23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIiin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has had his attention drawn to a report in this morning’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “, in which it is slated that the Minister for Education in South Australia, when opening a conference of superintendents of technical schools in all the Australian States, said- -
It is a great disappointment to all State education departments that the Commonwealth decision is not to establish a joint Commonwealth-State commission to investigate the education system of the States with particular reference to further financial help for secondary and technical education.
Is it a fact that the Government has rejected such a suggestion? If so, can the Minister tell the Senate why the suggestion has been rejected?
– I do not think 1 can do better than refer Senator Buttfield to the Prime Minister’s statement on the matter, in which he gave six what seemed to me to be good reasons why this Government declined to accede to the proposal. First, education within the States is a constitutional responsibility of the States. Secondly, although it is true that the Commonwealth is making financial assistance available to universities as a result of the recommendations in the Murray report, it must be remembered that that is an historical sequence, because during the war years the Commonwealth commenced the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme and so became linked with the universities. That situation does not apply in the fields of primary, secondary and technical education. Thirdly, the whole basis of Commonwealth-State financial arrangements is that the Commonwealth provides funds to the States, and that it is the responsibility of the States to adjudicate upon the competing demands within the States for those funds. Senator Buttfield will remember that one of the criteria - one of the factors - in the allocation of funds to the States, is movement in population, which directly affects the numbers of children at school. It is one of the bases on which finance is made available. It is the responsibility of the States - indeed, their privilege - to allocate those funds in the way that they consider best serves the interest of the particular State.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Did the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, ignore the advice of the Solicitor-General, in 1951, to the effect that the commission was illegally denying staff payment for overtime and Sunday work? Is it a fact that this action has cost the Treasury approximately £40,000 in back payments over the past year, and cost the staff association a considerable sum in legal costs to get justice for its members? Is it a fact that several years ago the Crown Solicitor advised the commission that it was illegal for the commission to employ: (a) permanent officers on auxiliary programme duties, and (b) employees other than permanent officers in permanent positions? Has the general manager ignored this advice of the Crown Law officers, as he did that of 1951. If so, how many officers and employees are currently employed in categories (a) and (b) as previously referred to in defiance of Crown Law advice? Is it not a fact that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting recommended to the Government in 1947, on page 14 of its Seventh Report that the Australian Broadcasting Commission be permitted to employ a category of temporary employees with no security of tenure, to be known as auxiliary programme employees, which category would be restricted to artistic and creative artists like accompanists and script writers? Will the Minister obtain the following information, by departments and branches: - A list by categories of auxiliary programme employees employed in conformity with the above specifications approved by Parliament; full details, by categories, of the balance of auxiliary programme employees, and estimated dates when it is proposed they will be placed on the permanent staff?
– The question is obviously one which should have been directed not to the Minister representing the Attorney-General but to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. It is no part of the Attorney-General’s function to provide lists of people employed in various Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes. The only point at which the question touches the AttorneyGeneral is as to whether or not certain advice was given. I will endeavour to ascertain the answer to that part of the question, and that part only.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has approved the Western Australian Government’s proposal to spend £3,000,000 on the Ord River diversion project, can the Minister say whether this will increase the air passenger traffic of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited? If so, can the Minister advise me whether the company intends to purchase additional aircraft for use on the Perth-Darwin run? If the answer is in the affirmative, will he say when he expects these aircraft will be put into operation?
– I think that the implementation of the proposals for the Ord River, and other parts of the northwest, would increase the passenger traffic of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited as a matter of course. Senator Scott’s question springs from his long-sustained interest in whether, and when, the MacRobertson Miller company will re-equip with Fokker Friendship aircraft. I am happy to be able to tell him on this occasion that only to-day I have announced in Western Australia that MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited has purchased a Fokker Friendship aircraft which will go into service on the Darwin run before the end of this year. This aircraft will be a great boon to the north-west of Western Australia. It will decrease flying times by at least 25 per cent, and will, I am sure, be greatly appreciated by all those who use it. I think I may appropriately take the opportunity here, as a Western Australian Minister, to congratulate the company upon the acquisition of this aircraft, and the service it has given in the past, and I wish it well in the future.
– Mas the Minister for Customs and Excise read the publication “ Teens To-day “ which is printed in Sydney for Photoplay Magazine Proprietary Limited, and produced by the K. G. Murray Publishing Company Proprietary Limited, of Sydney? If so, has he noted the deception practised by this publication, wherein socalled surveys of teenage practices in America are attributed to Australian teenagers? Is there anything that the Commonwealth or the State Government can do to stop this fraudulent practice? Is it correct that representatives of the K. G. Murray Publishing Company Proprietary Limited are to interview the Government with regard to the importation of American publications so that it will be possible for them to publish the same trash and make larger profits? For proof of these allegations of fraud, I ask the Minister to read “ New Youth “ of September, 1959.
– I have read the magazine, which was sent, I think, to all members of Parliament this morning, and which makes certain allegations relating to copying of the American magazine “Teens To-day”. As this magazine is printed in Australia, it does not come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Customs and Excise and therefore, I can do nothing about it.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government has taken note of the remarks made by Mr. Justice Foster in the basic wage declaration in which he said, when referring to the inadequacy of the material before the court, that there was certain force in the argument that though productivity had increased and would continue to increase it was in fact not capable of any accurate measurement by the court with our present statistical resources, and that while he conceded that the Australia and New Zealand Bank’s index was more effective and reliable than it was before - he did not have much faith in the earlier one - he urged that it still had not a wide enough coverage and could be misleading. Will the Government consider extending its own survey and statistical sections to cover such things as national income and other matters which the court has to consider when hearing basic wage applications so that the court will have adequate and accurate data on which to work?
– As I understand the position, all the pundits engage in the liveliest argument about the accurate method by which to measure increases in productivity. There has been much disputation about the correct way in which to go about it. In those circumstances, I can do no more than pass on Senator Ormonde’s question to my colleague, Mr. McMahon. I do know that Mr. McMahon himself has been exercised upon the point and has inaugurated research into the topic. I think it will be agreed that in circumstances such as those it behoves the Commonwealth Government to proceed cautiously, and perhaps conservatively, rather than put forward data which may be the subject of subsequent dispute. 1 shall bring the question to the notice of Mr. McMahon to see whether the suggestion that is inherent in it can be adopted.
– I preface with a brief explanation a question which I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It is the custom of large shipping companies with 60 or 70 ships to carry their own insurance. I know that some big companies find it cheaper to bear the loss of two ships a year than to pay out large sums in insurance. Does the Australian National Line itself insure its own ships, or are they insured with a private insurance company?
– The practice followed by the Australian National Line in respect of insurance is one which is quite common in the shipping world. The line insures through Insurance Clubs - I think that is the term used. I am not familiar with the details of the insurance, but 1 shall find out and let the honorable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. First, I should like to remind him of a statement made recently on the percentage of total passenger miles flown respectively by Ansett-A.NA. and TransAustralia Airlines. The statement was to the effect that in January 45.8 per cent, of the total passenger miles were flown by Ansett-A.N.A,, compared with 54.2 per cent, by T.A.A. During the period when Ansett-A.N.A. had an advantage in the use of Lockheed Electra aircraft, its percentage rose to 52 per cent, in June. Figures issued recently by the manager of T.AA. show that this airline has now regained the lead and that last week it carried 52.6 per cent, of the total number of passengers carried by the major airlines, the number being the second highest for any one week. Has the Minister read reports that the two major airlines have reached a crisis in their struggle for supremacy on the air routes of the nation? In view of the fact that T.A.A. made a sufficient profit last financial year to well justify its existence, does the Minister approve of the airlines reducing the excellent standards of service given to the Australian public by the proposed elimination of meals on aircraft and by charging for the transport of passengers to and from airports?
– I think I should say at once that any report that the airline industry has reached a crisis is, to say the least, exaggerated. I have read the reported opinion of one man. I do not know whether he is or claims to be an authority on airline operation. That is the only report that I have seen that has indicated in any sense at all that the airline industry has reached a crisis. I am one who has a high admiration for T.AA. Therefore, when I tell the honorable senator that a profit last year of £280,000 and a dividend of 5 per cent can hardly be regarded as exciting, I do not want him to think that I am unfriendly to T.A.A. Far from it! But it is just as well that we keep these matters in perspective. As to an arrangement which may possibly be entered into by the two major airlines in regard to the standard of meals served or in regard to other services ancillary to airline operations, let me just remind the honorable senator that we in Australia enjoy, from both our major operators, a standard of service that is second to none in the world. If, for the purpose of bringing greater economic stability to the industry, both airlines agreed to curtail some of those services, I do not think there would be an Australian who would say that they were not entitled so to do.
– I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question in relation to the rail standardization work proposed to be done in the Peterborough division of South Australia. What proportion of the grant of £50,000 made at the end of last year to South Australia for the purpose of preliminary surveys in connexion with the proposed rail standardization within this division has been expended up to date? Has the Commonwealth given specific details of the estimates it requires to enable it to give consideration to the proposal? Have replies been forthcoming from South Australia? Does the Minister propose now to submit the matter to Cabinet? Will the Minister come to South Australia and hold discussions with the South Australian Government with a view to clearing up outstanding difficulties?
– No precise figures have yet been received from South Australia but it is understood that some £4,000 of the £50,000 which was made available for the survey has been spent to date. The Commonwealth has given details to the State of the estimates that are required, and South Australia has given us some information as to those details - apparently all that it has available - but this information is still not sufficient to enable a reasonably precise estimate to be made of the cost and of the economics of the proposal put forward by the State. At the appropriate time, I shall submit the proposal to Cabinet. In answer to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, I say that I am quite prepared to consider visiting South Australia for the purpose of having discussions with the Premier of that State to clean up anything that is outstanding.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate several questions without notice. Is it a fact that a widow often suffers hardship because the pension she draws as a result of her husband’s thrift in paying into a superannuation fund is capitalized on the basis of the widow’s expectation of life and the amount arrived at is added to the estate for probate? At least, that is the procedure in Queensland. Does the same position apply in all States? Is the federal parliamentary retiring allowance subject to the same treatment as far as widows are concerned?
– The answer is: I do not know. If the honorable senator will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall get the facts for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has he noted the announcement in the press this morning that the retail price of petrol will be reduced in all States except Queensland? Has he noted the announcement of the Queensland Prices Commissioner, Mr. Fullagar, that in Brisbane, although the wholesale price will be reduced by the oil companies by one halfpenny per gallon, this reduction will be retained as an additional profit by retailers in Queensland?
– I did read the announcement this morning with great satisfaction, and I am sure that the Senate will be very pleased to know that the oil companies in Australia have now reduced the price of petrol by one halfpenny per gallon, following the recent reduction made by this Government of one halfpenny per gallon in import duty. I have also noted that in Queensland the Prices Commissioner has announced that the retail price of petrol will not be decreased by one halfpenny per gallon in that State, but that that amount will be retained by the service stations there, with his full consent, as additional profit. Well, Sir, as one who has never believed in prices commissioners, I can only say of those who want to fool around with prices commissioners in any State that this is a pretty good example of why there should not be one of them.
Salaries of Professional Officers
– I should like to direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister noted an article which appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ last evening under the caption “ More money, less red tape, in U.S. - We lose a brilliant scientist “? With your permission, Mr. President, I inform the Minister that the article relates to the resignation of Dr. Brian J. O’Brien, deputy chief physicist of the Commonwealth Antarctic Division in Melbourne, and his acceptance of a position at the State University of Iowa. The article suggests that Australia has lost .to America another of her brilliant young scientists. If the Minister has seen this article, has he noted that Dr. O’Brien was most outspoken regarding .the reasons for his leaving Australia and accepting a position in America, one of those reasons being the difference between the treatment meted out to scientists employed in the Public Service and those employed with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization? The article relates the struggle of Dr. O’Brien to obtain a very paltry increase in his salary, and states that when he suggested to friends in America-
– I am suggesting, Mr. President, that if the Minister has this information he may be able to advise us in the matter. One of the reasons for Dr. O’Brien’s resignation is that he has readily been granted a substantial increase of salary in America.
In view of the importance of retaining for Australia men of the calibre of Dr. O’Brien, will the Minister make the necessary investigations to see whether it is true, as has been alleged, that in our Public Service red tape and frustration are met by scientists instead of the freedom that exists in other parts of the world? I should like the Minister not only to investigate the matter but also to report to the Parliament on it, because I believe that it is essential that we should retain in this country our best brains and not bring about conditions that make them go away.
– I did not see the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred. This problem is one with which most Ministers are familiar. You cannot escape the situation, Sir, in which able men in the Commonwealth Public Service are offered better positions elsewhere. Indeed, I think that the training that they receive in the Public Service, particularly in many of the professional and scientific branches, equips them to take better positions overseas. When I hear of a young man who has had a substantial increase in his remuneration through an outside appointment I always feel that there is a little bit of meanness if he does not acknowledge the fact that he has got; where he has as a result of the training he has received in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Dr. O’Brien suggests that he would not have left Australia if he had been employed in the C.S.I.R.O.
– You cannot cope with that situation, having regard to the hundreds of scientific officers and the thousands of other officers who are employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. This is a problem with which I am very familiar, because the Bureau of Mineral Resources, I am sure, is the principal training ground for scientific officers in the mining industry in Australia. When an officer is offered an appointment elsewhere at a higher remuneration, my attitude always is to say, “ Good luck to him “.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the proposed increase of postal charges, will the Minister consider giving a better service to businessmen and other residents in suburban areas of Western Australia, by arranging for a letter clearance later than 4.0 p.m. on week days and 11 a.m. on Saturdays, so that mail posted after the general closing hour of business houses - that is, 5.30 p.m. on week days and noon on Saturdays - may catch the air mail of the same day, which does not close at the General Post Office, Perth, until 9 p.m.? In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, and bearing in mind that millions of Christmas cards are posted each year, will the Minister consider retaining the cheaper postal rate for Christmas cards?
– At the first opportunity, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry the following -questions: - Is he aware of reports that there have been disturbing losses of cattle shipped from North Australian ports and of sheep shipped from Australia to the United States of America, notably in the recent case of the ship “ Delfino “? Will the Minister comment on the recent statement by Professor John Francis, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, that Australian legislation concerning transport of animals by sea is basically weak in that it does not specify the number of changes of air required per hour in the holds of ships transporting animals? In view of reports that exports of cattle and sheep from Australia are likely to increase, has the Government any action in mind to minimize prospective losses due to suffocation, heat stroke and other deficiencies of proper management?
– I have not seen this report as to losses, particularly in regard to sheep recently exported to the United States of America, but 1 shall obtain a report on what actually did occur and whether the conditions under which animals are shipped have improved in any way. I understand that the sheep on the “ Delfino “ were inspected by officials of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals before the ship sailed. Whether that had anything to do with changes of air and so on I am not aware, but I shall find out.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, is related to the deadly funnel-web spider. Has the Minister noticed a statement by a Mr. Clinton, a specialist scientific officer of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Sydney, to the effect that efforts by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to find a serum antidote have apparently ceased, and that as far as he is aware no other work in this field is being carried out by other authorities? In view of the risk of death, particularly to young children, from the funnel-web spider, can the Minister give an assurance that efforts to find an antidote will be continued by the Commonwealth health authorities?
– I did not see the report to which the honorable senator refers. I think this is a very important matter, because deaths have been caused by bites from funnel-web spiders. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice-paper, I shall get the Minister for Health to furnish me with whatever information is available on the subject.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, by pointing out that the very important city of Newcastle has a most inadequate air service. The aerodrome is used by the Royal Australian Air Force and is closed to civil aviation from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The result is thai people who want to travel to Queensland have to fly to Sydney before 9 a.m. and then fly back over Newcastle to get to northern airports and, when coming from northern airports, have to fly over Newcastle to Sydney and then travel back again to Newcastle. In view of this situation, I ask the Minister whether he will take steps to see that proper air travel facilities are made available to the people of Newcastle.
– The use of
Williamtown by civil aircraft has been given long and detailed consideration by both the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Air. The Department of Air claims, with obvious validity, thai it must have its aerodromes available for service aircraft so that its training programme will not be interfered with. J realize that for five days of the week the use of the aerodrome is restricted to that to which Senator Arnold has referred, but I understand that on Saturdays and Sundays a more liberal use is permitted. I do not know that my department can take the position any further than it has taken it at the moment. I repeat that we have had long discussions with the Department of Air, and that that department has told us that it is quite unable to make the aerodrome available for civil aircraft at other times.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me of the amount of coal that was exported from Australia during the twelve months that ended on 30th June, 1959?
– 1 have some statistics on coal exports. In 1947-48, Australia exported 53,000 tons of coal. Ten years later, in 1957-58, the quantity of coal exported had increased to 786,000 tons. Of that quantity, 651,000 tons were shipped out of the port of Newcastle, 112,600 tons from Port Kembla and 22,600 tons from Sydney. In 1958-59, exports of coal totalled 695,000 tons. In 1959-60, exports of coal will be more than 900,000 tons. In considering that figure, we must remember also the quantity of coal involved in contracts now being negotiated with Japan. Those contracts will provide for the export from Port Kembla during the next five years of a total of 3,127,000 tons. In addition, 100,001) tons of coal from the Cessnock field will be exported annually to the Japanese gasworks at Osaka. On present indications, we hope to arrive at the situation that we W; be exporting coal to Japan at the rate of approximately 1,000,000 tons per annum. That is the present anticipation. There is an interesting development side by side with that, because present indications are that we shall find in the Argentine a substantial purchaser of New South Wales coal.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Would it be beyond his comprehension to appreciate that the reason why the retailers of petrol are unable to reduce the price of petrol to consumers in Queensland is that exorbitant conditions arc imposed on the retailers by the oil companies?
– It would not be beyond my comprehension to understand anything intelligible. I take it that Senator Courtice has expressed his opinion. I have nothing to contradict or confirm his statement.
– My question is supplementary to those asked by Senator Wade, a Victorian, and by Senator Courtice, a fellow Queensland senator. The Minister for Customs and Excise stated that he had read a report that the price of petrol would not be reduced in Queensland. Did he read an article in the Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ in which it was stated that although the one halfpenny a gallon reduction in excise duty would not be used to reduce the price of petrol in Queensland, the price of petrol in that State will still be one halfpenny a gallon less than the price in New South Wales and Victoria, notwithstanding that the oil companies in those States are passing on the reduction in excise duty made by this Budget?
– I have no idea of the wholesale or retail price of petrol in Queensland or New South Wales. If the oil companies in Queensland passed on this reduction the price of petrol in that State would be lower still. I was asked whether 1 had read in the press that in Queensland the reduction was not being passed on, but was being retained by the service stations. I did read that report in the press this morning, and I answered accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he seen a report that Sir John Crawford announced in Perth that the Ministers of this Government are in great danger of having their powers usurped by the permanent heads of Government departments? Can he inform the Senate whether there is any danger of this, or whether we can hope that such a thing will happen?
