizen because she already is one. She is a young girl who is a teacher. She has been trained by the State in competition with other girls and young men of the white race. She has met them in equal competition; she has done very well; she is a fully qualified teacher; and she is now in the rather ambiguous situation that while she is at present engaged in teaching other native children at a native mission in a government-controlled school, the time could come when she would be transferred to one of the State schools in the metropolitan area or somewhere else where she, who is not a citizen of this country, according to the act, could be set to teach citizenship to her white pupils.
After all, she is an original citizen of this country. Surely she has reached a standard of education and a standard of living that should enable her to become a citizen without having to apply for it. Actually, if the real state of affairs existed, we should apply to citizenship of her country. When we talk about the granting of citizenship rights for the natives, people immediately think of liquor. Their first thought is that the natives just want to get into the hotels. That is not true. I am sure that we can take Mr. Hasluck’s word for the true position. He is a disinterested party. Certainly he was disinterested in 1936, when he said -
Incidentally this ambition to breast the bar seems to be a gnawing sore with some of them. It does not seem that they want to have a drink of beer so much as to show that they are as good as the white man. Such strange ways men have of demonstrating their virtue.
The real point at issue, the one that Mr. Hasluck brings out very well in his article, is that the one thing we have to realize when dealing with the natives is that the natives have souls. He says -
To any one who regards them as human beings and believes that there is a divine spark in all humanity, there would only be one answer: “ Give them a chance to be the best that is possible in them “. But as some people may deny both those propositions, it may be better to keep the argument on a lower plane.
Then there is the economic side of the native problem. Mr. Hasluck states -
There is a body of waste labour waiting to be reclaimed, as well as a social problem waiting to be solved … A thousand workmen with wages to spend on their families will be better for the State than thousands of underfed paupers.
Half-caste soldiers gave their lives to this country in two world wars. In sport, the aborigines hold their own. Excellent football is played by some of the aborigines in our premier football team in the West. East Perth has a couple of them in the team. I have been to mission schools and seen young lads playing Australian Rules football. To me that is the only type of football there is. These aborigines take a very keen interest in sports. I have seen them taking their places in various jobs, such as teaching, working as dispensers, and so on. 1 have seen one native girl who has become a nun and who is now teaching at a mission station. What some of them have learned to do, others can be taught to do. All we ask is that they be given a chance.
This problem is really too big for one State to handle. These problems of Australian citizenship and assistance to the aborigines are national problems. When a bill was brought down recently in the Western Australian Parliament dealing with citizenship rights for natives, it was defeated in the Upper House by the Liberal and Country party members who are able to think only in terms of liquor when considering this subject. I point out that with rights also go duties which should be commensurate with them, and while it may be argued that to give the aborigines a vote is not going to help them very much, the point is that it will help their morale in the ultimate because they will come to feel equal with their white brothers in the conduct of their country’s affairs.
I shall not spend any more time on the interesting booklet to which I have referred. I suggest that members of the Government read it for I think it will open their eyes to the other side of the native problem as seen by a Minister of the Crown before he entered this Parliament. I am quite certain that Mr. Hasluck has not altered his views over the years. Our State Minister for Housing, Mr. Graham, has tried to do something for the natives. There was a terrific outcry when he attempted to build homes for them in new housing areas, lt was felt that he should build houses for natives in remote areas, herding them together there. What we want is assimilation, not isolation. We want aborigines to be able to take their place in the community as ordinary members of it, not as specially earmarked people - people who are under-privileged before they start and cannot live an ordinary life among fellow Australians.
I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has seen an article which appeared in this morning’s issue of the “ Canberra Times “ concerning the Canberra University College. If he has not, I should like his attention to be directed to it. It is headed, “ The University that Awaits Status and Title “. It is an excellent article upon the necessity to grant, as soon as possible, full university status to the college. A great deal has been said during this debate about the Murray report on university education. Here we have, in our midst, a university college which, for 30 years, has carried out the job of providing university education in this capital city under the aegis of the University of Melbourne. After this year it will not have that support. Those who enter the university this year do so not knowing whether they will complete their course, or to which university they will belong if they do, in fact, finish it. I would say that the university college is now at a much higher state of development than was our university in Western Australia when I began there as a student.
