24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator BRANSON presented petitions praying that the Government provide television services and facilities from 121 residents of the shire of Geraldton-Greenough, 213 residents in the shire of Morawa, 12 residents in the shire of Northampton and 110 residents in the shire of Parenjori.
Petitions received and read.
– Mr. President, possibly I should direct my question to both the Minister representing the Minister for Air and the Minister for Civil Aviation, but I shall content myself by addressing it to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a report in yesterday’s edition of the “ Advertiser “ in Adelaide which referred to a complaint made in the South Australian Parliament about the terrifying noise made by a Royal Air Force Vulcan jet operating from the Adelaide airport? Are these flights designed to accustom people in nearby areas to the noise of jets as a prelude to the future use of jet airliners? If so, will he ensure that every care is taken not to terrify elderly people and young children? If the flights are not designed for that purpose, are there not other airfields from which the Vulcan jets could operate? If there are such airfields why is West Beach civil airport being used?
– I have not seen the newspaper report referred to by the honorable senator, nor have I any knowledge at all of the incident. It is unusual for an Air Force type aircraft to use the Adelaide civilian airport when an Air Force airport is available so near at hand. I have no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the use of Adelaide airport by a Royal Air Force aircraft of the type mentioned. I shall look at that aspect of the matter and ascertain the reasons why the aircraft used that airport rather than an Air Force aerodrome which is not too far distant. I think the honorable senator will agree with me that the Adelaide airport was constructed specifically to provide a very large buffer area to protect the neighbouring district from excessive noise. Although the Vulcan aircraft generates a good deal more noise than other types of aircraft, I am surprised that it has occasioned any inconvenience in this respect. I shall look into that aspect of the matter also.
– In view of the fact that the Senate represents the States, I ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral: Has the Attorney-General’s attention been directed to the report that the State of New South Wales proposes, unilaterally, to extend its territorial limits seaward beyond the normally accepted distance of three miles to twelve miles? How will this affect the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth Government which has responsibility beyond the territorial limit? And how will it affect the territorial rights to seaward of the States of Queensland and Victoria which were originally part of the sovereign area of New South Wales?
– The question raises great constitutional issues. I do not think it is common practice to provide kerb-side opinions on matters of complex consitutional law; and I do not think I should depart from established practice in that respect.
– I understand (hat the material on which I base my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air has been dealt with in the press and that the Minister for Air has issued a statement on it. Does the Minister read the “ Sydney Morning Herald “? It is a splendid newspaper. Did the Minister read its editorial of 13th August? If so, did he note that it stated that a long-range bomber force would be a most convincing deterrent against military adventures of the kind that have been successfully deployed against Malaysia? Does the Minister agree with the statement in that journal that the Government has continued to avoid securing replacements for the obsolete Canberra bombers? Will the Minister give the $enate and the people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth concerning the suggested- purchase of modern bombers? Have they been purchased? If so, when will they arrive in Australia?
– Yes, I do read the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ but I have no recollection of having read its editorial of 1 3th August. The honorable senator implied that, for some time, the Government has evaded taking action to replace Canberra bombers. I can assure him that that is not so. The Government invariably makes a very close study of the needs of this country before it makes a decision on a matter of this nature. The needs of Australia as far as the replacement of the Canberra bombers is concerned are, perhaps, unique in the world to-day because of some factors that stand out very plainly. One such factor is our isolation.
Many people in the aircraft manufacturing business to-day are making aircraft to suit closely populated areas. In Australia, because of our isolation, we have different requirements. I am sure that the newspaper report indicated that the Government had sent overseas the very best brains in the land to-day to make an evaluation of the various types of aircraft available to meet our needs. It is no secret that that delegation has returned and is preparing a report for the Government. It is no secret that, as soon as the Government has at its disposal all the information it needs to make a correct decision, that decision will be made.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise may recall visiting Outer Harbour, South Australia, with me in lune, 1962, when we inspected the facilities of his department for the processing of incoming sea travellers, including migrants. No doubt the Minister is aware of the substantial increase in the number of vessels now calling at Outer Harbour, bringing increased numbers of passengers from overseas, including migrants. Can the Minister indicate whether the department contemplates any improvements in passenger handling facilities at Outer Harbour?