– I did not see the reported statement attributed to Sir John Crawford. It is not in keeping with Sir John Crawford’s character, if I may say so. I can only give Senator Ormonde the assurance that I know one Minister who will not have his powers usurped by public servants.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Are any steps being taken at the present time to ensure a uniform code of company law and practice for Australia? Are such steps directed towards legislation by this Parliament, or are they leading to uniform State and Territory legislation after conferences between the States and the Commonwealth? Could the attention of the Attorney-General be invited to the current urgency of this matter, especially in the light of the differing standards of duties prescribed in the States and Territories as being owed by company directors to their shareholders in the matter of disclosure of the assets and profits of companies?
– I think that a proposition for the introduction of uniform laws in the States in this regard, as distinct from their introduction into the Territories, could well meet with considerable opposition from State governments and State Attorney-Generals, because of considerable discrepancies between company laws in, let us say,, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the attention of the AttorneyGeneral and let him know what the AttorneyGeneral himself thinks on this matter.
– I direct a ques tion to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the ever-increasing and deplorable loss of life on the roads in accidents in which semi-trailers are involved, could the Minister tell me whether any discussions have taken place between the various State and Federal authorities with a view to imposing special restrictions upon, or of specifying standards for, semitrailers in order to minimize this loss of life?
– The operation of vehicles, their width, size and weight, are matters which are regulated in each State by State legislation. There have been from time to time talks between all the States in respect of these matters. I am not sure of the latest occasion that this matter was dealt with, but I know that from time to time it has occupied the attention of some of the sub-committees of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. I would think also that the Senate Committee on Road Safety would not be unaware of this matter and would be devoting at least some of its attention to it.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report attributed to Mr. Williams, the president of the Aero Club in Western Australia, in which he stated that Government support of aero clubs and flying schools might terminate at the end of the current financial year? Is there any truth in the statement?
– I am not aware of the report, but if Mr. Williams has been correctly quoted he is in error in saying that the existing agreement expires at the end of this year. I have had occasion to look at this matter within the last day or two and it is fresh in my mind that the agreement does not expire until 30th June, 1961. Before then the Government will, of course, reconsider most sympathetically the matter of assistance to aero clubs and flying schools. Indeed, its record of assistance in that respect is a guarantee that it will not overlook this matter.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Electricity Commission of New South Wales - Valves and piping, compressors, mild steel sections, bricks reinforcing steel, ?19,630.
Department of Defence Production - Two Thompson boilers, boiler spares, deaerator, ?23,750.
Mr. James Johnstone ; Four only 6 ton skips, ?1,000..
South Australian Gas Co. - Gasholder and tanks, ?13,790.
Shell Company of Australia Limited - 46 drums of ethyl fluid; ?6,327.
Dickson Primer and Company - Riley boilers, furniture in two cottages, salvage rights works area, ?30,875.
Federated’ British Engineers (N.S.W.) Limited -Plate bending rolls (one set), ?2,000
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished: - 1, 2, 3 and 4. The relative sizes of the staffs of the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Canberra, and of the Australian Embassy in Moscow, are the subject of an agreement between the two governments which imposes reasonable limitations and fully protects Australia’s interests. At present, one of the two Australian diplomatic officers in Moscow speaks Russian. The number of Russian-speaking officers will be increased as our establishment increases.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has the Government yet received the Commonwealth Actuary’s report on the state and sufficiency of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the disastrous floods which have occurred with great loss of life and property to the people of Formosa, is it the intention of the Australian Government to offer .financial aid to assist the rehabilitation of those who have suffered?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following information: -
In recent weeks there have been widespread disastrous floods and other natural calamities in a number of Asian countries. The floods in Formosa have been most severe and have caused great damage. The Government at once sent an official message to the Chinese authorities expressing ils concern and sympathy. The Government would be prepared to consider what practical help it could provide if international assistance is required in Formosa, which on present indications is unlikely.
Debate resumed from 27th August (vide page 369), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1960.
The Budget, 1959-60- Papers presented by the Right Hon. Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget for 1959-60, and
National Income and Expenditure 1958-59 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of an amendment -
At the end of motion add the following words - “but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions and omissions inflict grave injustice on recipients of social service benefits (such as child endowment, age, invalid and widows’ pensions, repatriation benefits, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, amelioration of means test), on taxpayers, on the family unit and on other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and rising living costs”.
.- When the debate was adjourned, I was emphasizing my contention that the Government should have concentrated on the lowering of costs in industry and that, instead of reducing the estimated deficit of last year’s Budget of £110,000,000 by £49,000,000, it could well have abolished the pay-roll tax. I said that in a factory in which the average wage is £15 a week, the abolition of the pay-roll tax would represent a reduction of costs by 7s. 6d. a week for each employee. I added that, as a consequence, in the next quarter the cost of the product might well be reduced and that in this way we could develop a downwards spiral both in the cost of living and in the wages bill of factories. Anything that helped to develop a downwards spiral, instead of the present upward inflationary spiral, would do the nation a great service. The more cheaply we can produce the more goods we shall be able to sell both here and overseas. We could in that way rectify in great measure any deficiency in our overseas credits. If something like that had been done, and depreciation allowances had been made available to industry, it would have been imaginative action resulting in cheaper production and cost of living, as well as an improvement in our overseas earnings.
From that point I intended to move to the matter of development. This year, as honorable senators no doubt realize, is Queensland’s centenary year. I have the honour to be one of the ten senators who represent .that State in this Parliament. It is a State which down through the years has developed in a very well-balanced way. I think that the credit for that must go to a long succession of governments. Any one who looks at the map of Queensland will see that our cities and towns are scattered over a greater area than is the case in most other States. This very fact has created problems of transportation and development. In the circumstances, I plead with the Commonwealth Government for greater help in the development of Queensland. Its size and local conditions and its geographical position demand a more sympathetic hearing than possibly it has had from this Government and others. We in Queensland are much further removed from Canberra than are most Australian citizens. It is only natural that the further you are away the less you will be thought about. I am not one of those who claim that we are looked upon with sympathy by the Federal Government because we are in a pioneering State in the far northern, sparsely populated areas. When it comes to government, of course, the things closest to hand are the ones which mainly occupy one’s mind. That is a characteristic of human nature and, as governments are comprised of human beings, they often are inclined to think that way.
A good example of that is the present concentration on the development of Canberra. Let me point out clearly that 1 am by no means opposed to this development because all these things are essential to our over-all development, but a certain order of priority should be given to tha carrying out of works throughout the Commonwealth while we are short of funds. The things which will help to develop the country, which will earn more money for our people and which will earn for us greater overseas credits are the matters that are of major importance to Australia, and their development should be given first priority. Unfortunately, priority is given to certain projects over works of greater national importance and this is causing conflict, division and opposition.
This was demonstrated by an article that appeared in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ recently in which reference was made to the Canberra lakes scheme. The article referred to the fact that £2,200,000 is to be spent on this scheme. I am one of those who believe in development, and I do not oppose the lakes scheme, because it is functional and will add to the beauty of this city. Reference is also made to the construction of two bridges across the Molonglo River at a cost of £1,000,000 each. I repeat that I am not mentioning these matters because I object to the carrying out of these works eventually. I refer to them merely because resentment is being expressed by the residents of areas distant from Canberra who are urging the development of things which are of far greater importance to their way of life, their industries and their well-being than are these proposals for Canberra at the moment. After all, I do not think any one will say that the people of Canberra are very badly done by at the moment, and there are more important things requiring to be done immediately in the far distant areas.
It is because of this growing resentment that I suggest that the Government will be well advised to keep in mind an order of priority for the carrying out of development works. For instance, over the years we have seen the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme which benefits both Victoria and New South Wales. In the years to come people will look upon the Snowy Mountains scheme as the result of statesmanlike legislation and outlook. I have never been opposed to that scheme because I believe that it does much towards developing Australia.
The South Australian Government has received great help from the Commonwealth in respect of the completion of one railway line and will receive assistance in the construction of another. The Commonwealth has also helped by subsidizing the freight on coal delivered to Adelaide. I take no exception because all these things help the general development of Australia. Tasmania has the aluminium works at Bell Bay. That undertaking has been of tremendous help to the industrial development of the southern-most State of the Commonwealth. Only last session we granted £5,000,000 to assist the development of the north-western part of the largest State - Western Australia. I do not think anybody cavils at the help given that State because we all admit that the development of the north-west is a tremendous problem. Further, from conversations I have had with the Western Australian Minister for Transport and with other people from the State, I know that this area could be of real value to the Commonwealth. As Australians, we should be proud to know that these statesmanlike actions have been and are being taken by our parliamentarians. All these things will help to make Australia a greater nation.
I now make a plea for Queensland. The governments of that State in the early years deserve every credit for their statesmanship and enterprise in developing a great railway system which extends to every part of the State. Queensland governments over the years have done much to develop that State, and Queensland now deserves the sympathetic consideration of this Government in respect of its present desire to recondition the Townsville-Mount Isa railway line. I know that certain things are being said about the proposal. I know that the Minis ter has expressed certain views on the matter, but some very good friends of mine who are senior members of the Queensland Government tell me that they would be very pleased indeed if the whole story relating to the proposal were given the widest possible publicity.
I know that the main cause of the trouble in this matter is the fact that Mount Isa Mines Limited is being asked to undertake repayment of the cost, which is approximately £29,000,000, through rail freights. Of that £29,000,000, the Queensland Government is prepared to contribute £7,000,000, and is seeking a loan of £22,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government. The stumbling block is the repayments required of Mount Isa Mines Limited. I point out that Queensland is a sovereign state, with a great heritage and tremendous assets, and the Government’s guarantee in respect of the loan should be sufficient. I cannot agree that the customer should always be the one to give the guarantee, for if that principle were adopted, it would mean that every person in New South Wales and Victoria who used water and electricity supplied by the Snowy Mountains scheme, should be required to guarantee repayment of the money spent on developing the Snowy Mountains scheme, for they are the customers of the scheme. No such guarantee is required of them and I submit that the State Government’s guarantee should be ample in the case of the loan required for the reconditioning of the Townsville-Mount Isa railway line.
– In the case of the Snowy Mountains scheme, there is a contractual agreement that the whole cost will be repaid.
– There will be thousands of consumers and apparently every consumer, who is actually a customer, must guarantee that the loan moneys expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme will be repaid.
– There is a contract under which the State authorities buy the electricity and in that way pay for the whole cost of the scheme.
– The Queensland Government would be prepared to guarantee a loan advanced by the Commonwealth Government for the reconditioning of the
Townsville-Mount Isa railway. Guarantees by the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government should not be looked upon as being worth more than a guarantee by the Queensland Government. The Federal Government did attempt to obtain a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and some weeks ago I noticed in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ an article in which the question was asked, “ What is wrong with the Commonwealth Government raising finance for the Mount Isa line in Australia?” What is wrong with somebody else’s financing it? The Queensland Government has said, that it can get finance elsewhere. Two or three weeks ago there was published in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ a report that a migrant, who is now an officer of a department in Brisbane, had introduced a financial concern from. West Germany which would- be prepared to advance that money to Queensland without this restriction. The offer lapsed on 4th August, because no action was taken by this Government to enable. Queensland to take advantage of it. I understand, that the Stare Government could get finance from four separate sources, including the one to which I have just referred, but the Federal Government still wants Mount Isa Mines Limited to guarantee repayment of the loan as required by the World Bank.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate, for whom T have a very great regard because of the way he handles, his department and because of the knowledge which he displays in this chamber, made a statement last week about uranium. He pointed out that certain agreements are not likely to be renewed- when they run their course. The Queensland Government, and many others, know that the Mary Kathleen interests probably will not get renewals when, their agreement expires. When that happens, will they still mine uranium? Of. course not. They will divert their energy to mining copper and other minerals. In. those circumstances, why should the Mount Isa organization, agree to repay the loan? It would probably be found that. Mary Kathleen, gougers and possibly even the Broken Hill company, which controls the Mount Constant iron ore deposit, would use this line; possibly with the aid of a< branch’ line; to bring ore to the coast. The matter should be looked at further from the point1 of view of development and increased overseas earnings. We should have more imagination and use greater efforts to meet the situation.
I do not think it is fair to ask the Mount Isa company to guarantee repayment, because it will not have the total use of the railway. I understand that even at present half of the freight on that line is not from the Mount Isa mine. I make a plea to the Government to re-examine this matter from the point of view of the value of the line to the whole country. Mr. Fisher, the head of the Mount Isa organization, said some time ago that when the mine was in full production and the line re-built to the standard required;, exports from the mine would earn more overseas credit than does the Australian wheat industry now. If that is true, what a magnificent opportunity exists for this country to step up its overseas earnings!. In view of the fluctuations in returns from wool and other primary products, there- is a great urgency, and there should’ be a determination to seize every possible means of increasing our overseas credit, because we might well regret in the future any delay that occurs now. This is a matter which has caught the imagination of the Queensland people. It strikes right home to them. I feel that if this Government does not do something about the matter, it may regret very much its failure to do so in the not-too-distant future. To me, and I think to most other Queenslanders, this is an opportunity to populate an area which is otherwise difficult to populate. We should use any available way to populate sparsely populated areas, especially when in doing’ so we can enable a more balanced development of the Commonwealth. Even if the Commonwealth had to subsidize the rebuilding of the line, it would be well worth while.
– How many miles are to be re-built, for the £22,000,000?
– I have forgotten the mileage. The total cost will be £29,000,000. The loan required is for £22’,000,000. The Queensland1 Government is seised of the necessity for development. At present if is proceeding with an investigation, through’ the State Department of Development; which corresponds in the State sphere with Senator Spooners department, into a scheme to provide roads to the three railheads of Winton, Quilpie and Dajarra, for the purpose of transporting cattle from the Channel country to rail. When droughts strike that area, thousands of cattle are lost. This is a national loss, the loss of one of the nation’s assets. The scheme which is being evolved will be of benefit to the State and to the country generally. Queensland is a great cattle State, and anything that can be done to help bring it to a higher state of development and to save its cattle from loss during droughts would be desirable, not only from the point of view of avoiding the suffering of the animals, but from a State and national point of view generally. It is proposed to use road trains to bring the cattle to railhead. Because of the type of country in which the cattle are located, they are soft-footed and therefore cannot walk over long distances in the way that other cattle do. The use of road trains will enable them to be brought in good condition and in comfort to the railhead for trucking. I certainly hope that when that scheme is submitted, the Commonwealth Government will examine it sympathetically and will act in such a way as to enable this industry and the development of the State generally to be put on a more solid and a safer and sounder basis.
This being Queensland’s centenary year, we are given an opportunity to look back. As I said1 earlier, looking back, I feel that we have made great strides in the first 100 years of our State’s existence. The prospects for the future appear to me to be very bright. If we- Queenslanders put our minds to it and if we receive sympathetic consideration from the Government hers in Canberra, the opportunities for the State are boundless. At Weipa we have probably the greatest deposit of bauxite in the world. The iron ore deposits in the Mr Constant range, in regard to which the Minister gave some information to me in reply to a question earlier, might prove to be of fantastic size. I suppose the Leader of the Government knows more about this than do most other people in this chamber. The mineral possibilities of Queensland are immense. No doubt after his department has completed its surveys, more and more will be revealed. It is possible that oil may be found in Queensland. Irrespective of the State in which it is found, its finding would be the greatest contribution that anybody could possibly make to the general welfare of this nation.
At present Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra is touring Queensland, in connexion with our centenary celebrations. I am sorry that more time was not given to our State in the preparation of her itinerary. A total period of nine days has been allotted to Canberra and the adjacent Snowy Mountains area. Queensland is a large area, but only 21 days have been allotted for her traversing of it. In my own city of Mackay, which she entered to-day, thousands of school children will be gathered in lovely Queen’s Park, with its tropical setting, providing a stage which would not be excelled anywhere in Australia. The Princess will be there for only seventeen minutes. That is necessary because of the immense size of the State over which she is to travel. She was able to make only a short stay at Cairns, which is another important city. By contrast, as I say, she will spend a total of nine days in Canberra and the surrounding area. These are matters that strike home to the minds of Queenslanders. Wherever this popular young Princess goes throughout Queensland, she receives wonderful acclaim. I believe that she is doing a magnificent job in uniting the people with the Throne. It strikes me that the organizers of the tour completely overlooked one point. The effect is a blot on the celebrations in my State. I refer to the neglect of the aged people. Unfortunately, a clamour was set up by certain pressmen. One article published in the “ Brisbane Telegraph “ a few days ago was, I thought, an insult to the older people. The cry has been going out, “Let the emphasis be on youth “. I want to say, as a Queenslander; that I regret that that clamour arose, because I think that, to a degree, it influenced the various local authorities and other people in the arrangements that were made.
I have looked through the programme that was issued by the Commonwealth Government, and I have watched from day to day the reports of the Princess’s tour, but I have not seen evidence of even one gracious gesture by the authorities towards the old people of Queensland. I emphasize that Queensland’s centenary is of particular interest to the old people of that State. The older the people who belong to Queensland are, the more the centenary celebrations should mean to them. When I look back to the days of my youth - although that time may not bc so far back as some people’ in Queensland can look - and compare the amenities that exist to-day with the lack of facilities of years ago, I think that a great tribute is due to the old people of to-day who weathered the storm over the years and are still living in the State.
In these centenary celebrations, the emphasis should have been on the aged rather than on youth, because it is the old people in Queensland who have been responsible for developing that State. I am very sorry that the clamour went forth that the emphasis must be on youth. Nobody can convince me that the Queensland centenary is not, in the main, an old people’s celebration. I believe that the fact that the old people have been neglected is a blot on the celebrations that the Princess is attending in Queensland. To my knowledge, no arrangements were made for the old people to be assembled at a place where Her Royal Highness the Princess, in her gracious way, would have been pleased to move among them and to talk to them.
I shall conclude on this note: I am a native of the northern part of Queensland, which I believe is a part of this Commonwealth that has a prospect second to none. I sincerely hope that the legislatures in Queensland, and in the federal sphere, will clearly see this prospect, this opportunity, and do all in their power to assist the people of Queesland to go forward and make it an even greater State than it is to-day. I honestly believe that, in the ultimate, Queensland will be the shining diamond of this Commonwealth of Australia.
– Senator Wood’s remarks about the old people not being invited to see the Princess indicate the difficulties that confront governments in trying to please everybody. While the honorable senator says that the emphasis should have been on the old people, the nation bv and large has asked for the young people to be present.
Even the Princess herself has expressed that wish, because the young people had been excluded from other demonstrations.
– I am talking about Queensland.
– I realize that. In commencing my address on the Budget, I assure honorable senators that I am noi going to discuss it as an economist would - even if 1 were able to do so - because the economic aspects of the Budget have been well covered by honorable senators from both sides. I prefer to talk about the things that I should know something about, and the state of the nation as I see it.