The Canberra University College has proved its worth over the years and the granting to it of full university status would not involve the Government in a great deal of expenditure. Some honorable members and senators seem to think that the college should be absorbed by the Australian National University. That possibility has been investigated by members of both bodies and no working arrangement to that end has yet been devised. The college is, of course, an undergraduate body. The Australian National University is necessarily a research institution, with very high standards. Tt would not be fair to either body to bring about complete amalgamation. I therefore ask the Government, in all sincerity, to give consideration very soon to the problem of the creation of a full university within the confines of Canberra, so that the existing institution may continue to carry on successfully the work that it has been doing so well over the last 30 years.
While we are speaking about universities we should realize that only about 3 per cent, of the Australian school population goes on to a university. Though quite a lot has been done for universities since the Murray report was brought down, the fact remains that 97 per cent, of the school population awaits from the Commonwealth Government assistance in this matter of tertiary education. We have been told that a federal government cannot enter the education field. We do not want to see education standardized throughout Australia. No one has suggested that, but we do want to see everyhere in this country an education standard that is as high as the financial resources of the nation will permit. As the financial aspect concerns the Commonwealth Government primarily we ask the Government to set up a commission of inquiry - such bodies seem to be the order of the day - to inquire into the Australian education system and see that something better is done not only for tertiary education but also for primary and secondary education.
Before I conclude, I should like to refer briefly to the matter of child migration. T have, of course, spoken on this subject before. The Government has claimed much credit for its efforts to promote child migration but it has done only half a job. When these children become sixteen they are left in mid-air. They are nobody’s concern. Recently this fact was criticized in the courts of Western Australia. I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) to help meet the crying need of churches and sponsoring organizations for assistance so that there may be liaison with these lads when they reach sixteen and leave the various institutions. There is need for assistance in the building of hostels for those in this age group. The Government subsidizes the building of hostels for the aged. Here is an opportunity for it to help people at the other end of the scale.
The Government speaks with pride of the child migrants that it has brought to this country but it can turn them into good citizens only by giving them decent housing and adequate supervision during the important period while they are sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years of age. They leave these institutions at sixteen years of age. They are not used to having money and as soon as they earn large sums in industry they are subjected to temptation, because no one is there to guide their spending. The first thing they look for is a pair of hot socks and a red shirt, then they are off to the corner milk bar, they steal a motor car and end up in the juvenile court. They are not delinquent by nature. They are merely experiencing something that they have not previously known. I should like to see formed committees to operate along the lines of the Apex Club, in its work for civilian widows, and Legacy, in its work for war widows and orphans. Such committees could help the migrant children during the formative years from sixteen to eighteen years of age. They could help to make these lads into the worthwhile citizens that we know they can be.
Senator Robertson said that all honorable senators were aware of the great progress at Woomera. We are certainly aware of it on this side for we started the work at Woomera and were most anxious that the next government should carry on the work that we began.
Turning to coal output, production in the industry is better than ever. The tragedy is that the coal we produce is not always required. Industry is turning to other fuels, and not using all the coal that is available to it. As a result, many, miners have been thrown- on the employment scrap-heap.
The Colombo plan, as far as it goes, has been successful. Time will not permit me to- go into all the details of the scheme because a number of its aspects would bear criticism. We do not, of course, say that everything that the Government does is bad. That would be stupid, and one could not. succeeed in hoodwinking the people in that way. However, at the recent election 1 discovered that it is much better to be initially correct than to be politically correct. Whether you have the right initials is more important in preferential voting than whether you have the right political philosophy. It gets you further, as quite a number of people can confirm. In common with Senator Robertson, I could think of a lot more to say, but I shall not inflict it on honorable senators at this late hour.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wedgwood) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 March 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590310_senate_23_s14/>.