– I remember quite well the visit which I paid with Senator Laught to Outer Harbour and our inspection of the facilities. I was very taken with the facilities as they existed at that time but, believing that there would be an increase in passenger traffic through Outer Harbour, I felt that these facilities were not quite extensive enough to handle this traffic as it developed. I noted at the time that the Premier of South Australia was rather concerned that some vessels were by-passing Outer Harbour and also that the Minister for Immigration had, in a press statement, said that he had been working on this matter for some time and that more ships would come through Outer Harbour. This has, in fact, happened. I understand that the harbour authority is considering plans for a two-story building, and I am happy to say that that authority is working closely with Customs officials, so that the section for the Department of Customs and Excise will be in accordance with our requirements. That is a very farsighted approach on the part of the harbour authority. In the final analysis, the decision on this matter will be for the South Australian Government. I am sure that Sir Thomas Playford, having raised the matter of insufficient ships calling at Outer Harbour, will not hesitate, when he finds that Mr. Downer has corrected the position, to provide the facilities necessary to handle the traffic.
– I thank the Minister for Civil Aviation for the interesting, written reply that he gave me last week to a question dealing with northern hemisphere air combines, in which he said that the partnership of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and British Overseas Airways Corporation inspired confidence. I ask the Minister: First, as B.O.A.C. has sustained losses of £64,000,000 sterling, to which another £14,000,000 sterling has been added this year, does this make the Minister enthusiastic? Secondly, will Australia be represented at the forthcoming International Air
Transport Association traffic conference, which will open in Salzburg on Sth September? If so, who will be Australia’s representative? Thirdly, where does Australia stand in regard to the lowering of air fares for international air travel?
– The honorable senator refers to the operating loss sustained by B.O.A.C. and tries to put into my mouth the suggestion that that operating loss inspires some confidence on my part. All I can say to the honorable senator is that the confidence that the Government and, for that matter, 1 myself have in the tripartite pool, which comprises B.O.A.C, Qantas and Air India, springs from considerations which are much wider and much more broadly based than the operating loss unfortunately sustained by B.O.A.C. over the past few years.
I suggest that it is altogether wrong for the honorable senator or any one else lightly to assume that this loss has been incurred by B.O.A.C. as the result of what might be regarded as normal commercial operating circumstances. The subject Ls too deep for it to be gone into by way of question and answer. I suggest that Senator Hendrickson should read the reports of B.O.A.C. to the British Government over the last few years in which the organization set out quite o’.early the reasons why it has sustained this loss. He might also consider the apparent acceptance by the United Kingdom Government of this loss in the wider interests of maintaining British aircraft and British airlines in the air. The honorable senator should remember that an international airline like B.O.A.C. is, and has to be, something more than merely a commercial enterprise. I suggest that in many senses it is an instrument of foreign policy, and that for this reason presumably the United Kingdom authorities are prepared to see it sustain a loss. There arises also the question, which is of importance to the United Kingdom, as to whether that country should sustain not only an airline industry but also an aircraft manufacturing industry.
The honorable senator also asked whether Australia will be represented at the forthcoming conference of the International Air Transport Association. The answer is, “ No “. No countries are represented at the conference. 1 should have expected the honorable senator to know that it is a conference of airline operators and not of governments. The international operators will be represented at this conference. Qantas will be represented but not the Australian Government as such.
Australia’s attitude to fare levels is expressed from time to lime through the operators at I.A.T.A. conferences and in government-to-government communications and statements which are made periodically. If the honorable senator is sufficiently interested in what was said on this subject at the last conference, which was held at Chandler in the United States of America, I shall be pleased to let him have what I can on the subject so that he may enlighten himself.
– I address these questions to the Minister for Health: ls it a fact that largely because of the initiative of the National Health and Medical Research Council a survey of illness patterns in Australia has been carried out over the last twelve months, with approximately 100 doctors participating in the survey? ls it a fact that when the analysis of the results of the survey has been completed invaluable information will be made available to the medical profession, teaching hospitals and public health authorities? Does the survey include dental health? If the answer is, “No”, will the Minister consider initiating a similar survey in relation to dental health?