In the first place, I want to congratulate Senator Dittmer, a Queenslander who, I think, will really set the pace for us in support of the rights of the States. After all, this is a States’ House, and Senator Dittmer will do the job in relation to Queensland. Senator Ridley made a very fine speech, and I am sure that he is an acquisition to the debating strength of this chamber. Although Senator Cant seemed to offend the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) a little, I thought he made a very good speech. He is of the fabric - I am not saying that others on this side are not - of the Labour movement, and when you are of the fabric you cannot help now and again hitting hard and saying the things that come instinctively to your mind. It has been said that Senator Cant was in error when he attributed certain remarks to Senator Spooner. I do not think that he was in error. Senator Spooner’s statement about the permanency of this Government occurred in a somewhat long and involved sentence, and I think that Senator Cant was entitled to draw from it the inference that he did.
I worked with Senator Spooner for something like ten years, and I agree with his remark, in reply to a question that I asked him, that he would not be trammelled by officials. As I say, I have had personal experience of the Minister, and he has sent back more memos to public servants asking for fs to be crossed and i’s to be dotted than any one else I have known. Therefore, I say that he does run his department, and I think it would be better if that could be said of all the Ministers. I am afraid quite a few Ministers in this Government have not a full knowledge of what is going on in the country. They regard the country as being in a state of transitory solvency - or prosperity, if you like - which they are enjoying and they do not know very much about the details of how this Government’s policy affects the little people - the people in the street.
But before I continue in that strain, I should like to talk about some of the things that might justify this Government saying that it has a degree of permanency. After all, I suppose a government that has been in existence for ten years can become a bit complacent and think that the day will never come when it will leave office. Senator Spooner did say something like that, although he may have meant something different. I want to have a look at the political implications of the statement.
I said the other night - and Senator Henty objected at the time - that this Government is a very lucky government. I think that it has been extremely lucky. From (1929 until the mid ‘thirties, Australia was in the throes of a very severe depression, and nearly three-quarters of a million people were out of work. The policy then was “ through starvation to prosperity “. In those days, there was great bitterness in the world. I do not want to go back too far in these matters, and I know that we should look forward rather than back. In examining the reasons for Senator Spooner’s statement about the permanency of this Government, I find that a government of a different political colour was in office in those difficult days. The present Government has never had to go to the country with that kind of a load to carry. Had it done so, the people would not have re-elected it.
The policy of deflation of those days affected the farmers, the workers and the professional men. But this Government did not have to carry that load to the country, because the war came along and the people were so overcome by the trials and tribulations of the period that they did not think any more about the people who had been responsible for the maladministration of the Commonwealth during the depression. So, politically, the Liberal and Country Parties rode out of that responsibility. The war came, and, barring the relatively short period the Liberal Government was in office, Labour had the responsibility for the war period. When Labour came to office in 1941, it had to put the screws on the people and do unpopular things. It had to introduce petrol rationing and impose restrictions regarding pink icing and the like. It had to carry the blame. And the Liberal and Country Parties did not hesitate to make Labour carry the blame. But these facts were forgotten - as is only human - when 1949 arrived and the various political parties went to the poll. The parties opposite did not hesitate to say what they thought of the Chifley Government, and whether or not it was in the national interests to have petrol. We know what happened. By playing on the privations of the people, as well as on the cupidity and very often the stupidity of the people, they came to office. But they are not there because the people hate Labour and love the Liberal and Australian Country Parties. Not at all.
Probably the most extraordinary situation in this respect is that although in concept the Liberal and Country Parties are deflationist parties and always have been, they were born into a period of full employment and inflation. They came to government at the commencement of a period of inflation, when thinkers the world over - starting with Roosevelt and his National Recovery Act - began to talk about turning on the printing presses. This Government came to office at a time when world capitalism was changing, at a time when the entrepreneurs of capitalism - I do not like using that term, but they are a mysterious body - were saying to the world, “ No more deflation. It is all over. Whatever is physically possible is going to bs also financially possible “. The present Government parties inherited that situation, so away they went with the printing presses.
Let us face the facts of to-day. Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke about a mistake in the Estimates, of a mere £70,000,000 or £80,000,000, as a bagatelle and of no cause for concern. He would not have said that a few years ago. The same thing occurred with the Postal Department, in respect of which the Government was wrongly advised to the tune of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. The point I am making is that the money content of the Budget does not worry the
Government, lt is very fortunate that in a time such as this it has not to balance its Budget. We have forgotten all about balancing budgets. Nobody talks about that these days, although at one time a person who said that the Budget should not be balanced would have been regarded as a reactionary or a Communist. We had to pull our belts in, in the early days, and balance the Budget, even if we starved in the process. But not so to-day. There is a state of prosperity - we will call it nothing else, because that is what it is - when paper money hardly counts.
There is another matter that I want to raise. It is rather more mundane, I should say, but 1 think that it is a proper thing for me to say in the sense that honorable senators opposite are in office because of certain circumstances. My suggestion is that they are not always worthy of having the results of those circumstances. The Government parties enjoy the support of what our late Labour leader, Mr. Chifley, used to call the donkey vote; that is, the vote of that group of people who vote Liberal by force of habit. People in the most extraordinary circumstances seem to vote for the Liberal Party. I went to the north coast of New South Wales during the last general election campaign. There I saw dairy farmers who were so close to being on the bread line that they could not get any closer. They were really hungry, and they were battling. Their farms were over-capitalized, and they did not know where their breakfast was coming from. I am not exaggerating the position. I checked up on the amount of school money they paid at the local parochial school, and I found that the most that any of them was paying was sixpence a week for schooling, because they could not afford more. I saw the bus come along to the farmers’ doors - it was a State bus. I had a look over the farms, and I found that they had received a great deal of help from the Cahill Government. Most of the things that are being done for the farmers up there are being done by the Cahill Labour Government.
– Such as encouragement of margarine production, and things like that.
– That is all right. I suggest that honorable senators opposite should come to New South Wales and see the rural seats we hold. We have a great rural record.
– Did the Cahill Government provide the dairy subsidy?
– This Government acts as though it were receiving no assistance from any one. That is the point i am making.
The people in the Richmond electorate of whom I have been speaking vote for Australian Country Party candidates. The Commonwealth Government was doing little for them - I think it was giving them 3d. per lb. on their butter production at the time. Yet the Government parties got their vote, and they get it all the time, merely because their grandfathers or their fathers voted Liberal. I could not understand why people like that should not vote Labour, even if it were only in order to bring about a change of government. But the unintelligent reason apparently is that they vote Liberal, or for the Country Party, because their grandfathers and fathers did so.
Then there is the electoral system. Apart from the natural advantage that the Government parties have electorally, in that three votes from the cities, as against two from the country areas, elect members, there is another interesting factor. I am not saying that the Government parties are responsible for it, that they are a lot of gerrymanderers, or dishonest politically. I do not suggest that at all, but let us take one seat, in particular. Senator Anderson will know all about this. It is a seat of 40,000 electors.
– Ryde is a classical example.
– Let us take a seat of 40,000 electors in the north of New South Wales, with 100 polling booths in it, 80 of them booths carrying about 100 votes, and at which there are no returning officers. This is not sinister, but honorable senators opposite will know what I mean. These booths are out of the control of the controlling body. In the towns - Senator Arnold will know what I am talking about now - the vote is the normal, Australia-wide one of 60-40. The seat I have in mind is a good Liberal seat, but there is a 40 per cent.
Labour vote, which might naturally be expected in the towns but when you get to the little booths - I see Senator DrakeBrockman smiling; he knows that what I say is true - the miracle happens, a miracle that sticks to the Liberal Party throughout the country. It is what puts that party into office. Its supporters ought to pray that the position is never altered, because it is very handy.
If you go to a booth where 100 votes are counted, you find that even the fellow who makes the tea votes Liberal.
– Why shouldn’t -he?
– Why should there not be the normal vote of 60-40? I am not saying that the Liberals should not get the votes, but what I am referring to happens all over the place in these country areas. At one property that I went to, there were six or seven fellows digging holes. I said to myself, “ Now, these are certain Labour voters. We will set up a committee here.” But I found they had been voting Liberal for 20 years.
All that happens once you get into these little booths. There is some sort of mystical barrier against the Labour Party which I wish we could break through. I wish that we could solve this problem of why there is a 60-40 vote in favour of the Government parties in a town, and yet, when you get out 10 miles, where the votes are handled in other ways, Labour gets only two votes out of every 100, or 2 per cent. When that mystery is solved democracy will start to work in this country and Labour will be permanently in office.
This is a situation in which I think honorable senators opposite ought to be interested, because after all, unless we have pure democracy, democracy is not much good. We have this situation all over Australia. People in this chamber speak a lot about secret ballots, the sanctity of ballots, and that sort of thing, but they apply that kind of reasoning only to unions. I am not going to charge officials or anybody else with corruption, but I say that there ought to be some system whereby people will have the right to vote freely and without undue influence or force being exercised by their employers, because many of these people-
– What is the honorable senator suggesting?
– Many of these people are voting against Labour because of pressure from their employers.
– The honorable senator says it is rubbish, but the facts are as I have stated. The Government is lucky to have such an electoral situation. If that sort of thing happened to us, I should say we would be very lucky indeed.
– It is guided providence.
– I do not know what it is, but it is nice to have it on your side.
– Joe Cahill has it in. New South Wales.
– Yes. Ministers seem to think that they are the beginning and the end of the state of prosperity we are enjoying. I am certain that Senator Scott and Senator Mattner think the world started in 1949, because they never talk about anything that happened before then.
– Because it would be too painful.
– Perhaps they think it would be too painful, but they really think everything started in 1949. I admit here and now that this country is enjoying a state of prosperity. But there are people, such as the pensioners, who are on the fringe of this prosperity and who have no one representing them other than members of the Opposition. It is said by honorable senators opposite that ours is only a pensioners’ party. There is nothing wrong with that. In this period of prosperity some one has to look after the people who are on the fringe, otherwise they would go down. We do not apologize for looking after the pensioners. Of course, I do not say that Government senators personally want to hurt the pensioners, but officially the pensioners must be hurt. Our friends opposite seem to have the idea that God must have loved the poor because he made so many of them and because they have always been with us and always will be. Of course, nothing that the Labour Party does will change that attitude. We must represent these people. On the first day of this sessional period hundreds of pensioners visited Parliament House. They believed in the cause they were advancing, and I believe that if some of the Ministers in the Government had the power they would do something about it. I suppose they say, “ You have to stop somewhere “. Of course, there are borderline cases and borderline cases always make bad law.
Let me say on behalf of the Labour Party once again that this’ Government really has had nothing to do with the circumstances that have made this country prosperous. In fact, the present state of affairs exists in spite of the Government. I do not suggest that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme is bringing prosperity to Australia just now, but it will do so within twenty years, ten years, or even five years. But who implemented that scheme? Do not let us run away from the fact. I imagine I can hear honorable senators opposite saying, “We are tired of hearing people say what they have done “. So are we, but we do not like the Government saying that it did something when Labour did it. It was the McKell Government in New South Wales and the Chifley Government in the Commonwealth sphere that thought out the Snowy Mountains scheme, and when they proceeded to implement it they were opposed by those who were then in opposition. It was even said at the time that the Snowy Mountains scheme was unconstitutional.
– They said that it was an act of socialism, too.
– That is so. I repeat that the supporters of this Government opposed the scheme. I believe it is still unconstitutional.
– It is not unconstitutional now.
– That is a matter of opinion. T should like to know who would be prepared to challenge that situation. I do not say that this Government has not done good work; in many ways it has. But in almost every case in which it has done good work it has built on what Labour started, and I should like to hear honorable senators opposite admit that fact now and again. Let us consider, for example, what has happened in New South Wales in regard to rural and secondary production. I say right now that if the Cahill Government had not done what it has done in New South Wales, Australia would not be enjoying the prosperity for which this Government claims credit. In that State, in the ten-year period from 1938 a total of £7,000,000 was spent on the conservation of soil, water and forests, and in a similar period from 1948 the sum of £50,000,000 was spent. In those respective periods the Department of Public Works spent £9,000,000 and £38,000,000, the Department of Agriculture spent £106,000 and £3,500,000, and the Department of Lands £5,000,000 and £36,000,000. Expenditure by the Department of Mines jumped from £89,000 - it is no wonder the mines were in the condition they were in when the war broke out - to £3,500,000. The activities of the State Electricity Commission are a fairy story in themselves. Because of what the New South Wales Labour Government, and not this Federal Government, has done, people in the rural areas now have electric power. Moreover, the value of primary production rose from £63,000,000 in 1938 to £431,000,000 in 1958. I do not wish to continue to quote figures. We all know the story about Australian development, and I like to think that we all agree we were all responsible for it. But this Government now and again should be prepared to admit the part played by State instrumentalities.
Now I wish to talk about the coal industry. I know a little about it. I do not wish to take any credit away from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his activities as the Minister in charge of coal production. As honorable senators know, the production of coal is basic to our economy. We could not enjoy prosperity without it. But who is responsible for the revolution that has taken place in the industry? Of course, the Labour Party is responsible. When I recount some of the things that have happened in the coal industry, the Senate will know to whom this Government and Senator Spooner should be thankful. I must quickly skip back to the days of the depression, when approximately 10,000 employees of the coal industry were out of work. From the national viewpoint, the industry was worthless. Then the war broke out, men were more or less conscripted into the mines, and production rose. The Chifley Government and the New South Wales
Government established the Joint Coal Hoard to examine the industry to see what could be done. The board, in its first report, said that it found the industry riddled with hate. The owners were bankrupt, and so were the men’s hearts- What was done in the industry is a lesson in industrial relations to which honorable senators opposite
Should pay attention. It is of great importance to know how to win the hearts and minds of the workers.
What was the position during those days of depression? I ask that because the Joint Coal Board came into existence because of the condition of the industry. I worked in the mines, and I have gone to work on ten days in a fortnight and returned on six occasions from the job without earning a penny. Conditions in the mines were such that the wives of the miners did not know whether their husbands would return home alive; the accident rate was so heavy. When I would be coming home from work I would see Mrs. Jones, or Mrs. Murphy, leaning over the fence. She would ask me, “Why are you home to-day? “ All I could say was, “ I do not know, but we are not going back until we get what we want”. That was the attitude in the industry. There were eleven days in the fortnight on which we could work, but we received only six days’ pay. The companies wanted the men to work on certain days just because it suited them. They naturally liked the men to work on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays so as to fit in with the arrangements for pay day. The men knew that they would be working only six days in the fortnight and that they would be off for the remainder of the time, and so a battle of tactics would take place between the men and the management as to which days would be worked.
This Government had nothing to do with the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, although I know that some of its Ministers were very interested in the experiment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) - I will say this in his favour - found out what we were doing to try to win over the miners by this concept. He went to Cessnock and lived there for three weeks in order to try to understand what it was all about. What I am talking about is related to the Budget, because the present Government would not have been able to bring down this Budget, if the Chifley Government had not solved’ the coal problem.
In the town of Wallsend two collieries- - Stockrington - had a terrific industrial record. The men had had a very raw deal, of course, and my sympathies were, with them, but the difficulty was how to set about solving the problem. The same problem had to be dealt with all over Australia. A welfare scheme was introduced, and I want to refer particularly to it. Bitterness was extreme in Wallsend, and we set up three bowling greens, using government money to do so. The idea was to get the mine workers, the professional men of the town, and the managements of the mines to play bowls together. It took a little while to get the miners’ leaders interested, and even then, during the early days, the miners insisted on wearing blue pants when they played bowls. They considered it a bit sissy to wear white trousers, or proper bowling uniform, but eventually they turned up in white pants. If honorable senators check up on the record of production of those two mines, they will find that to-day they are almost strike free. I have no hesitation at all in saying that it was our experiment in human relations that brought about that situation on the coal-field. The same sort of thing happened everywhere in Australia. A revolution took place in the coal industry. It was not only the mechanical revolution about which Senator Spooner has spoken - I admit that was necessary - but a revolution in human relations.
Cynics might say that the miners have to work now because they are so much indebted to hire-purchase companies. That is not really true. Hire purchase is a factor, but it is only a passing factor. The real reason for industrial peace at present is that the attitude of the miners has changed to the industry and to Australia. I do not think it would be possible to-day to write such a story as “ How Green Was My Valley “. We know that a lot of sentimental stuff has been written about the mining industry. The Government had nothing to do with these great changes in the industry. This Government came into office in 1949 but things had started to change before then. I will say, to the credit of the Minister for National Development that he has done his part in trying to continue the work started by the Joint Coal Board. Of course, the Government has deviated in certain respects from the plans the board initiated. It has deviated in its lavish treatment of the coal owners - treatment that was never intended by the board. The Government has gone to extremes in that regard because its view is that if the owners are not right the industry will not be right It must be remembered that the owners also had a psychology to the industry during the depression days. They would not invest in their own mines and they would not buy new ships or new machines. The owners are not opposed to socialism when it suits them. They will take it in large lumps provided you do not call it socialism. I know of plenty of instances in the coal industry where contracts were financed by public money, but I have not heard of any arrangements being made to pay any of this money back. However, I dare say we can rationalize such conduct on the part of the mine owners and come to the conclusion that such things were necessary in the interests of Australia, to obtain the necessary labour, and coal to develop the country. We can all agree that mistakes have been made, but that most of the mistakes were for the best. Anything is an improvement on what we had in those days.
This matter is related to the Budget. I still think this Government needs to take some action, with the coal industry, lt needs to forget about its antipathy to socialism or anything that looks like planning and do something: basically for the industry because much was left to be done. Much the same could be said about Labour’s medical scheme, but that is another story. We met legal difficulties when we started to do things, and we found things we were not able to do. In. some other parts of the world mines would not be allowed to operate- as they do here. We have mines working: in the- same seam andi all competing with one another.
A colossal amount still remains to be done with the national asset of coal. Only 50 per cent, of our coal is brought out of the ground; the rest of it is lost. Then again, of the amount brought out of the ground about 50 per cent, goes up in smoke. We are national spendthrifts as far as coal is concerned, but great things can be done. I think the cost of coal can still come down. Certainly Labour would not suggest that the conditions of the men be reduced or that anything be done that would affect the personnel in the industry. The number of men employed in the coalmining industry has been reduced from 24,000 to 13,500 yet during the period when that great transformation has taken place I do not think there has been one strike in the industry. That will give honorable senators an idea of the revolution in human relations that has taken place in the coal-mining industry in this country:
Let me get back to what should be done in the coal-mining industry. To start with I think that getting oil from coal is out. for the moment. The Government should have the necessary apparatus and. plant ready to move in that direction when the time is opportune, but there are1 so many other things that we can do with coal. I have read what some of the- experts haver had to say on this matter. One of these was the managing director of a synthetics business in America with a turnover of £60,000,000 annually. He said: that American capital was- ready to come to this country and put our coal industry to real use and that if we could go in; for the production of synthetics and plastic derivatives of coal the markets; of the East were there for the taking. In that way, of course, one could bring real stability to the coal industry - something that is not exactly there yet.