– The answer to the question is, “ Yes “. The results of the survey are now being collated and examined and a report will be made available which will be of great value to hospital administrators and the medical profession generally. The survey did not include dental health From time to time the Government has declared that dental health is the responsibility of the States, and I think it is fair to say that the States have accepted that responsibility. They have provided mobile dental clinics for the schools. Whilst the Government from’ time to time has examined the possibility of including dental health in a national health scheme, up to this point of time ways and means have not been found of doing so. There are some real problems associated with the inauguration of a dental health scheme. The only hope I can give the honorable senator is that the Department of Health ls continually examining ways and means of extending the health scheme, but as yet it has not found a solution to the problems that face it in this field.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs by saying that on Tuesday the Minister for External Affairs stated that he had expressed certain views to the Government pf South Viet Nam. Does the Minister’s representative here know what those views were? If he does not, will he undertake to obtain them from the Minister for External Affairs and inform the Senate of them?
– I understand that the Minister for External Affairs is to make a statement on this matter later to-day. I think it would be better to await that statement before going further into this question.
– Because the road from Burnie to the west coast of Tasmania, which is nearing completion, gives Burnie access to a greater population, will this act influence the decision of the Department of Civil Aviation not to install night landing facilities at the Wynyard aerodrome?
– I am not aware of the development to which the honorable senator refers - the construction of this particular road - nor of the effect it might have on air travel at Wynyard. The best I can do is to tell the honorable senator that I will have a look at the circumstances and see whether there should be any change of plans for Wynyard.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Has he seen a report in to-day’s “ Canberra Times “ which states that speakers at the quarterly meeting of the Canberra Chamber of Commerce called for another Senate select committee to investigate Canberra?
I ask whether his attention has been directed to Mr. Rowell’s statement, which was reported as follows: -
The previous Senate Select Committee, appointed in 1954, had resulted in the founding of the National Capital Development Commission in 1955 - probably one of the most important single events in the history o’f Canberra.
In view of the fact that the Chamber of Commerce council is considering recommending such an investigation, will the Leader of the Government consider the setting up of such a Senate select committee?
– Although I carefully read the newspapers in anticipation of questions that I might be asked at question time I am at the disadvantage of having missed out on this item this morning. I have always held the view that the Senate select committee on Canberra made a really worthwhile contribution to Canberra’s development. I would not be prepared, without a good deal of reflection, to express an opinion as to whether another committee of the Senate should be appointed at this stage, having regard to the fact that the National Capital Development Commission is operating in Canberra. I should like to consider the ramifications of any proposed committee related to that circumstance before I expressed a view.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a report emanating from the Canberra bureau of the Adelaide “ News “ on 28th June, 1963, that the electronic computers of the Department of Defence, worth more than £1,000,000, are lying almost idle in Canberra because the department cannot get experienced staff to operate the machines, and that although the unit director, Dr. J. Ovenstone, has toured Britain and America to recruit staff fewer than half of the personnel required have been engaged? Does the Minister agree that this situation poses a query regarding the benefits to be derived from installing such expensive computer systems without serious and prospective planning by government departments?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred. I know, of course, of the purchase of the equipment he has mentioned. 1 have heard that there was difficulty in obtaining experienced staff, but I think that that was not unexpected because of the complex nature of the equipment. If Senator Bishop will place his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain up-to-date information from my colleague. I have little doubt that the press report mentioned by the honorable senator exaggerated the situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the great industrial and economic expansion in Australia and the resulting need in the not too distant future for further oil refining facilities, will the Minister take note of the fact that Tasmania is the only State without an oil refinery? Will he also bear in mind that Tasmania has a growing consumption of petrol and other fuels, and that there are available adequate industrial land and port facilities in several parts of the State which would be suitable for the establishment of a refinery? If further expansion of the oil refining industry is to take place, will the Minister and his department press the claims of Tasmania?
– I should think that it is a legitimate hope and, perhaps, anticipation that Tasmania will have an oil refinery constructed within its shores. Of course, I cannot forecast when that will occur. Vast capital expenditure is involved in the establishment of the necessary plant, and whether such expenditure is worth while is determined by the extent of the market and other economic considerations. Several refineries have been established in Australia. Having regard to the extent of the trade in petroleum products in Tasmania, I repeat that there should be possibilities for the establishment of a refinery there. The selection of a site for the refinery would, of course, be a matter for determination by the particular company concerned. If the honorable senator has a particular location in mind, I shall do what I can to ensure that its possibilities are kept under attention.
– I direct a question t0 the Minister for Customs and Excise. 1 ask him whether, he has read a report which appeared in the Brisbane “ Telegraph “ newspaper of 15th instant and which stated, inter alia -
At the Wool Symposium at the Brisbane exhibition ground, Warwick grazier Mr. W. B. Cameron, of Danderoo, produced a bolt of dress material labelled “ Pure Wool “. He said he had bought it in a Brisbane store. It was taken to a Brisbane woollen mill, where laboratory tests showed that the material was nylon, with no wool content.
Will the Minister inform me whether any act of the Commonwealth was breached in branding nylon material as pure wool?
– If the material was imported from overseas I am sure the claims Senator Benn has mentioned would be contrary to the regulations covering the branding of imported materials, and I do not think the material would get past the Department of Customs and Excise in such circumstances. If the material was made in Australia the claims made for it would be contrary to State law and the relevant State government departments in Queensland would have to take action. That is my comment off the cuff. I have not read the article and I would certainly like to check the statements that are made in it. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper I will have the matter checked and ensure that these materials are branded correctly so that the consumers will know what they are buying.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Is the Minister aware that a comprehensive investigation is now being conducted in Great Britain into the harmful effects of the everincreasing volume of noise from all sources in modern cities? As this problem is a real one in Australia since we have probably two of the noisiest cities in the world, and noise has a serious effect on many aspects of our social life, will the Minister inform the Senate whether any research into this problem is being conducted in Australia? If no research is being conducted here will the Minister inform the
Senate whether the Government considers that research should be started in Australia with all possible despatch?
– I am not aware of any research being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Industrial Organization into the decibel count in various cities of Australia and the illnesses which might result from excessive noise. I do know that the problem has been exercising the minds of ‘ people in Melbourne and, I believe, in Sydney. Various committees are concerning themselves with this problem but 1 believe that they are lord mayoral committees and organizations of that kind. So far as I know, they are the only committees concentrating on this problem in Australia. I do not know of any request to the C.S.I.R.O. to enter this field. If and when such a request is made it would have to be considered and take its place among all the requests that the C.S.I.R.O. has made to it to investigate various phenomena.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that a club for biggame fishermen has been established at Rosemary Island, adjacent to Roebourne in Western Australia? Was this club constructed by units of the Army? If so, what payment for services rendered was made to the Department of the Army? Was Senator Paltridge acting Minister for the Army at the time this work was carried out?
– First, I wish to advise Senator Cant that Senator Paltridge has never been acting Minister for the Army. One would think that Senator Cant had been in this House long enough to know at least the elementary facts of political life and of government administration. I should have thought that he would have checked whether Senator Paltridge had ever been acting Minister for the Army before rising to ask such a question; but politics are rather interesting in Western Australia apparently, and over there some people do not worry too much about these things. I do not know the details of the matter to which the honorable senator has referred, but if he will put the question on the noticepaper I will see that he gets an answer.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by stating that some weeks ago I read a press report to the effect that Australian exporters of coal were having difficulty in obtaining orders from Japan. Will the Minister give the Senate the latest information available concerning the export of coal?
– We opened up trade relations with Japan and began to expand our market by selling coal to the Japanese. We did very well indeed. Then there was a recession in the Japanese steel industry which caused a fall in the level of coal exports. That was accompanied by a policy on the part of the Japanese Government aimed at encouraging the development of Japanese coal resources. The volume of trade with Japan has continued at a very high level and some specific arrangements have been made. I recently saw some correspondence with the Joint Coal Board, and, if my recollection is correct, exports of soft coking coal out of the port of Newcastle are being maintained at a rate of about 4,000 tons a year. I still believe that as the years go on there will be an increase in the volume of trade in coal between Australia and Japan, provided that Australian costs remain at a competitive level. In that export trade, the work that has been done at the coal ports of Newcastle and Port Kembla will be of material help.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs arid Excise. Of the books banned by the Minister, which has he (a) read only partly, (b) read wholly, or (c) not read at all?