– Would you not approve of the production of oil from coal, even if subsidies were- needed?
– Certainly, but one must always get back to the point of production. I hear people speak about what is happening fir South Africa buthonorable senators know how cheaply coal is’ produced in that country. No comparison with the situation here can be drawn. I have been a member of committees that have sat under the chairmanship of Senator Spooner. We have discussed briquetting and so1 on, but the discussion always got back to the question, “ What is in it for us? Can we make any money out of it? “ The coal-owners might be the wrong people to confer with on these matters. After all, they produce raw coal with the intention of selling it as such. In addition, the coal-owners were- not’ very active before the war. They allowed the industry to go down. They cannot blame any one but themselves for what happened. Why should we suppose now that they are so terribly interested in this question? They may still wish to carry on in the same old way, as producers of coal only. It then becomes the responsibility of the government and other interested parties to make real economic use of our coal. In other parts of the world it is used in a very different way. Coal production has meant a great deal to our national economy and Labour has been primarily responsible for the- great revolution in industrial affairs that has taken place.
In the few moments left to me I should like to make brief reference to other aspects of the trade question. Recently, I heard a debate in another place concerning wool. There is great interest in the question whether the wool producers should amalgamate with the manufacturers of synthetics with a view to arriving at a common purpose concerning the future of wool. I have not heard any one suggest that we should produce our own fabric for export - to the extent that that is possible. A. strong case can be made out for doing that. Government supporters do not realize that these things are discussed elsewhere than in public. I have heard them discussed in union rooms in a much more intelligent manner than is the case in this chamber at times. For instance, workers in the textile industry are concerned about their future. No one can imagine this Government doing anything to remedy the situation.
– Our production costs are higher than in- most other countries. That is why it is difficult to produce finished woollen goods here..
Senator- ORMONDE. - The secretary of the Australian Textile Workers Union spoke to me on the subject in company with an: expert on the industry. He told me that there was. in Australia machinery capable of producing: fabrics more cheaply than the Japanese could produce them.
– I have not heard of it. Why is it not done?
– I am assured that that is true. Perhaps I might be permitted to return to this question of what can be done to help the wool industry. Every one likes to admire the nylon stockings that a woman wears, but the wearing of such stockings produces its own problem. In my home the womenfolk buy two pairs of stockings a week. That is a serious invasion of their standard of living, but the problem can be solved if we but try. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will tell you that at present one weave goes into the stocking untwisted and that if it were twisted the life of the stocking would be twice as long. The trade will not accept that suggestion because the turnover in nylon stockings would be reduced. Honorable senators can imagine how our wool industry would be helped if the life of stockings were lengthened. Any honorable senator who is anxious to help the wool industry could ask Senator Spooner to-morrow whether it was a fact that the life of stockings could be lengthened in this way and, if so, what, the Government intended, to do about it.
Reference has been made to the sale of milk. If the farmers wish to sell more milk the people of Redfern will have to be given the wherewithal to buy it. I am reminded of an extraordinary experience that I had in addressing the population of a town in a dairying district on the north coast. I had thought that I was on sound political ground in referring to the menace offered by margarine, but a fellow came up to me and said quietly, “ Don’t criticize margarine in this town. Half the population here eat it. “ I thought that margarine would be the last thing in the world that would be eaten in a. dairying community. The same gentleman showed me his accounts listing purchases by the townsfolk. One order was for 12 lb. of margarine and H lb. of butter. These people were not even buying their own product. They simply could not afford to, and they had as much right to try to beat the cost of living as the man in Redfern or Paddington.
Have our farmers ever, thought of exporting whole milk? I am willing to bet, that that idea has not percolated the minds of the farmers. It is actually happening in Europe. United. Kingdom farmers are exporting whole milk to countries 2,000 and 4,000 miles away. That could be done here also. Naturally, it would call for a revolution in production and thinking.
– Not to mention shipping costs over 3,000 or 4,000 miles.
– Members of the Liberal and Country Parties always have a reason for not making changes. It is history now that a Labour government makes the changes and an anti-Labour government that follows it sometimes effects improvements to them and sometimes does them harm. Generally speaking, there is within the Labour Party the germ of many ideas that would improve the lot of the Australian people. 1 come now to education. Here again f do not think the Government is doing enough. The other day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke about the great need for education in this new mechanical age. We all know that in the years to come it will be almost impossible for an uneducated person to obtain employment. But this Government is doing nothing about education. Recently we read that applications for agricultural scholarships had dropped by 50 per cent, over the last five years. If we have not enough universitytrained experts in this field of our economy, the position is serious and this Government should take urgent action. The Government does not seem to be appreciative of the problems confronting the States in the excellent work they are carrying out in educating the people, and it should take more definite action in this field.
Another serious point is the fact that within ten years it will be essential to alter our thinking in connexion with pensions because, by that time, one in every two males in Australia will be in the aged group. That problem will become more acute as time goes on, yet the Government is doing nothing about it. The Government should seek the advice, not of public servants and bureaucrats, but of competent people outside. Only the other day I attended a conference of the Teachers Federation in Sydney. The Government should have had representatives there to hear what was being said.
– I was there.
– I am sorry. 1 did not know the honorable senator was there. In any case, he must have been interested to hear what was being said about the 250,000 children of fifteen years of age who will be thrown out on to the employment market in about eighteen months’ time. Some people might argue that prosperity will look after them, but I point out that it is essential that we maintain a high state of prosperity. Even the capitalists have adjusted their thinking and come to realize that the old platitudes about prosperity being inevitable are worn out. They realize that the only way to remain and maintain prosperity is to keep up production.
I remind this Government that when it came into office it inherited from the Labour government a ready-made plan for the good government of Australia. It has had the advantage of the good planning inherent in a Labour government. In some instances it might have effected improvements, but in most cases this Government has not been able to improve upon what a Labour government introduced. If this Government would only take the Opposition into its confidence, and if it would only seek the advice of competent people in the community, it could do much for the benefit of Australia.
For instance, it could learn much about the difficulties arising from automation. At the present time a conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is taking place in Melbourne. That conference is greatly concerned about automation, and I am glad that Senator Henty is present to hear what I have to say because his facial expression the other day seemed to indicate that he objected to my statements about the dangers of automation. The Government must not sit back content in the belief that because automation has not brought any problems to it yet there will be no problems in the future. I remind honorable senators opposite that whereas there were 24,000 men working on the coal-fields nine years ago there are only 13,000 employed there to-day, and this is the result of automation. Those displaced men have not worried the Government in any way at all; they have simply been absorbed into the population. Some have obtained employment elsewhere while others who were close to the retiring age did not look for jobs. They had been accustomed to depressed conditions and were willing to suffer them for a little longer. The one great difficulty they all suffered was the depreciation of 50 per cent, in the value of their homes and everything else they owned over the last few years.
– A bit of automation at the port of Newcastle would have been of help.
– That is another matter, but if Senator Henty expects the State Government to carry out all these works without the assistance of the Commonwealth Government he is making a mistake.
– The State Government has not done anything for years.
– The other day I spoke about the Port Kembla harbour. I think everyone knows now that when the wind blows from the south ships anchored at Port Kembla have to move outside. I remind the Government that the 5,000,000 tons of coal to which Senator Spooner referred will need to be taken away from Port Kembla. At the moment there is actually no harbour there at all. The State Government intends to build a harbour inland, where there is no water now. That project will :cost a fabulous amount of money and it is in the interests of Australian production that this Government help in the construction of that harbour. After all, if we cannot despatch our products from our shores because we have no harbours, the economy must suffer. This Government should be developing a harbour scheme for Australia because we depend upon our harbours. The New South Wales Government spends something like £1,500,000 a year to keep the harbour at Newcastle’ dredged so that ships may come in and sail out.
– That government did not do much about the loading of coal.
– And we shall have to make some move in connexion with the loading of coal, also. There are still the prehistoric loaders at Newcastle. I do not say that the State governments are not deserving of some criticism, but this Government should evolve a national plan in collaboration with the State governments and other competent authorities. If we had a national plan for the effective development of our harbours, some good would result. There would then be some encouragement to increase production for, if we are to increase production we must have efficient facilities for despatching that production to the four corners of the world.
– This is the first time since the Menzies Government came to power nearly ten years ago that the Budget has not been prepared and introduced into the Parliament by Sir Arthur Fadden. He was responsible for and brought down in the Parliament no fewer than eight consecutive Budgets.
– Good ones, too!
– Good ones, too, as the honorable senator interjects. On his record, in my judgment he undoubtedly ranks amongst the very great Treasurers of the Australian Commonwealth. It was during his long term at the Treasury that the economic policies which have resulted in Australia’s present-day prosperity were shaped, under his powerful direction and in association with his colleagues in the Cabinet. Sir Arthur had a genius for spotting, before a budget was actually introduced into the Parliament, any weaknesses in budgetary planning which could cause public upsets, and he was able to resolve his Budget before it was actually delivered. I note with regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), genial and agreeable though he be, in his Budget speech omitted to pay any tribute to the outstanding service rendered to the Commonwealth, the Parliament and the Treasury by his predecessor over a long period of years. I like the human touch to show up amidst all the commotions, rancours and clamours of our time. When a great man departs from our midst, let us not forget him on appropriate occasions.
I should like to congratulate the newly elected senators on their maiden speeches. Senator Lillico, in his thoughtful and deliberate survey of current politics was, to my mind, very impressive indeed. Senator Dittmer, who comes from my own State, delivered a rousing speech, showing fire and forcefulness in the best traditions of the Queensland Parliament of which he was a member, particularly in his advocacy of greater Commonwealth aid for the development of Queensland. That is one point on which he and I find ourselves in complete agreement. Senators Cant, Ridley and Drury made notable debuts, and I am sure that the Senate has gained strength from the personal qualities of the newly elected senators. I also thank Senator Ormonde for his interesting speech this afternoon and his explanation of the pros and cons of the problems of the great coal industry in which, as he told us, he himself has worked. It was an interesting talk, and although I did not agree with all of his statements, nevertheless he presented them in a nice, moderate strain, and I appreciate his speech.
I should like to say a word or two about the proposed loan for the reconditioning of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway. I regret that there is no provision in the Estimates of a sum of money by way of assistance to Queensland from Commonwealth resources in the carrying out of this work. However, there are floating around the chamber to-day rumours thai this loan problem may very shortly be resolved to the satisfaction of the parties concerned, which are the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government, and Mount Isa Mines Limited. Nevertheless, so far as I know there is nothing official, and a few critical comments from me will not, I think, cause any damage to anybody. Negotiations for a loan from the World Bank commenced in the financial year 1956- 57. People whom I meet in Queensland ask me why it has taken three years to establish that the World Bank does not intend to lend £22,000,000, except under conditions which are prohibitive to Mount Isa Mines Limited. I say here, quite frankly to all concerned, that to that question I have no answer. Three valuable years have passed by. The basic wage has risen steeply during that period of negotiation, and because of the three years’ delay the ultimate cost to the Queensland Government will be greatly inflated. Despite three years of effort and the optimistic reports from time to time during that period, no money has been forthcoming. It has taken three years for all and sundry to realize that when the World Bank in the first instance said, “ No “, it meant “ No “. Yet we have continued to negotiate, to come away from the scene in Washington, and to return to the scene in Washington. Three years have gone by and the answer is still, “No”.
– They should have sent you over, Ted.
– In all my business experience, in dealing with another man I have always known what he meant when he said, “ No “. I have also known that when he wanted to say, “ No “, but did not like to embarrass me by saying, “ No “, he attached prohibitive terms to his agreement, and that, of course, is just what has happened in these negotiations. Australia’s credit should and does stand extraordinarily high with the World Bank, and also with any other overseas bank. There is no reason why that should not be so. All of our commitments have been met on due date, right back from the days of depression until the present time. Between 1950 and 1956, Australia borrowed 317,730,000 dollars from the World Bank in a series of six loans. So far as my memory goes, these loans were not the subject of any undue delay in negotiation or in reaching a satisfactory conclusion. I am confident that the World Bank did not ask for collateral guarantees from Trans-Australia Airlines, for which money was provided by the bank, through the Commonwealth Government, for the purchase of aircraft in the United States of America. In other words, in the six loans between 1950 and 1956, the World Bank was satisfied with the security provided by the Commonwealth of Australia itself. The reason for the World Bank’s making the stipulation that Mount Isa Mines Limited should become wholly responsible for the amortization of the total amount of £22,000,000 over a spread of twenty years, and the manner in which it was done, when the Commonwealth Government was the guarantor, are matters of intense interest in Queensland. It seems all cockeyed to us in Queensland, unless there are reasons which have noi yet shown up. Why should the World Bank insist on the lesser security from Mount Isa Mines? Why should it insist on the lesser security of 100 per cent, repayment from the Mount Isa Mines when it has the security not only of the Commonwealth Government but also of the State of Queensland? This is something that we Queenslanders just do not follow. The railroad to be reconditioned serves the whole of the north-western region of Queensland from Townsville to the
Northern Territory border.. This area is one of our principal beef-raising districts. There is a very large sheep population, and heavy consignments of wool. go. to Townsville over this railway for shipment. In addition, the products of the uranium field at Mary Kathleen utilize the railway. There are. also numerous small copper shows- and lead shows in the CloncurryMount Isa area.
As an example, I should like to quote a very interesting case of a young Rumanian named John Vancea, now aged 34 years, who arrived in Australia in 1950 “with no money but with a will to succeed. He organized a small working syndicate and opened up an old disused copper mine at Mount Oxide, 110 miles north of Mount Isa. The mine has proved exceedingly rich. After nineteen months’ work the turnover from the mine rose to £690,000. This young man lifted a fortune. From that he proceeded to Mount Garnet in north Queensland, opened up an old tin mine and took out of it £80,000 in profit. Recently, he sold a private hotel called “ Sans Souci “ on the gold coast for no less than £66,000, which showed a handsome profit compared with the price he paid for lt. Anybody who doubts this story will find confirmation of what I have said in the August edition of the Department of Immigration’s journal “The Good Neighbour”. It is described there in detail. I mention it because similar mines are studded all round about the Cloncurry and Mount Isa area, and they all contribute their share of loading to this railway.
T want to make it clear that the railway that is the subject of a loan for reconditioning serves many other interests, not those of Mount Isa Mines alone. Yet the unreasonable demand is made bv the World Bank that the Mount Isa Mines Company should become wholly responsible for the repayment of the amount of £22,000,000 which is needed for the reconditioning job! Surely that does not seem just or fair to anybody who looks at it on reasonable lines. To me, it is a new and a wrong principle that one unit of industry alone - Mount Isa Mines, in this case - should be called upon to be wholly responsible for the full repayment of a loan of this character for the reconditioning of a railway line that serves all interests. If this method of assessing responsibility for repayment were accepted, in my judgment Mount Isa Mines could not fairly be asked to assume more than 50 per cent, of the repayment guarantee.. All the remaining primary industries in the region would, on this sort of principle, have a similar responsibility and if any lending authority wanted to fasten such a guarantee onto those engaged in the cattle industry in north-west Queensland, for example, I can assure the Senate there would be a very hot time ahead of him. I expect that the cattle industry has the numbers. Mount lsa Mines is a commercial entity and has no numbers and I suppose electorally it does not count for much. It has been said in Canberra, according to the Brisbane “Sunday Mail” of 30th August, that the Queensland Government and Mount Isa Mines must take the blame for the breakdown in the loan negotiations - in not agreeing to reasonable guarantees to the World Bank. I do not know who said that in Canberra, but that is the way the news boys have reported it from Canberra to the “ Sunday Mail “.
I should like to point out that, at the June talks with the World Bank, Mr. Fisher, general manager of Mount Isa Mines, for the company, agreed to accept 70 per cent, of the debt service charges. In other words, his company, instead of being responsible for the full 100 per cent, guarantee - the whole £22,000,000 - would undertake to accept 70 per cent, of that amount by way of guarantee, leaving the other 30 per cent, to be met by other interests using the line. On top of that, he offered to pay a surcharge of 10 per cent, on freights until a cash fund of £5,000,000 was built up and held by the Queensland Government against any period when there was an insufficiency of freight available to cover the 70 per cent, portion of the debt service charges. Can anybody say that he did not make a fair offer, a reasonable offer? I do not think he should have had to do it at all. It was a loan to the State of Queensland, and no section of industry should have been called upon to assume any responsiblity whatsoever. It was a commercial risk for the Government of Queensland.
Messrs. Hiley and Fisher, on their way to’ Washington to confer, with the World
Bank in June last, conferred with Messrs. Ford, Bacon and Davis, consultant accountants, who were previously engaged on the report on the loan in the early stages of the negotiations with the World Bank. They consulted that firm as to what would be a fair allocation of financial responsibility. The certificate issued by Messrs. Ford, Bacon and Davis showed that 58 per cent, of the capital cost could be fairly allocated to Mount Isa Mines and 42 per cent, to other traffic. This evidence was accepted by Mount Isa Mines, but why should it have to shoulder such a burden? As I say, Mount lsa Mines raised the bid to 70 per cent, plus a 10 per cent, surcharge on freight. When it comes to a matter of unreasonableness, the facts are most definitely against the World Bank. This bank’s demand on Mount Isa Mines is most mystifying when it is considered that the borrower would be the Commonwealth Government which, in turn, would lend the money to Queensland. Will anybody assert that the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government are likely to fall down on their responsibilities for repayment of the money borrowed for railway development, quite irrespective of the fate of Mount Isa Mines? Supposing there were a geological break in the great ore bodies at Mount Isa. Does anybody think that if Mount Isa Mines, because of some condition of that sort, was not able to meet its obligations, the Queensland Government would not accept responsibility for the repayment and that the Commonwealth Government would not do the same?
– The Commonwealth Bank would not accept the responsibility.
– I have no evidence of that. I am blaming the World Bank. If the honorable senator can show me on evidence where the Commonwealth Bank is wrong, I am prepared to face facts wherever I see them. If the World Bank wants greater security than that provided by the Commonwealth of Australia, backed by the Queensland Government, I say that the bank is certainly a glutton for security.
At the Australian Club in Sydney about two months ago, I met a Sydney businessman who casually informed me that our representatives at Washington in June last, namely, Mr. Hiley, the Queensland Trea surer, Mr. Fisher, the general manager of Mount Isa Mines Limited, and Mr. Nimmo, representing the Commonwealth Treasurer, were backing a dead horse. He said that he had been in New York and Washington a few months earlier and that people in financial circles over there had told him that the World Bank had set prohibitive conditions on the loan to Australia for the Mount Isa mining company because, in the judgment of the bank, the Australian economy was sufficiently buoyant and sound to provide the amount required from internal funds available to the Commonwealth Government. That was his version. Mv friend was informed in New York that the funds of the bank were reserved, in the main, to help backward and undeveloped countries, particularly in Asia, and that. Australia did not come within that category. No doubt there are many Americans, who think in that way. I believe that m> friend stated truthfully to me what he hau heard from the financial men-about-town in New York, but I am satisfied that he did not have the answer. There must be an answer, but I do not accept the one that he gave.