– If the honorable senator puts his question on the noticepaper I will provide him with an answer. At the moment I cannot supply the information as this is a process that has been going on for seven years.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, who represents the Minister for Trade. When is it anticipated that payment of the recently announced and popularly received Commonwealth subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate will commence?
– I have had a number of inquiries on this matter. Until legislation is passed, of course, no payments can bc made at all, but once the legislation is through both Houses of this Parliament payments will begin. These payments will be retrospective to 14th August and will apply to goods sold on or after that date.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for Health. Does his department know or can it ascertain the loss of wages, the value of production Jost, and the cost of sick leave payments because of influenza throughout Australia? When his department gets this information, which I am sure will be most startling, will he seek the co-operation of State governments to provide influenza vaccine for people throughout Australia before winter sets in next year? Knowing personally the value of this vaccine, which is relatively inexpensive, I ask the Minister whether this safeguard and benefit could at least be provided for the aged, sick and infirm before next winter.
– I am afraid that my department has no facilities for collecting the information sought by the honorable senator relating to the loss of wages caused by the incidence of influenza. I think he hangs his question on that point. He suggests that the information might reveal that a very real gain in the work force of the country could be achieved by providing a vaccine to combat influenza during the winter months. My department has studied this problem at some length and I am advised that it is well for those people who come in contact with travellers and overseas visitors to be immunized against influenza. It is equally advisable for those who are getting on in years, as well as other sections of the community to take this precaution. However, it is difficult to prophesy what type of influenza will appear in the community; and that presents some problems. The influenza vaccine, as the honorable senator knows, is not a costly item when faced up to by the individual. To suggest that the Commonwealth Department of
Health should accept responsibility for the provision of influenza vaccine for every one through the length and breadth of the Commonwealth is not a realistic approach to the problem. I remind him again that there are many types of influenza and that many people might not avail themselves of free immunization if it were provided. I think the present system is adequate. The vaccine is available quite readily at a reasonable cost to those who feel that they should seek its protection.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is the Minister aware that this year a Freedom from Hunger campaign was conducted under the auspices of the United Nations subsidiary, the Food and Agricultural Organization? Is he aware that that organization approached the Government and asked that a stamp be struck to support the Freedom from Hunger campaign? Is he aware that this request was refused and that, despite representations made through the Department of External Affairs, representatives of the Freedom from Hunger campaign were advised that further application to the Commonwealth Government would be refused and that this attitude was not likely to be varied? Is the Minister aware that 130 countries struck a stamp for the promotion and support of this campaign? Can the Minister inform the Senate why the Government refused the support that 130 other nations gave to the campaign? Will the Minister endeavour to have the Government abandon this very insular attitude to a worthy international endeavour which is sponsored by the United Nations7
– I am aware that a Freedom from Hunger campaign has been conducted in Australia, and I am aware also that representations were made to the Postmaster-General to have a stamp struck to commemorate the occasion. The honorable senator questions me as to the reasons for the refusal. There are several, but I think the most effective reason is that sufficient time was not available for the striking of a stamp. It usually takes some twelve months for a special stamp to be made available. The honorable senator suggests that some disservice has been done to this campaign because the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was not in a position to strike a stamp.
– With the same notice, 130 other countries were able to do it.
– If the honorable senator will just listen I will try to give him some real information. The implication that some disservice has been done to the campaign because of the failure to strike a stamp is not borne out by fact. The honorable senator refers to 130 countries that have struck a stamp, but I challenge him to name any country that has made a response to this campaign greater than that made by Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. What disciplinary action does the Prime Minister propose to take against the Postmaster-General following the disclosures of gross negligence in the central administration of his department, as set out in the report of the recent royal commission presided over by Mr. Justice Taylor? Does not departmental negligence on the scale revealed and condemned in the report amount to gross incompetence and neglect of duty on the part of the Minister? Does the Prime Minister intend to ignore completely the principle of ministerial responsibility in this case in which the public interest is clearly involved in contrast to the swift retribution visited upon the honorable member for Wentworth who, at worst, committed a minor indiscretion? Is it proposed to give the Parliament the opportunity to debate the royal commission’s report which had been in Cabinet’s possession for six weeks before it was tabled in the dying hours of the last sittings?
– I thank Senator Hendrickson for his unbiased approach to this matter. The Government established this royal commission. The Government got the findings of this royal commission. The Government acted upon the report of the royal commission. The Government tabled the commission’s report in this Parliament. The report is listed on the business paper of the Senate. It is open to any Opposition senator to ask the Government to debate that report. No such request has come from the Opposition. So we can start on the basis that all this indignation on Senator Hendrickson^ part is completely synthetic. He would be the most surprised member of the Senate if I took him seriously. He really would be. What we have done in this matter is what should have been done. The Postmaster-General, in all respects, has acted promptly, most efficiently and in accordance with the public weal, and he deserves commendation.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question relating to the recent biennial conference of the Australian Labour Party which was held in Perth. Has the Minister had an opportunity to study the decisions of the conference in regard to the all-important question of the nationalization of industry, production, distribution and exchange? Would the Minister care to inform the Senate whether the recent decisions in Perth on this matter have materially altered the traditional policy of the Australian Labour Party?
– I have no doubt that, in due course, the Australian Labour Party will publish the decisions reached at its last biennial conference as a public document. I am looking forward to seeing it. I shall give it a lot of thought, care and attention.
– No bias?
No bias, at all. As I made bold to mention in my speech last night, I am getting a good deal of satisfaction out of this change on the part of the Australian Labour Party. As I see it - and I stand subject to correction - there is no change of policy; it is a change of tactics. Up to this stage, the Labour Party has retained this policy, although knowing how dangerous it would be to Australia to bring it into operation. So, at each general election, in its leader’s policy speech it says, “ We have a policy, but we swear we will not bring that policy into force if you elect us to power “. That is what has happened in all recent election campaigns. Those tactics have not paid off. So, the Labour Party has changed its tactics. It has said, in effect: .”We will take it out of the platform, but we will put it in a different way which will be far more effective. We are not going to socialize. What we are going to do is put money into various businesses and support those businesses so they can put private enterprise out of operation.” That is my diagnosis of this situation. As I have said, it is perfectly unbiased and impartial. I look forward to seeing the alterations to the Labour Party’s platform whan they are published.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. In order that the Senate may be more fully informed, I wish to refer to the matter raised a little earlier by Senator Vincent concerning a scientific investigation into the problems of noise as it affects individuals. Is it not a fact that the Minister has a specific responsibility in these matters under section 4 of the Acoustic Laboratories Act 1948? Can the Minister tell the Senate, even approximately, what has been done in respect of these problems under that act?
– The honorable senator who has posed this question has the advantage of having before him the act to which he has referred. If he puts the question on notice I shall be happy to have it examined and to get him a reply.
– -Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate examine the last administrative order and see when it was issued? If the order was issued more than twelve months ago, will he do what he can to have a new administrative order issued?
– An administrative order in relation to what?
– In relation to the duties of Ministers.
– I do not regard this question as a very practical one.
– We have just heard a senator address a question to the wrong Minister.
– I stand subject to correction, but I understand that departments issue i great number of administrative orders in respect of the acts of Parliament which they administer. Perhaps I have not perceived the import of the question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What vessels on the Australian register have been imported from overseas in the last ten years? What companies imported them? What orders have these same companies placed with Australian shipyards for vessels to operate around the Australian coast?