Between June and August last two interesting announcements were made, the first from London by the World Bank, advising that it had made a loan of 50,000,000 dollars to Persia to cover the cost of road works. Last month, the Minister for Railways in the Indian Government announced that he had successfully negotiated a loan of 50,000,000 dollars, also from the World Bank, to cover the needs of Indian railway improvement and development. I am sure in my own mind. Sir, that the World Bank people were satisfied to accept the bond of the Governments of India and Persia that the moneys made available to those countries would be repaid according to the agreement, without collateral guarantees being demanded from the sections of industry which would benefit from the improvement of Indian railways and the Persian road system.
I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to an overseas loan to raise either dollar or sterling credits, because I realize that the Commonwealth of Australia needs such credits to pay for merchandise which we import from the United States of America and from Great Britain and other
European countries, but I say that the raising of a dollar loan should not be tied to the need for money to cover the cost of reconditioning the railway between Townsville and Mount Isa. I am afraid that those two things have gone in double harness up to the present time, in that the reconditioning of the railway has been tied to government necessity. There has been a most unjustifiable delay of three years in raising a dollar loan to serve the dual purpose of providing in Australia funds to carry out railway reconstruction work, and in the United States, the dollar credits to assist trading enterprises in this country. As we have been unable to negotiate a dollar loan for these purposes, I made the suggestion in Queensland, and I repeat it here, that the sum required for the Mount Isa railway, namely £22,000,000, might be found from Commonwealth Government sources here in Australia, to be payable to the State of Queensland at the rate of £4,500,000 per annum as the need arose for it and as the work went on, spread over a period of approximately five years, that being roughly the time it would take to complete the reconditioning of the railway. I am no currency crackpot, as everybody knows, but I regard the reconditioning of the railway between Townsville and Mount Tsa as a classical instance in which central bank funds could be wisely drawn upon.
T do not think there is anything to prevent the Queensland Government from repaying such an advance, plus interest, to the central bank over approximately the same period of time as repayment is requested and. indeed, demanded, by the World Bank - that is, twenty years. If that can be done to meet the demands of the World Bank, surely it can be done much more easily to fulfil an agreement with the central bank of this country. There is the important advantage, too, that the rate of interest payable to the central bank would be lower than that required by the World Bank. Moreover, the transaction would be a much simpler one because the interest would be payable in our own country, lt is more complicated to make payments of interest to an overseas banking institution. As we would be forced under the agreement to make repayments to the World Bank - and they would be made, without the slightest doubt in the world - who then could doubt the capacity of Queensland to meet obligations to our own central bank, obligations that otherwise would have to be met in accordance with the harsh conditions of the agreement with the World Bank?
I propose to give the Senate three reasons why central bank funds could safely be used for the reconditioning of this railway line and also to assist the development of the north-western districts of Queensland. First, the Mount Isa district contains what leading mining experts believe to be the richest source of lead and copper on the globe. Mr. Julius Kruttschnitt, a director of Mount Isa Mines Limited, said in Brisbane after his return from New York a fortnight ago, that the Mount Isa Mines could increase their production of copper and lead from 8,100 tons a day, which is the present rate, to between 14,000 and 15,000 tons a day, if the railway could handle the increased quantities. That cannot now be done, owing to the primitive means of transport provided by the present railway. Mr. Kruttschnitt added that the potential of the mines is enormous.
The first point in support of the argument that the central bank could safely provide funds for this work is that the wealth is there and could be tapped if we were able to transport the lead and copper fast enough to keep pace with the output from the mines. We are not able to do that to-day. Therefore, the first and most important point is that the wealth is there. Secondly, we have abundant man-power to do the job; and, thirdly, we have the requisite steel and timber. Surely, no country in the history of the world is more favorably endowed. We have enormous riches, and in addition, we have all the other ingredients that are required to step up production and, in fact, to double it. To cap this combination of favorable circumstances, all that we need is a sufficiency of Australian currency to pay wages and the cost of materials. The central bank just could not lose on a proposition of this quality.
If an overseas loan is finally procured it must be remembered, Mr. President, that we will not get the dollars out here. Payments in connexion with the reconditioning of the railway line, such as wages, must be paid in Australian currency issued by the Commonwealth Bank. If currency can be issued here against a dollar loan, why cannot we get the same amount of currency without a dollar loan? Surely that is a logical proposition. Surely we can do for ourselves what we are being called upon to do by the World Bank.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out that the use of central bank credit for the reconditioning of the railroad between Townsville and Mount Isa was justified. I said that this project afforded a classic example for the use of such finance. In my concluding remarks I said that surely what we were called upon to do for the World Bank we could do for ourselves. I point out to honorable senators that normally I do not stand for the use of central bank credit for works that are not completely and demonstrably reproductive. I well recall the election promise made by Dr. Evatt in 1954 to raise £372,000,000 a year by the use of treasury-bills. He staggered the Australian public when he went to Melbourne during that campaign and declared that there was to be no ceiling. Indeed, the sky was to be the limit for what would have been, in my judgment, a great orgy of treasury-bill finance. I am completely and totally opposed to that sort of thing, but in advocating the use of central bank funds for this project in north Queensland I think I have shown logically that the wealth is there. All that is needed is the harnessing of that wealth to the man-power and the materials, such as steel and timber, which we have in abundance. That wealth, which would increase in quantum, would be utilized for the repayment of any such advance from the central bank. The making available of this money would be merely a business investment by the central bank for the development of an important part of Australia. Expenditure on the Mount Isa project would be in an entirely different category from the type of expenditure that was envisaged by Dr. Evatt in 1954.
In support of my advocacy of the use of central bank funds for this purpose, I point out that last year Mount Isa Mines Limited earned £21,000,000 of export income. It can be seen, therefore, that we would be backing a winner. Mr. George Fisher, the chairman of directors of Mount Isa Mines Limited, speaking at the National Management Conference in Brisbane in April last said that, even at the present modest metal prices, production could be increased to such an extent that Mount Isa would develop from its present position of the largest individual owner of export income in Australia to a position where it would earn more export income than the total export value of the whole Australian wheat industry. Is not an enterprise of that kind worth backing and worth the provision of facilities to transport its increasing production of lead and copper to the seaport of Townsville, nearly 800 miles away? Mr. Kruttschnitt has said publicly that production can be doubled when this railway line is reconditioned. It is easy to calculate, therefore, that the exportable value of Mount Isa metals could increase from last year’s total of £21,000,000 to the order of £35,000,000 or £40,000,000 per annum. That is real wealth!
Would not the whole national economy benefit from this great contribution to the strength of our London funds? Would not the Treasury here in Canberra reap a rich harvest of increased taxation? Would not the work force of 3,000 employees at the mine be greatly augmented? Would not the town of Mount Isa make rapid growth and would not the State of Queensland benefit very substantially? Is not that worth going after? That is why I complain in this chamber about the delay in raising the money that would enable this task to be done. I have put forward the proposition that central bank finance could justifiably and safely be used to finance this important project, because we have failed to get the money from the World Bank after three years’ negotiation.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), in answer to a question posed by Senator Brown last week, said that a £22,000,000 loan would be a great prize as it would assist to build up our overseas balances. That is very true, but the build-up would be on borrowed money. If we get to work quickly and carry through the requisite improvements to this railroad, we will be earning from real wealth sources an extra £20,000,000 per annum. That would be a more valuable addition to our overseas balances than that which we would get by borrowing. That is the important differentiation. I quite see the point in Senator Spooner’s reply to Senator Brown, but if we get this job done, increase production, and even double .the export value of ,the metals produced, we will be getting an annual addition to our London funds, .not by borrowing, of £15,000,000 .to £20,000,000.
It is a shocking situation that one of the richest mineral regions on the earth should have its volume of production limited by an outmoded railway system which is incapable of carrying heavy rolling-stock at reasonable speeds, with consequent slow and costly transportation. The people of Queensland are unable to understand why our credit standing is such that the World Bank will not lend money against the guarantee of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments plus the wealth which lies at Mount Isa. Nor do they understand the uncompromising demand on Mount Isa Mines to become financially responsible for the full repayment of the railroad loan of £22,000,000 while all the other traffic on the line, which has no relation whatever to Mount Isa Mines, is not called upon to contribute anything. It cannot be explained or justified. That is why to-night I have criticized the terms laid down by the World Bank.
The people of Queensland want to know, too, why, when it became clear that the terms of the World Bank were quite unacceptable, other avenues of finance have not been explored long before this. They also want to know why the World Bank is so insistent on the lesser security offered by Mount Isa Mines when the unlimited security of the Commonwealth for the eventual repayment of the loan is available. These are the 64-dollar questions being asked in Queensland. We have the richest copper mine on the face of the earth. We have also the richest mineral zone on this earth in that area. We have good, honest workmen available. We have the requisite steel and timber. But, for some strange and inexplicable reason, prohibitive conditions have been attached to the loan by the World Bank, and this has caused a complete breakdown of negotiations. I sincerely hope that unofficial reports circulating in this Parliament to-day of a European loan on terms agreeable to the Commonwealth. Government, the Queensland Government and to Mount Isa Mines Limited are true, and that a loan of the full amount required will be negotiated successfully very soon.
I ‘have .delivered this speech this evening after strong urgings by important sections of the people of Queensland, who have become increasingly dissatisfied with the brake on the progressive development of north Queensland because of the three years’ delay in ^finding the money for thismost necessary .job. I regret, Mr. President, that 1 cannot deal with important budgetary conditions on this occasion, but I hope to have a chance to speak further on the various bills which derive from theBudget.
– I take this opportunity to thank those electors of South Australia who voted for the Australian Labour Party Senate team in the last federal general elections. I cannot claim that that vote was a personal ‘vote for me, because, as you realize, Mr. President, the members of the Senate are elected as teams. However, in giving the majority of their votes to the Labour Senate team, the electors of South Australia showed their confidence in the Australian Labour Party. I thank the electors for bestowing upon me the honour of serving as a senator for South Australia in Her Majesty’s Federal Parliament.
I also thank you, Mr. President, for the kindness and consideration that you have shown to me and to my colleagues since 11th August, when we came to Canberra. I appreciate that kindness and consideration. I thank my colleagues on this side of the Senate for their help, and I thank also some honorable senators on the other side of the chamber, who have been kind and helpful to me. Last but not least, I should like to thank Senator Maher for his kind remarks in anticipation of a very good maiden speech from me. I trust that in my future contributions to debates in this chamber I shall be able to reach the standard that he has set for me.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the same reasons as other honorable senators on this side of the chamber have supported it. I feel that in framing the Budget the Government has not considered fully the people who most need assistance. It has not considered the family unit - the most important unit in the Australian way of life. Let us look at the basic wage and its relationship to the -family. The basic wage is the minimum amount, fixed by law, which an employer can pay to an employee for his labour. It is certainly a living wage, but it is not a just wage as far as the family is concerned. There is a fundamental difference between a living wage and a just wage.
The law provides that the same amounts shall be paid to a single man and to a married man with a family. I have no criticism whatsoever to offer of the amount paid to a single man. I should like the single man to receive the maximum amount that the economy of this country can provide. I realize that the single man has to live and save enough to provide for marriage, a home and its contents and to be able to raise a family so that he can take his place in the community as the head of a family unit. A just wage, as suggested by some prominent men in this grand country of ours, is a wage that will provide a man and his family with a reasonable standard of living - a wage that will enable a man to provide his family with the necessaries of life, their own home and an adequate education for the children, and still allow him to save and provide for old age or any emergency that might arise during his lifetime. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that a family man on the present basic wage cannot provide for those things of which I have just spoken.
Honorable senators probably are asking: How is all this relevant to the Budget. In my next few remarks I hope to prove that it is relevant. I believe that in 1941, when child endowment was increased, the government of the day had in mind - and rightly so - the gap that existed between the position of a single man and that of a married man, both receiving the basic wage, and it was thought that the introduction of child endowment would, to a large extent, remove that anomaly.
Let us look at child endowment in relation the basic wage. For the purposes of my comparisons, I shall take a family unit of four children and the average basic wage prevailing in each of the years that I shall mention. In 1941, the average basic wage was £4 7s. a week. To supplement this, the child endowment payable weekly to a man with four children was 15s. At that time no child endowment was paid for a first child. Child endowment at that time amounted to roughly 17 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1945, the average basic wage was £4 16s. In that year the endowment was increased to 7s. 6d. for each child. Again, there was no payment for the first child. This made a supplement of 22s. 6d., or 23 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, the average basic wage was £8 2s. In that year an endowment of 5s. was paid for the first child, and 10s. was paid for each subsequent child, making a supplement of 35s. for a family of four, or 21.6 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1955 the average basic wage was £11 16s. Child endowment was still at the rate of 35s. for the unit of four, or 14.8 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1959, with an average basic wage of £13 16s., the endowment was 35s. or only 12.7 per cent, of the basic wage.
These figures prove that, as a result of the rising cost of living, child endowment is no longer serving the family as was originally intended and, indeed, that the percentage in relation to the basic wage has gradually fallen. This situation should be arrested as soon as possible and I ask the Government to give some thought to what 1 have said. If it be too late to change the budgetary position, I urge the Government to consider increasing child endowment in the very near future. We all know how the cost of living has spiralled over the years. For instance, the family man now has difficulty in ensuring that his children receive an adequate education. The States, with the assistance of this Government, are doing all in their power to overcome the lag. However, the increase in population, attributable to both natural causes and migration, is such that the task is getting beyond even the States. We must also remember that some sections of the community receive little, if any, help from the States in this field. They are finding it extremely difficult to give their children a Christian education without lowering their standard of living. 1 feel, Mr. President, that something should be done to alter this state of affairs. I heard to-day, with regret, that the Government did not propose to set up a commission to inquire into all phases of education. Senator Buttfield anticipated me in putting her question on the subject to Senator Spooner. Once again, I have been forestalled! Certainly, the Government set up a commission to inquire into the universities and, following the Murray report, felt that it should help to the extent of making monetary donations to aid the development necessary to cope with the enormous influx of students that will begin next year. I commend the Government, upon its attitude to the universities, but it is useless to grow our prime fruit on the top of the tree if we have not the means of reaching it. I feel very strongly that we should do as much as possible to assist both primary and secondary education.
Our standard of living will greatly affect, one way or another, our migration policy. I commend the Government upon its decision that 125,000 immigrants should come to Australia next year. We want immigrants, and we want them quickly but the reservoir that we have been tapping during the last ten years is slowly but surely drying up. Unless we can show intending migrants that we can offer something better than is available in their cwn countries they will not come. We want migrants here from both the defence and national points of view - primarily the defence point of view. We need them here as quickly as possible because in the next decade or so we may have to protectourselves from some nation which feels that it has a better right to this country than we have. The need to bring migrants here quickly should be one of the primary thoughts in the mind of the Government.
I hope that Government supporters will accept any criticism that I have made as constructive, and not destructive. It has been prompted by my feeling that the family man is a very important unit in the community and should be looked after. Once again, Mr. President, I thank you for your kind help.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [8.39]. - I rise to support the printing of the Budget papers and to oppose the amendment which has come from the
Opposition. I should like, first of all, to congratulate all those who have offered maiden speeches during this debate. However experienced one may be in public speaking, or even in politics, one’s first speech in this chamber is always an ordeal. I am sure that on this occasion we look with a great deal of interest, and, as a Government member, I might say with pride, at the record of achievement of this Government since it has been in office, and I feel that I must contradict the cries of depression we have heard from the Opposition. The true story is that when we came into office we were faced with a very difficult period, a period of great shortages. When the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) answered a question relating to coal this afternoon, I thought how different the picture of that particular industry is to-day from when we came into office. I remind the Senate that in those days we were importing coal. To-day, however, we have a story of production, and indeed of export in that one field alone. Even if there had been nothing else, surely that in itself would be a record of achievement of which we might all well be proud. This is indeed a prosperous community; this is indeed a country with a stable economy; and we all appreciate how important that is.
To those who have said that this Government has shown no interest in the family, I say that this can be called a family man’s government because it has considered, in all its aspects, the extreme importance of the family unit. We believe, as indeed do those who have spoken from the opposite side, in the importance of the family unit. It can only be on happy family units that a strong nation can be built. So I would say to honorable senators opposite that I believe that the general and particular legislation brought down by this Government has been indeed of great benefit to the families of Australia. Of course, there are always certain directions in which more assistance can be given, but, to say that this is a government which has not considered the family, is not to state the facts.
Look at the story of our country at the moment. Things have proved very much better than even we expected them to be a year ago. It has been a very good year indeed for rural production and we have seen the output of the majority of our secondary industries increase greatly. This must beneficially affect everybody in the community. We have seen a rise in employment, and we all appreciate how important that is. That is what we all like to see because it is what most profoundly affects the family unit. We believe in security of employment; we believe in the opportunity for choosing the right kind of employment; we believe that young people growing up in this country should have the right to choose the vocation they want to follow, what job or profession they prefer, and I believe that the development we have seen in our last period of office amply demonstrates that this Government has done a great deal to help the young people of our community to find the kind of occupation they want, to find the employment that interests them most. I point to the Weipa scheme, the Mary Kathleen development and the great Snowy Mountains scheme as examples of the development that has taken place in this country and as examples of the opportunities for employment which we have been instrumental in providing.
Then we have the splendid increase in our production. Honorable senators will recall, as I do, that a few years ago there were great shortages of such essentials as steel and building materials. To-day, the picture is totally different. Indeed, all these things are in good supply. I was very interested in the figures quoted by the Minister for National Development earlier in this debate, and I should like to quote them again, because I think they are important. He stated that the production of refrigerators had increased from 112,000 in 1947-48 to 193,000 in 1957-58. He referred to the tremendous output of washing machines, which was 164,000 last year. He also stated that in the manufacture of television sets, a new industry to this country, production reached 285,000 sets. He also stated that the number of motor cars registered had increased from 592,000 in 1947-48 to 1,755,000 in March of this year, an increase of 196 per cent. Surely that means work for our people; surely it means a great deal of employment; surely it means an ample supply of goods and articles for those who require them. All these things are indicative of a prosperous and stable economy and must indeed mean a better future for all of us.
In addition, there is the high place Australia has taken as a trading nation in the world. I think I am correct in saying it is the tenth biggest trading nation in the world. Is not that important to each and every one of us? Is not that important to the family unit? Of course it is! I know that all honorable senators agree on that point. So, our story of production, our story of development and our story of overseas investment in this country mean more work, a wider choice of occupation and a better future for the people living in this country. But, listening to honorable senators opposite, we hear nothing but attempts to decry all these things, attempts to prove that all this development is meaningless when considering the future of Australia and those who live here.