– Obviously, I cannot be expected to have that information readily available. If the honorable senator is anxious to obtain it quickly he can extract it, himself, from the very useful publication which is issued by the Department of Shipping and Transport each year entitled, “ Australian Shipping Statistics “. I am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, would be only too happy to make a copy of it available to the honorable senator immediately. I am sure that he will have no trouble in getting the information.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that in the administration of the pensioner medical service the Department of Health will not accept prescriptions where the pension number has been written by the chemist and not by the doctor? Is there a departmental ruling to this effect? If so, is the consequence that, in cases where the doctor has omitted to put the pension number on the prescription, the chemist must either charge the pensioner 5s. or have the 5s. deducted by the department from his monthly cheque? Further, is it a fact that the department accepts repeat prescriptions where the chemist himself writes the pension number on the form? Does not the Minister regard the department’s practice as creating unnecessary difficulties for the chemist and hardship for the pensioner? Will the Minister examine the matter with a view to altering the practice or amending regulation 19 of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations?
– It is a fact that the National Health Act requires the doctor to write the pensioner’s medical card number on a prescription. The pensioner, of course, has to produce the entitlement card when he visits the doctor. It is also true that payment for the prescription may well be held up unless the requirements of the act are met, for the very simple reason that if one were to permit a loose arrangement whereby chemists were authorized to assume a doctor’s responsibility, there would be no really valid check on the system. I shall have a look at the matter raised in the latter part of the question, to see whether any improvements can be effected, and I shall let the honorable senator know the result of my investigation.
– Did the Minister for the Navy, in March of this year, state that there had been a delay in the delivery of the 27 Westland Wessex antisubmarine helicopters ordered by the Royal Australian Navy, and that only twenty could be expected to be delivered by the middle of June last? Were those twenty helicopters delivered? If so, what is the expected delivery date of the other seven?
– There was at some period last year a delay in the originally proposed deliveries of both helicopters and spare engines for them.
– This year.
– I am speaking of the last financial year, which finished in June. The delay on spare engines, though not completely overcome, was very much diminished. In fact, to get to the nub of the honorable senator’s question, all the helicopters which were on order have now been delivered.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following proposed work: -
Proposed provision of additional mains, a service reservoir and pumping stations for the Darwin Water Supply, Northern Territory.
A summary of recommendations and conclusions appears on page 5 of the report. It is estimated that the cost of the proposed work will be £377,000.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following proposed work: -
Proposed southern extension of the 16/34 runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
A summary of recommendations and conclusions appears on page 14. In brief, it is estimated that the cost of the work recommended by the committee will be of the order of £5,000,000. The main recommendation in which the Senate will be interested is recommendation No. 6, which reads -
Southern extension of the 16/34 runway, additional to the length proposed, to give 8,000 feet of pavement and 500 feet of overrun at an additional estimated cost of £500,000 is recommended.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence over general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 126), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the, following papers: -
Civil Works Programme 1963-64;
Commonwealth Payments to or for the Stales 1963-64;
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for year 1963-64; Expenditure -
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for service of year 1963-64;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for year 1963-64;
Government Securities on Issue as at 30th June, 1963;
Income Tax Statistics;
National Income and Expenditure 1962-63- be printed.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
At the end of the motion add the following words: - “ but while approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries, the Senate condemns the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, education, housing, health, social services and northern development. The Senate is also of opinion that the Government’s failure to provide for full employment and for increases in child endowment, which has remained stationary in respect of the second and subsequent children since 1948, is wrong and unjust “.
– When the debate was adjourned last night, I had been supporting the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly). As honorable senators will know, that amendment con.dems the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, housing, health, social services and northern development, and to provide for full employment and increased child endowment, which failure the amendment states, is unjust. Last night 1 dealt with the problems of education and development and I put to the Senate a number of considerations leading to the conclusion that there was here, on the part of the Government, a failure to measure up to the demands of the nation in respect of these vital matters.
It is an astonishing thing that in a budget providing for a total estimated Commonwealth expenditure of £2,280,700,000 for all purposes, nothing appears explicitly for education. It may be said that there are grants to the States in which there is an allocation for education, to be used by the States for that purpose, but the plain fact is that there is nothing directly dealing with the supremely important problem of national education.