Now let us consider other points relating to the family and to which this Government has given a great deal of consideration. We have organized a very workable and very successful ‘health scheme. Surely health is one of the most important things to any family. I am reminded that this Government made available free life saving drugs, free milk for school children and free vaccine to fight that dread of all families, poliomyelitis. This Government has fought tuberculosis as it has never been fought in this country before. So great has its fight against tuberculosis been that Australia has come to be recognized as one of the countries making the greatest contribution in the world to the elimination of this disease. All these things are important, and, if I may, 1 should like to quote from a presidential address given at the annual meeting of the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. I was greatly impressed by the president’s comments relating to social services expenditure, when he said -
Looking at the cost of social services, I saw that every item was increasing each year, with one exception. That exception was tuberculosis benefits. The cost had fallen about half a million pounds in two years.
That is of the utmost importance to Australia because it means that we are fighting this dread disease so successfully that we are reducing the death rate. Free X- ray services made available by this Government, with the assistance of the State governments, enable us to make an early diagnosis which, in turn, means an earlier aird ‘easier cure. By granting generous pensions, we have helped “to take away fear of insecurity felt by patients. All these things have contributed to reducing the death rate and promoting a rapid return to good health of people suffering from tuberculosis. Indeed, they have been the means of bringing about the state of affairs about which the president of this meeting was so pleased to comment. Further, I know all honorable senators know as well as I do that it has meant that hospital beds which were occupied previously by tuberculosis cases are now free and available for general cases.
One cannot speak of this subject without also paying tribute to the doctors, scientists and great medical teams who, by the work they have done in the .fields of early diagnosis, treatment and research have made this splendid achievement possible. Then I am reminded of how our family units have benefited from the wonderful work done by the Australian Red Cross Society with its blood bank. Consider the number of lives that have been saved, and the terrible tragedies that face families when there has to be a substitution of another type of blood, or an operation to remedy a hole in the heart of a little child. On these occasions, the blood bank, operated by the Australian Red Cross Society, is called in. But I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth Government makes a very considerable contribution to that organization. I think I am correct in saying that over £131,000 was made available by the Government last year to this service, which has meant a return to good health and a saving of life on so many occasions. Life saving drugs are most important. They have been made available and have assisted many families. These matters are surely not to be passed aside lightly with the charge that the Government is not interested in the needs of the family.
As honorable senators know, this Government provided child endowment for the first child. Recognizing the tremendous problem sometimes involved in sending children away to be educated, and realizing that this was another way in which .the Government could help the family, it provided for education expenses to be allowed as deductions for income tax purposes.
This provision has been of tremendous assistance. Many families at some stage or another must face the problem of hospitalization and serious surgical operation, and I am very glad that this matter has been given greater attention in the Budget. At present the maximum combined government -and fund benefit payable for a major operation is £30. This maximium is to be increased to £60, which will certainly be of substantial assistance.
During this debate opposition senators have at times belittled what has been done by the Government in the field of housing. I believe that one of the most important requirements of any family is proper and adequate housing. The Government has been most consistent in its concern with the shortage of homes throughout the country. Since being in office, we have been of tremendous assistance to families in need of houses. I should like to cite some figures in support of this. The preliminary figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician at the end of the June, 1959 quarter show that during 1958-59 more houses ‘and flats were completed in Australia than in any previous year since the war. That is surely a very good record, which shows that we recognize the importance of good housing for Australian families. I have some other very important figures. Dwellings completed during the June, 1959 quarter were 21,730, which brought the estimated figure for completions of houses and flats in 1958-59 to 84,059, compared with 74,585 completions in 1957-58, which represents a rise -of 12.7 per cent. That is a very important figure. Commencement figures also remain high. In the June quarter 21,050 units were commenced, bringing the 1958-59 figure of commencements to 81,779, compared with 73,347 in 1957-58, which represents an increase of 11.5 per Cent. There is still, of course, a great deal to do in this sphere but I do say that this Government has tackled this problem and is continuing to tackle it. Its work in the provision of war service homes has been splendid. We have been responsible for providing in our term of office more war service homes than all other governments together have provided since the inception of the scheme. Surely that must be recalled -as part of our proud record of achievement.
Returning to the Budget, I should like to speak on the section dealing with age, invalid and widows’ pensions. There attention is once more drawn to the supplementary assistance of 10s. a week introduced last year to assist pensioners who pay rent. This assistance, we know, has been of great benefit to the very many pensioners and for that we are extremely grateful to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). But I should like to draw attention to an anomaly that exists in relation to this payment of 10s. in cases where both single pensioners and married pensioner couples are living in the same church or charitable home. There is no difference in the payments which each pensioner makes to the church or charitable home, yet the single pensioner receives an extra 10s. I should like the Minister to have another look at the matter and see whether pensioners living in exactly the same conditions in the same place cannot be assisted in the same way.
I know that we are all pleased that age, invalid and widows’ pensions are to be increased. We always want more and we are never satisfied with what is paid. We would like to see more provided, but I fully appreciate the problems faced in these matters by the Treasurer. I most sincerely believe that we must consider in a completely new way the problems of our elder citizens. Governments, municipal bodies, churches, charitable organizations and, indeed, citizens generally, must face up to a new challenge. With the miracles of modern science and medicine, longer life is now possible. Expectation of life has increased considerably, and because of this we shall find that people will live longer. Doctors and medical science having made it possible for our elder citizens to live longer, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that the added years are happier years, of which they can make the best use and which they can enjoy to the greatest extent. Therefore we must look ahead and plan a new approach to the problem of our older people. I should like to see a much closer relationship between the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health because together they will have to face this joint problem. I suggest, as I have suggested before, that there should be a Commonwealthwide conference of all those people who work, day in day out, with the elder citizens, who are concerned for their housing, and who care for the aged sick and for the aged in their homes. By such a conference we might find the best possible way of facing up to the very real responsibility of caring for our aged population as the years go by. It seems to me that there are three points which must be considered in relation to our aged. First, those who are hospital cases- To-day, with new medical treatment and new medical care, it has been proved, particularly in other parts of the world and at Mount Royal in Victoria that with geriatric treatment in geriatric units people are able to become independent and fully ambulant again although they have had very long periods in hospital. I hope that we will see these units established at all base hospitals in Australia and geriatric teams working, with our aged people going to them, so that their added years will indeed be happier for them.
Then we come to the housing of our aged people. This Government is to be congratulated on the legislation it brought in some time ago to subsidize homes for aged persons, first on a £l-for-£l basis, and subsequently on a £2-for-£l basis. The last figure I have shows that £5,895,922 has been expended under this heading, which means 7,202 beds added - a very important thing. Not only is this giving very much better and increased accommodation for our senior citizens, but this Government, by giving this money to church and charitable organizations to administer for the aged has brought recognition to the very great work that these organizations are doing.
I believe it is a very important thing that we should ensure that this special housing for aged persons is always given our utmost support. I believe that the things that worry them most are loneliness and a feeling of insecurity. These particular homes, looked after and administered by most splendid church and charitable organizations, composed of people trained in the care of aged people do, I believe, take away greatly the fear of loneliness and, indeed, that feeling of insecurity. Many people living in lonely back rooms have a fear of becoming ill and no one knowing anything about it. They have a constant fear of falling down and hurting themselves and no one knowing anything about it until help has been needed for a very long time. When they are under the trained care of a matron and her staff I believe that much can be done for them and their fears are gone. Therefore, I congratulate the Government on its understanding of this great need and for making this legislation possible and, indeed, on the very valuable work that is being done to assist these aged persons.
There is another service which I should like to be considered by the Government because there are many aged persons who wish to continue living in their own homes. After all, that is right and proper for we all like to live in our own little corners with our treasures around us. But because these people are aged, they need special help, they do need some sort of assistance - some one to come in and assist them whenever they need help. Already this Government, understanding that need, has given assistance to our home-nursing services and that, I believe, has been a most splendid contribution. But there is still more, I believe, that we could do in that particular way, by subsidizing perhaps some particular home service for our aged persons, under which a person would come in to give that special help. This service would also provide the aged persons with contact with the outside world. I do ask both the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to give some consideration in the future to making possible a scheme to assist those most excellent voluntary organizations which 1 know would be only too willing to help in this way if they could be assisted.
Wonderful work is being done in Australia and in other parts of the world by the “ Meals-on-Wheels “ organizations. These organizations provide the aged persons with a good nutritious meal once a day in their own homes. Another important aspect is that the aged people are given a feeling of security in that they know there will be a contact - that some one will visit them during the day. This is tremendously important. I urge the Government to give consideration in this field also.
With the greater expectation of life and consequently an increased number of older citizens, I believe that we are going to face some added responsibility, and 1 should like to know that through either the
Commonwealth or the State Governments there will be some really good research done into the problems of the aged. Already, in other parts of the world, research is being conducted into the need for special diets and the effect on aged persons if proper diets are not observed by them, as well as the incident of accident through lack of hearing and faulty eyesight. All these things are tremendously important.
I am fortunate enough to receive from overseas regular reports from numerous countries and of the Nuffield Institute on these very important problems, and I should like to think that this Government also is playing its part in looking into some form of research concerning the problems of the aged. 1 have already seen the tremendous results - the splendid results - which have been brought about by the Institute of Child Health on children s problems. Might I suggest that at the other end of the scale much could be done to ensure that our older people enjoy very much more their added years of life.
Now let me turn to another part of the Budget. I think it is a good thing also to mention that in this Budget we have brought in tax concessions and special social service benefits, which will put a considerable amount of money back into the hands of the spending public. The taxpayers themselves will be able to spend the amounts of the tax concessions. I am very pleased that the Government has accorded taxation relief to aged persons. I draw attention particularly, Mr. Deputy President, to the proposal to increase the level of the age allowance for taxpayers who are residents of Australia and who are qualified by age - males, 65 years, and females, 60 years. The Treasurer stated in his Budget speech -
The new exemption limits will equal the total of the increased aged pensions now proposed and the maximum permissible income for pension purposes. That is to say, whereas tax is not at present payable if the aged person’s net income does not exceed £410, in future tax wilt not be paid if the aged person’s income does not exceed £429. In the case of aged married couples, the present exemption level of £819 for combined incomes will be raised to £858.
I believe this will be of considerable assistance, and 1 am glad that the Government has seen fit to accord this special taxation relief. The next proposal relates to deductions for medical expenses paid by a taxpayer aged 65 years or over in respect of a person - either himself or his spouse - who has attained the age of 65 years. The Treasurer stated -
I know that the fear of heavy medical expenses for some chronic illness worries many elderly people in our community at the present time. In these cases, the limit of the deduction for medical expenses to £150 per person is to be removed. The concession is limited to taxpayers and their spouses and the present limit of £150 per person will- continue to apply in respect of: expenditure relating to other persons.
I believe this is very important, and it will be of great value to our aged citizens.
Now, Sir, may I finally make one or two points? We have, I believe, shown very clearly in our record of achievement that this Government considers all sections of the community, especially the family and the problems of aged persons. This Government believes, as we all do, in the future of our Commonwealth. The Government believes, too, that it is important not only to play our part amongst the nations of the world, as we are doing, but to look ahead to that great vision of Australia Unlimited. That, surely, is the whole pattern and picture of this Budget, too.
As my colleague from Queensland, Senator Wood, mentioned this afternoon, we in Queensland this year are celebrating our centenary year, a year of great celebration, and we are proud and delighted to have as our guest Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra. A hundred years is a short period in history, but I believe that the hundred years that we are celebrating have seen for Australia a record of achievement of which we can all be proud. Achievement such as this, Mr. Deputy President, has been brought about, as it has been throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, by the people who came here in the early days with their spirit of adventure, with their desire to see this country grow, and with their desire to play their part in its history. We to-day have with us, planning and working for our future, new Australians. I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr- Downer) on the present very successful immigration scheme.
I believe that we, as members of the Senate, have a very great responsibility to ensure that we play our part and that we face up to our responsibilities as Australians. We must ensure for Australians, together with those who have recently come to make their homes with us, a better and a happier life. I believe, Mr. Deputy President, that this Government, by its courage, by its vision and its determination, however hard the road may be or however difficult the task, to ensure that we have a better Australia and a better place in which people may live and work and seek security for the future, has earned, our congratulations. Because of that, Sir, I support the Budget and oppose the amendment.
– May I add my congratulations to those- that have been offered by other honorable senators to the members of the Senate who have made their maiden speeches during the Budget debate. I do not intend to do as Senator Maher did, and analyse the speeches that have been made. I think they were all interesting in themselves. When Senator Dittmer was speaking so eloquently last week about the development of the outback, my mind went back a few years and I thought, of the old saying that hope springs eternal in the human breast. Some nine or ten years, ago, in one of my early speeches, I expressed somewhat similar thoughts. At that time I suggested that that was a job for an all-party Senate team to undertake. I thought that an all-party committee of the Senate would be able to lift the matter out of the field of political controversy;, to take the responsibility for decisions from the shoulders of State governments and, indeed, Commonwealth governments; and to take responsibility out of the party political field. I thought that such a committee, guided in turn by the kind of committee that Senator Dittmer suggested, could make recommendations on this subject of development, particularly of outback areas, that we have been discussing in. Australia for so long.
I think that that is the attitude we shall finally have to adopt towards national development, because if there is one thing wrong with our approach to this matter it is that this young country has not been taking the risks that it should take. I think we have been guided far too much by older countries. Naturally, politicians do not like to make decisions that are going to involve a lot of money and then have to stand up to criticism from their political opponents. The only way that this subject can be tackled effectively is by adopting the attitude suggested by Senator Dittmer, and make an all-party approach to it.
Although these Budget debates might seem similar to people outside the Parliament, Mr. Deputy President, to me they always take a certain individual form. The most interesting thing about the current debate on the Budget that was presented by the new Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a little while ago, has been the rather peculiar attitude of the Government in what it has been pleased to call its defence of the Budget proposals. The pattern obviously has been worked out in the party rooms. Senator Spooner leading for the Government in this chamber, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the lesser lights who have spoken in both chambers, have not analysed the Budget that has been put before the Australian public, but instead have resorted to abuse of the Labour Party and have asked a series of questions about what is wrong with the Budget. If honorable senators read “ Hansard “ they will see from the speeches of both Mr. Menzies and Senator Spooner that there has been no analytical approach to the Budget; instead of accepting responsibility for the decisions that have been made and defending them, they have attacked the Australian Labour Party, giving precedence in the attack, of course, to Dr. Evatt. I think that that was a most unusual attitude.
To my mind, one of the most amusing lines that the Government has been following is that Government supporters have said that Labour Party policy was rejected at successive general elections and that their policy was adopted, and that they have therefore been justified in bringing down the type of Budget that we have before us. But of course, Mr. Deputy President, the important aspects of the Budget, and those in respect of which the Government has been receiving credit, have been borrowed from the policy we put before the public at the two previous general elections. I suggest, Sir, that if family allowances, which were proposed by the Australian Labour Party at the last general election, were rejected by the people, this Government should not have adopted them, and made provision for them in the present Budget. If the Government wants to be consistent, and if it maintains that Labour’s policy was rejected by the Australian people, it cannot justify incorporating a part of Labour’s policy in its Budget. The fact is, of course, that the policy of the Labour Party has not been rejected by the people. If the Government is hiding behind the pretence that it has been - and I do not believe for one moment that the Government is doing that - then it is being led up ‘ .. garden path.
When Senator Spooner spoke last week I thought that he was even more of a bulldozer than he usually is. I thought, too, that he was particularly childish and petulant on that occasion. Every now and then he would look across at the Opposition benches and say, “ You don’t like this, do you? You don’t like the remarks I am making, do you? “ For a man who was supposed to be leading for the Government in the debate in the Senate, I thought that was childish and petulant in the extreme. I think that when a budget is presented, responsibility devolves on the leaders of the Government to stand up to the criticisms which must inevitably follow, to analyse the Budget proposals, and to try to inform the minds, not only of its supporters and of the Opposition, but of the people of Australia, in whose interests the Government should be attempting to govern.
Senator Spooner seemed to take great pride from the fact that of the 59 years of federal government in Australia, for only about seventeen years we have had a Labour government. Senator Dittmer, it may be remembered, pointed out that most of the years of Labour government were during war, some of the worst periods of economic depression that ever swept Australia, and the period of post-war recovery, following 1945. Instead of Government supporters acting like cocks crowing on the garden wall, they would do better to examine the legislation that has been introduced in this country from time to time, particularly during the relatively few years of Labour rule. If they, in their long years of rule, had tried to introduce legislation as good as that, this young country would be far more advanced than it is to-day. I have no need to go over things of that kind, or to point out that worthwhile Labour legislation was opposed tooth and nail by the present Liberal and Australian Country Parties, under whatever names they may have been masquerading in those days.
When I visited the Snowy Mountains scheme only a few days ago I could not help thinking of the strain that was thrown on the engineers and the engineering services when the Chifley Government introduced the scheme, nor could I help remembering that the opening was boycotted by nearly every member of the Government to-day. Yet to-day we see photographs of Senator Spooner taking credit for what ha« been done. I give him marks, though, for the fact that he has learned even so late in his rather turbulent life. I do not want to go over all the schemes and projects that have been undertaken by Labour, but 1 do want to say that if this Government had made the same progress during its long years of office that was made by Labour in its short years of office, Australia would have a much more healthy economy to-day.
What strikes one about this Budget is the purposelessness of it. Even the horror Budget - I remind honorable senators that that name was given to it by Sir Arthur Fadden and not by us - which we criticized and which came as a terrific shock to the Australian people had a purpose. That purpose was to attack inflation. Whatever else it may have brought in its train, it certainly fulfilled that purpose. I invite honorable senators to examine this Budget from A to Z and then try to tell me what is its aim. There is no provision for assistance to industry and there are no real taxation benefits. In the process of give and take, the Government probably will finish up on the wrong side of the ledger. As I have just said, there is no real relief from taxation. No provision is made for the giving of assistance to families in the real sense of the word.
As a matter of fact, all that the Budget has done from a taxation point of view has been to throw into greater maladjustment a taxation act which is long overdue for revision. It is as obvious as it possibly can be that a flat reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax should never have been made. It would have been far better to leave the rates as they were and to raise the level of exemption from taxation. The
Government’s taxation proposals are regressive. Every economist will say that they are not suitable for this country. When a government makes a flat reduction of 5 per cent, it makes no reduction at all for the poor unfortunate person who is not privileged to pay tax - and it is a privilege to pay towards the running of one’s country. Such a flat reduction means a tremendous benefit for the person who has a high earning capacity. Such a proposal is regressive taxation in its very worst form.
There has been a strange silence about the temporary taxes that have been applied in the past. As Senator Armstrong pointed out recently, the tax on motor cars is excessively high. When Mr. Menzies outlined the Government’s intention to raise the tax on motor vehicles at the time of the presentation of the little Budget he made a very eloquent speech and said he regretted that it was necessary to apply such a tax against one section of industry. He said that, necessary as the motor industry was, because of the rate of imports and the condition of inflation that we were experiencing it was essential to impose a surcharge, making the tax on motor vehicles almost double what it previously was. He said that that was a temporary measure, but several years later it is still a temporary measure! If ever there was a time when that impost should have been reviewed, this is certainly the time. But what Mr. Holt tries to do - it demonstrates the attitude of this Government which has been too long in office and has grown soft - is to pat every little child in the community on the head and say, “ Look what good people we are “. Of course, the public has been quick to wake up to that.
As I indicated earlier, if ever there was a piece of legislation which required a real overhaul it is the taxation act. The act was framed in wartime, when high rates were applied. The act was framed at that time for special purposes and, like Topsy, it has grown from that time onwards. I believe that the rates prescribed for concessional deductions are quite wrong. We in Australia, pride ourselves on the giving of equal opportunities for young people, those poor unfortunates who are not doing so well, and those who have children. But where is equality of opportunity accorded in the concessional allowances that are provided in the taxation act? Just let us consider the concession that is made to people who send their children to private schools. Even though I laud the sentiment behind the granting of such concessions, I point out that when you allow a man who is paying taxation at the rate of 10s. in the £1 a concession of £100 for every child whom he sends to a private school, you are giving him a final concession of one hundred times 10s., or £50. But the man who is paying tax at the rate of 5s. in the £1 is receiving a benefit equal to one hundred times 5s. And the poor fellow who pays no tax at all is receiving absolutely nothing! If ever we have learnt anything, surely we have learnt that brains, initiative and courage and all the other attributes which go towards the making of a great Australian, are not confined to the child whose father happens to have a large income.
The position has been so much the worse, of course, by the attitude of this Government to child endowment. If the Government was honest, it would say just where it stood in regard to’ child endowment. The Government was forced into paying it in 1940 and it has resented it ever since. If it is agreed that the payment of child endowment is proper, it must be agreed, following all the laws of logic, that in fixing the amount cognisance should be taken of the process of inflation just as it has been recognized in the fixing of payments for other sections of the community. When the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission awarded an increase of 15s. in the basic wage, most Liberals and Country Party members threw up their hands and said how terrible it was. The thought immediately occurred to me that that would be the end to any talk of any increase in child endowment, because however much this Government may deny it, it is applying any increase in the basic wage against the family man. lt was the Arbitration Court which forced the Menzies Government of 1940 to introduce the payment of 5s. for all but the first child. It seems that this Government has not departed from the psychological approach it adopted at that time, that it resents increases in the basic wage, and that it is offsetting those increases by not increasing child endowment. But sup porters of the Government would be the first to throw up their hands in horror if it were suggested that the Government interfered in any way with the Arbitration Court or that it was applying the court’s decision to its own fiscal policy.
Even though the proposed reduction in income tax is small on this occasion, the policy of making flat-rate reductions is very bad in principle. If ever a wide gulf existed between the Labour Party and the Liberal Party in regard to the subject of taxation, it was in relation to indirect taxation. The Labour Party has said over the years that indirect taxes are a bad form of taxation. It is a flat-rate imposition which applies equally against the mother with several children as against one individual. Beyond reducing indirect taxes and finally abolishing them, there is no other way of applying them than by adopting the flat-rate process - except, of course, in relation to luxury goods. The only way of counterbalancing the reduction or abolition of indirect taxation is the adoption of a graduated scale of taxation.
I do not believe that we shall ever be able to adopt a policy of continually reducing taxes, because money will be needed for additional public works to absorb children leaving school within the next few years and so on. The Government, in pursuing the policy of taxation reduction that it has adopted, is setting a bad precedent, because when it pays back money to the wealthy people in the community it is not helping business interests. The money will be invested immediately in gilt-edged securities or be placed in cold storage in one form or another. But when a reduction is granted to the person whose every shilling is spent on his family, you make a contribution to business and to those who employ labour. That is one of the matters that honorable senators opposite have assiduously avoided discussing during this debate. Of course, the death knell of this Government has been sounding for more years than it cares to admit - particularly in Western Australia, which is not a highly industrialized state, where there has been unemployment. Even though almost annually Senator Spooner throws up his hands and weeps for the poor unemployed, at no stage has he done anything to assist those who employ labour to employ their labour more fully.
If ever a complete shambles has been created by a decision of this Government or any other government, it has been created by the proposed Post Office charges. If the matter were not so serious it would be one of the most amusing things that one. could ever see. I got the first hint when I noticed that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) glossed over the increases so quickly in his Budget speech. He merely made the announcement that there would be some increases in postal charges, and then left it, of course, for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to make the announcements. One would have thought that the increase would be small, but when the announcement was finally made, we had this swindling increase that has shocked every section of the Australian people.
Up to this time as we see if we analyse the Post Office procedures, there has been a system of gradualism, of slowly increasing charges and doing away with services. A commencement was made five or six years ago when the Government increased telegraph rates. Little by little the Government increased the rates until finally it made the sending of telegrams impossible to most people of Australia. Social and congratulatory telegrams were put completely out of the reach of people, and finally the department did away with printing special forms because nobody wanted them.
By making those increases the Government immediately drove people to the use of the telephone. After a couple of years it introduced the iniquitous £10 fee to have a telephone installed or even to have it transferred from one side of the road to the other. That installation fee was a charge just the same as is the increase of telephone rates and rentals at the present time. Slowly during the ten years it has been in office the Government has increased postal charges and telephone rates, and has introduced installation fees and all the rest of it. The success that has attended these efforts has bred a contempt which I think has infiltrated the whole of this Government. I do not know who went crazy first, but in this Budget everybody suddenly went in for his cut. Telegraphic rates are to be increased, telephone charges to be increased, charges for letters are to be increased, charges for commercial papers, patterns and parcels are to be increased. Charges for newspaper wrappers and postcards - another two services of the Postal Department - are to be increased. The whole field of the postal service has been covered. Even while that was going on I noticed that regulations were promulgated. Legislating by regulations and public servants is a popular practice of this Government. Regulations do not appear before the Parliament until they are tabled in each chamber.
These increases have not just burst during the last few months, and during the past ten years services have been whittled down by regulation and all the rest of it. When we come to analyse this matter, it is interesting to attempt to find out who is the author of this proposal. Everybody has been running for cover, just as rabbits do when you fire a shot gun at them. The civil servants say, “ It is not our fault, we are just here to give a service”. Mr. Davidson says, “ I am a member of the Australian Country Party, and I do not want this to happen to farmers “. But after all Mr. Davidson is the PostmasterGeneral! The only person who has been prepared to stand up for these increases is my old friend Senator Spooner - let me do him that much credit - who stood up and said, in effect, “What is wrong with increasing postal rates? Why should not some interest be paid on the money we have invested? “ Unfortunately for Senator Spooner, almost at the time he was speaking the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was preparing a press statement saying that everything was wrong with the increases and that he was going to have another look at them. It seems that Senator Spooner is a man who wanted the increases in telegraph and telephone rates.
I was interested to receive a letter to-day. I was not here yesterday, so it may have come in yesterday’s mail. The increases mentioned in this letter surprised even me, and I thought that I had looked at all the increases closely enough. All honorable senators received this letter to-day from the heads of the Religious Press of Australia. I was rather impressed with the representation that this letter claims. It claims fo represent the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalism
Baptist, Church of Christ, Jewish and other church press publishing departments and interdenominational organizations. If there are any others I should like to hear about them because I do not know of any others who could be included in that list. Surely, whatever our attitude may be to any particular religion, nobody in the community will say that these types of journals do not do some good to somebody. These arc publications that should’ be encouraged rather than discouraged in the community.
The Association of British Book Publishers has also complained about the increases. I was shocked when I noticed that in respect of overseas books the present scale of 4s. 5id. is to be increased to 13s. 2d. Surely if there is one section of the community which should be encouraged it is that section engaged in the dissemination of good literature. After all, we have a censorship board which would prevent the other type of literature from being disseminated throughout the community.
I am sure that if honorable senators have a look in the dusty vaults of this place they will find a long list of recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee which some years ago urged a full inquiry into the Post Office, at the same time recommending that certain things should be done. I should like the Minister, when he is replying, to inform me whether any of those recommendations have been attempted. Over the years business men and top-ranking civil servants have said that there should be a full-scale inquiry into the Postmaster-General’s Department. Surely the shambles that is to be brought about should speak even more eloquently than what has been said in years gone by. I would be pleased to hear the views of the Australian Country Party on these increased charges. It seems that this party has a perpetual alibi. When the Labour Party is in office the Country Party always says of a matter, “That is the Labour Party’s action, we cannot do anything about it”. Yet the Australian Country Party is prepared to keep in office the Liberal Party and justify its position to the farming community. It says, “ We are only the junior partner; it is the Liberal Party that is doing this “. As I have said, the Australian Country Party has a perpetual alibi. But the Postmaster-General is a member of that party, and its protestations are of no avail. How it can justify these increases- in charges to the farming community is completely beyond me!
I think one of the cheekiest, one of the. most insolent things in the Budget is the increase in life insurance deductions for taxation purposes. In two years the taxation allowance for insurance has gone up from £200 to £400. Name me one other thing in this community that over a period of two years has increased to that extent! Child endowment has been completely stationary for ten years. Do not let us kid ourselves about the encouragement of thrift and all the rest of it! There are more ways of encouraging thrift than by encouraging people to invest in insurance companies. There are plenty of other ways by which people can save money and be thrifty. Who are the people who can afford’ to put £400 a year - £8 a week, which is more than half the basic wage - into insurance for the benefit of themselves and their families? Only the same type of persons who are getting the biggest reduction in taxation because of their high’, incomes! I should like to know the tie-up. You wonder why governments come under suspicion. I was quite prepared to concede the justice of the increase two years ago. During a time of inflation people who have been thrifty may have been able to increase their insurance by 50 per cent, from £200 to £300. I thought that a few years would be allowed to elapse before any further allowance was made. But two years later this sop is given to the insurance companies of Australia. Of course, it is one way to cover up deficiencies in the loan programme because insurance companies must inevitably place their money in loans or into the new banking structure.
The other aspect of the Budget has been the strange quiet about things often mentioned in previous years. One of the most amusing things possible happened in 1950 when Senator Spooner, of all people, was made Minister for Social Services. In those days he would say, “ I am going to make my mark through the introduction of national insurance “. He and his colleagues are strangely quiet about that to-day; we never hear it mentioned. It was one of the great promises of 1949.
We hear very little about unemployment - very little indeed. The protestations of this Government notwithstanding, it is now patently clear that the slight pool of unemployed which the Government likes suits its books admirably at present. I warn the Government that it is playing with fire. It is like a small child who lights a fire on the floor and hopes that it will not spread. If something slips in the Australian economy it will produce a snowballing effect such as no government - let alone a government which has grown slack and slothful in office - could handle.
Senator Spooner said, “ You will always criticize our Budgets. You will do the same in twelve months’ or two years’ time Not on your life. In two years’ time an election will be in the offing and we shall see the greatest window-dressing Budget of all time. We shall not then have the room for criticism that we have now. I do not like using harsh words in this chamber. I usually leave that to others, but it is perfectly clear that this Government has adopted a completely arrogant attitude to the people of Australia, with whom it has quite lost touch. That is obvious when one considers the proposed postal increases. It is plain that Ministers should get to work and start to run their departments. It is as obvious as anything can be, but they have lost control of them. They are not worried because they have been in office so long. 1 am afraid that human nature is making them completely indifferent to the needs of the people.
The letters that we have found in our mail boxes to-day indicate that the protest at the Budget has come not merely from the Opposition, but from a shocked public throughout Australia - shocked that the Government should give to the wealthy taxation rebates which bountiful seasons have made possible, as well as the benefits of high insurance limits, and while ignoring the need for higher child endowment, bringing more migrants to Australia. God speed to any one who brings more migrants to this country. The idea that we should do so was first put into effect by Labour - in the face of much criticism by the Liberal Party, or the United Australia Party, as it was then called. However, surely prudence dictates that if we are to spend a lot of money importing people we should be equally active in increasing the payments made to natural-born Australians.
Also, the Government has ignored the needs of the age pensioners and the children and has displayed towards the community an arrogance and indifference which, I am afraid, stems from an over-long period in office. These have been years of opportunity. They have been peaceful years - which is something to be glad for in these troubled times as a result of the cold war and the kindred problems which hang over us in the international sphere. They have been bountiful years. They have been prosperous years. Wool prices and seasons have been good. This was a period in which any government should have grasped its opportunities with both hands. This Government should have acted in a statesmanlike fashion, but I am afraid that it has fiddled away its opportunities and played politics in the worst sense of the word. Indeed, I cannot remember an occasion when that has been more apparent. I am very much afraid that Australia may yet regret the fiddling and fumbling that has taken place at the hands of the members of this Government, which has been too long in office, has obviously lost control of its own departments, and has become arrogant and indifferent to the wishes of the Australian people.
– I rise to support the motion proposed by Senator Paltridge, and to oppose the amendment that has come from Senator McKenna. First, let me congratulate those honorable senators who have delivered maiden speeches during this debate. I hope that I shall not be considered presumptuous in so doing, because I am only a new member, but I did feel for them. It is only seven months since I faced the same ordeal.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was based largely on an alleged deficiency of the Government in regard to social services. I should have thought that the honorable senator would have dealt with the wider field of Australia’s development. I was amazed to hear Senator Willesee suggest that in two years’ time the Government would bring down a window-dressing budget. What happened in 1958, just before the last election?
What did this Government promise? What did it promise before the previous election? It made no lavish promises. Indeed, it could have made the concessions now offered in the Budget of 1958, but it did not wish to beat the Opposition in this matter of buying votes.
As the Opposition’s case is based on social services and inflation, I would remind the Senate that between June, 1957, and December, 1958 - some eighteen months - Australian retail prices rose by 3 per cent., as against 4 per cent, in Canada, 4 per cent, in the United Kingdom, 5 per cent, in South Africa, and 8 per cent, in New Zealand, which has a Labour Government. In 1949, when Labour was in office, the age pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week. If we had maintained the same relationship between it and the C series index the present age pension would be not £4 15s. but £3 19s. 8d.
– Why not relate it to the basic wage?
– I have chosen the C series index as the basis for comparison. Senator Cooke may use the basic wage if he wishes. I have shown that the pensioner is 15s. 4d. a week better off than he would have been if he had received the same percentage of the C scries index figure as he received in 1949. Also, in that year there were no pensioner medical services. This Government introduced the general practitioner services, and also made available to the majority of pensioners, free of charge, a wide range of medicines.
We are sometimes criticized in regard to the means test, but I remind honorable senators that the Government has progressively eased it. In 1949 the allowable income was £1 10s. a week. That figure has been raised to £3 10s. Similarly, the property limit of £750 has been raised to £2,250. Honorable senators opposite have suggested that the age pension should be equal to half the basic wage, or £6 18s., but that would cost another £86,000,000 per annum and would involve an increase of 22i per cent, in personal taxation. Last year individual taxpayers contributed some £431,000,000 to revenue.
If we are to believe some honorable senators opposite we might be persuaded to think that Australia was in a shocking state. I find it very hard to believe that a country is not prosperous when there is one motor vehicle for every 3.95, or four, persons. I think that the size of the average family is taken as being two parents and two children. Honorable senators opposite may say that this has been made possible by the growth of hire purchase, but such a growth is possible only where there is confidence in the future. Let us look at the number of telephones installed. Telephones cannot be bought on hire purchase, but there is one for every 4.89 persons, virtually one for every five.
I should like now to move on to what I consider to be a most important factor. I direct the attention of the Government, and particularly the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), to the vital need for setting up a committee to study the desalination of water. The importance of this is emphasized when I point out that if we were to dam every stretch of dammable water we could conserve only 200,000,000 acre feet of water. Of that quantity, Western Australia could conserve only 8 per cent., and, unfortunately for that State, 6i per cent, of that 8 per cent, would be conserved in the Kimberleys. It will be seen, therefore, that water could have a limiting effect upon any increase in the population of this country.
Honorable senators will realize the magnitude of the problem when I point out that the water consumption in New York city alone as far back as 1950 averaged 1,000,000,000 gallons a day, and this required an average annual supply of 1,000,000 acre feet. I emphasize that this daily consumption of 1,000,000,000 gallons was in the metropolitan area only, and did not include water used for irrigation. It will be appreciated, therefore, that if we are to have a population of 100,000’,000 by the year 2020, our water requirements will present an enormous problem.
As it’ is hard to imagine exactly what 1,000,000,000 gallons a day means, I took the trouble to carry out a little research and, to put the matter in fairly simple terms, I quote the following from a book entitled, “ Fresh Water From the Ocean “ -
Perhaps a . better feeling for just how much water one thousand million gallons daily really is can be gained by calculating the pipeline size such a flow would require. If the water is made to flow at two miles per hour, which is about half a normal person’s walking speed, a pipe a little under twentysix feet in diameter would transmit one thousand million gallons a day. A small two-storey house would fit into such a pipe. For a faster flow rate the pipe could be smaller.
So, we are really talking of creating a small river.
Some other interesting statistics are those
Which indicate that a flow of 1,000,000,000 gallons a day corresponds to a little over 48 tons of water a second. This means that each second it would be possible to fill a room 12 cubic feet in volume. On the other hand, it takes three years to use up 1 cubic mile of sea water at the rate of 1,000,000,000 gallons a day. Thus, 1,000,000,000 gallons a day is a rather large volume of water flow when compared with the size of, say, people, machines and houses and the volume of our ordinary consumption of other commodities, but it is a rather small item when compared with rivers, mountains or oceans, and it does not constitute an exceptionally large irrigation supply. t turn now to the methods of desalination and what the work involves. First, I take the content of sea water. There are 3i lb. of dissolved solids in every 100 lb. of sea water, and it contains almost every known mineral, some in minute quantities, because 86 per cent, of that 3i lb. is sodium and chloride, whilst sulphate and magnesium make up most of the rest. I do not wish to bore the Senate by reading all the details relating to the composition of sea water, and, with the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table of content of 3½lb. of dissolved solids in every 100 lb. of sea water. This is the table-
Having discovered what sea water contains, We have now to ascertain how pure sea water must be for human consumption. The proportion of 3i lb. of dissolved solids to 100 lb. of sea water works out at 35,000 parts to every 1,000,000 lb., and, in some parts of the United States of America, water with 4,000 parts to every 1,000,000 lb. is used for drinking, but if I say that 10,000 parts to 1,000,000 lb. induces vomiting, honorable senators will understand that a proportion of 4,000 parts to 1,000,000 lb. is fairly high. Therefore, 1,000 parts to 1,000,000 lb. is considered good quality water. So we have the problemthat these solids are in the sea water and we know the quantityof these solids we must remove to bring sea water to a point where it can be used for human consumption. Having studied these factors, and having realized the terrific problem that confronts any country that wants to engage in the desalination of salt or brackish water, I am prompted to suggest that the Government set up a committee to study the problem.
There are 32 different known methods of taking the salt from sea water. They have been narrowed down to five groups, which are described in the “ Symposium on Saline Water Conversion “ as -
Thermal or mechanical distillation processes of several types,
That is, using heat from the sun -
Membrane processes of two or three different kinds, such as electro dialysis,
Freezing of water and other chemical and electrical processes.
I submit that surveys to determine the real status of future water demands and industrial water requirements are urgently needed, and I therefore suggest to the Government that serious consideration be given to erecting a combined power and water distillation plant at the new nuclear power station whichwe were told the other day might be started some time in the mid-1960’s.It ismy belief thatthe economic desalination of sea water could be one of the most urgent problems facing Australia in the future.
I come now to the question of land development throughout Australia, but with particular reference to Western Australia. In my maiden speech, I referred to the development taking place at Esperance in that state and to the vital part the new Development Bank could play in that development. In the last three years some 200 new settlers have taken up land at Esperance, anil half of them have come from Victoria and New South Wales. They have taken up land that has cost between 5s. and 6s. an acre, that has a rainfall of from 17 to 26 inches, and that can be developedfor between £10 and £17 an acre. But it must be remembered that when land such as : that is opened up for development a great strain is thrown on the ‘financial resources of the State con cerned because of the demandfor such necessary things as roads, railways, ports, schools andhospitals. If theCommonwealth Government recognizes the terrific potential forland development in those areas, it must be prepared ‘to make moneys available to the States for these purposes.
I should like to express my delight at the Government’s acceptance of the plan for the proposed diversion dam on the Ord River. I was privileged, as a member of the Government Members Food and Agricultural Committee, to inspect recently the whole of the north-west, but with emphasis on the Ord and Fitzroy basins. It would be the understatement of the year to say that I was impressed by what I saw - the colossal area of land that can be irrigated, the thousands of acres of beautiful rich soil, river silt that the centuries have deposited on the river flats. We have there the three ingredients to grow almost anything, namely, rich soil, abundance of sunshine, and water, but unfortunately the water is uncontrolled and has to be dammed. I was most impressed by the job done by the officers of the Kimberley research station. Their task was to prove that certain crops could be grown and I am convinced that they have done exactly that.
Ihave figures which were given to me bythe State Government and which relate tosome of the crops, their returns, and the money that they should earn. I cannot guarantee the figures, which is why I , have an the notice-paper a question in relation to certain overseas markets. The ability to grow rice has been proved. I saw : it growing, not only at the Ord River, but also down atLiveringa.It is likely to return approximately11/2 tons an acre, which at £37 10s. a ton would yield £55 an acre. The outstanding advantage of growing rice in northern Australia, as compared with the Mumimbidgee area, is that in the north high grade long rice can be grown, whereas the south grows only short rice, which is unacceptable to the Asiatic peoples.
I am led to believe that there is a very bigmarket in America for oil derived from safflower for use as a base for plastic paints, as well as for its edible qualities. In 1956-57and1957-58. Australia imported approximately :5,000,000 gallons of linseed oil at approximately 1.2s. 7d. a gallon, which cost us £1,600,000 a year. Safflower oil is a perfect substitute for linseed oil, and safflower is a proven crop in the Kimberleys. About three weeks ago I saw at Liveringa a crop standing about 2 ft. 6 in. high that looked as if it would produce just as well as the crop at the research station at the Ord, but it was not just on a plot. There were some 40 or 50 acres of safflower, so the opportunities for producing this crop are not confined to the Ord River project. It can be grown as well down in the Fitzroy basin. At the research station yields have been about 2,000 lb. of seed an acre, with an oil content of more than 30 per cent. This is equivalent to 64 gallons of oil an acre, so the return would be about £40 an acre, based on the imported price of linseed oil.
To my way of thinking the State Government, perhaps through the Commonwealth Department of Trade, has to establish just where it can sell the commodities that are to be produced in that area. Recently, Mr. C. S. Christian, head of the Land Research and Regional Survey Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, said -
Development of agriculture in northern Australia could add £50,000,000 a year to the national income. … A potential area of 500,000 acres for irrigated crops existed on the major river systems of the Ord, Victoria, Fitzroy, Lennard and Margaret rivers. In some areas an even more diversified irrigated agriculture could be developed.
About 1,000 square miles of rice growing country existed in the area, and experience gained by the Kimberley Research Station and by private enterprise encouraged the belief that commercial rice production would be possible.
Just imagine - 1,000 square miles of ricegrowing country! This vast area, which is rather loosely referred to as the north-west but is in three distinct areas, of course - the Kimberleys, the Pilbara and the Gascoyne - has a colossal potential for almost unlimited production, but I have maintained all along that its development is quite beyond the resources of the State Government. The Commonwealth Government has recognized that fact, hence its grant of £5,000,000. But I am of the opinion that it is also beyond the resources of the Commonwealth Government. I should think that an amount of the order of £300,000,000 to £400,000,000 is needed to develop the north-west of Western Australia.
– That is not beyond the capacity of Australia.
– I think it is. We should not try to provide it during my lifetime or yours. The cost should be spread over a longer period than that. On the other hand, I suggest that we do not need to go to the World Bank. I believe that the north-west is in itself such a saleable commodity as to be a good investment for any businessman. He could not do better than subscribe to a world loan. We should seek capital from Britain, or America or anywhere else that it can be obtained for the development of the north-west. I would say that it should be a joint effort between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, and I would visualize perhaps that the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the State Premier and the Minister for the north-west would go overseas to sell a business proposition. They would have a well-documented case, a very good television film on the area, good brochures on it, and samples of the products that can be grown, because I am convinced that there are investors in Great Britain to-day who are looking for this type of investment. An investment in Australia to-day is safe. In the past, British money went to Africa and to some of the other countries where a colour problem exists, and the surge of nationalism could perhaps lead to the taking over of their assets. Australia is one of the few countries left in the world where investments are safe. I think that if the three men I have mentioned went overseas and said boldly to investors that they were seeking some £300,000,000 to develop the area of which I speak, the money would be forthcoming.
– What would be the tenure of the land?
– I thank the honorable senator for reminding me of that matter. We cannot go on with the 99 years lease system. I think this has been one of the retarding factors in the North-West. If you try to raise money from a financial institution and your sole assets are a shed or a house or something of that kind that you cannot very well remove, the people on the land will tell you that the only people you can get money from are the stock firms because stock is negotiable. But if you can freehold the property, you then have an asset against which money can be raised. I think that the 99 years lease system must go. lt could not be said that we were creating a precedent because this has already been done with Liveringa. The Northern Development Company takes a block of 5,000 acres and it is laid down that when that block is developed the company can freehold it and then take another 5,000 acres. The company has the right to take up 20,000 acres in this way. That has been done for the growing of rice economically in the Fitzroy Basin. 1 think that too little has been done by this Government and by previous governments, both State and Federal, to develop this area. It seems to me that it has been put, figuratively speaking, in the “ too hard “ basket. In my opinion, time is running out as far as the north-west of Western Australia is concerned. I say that for geographical reasons. It is only 300 miles from the Western Australian coast near the Kalumbura mission station, to Indonesia, and that Wyndham is closer by sea to Singapore than it is to Perth, and closer to Rangoon, Hong Kong, and Manila than it is to Melbourne by sea. That is why I say that, from a geographical point of view, I think our time is running out.
Something has to be done - a grant of £5,000,000 is not the answer to the problem - if we are to convince the peoples of the world that we are entitled to hold and to control what I consider to be one of the last rich, untapped sources of food production left in the world. I wish the State Government well in its ambitious project, and I want to pay a tribute to all members of this Parliament and to the members of the Western Australian Parliament who have had the vision and have urged that something be done to develop the northwest of Western Australia.
For many years I have read the “ Hansard “ reports of debates in this chamber, and I know who are the representatives of Western Australia that have urged the Government to give serious consideration to this matter. I think that Mr. Court, the Minister for the North-West, is deserving of some credit because of the absolutely boundless energy and enthusiasm that he has displayed in the matter. He just could not see failure for the whole of the Ord River project, and I think he must have done a very good job when he faced the four Ministers concerned and sold them the story that the diversion dam was absolutely necessary. I say that it is necessary, despite the armchair theorists who have contended that development of the project would amount to sending money down the drain. This dam has to be constructed before work on the main dam is undertaken. Obviously, the diversion dam must be completed before the main dam is constructed. According to the experts, the testing of the bar has been quite satisfactory It has been stated, by way of criticism, that if a diversion dam were established, in times of flood the waters would scour round the edges and inundate the land which it was proposed to irrigate. However, I think such criticism is ill-informed, because it is intended to use the Tainter Gate type of dam. In this type of construction, the gates can be raised to let the flood waters through, and then lowered again. That has the effect of scouring out the terrific amount of silt that accumulates in this kind of country.
– Will the £5,000,000 be used to construct that dam?
– No. The first amount of £2,500,000 was earmarked for three specific projects at Wyndham, Black Rocks, and Port Hedland respectively. Then the State Government sought leave to use the second grant of £2,500,000 from the Federal Government for the diversion dam. The diversion dam will cost more than £2,500,000. The State Government has stated quite openly that it will provide whatever this dam costs in excess of the grant of £2,500,000. That includes a quite important factor, as any one who knows the area realizes. The dam project itself will include the provision of an all-weather crossing of the Ord River. It has been one of the bugbears of the people in the north during the “ wet “ that there has not been an all-weather crossing over the Ord River.
– What is holding up the consent to the expenditure of the £2,500,000?
– The consent has been, given. I- express my delight that the Federal Government has seen fit to recognize the fact that the. State Government shall be responsible for spending the grant. But the- Federal Government has still held something in reserve; it has said, in. effect, to Western Australia, “ You have to convince us before you get amounts that produce can be grown economically and thai YOU will, be able to sell what is grown “. That is a sensible way to look at the matter, lit is- of no, use to, undertake the growing of cr,ops unless that can be done economically.
I should like to congratulate the Government - I am very sincere in this - and the Treasurer on bringing down a budget that provides a taxation reduction of 5 per cent., amounting to £21,000,000, increased” social service benefits at a cost- of- about £22,000,000; and increased repatriationbenefits at a cost of £8;000,000 - a total of about £51,000,000. As I said earlier, perhaps these benefits could have been granted just prior to the last election, but I am very glad’ to see that this Government prefers to be judged on its record rather than wild, pre-election promises. I think that perhaps it is not even astute politics, but it is Honest politics that; immediately after an election, when you have three years to go before the next one, you. start making concessions. No one can say there is any bribery in that. I maintain that it is the action of a government which is very conscious that taxation concessions can be given only when the. economy can stand them.
.- In rising to speak on the Budget, one is at first inclined to refer to the subject matter which, I- thought, our new colleague from Tasmania, Senator Lillico, mentioned most impressively, namely the Constitution and the part that this House is intended to play within the constitutional framework of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I was very much impressed by the reference that our colleague made to that subject, and I derived some warmth from his reference to the lowering of respect for the New Zealand Legislative Council because, I think he said, of the unvarying acquiescence of that chamber in the. decisions of another place. Iti earned- contempt for itself, in the eyes of both the House of Representatives in
New Zealand- and the people-, and was subsequently annihilated-. I- make these, references because the name of Lillico, as we Tansmanians at least know, has been, a very strong- security in maintaining the Federal Constitution. I refer, of course, to the years 1944 and 1945* when a great, assault was made on our Constitution.
I also take delight in making these references because the honorable senator spoke at a most opportune time. Ere long, Mr. Acting Deputy President, this House will have to form an opinion as to its proper role in the Federal Constitution when the Government considers a report; the reasons for which are now in the course of prolonged preparation. I refer to the report of the Constitutional Review. Committee. If anybody has taken the- trouble to, familiarize himself with the interim- report of the. committee, published and tabled in- the Parliament last November-, he will- be aware that there are recommendations from- the majority of the committee which are designed to make an- impact on the- functions of this House.
– What were the 1944 and 1945 incidents?
– When Dr. Evatt endeavoured to get an alteration of the Constitution through the various State Parliaments, with an omnibus amendment which would have eroded the powers of the States to a greater degree of insignificance than they, by their acquiescence, are earning for themselves to-day. At a later stage, I shall- make some remarks regarding the part played by the States at the FederalState financial conferences in March and June.
I rise with a sense of appreciation, too, of the most forceful remarks of several honorable senators from various States, mainly Queensland and Western Australia. I call to mind Senators Dittmer, Wood, Maher and- Branson, who spoke in relation to the very important problem that Australia is confronted with, namely that of peopling the tropical parts of the Commonwealth and of developing them. I’ am reminded that Senator Willesee, in his speech- to-night, referred to-this matter- and- said, I- thought with some tinge of. sadness, especially in- one so young, that he spoke in an atmosphere of despair, ft is only eight- years, even on his statement, since he made- the proposal for a committee-
Cor the development of, northern- Australia,, and eight years in the life of one parliamentarian in the Senate is a- very short space of time. I. make this comment in the hope that he will persevere.
Coming from Hobart, the southernmost part of the Commonwealth, I rejoice in referring to this subject, because unless- we can: devise means of developing the tropical parts of Australia we are courting danger of a national character. It- would well, become: this, chamber to constitute a committee, as other honorable senators have suggested in the course of this debate, that would- devote itself purposefully to devising ways and means whereby the- effective work of development in northern areas could be sustained. I refer particularly to what Senator Maher had to- say in relation to Mount Isa. It is humbling, Mr. Acting Deputy President, to- be reminded that for the- want of a mere- £20,000,000 of finance, the development of the wealth that might be forthcoming from that area is being retarded.
Surely, this is an outstanding example where, on the mere mention in this assembly of the people that those with enterprise and courage should go there and risk their capital, the money should be borrowed immediately by a purposeful Minister. He should ask, “ What finance in. the way of public utilities do you want? “ If we cannot guarantee that those utilities are there for the purpose, well, there is something wrong with the state of government in the development of this country. I speak with warmth because it is a particular project of the northern State, but any one who heard Senator Maher’s speech this afternoon - unfortunately, I was absent when Senator Wood spoke on the same subject - must have been convinced that this is the kind of thing that should be done immediately, because out of it will grow further development right in the part of Australia where, I think, the national interest demands immediate development.
Apart from these preliminary references, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I have nothing new to say, except that I want to mention some of the matters that are referred to in the Budget. I find in the Budget speech two words of great acceptability. They are “ stability “ and “ expansion “; but I would love to have the smooth pen and penmanship that wrote the Budget speech. In the. forefront of the speech you will find, Sir,, after the first twoformal paragraphs, that the third paragraph begins, “ It was a notable year for rural production: - Then, without even a passing reference to the economy of the rural production, it continues, “ and, in the secondary field, the majority of industries increased their output”. I would emulate the- man. who can refer to last year, in regard to> rural production; as a notable year. I shall, come- to this matter again in a moment, Sir.
Having regard to the increasing demand for imports during the next ten years and, hence, the necessity to expand our exports, while the agricultural, industries which support those exports to the extent of. 85 per cent, wither and: die, compared- with other sections of the community, if this country thinks it is going to continue to develop dependence on its exports to financeits imports, as it has been doing; it has another think coming. An analysis, of the Budget papers makes it transparently plain that companies, the commercial enterprises in the cities-, growing fat last year and the dwindling of farm incomes were the reason for the reduced return from taxation. Yet the Government contents itself by saying in the Treasurer’s Budget speech that it was a notable year for rural production. But the sad fact is that the work which went into the expansion of rural production returned a remuneration which was miserable when compared with that of other sections of the economy. If the honorable senators will listen to me, I shall deal with that later.
Three factors in particular are noted in the Budget, and it is well to remind ourselves of the comparative perspective of each in a budget of £1,600,000,000. The first factor - that of social services - which involves an increase of 7s. 6d. in most of the pensions, the provision of £1,000,000 for aborigines, increased maternity allowances and various other items, means an additional expenditure of only £10,000,000. I direct the attention of the Senate to statement No. 5 at page 31 of the appendix to the Budget speech, which reveals that age, invalid and widows’ pensions, certain medical benefits and tuberculosis allowances, and the extension of eligibility of aborigines for pensions and maternity allowances will mean an additional expenditure of £10,185,000. The increase in age and invalid pensions alone will amount to £19,887,000. It is well to remind ourselves that, if the existing legislation in that respect remained unaltered, the increase in expenditure would be £14,873,000. After getting back £2,500,000 by way of increased charges for pharmaceutical benefits, we will end up with a net addition under the national welfare head of £22,558,000. That is the first item with which the Budget deals. The proposed alteration in the legislation, as I said, will have an effect of approximately £10,000,000 in a budget of £1,600,000,000.
The second factor to which I refer is the proposed straight out 5 per cent, rebate on individual income tax, which will involve between £20,000,000 and £21,000,000. If given the time, I intend to say something about that later. Then we come to the third and major factor in the Budget - major in comparison with the other two, but not major in relation to the whole Budget - that is, the proposed Post Office charges. Personally, I do not find myself enthusiastic as to the degree to which the matter has been examined. Some of the results of the original announcement were indeed a little arresting. Modifications have been made but, as to the sufficiency of them, one still awaits the businesslike detailed information that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and the officers of the Postal Department can provide in conference. So one reserves judgment as to that vexed matter.
They are the three matters in relation to which the Budget seeks to make an alteration. When those alterations combine to reduce the deficit from £113,000,000 to £61,000,000- the actual deficit last year was some £29,000,000 - I ask myself in a spirit of great humility, and solely for the purpose of seeking enlightenment when the Minister replies, whether a deficit of £61,000,000 in this year, having regard to all that is contained in the Budget speech, will make this coun try more prosperous in the real sense and not in the terms of the figures to which we have so nauseatingly become accustomed. I ask myself whether the individuals in this country will become more prosperous in the real sense. I believe that poses a problem as to the proper assessment of the inflationary trend that has been restimulated in the last three or four months. From the few contacts I have had with businessmen here and there, it is overwhelmingly obvious that any contractor who has had a tender awaiting consideration by an entrepreneur has asked for a clause to be drawn to provide for the increase which every businessman sees to be inevitable over the period of the contract. It is somewhat arresting to find, as I found in one case involving a charitable home which was to cost £25,000, a contractor saying, “ I must revise my estimate to the extent of at least £5,000”. In yet another case involving public works, a contractor said, “We must withdraw that tender and submit a tender providing for an increase of 20 per cent.”. There is most cogent evidence of what the Budget speech mildly refers to as increasing demand and rising costs. To end the evening with a subdued thought, I remind honorable senators that the Budget speech, referring to the steep rise in Commonwealth expenditure, contains this passage -
To some extent this has been due to special factors, such as the large and sudden rise in debt redemptions and the big increase in provision that has had to be made for various capital facilities. Rising costs have also contributed
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 September 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590901_senate_23_s15/>.