I want to turn this morning to some other matters concerned with the Budget. We start with this position: The crux of the matter is that the Budget has failed to generate basic demand in the community and, accordingly, it has failed to generate confidence, except in isolated areas of the community. It is an anti-climax after what had been confidently expected by the press, the public, business, and the little man, who hoped for some evidence of practical government interest. The Budget, as has been stated by one of the financial journals, lacks originality and conviction and, because of that, it has failed to encourage business out of its despondency.
This is not accidental. One of the difficulties that the Government faces is that it has to explain to the people why Australia is no further ahead to-day than it was in 1959. The Government tried to explain that away in this Budget and in the apologia for the Budget by saying: We have had a little bit of difficulty in the past two or three years. This is no fault of ours and things are getting better again. They are getting back to where they were and we can look forward with some confidence to moving ahead. That is the way in which the Government puts the question, as though that were the real question.
The real question is this: Why only now in 1963 are we getting back to the levels of activity and operation of 1959? What has happened in the last three or four years? I suggest that the Government is not entitled to treat this matter as though it can put its house in order by taking us back to where we were three or four years ago. It cannot simply say “ Here we are. After that unfortunate interruption we can now go forward with confidence.” The truth is that this Government has butchered the economy in the last two or three years.
I do not want to recapitulate the long catalogue of the Government’s stopandgo policies, of its turning on the credit tap and then putting on a credit squeeze. They are the things that have characterized the Government’s economic policy ever since 1960. The Government scorned the Labour Party’s proposal made during the 1961 general election campaign to budget, if necessary, for a deficit of £100,000,000. The Government laughed ot that proposal. But it came back in August, 1962, with a proposal for a deficit of £118,000,000 for the ensuing year. Having taken over without blushing the Labour Party’s general approach to these matters, within a couple of months the Government abandoned its policy of budgeting for a deficit, because of the unexpected success of our borrowings overseas. How are the people of Australia, the business community and the small man to know where the ship is beading? How can these people be sure that there will not be a dramatic change of course at any moment? It may look as though we are clear for some months ahead, but are we really clear? Is there anything to suggest that this Government will not at very short notice turn the tap off again? That is the atmosphere in which we live; it is the basic difficulty which the community faces.
We should have been a lot further ahead by 1963 than we are. You need not take my word for that, Madam Acting Deputy President; you have the words of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited, which does not customarily express the views of the Opposition. It is interesting to note what that institution said in its quarterly survey which was published in July, 1963 - just before the presentation of the Budget. The bank said - . . one problem in analysing the present business outlook is to assess the level the economy could reasonably be expected to have attained to-day if there had been no recession. After several years of rapid expansion, Australia, in 1961 and 1962, slipped into a recession which retarded development for a full two years. While most key indicators of business activity show a return to the levels and rates of growth ruling before the recession, this is not to be considered satisfactory, because these levels are now two to three years old. Even to judge by the yardstick of population growth alone, a restoration of economic activity to 1959 levels cannot be regarded as reasonable, when it is borne in mind that population has increased by nearly 1,000,000 in the meantime.
That is a very frank statement of the position. It underlines the difficulty that the Government faces but which it really fails to acknowledge. One commentator has said that the Government has almost kidded itself into believing that this is an inspiring Budget. How it could do so in the circumstances at present obtaining is almost beyond imagination. We have not advanced from the position we were in prior to the boom, which preceded the bust.
– We are standing still.
– We are standing still, as the honorable senator says. Whatever the predictions for the future may be, we cannot claim to have advanced to the position which Australia should be occupying in 1963. I put it to the Senate that that is something for which this Government alone must accept responsibility, as indeed for everything that is contained in the Budget. When all is said and done, for the last fourteen years the treasury-bench has been occupied not by the Opposition but by this Government.
As I have stated, responsibility for the immediate past, which we are surveying, must rest with the Government. There can be absolutely no escape from that. You cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the people all the time. They understand the real position. Whilst the Government, in defending its own Budget, is talking blandly about growth, progress and expansion, nobody else sees that growth. It is apparently something that supporters of the Government see, but members of the business community and the ordinary man and woman cannot see it. They cannot trust this Government to maintain a steady course for more than a few weeks. They do not know whether at any time there will be a further eruption of this stop-go behaviour.
– I do not think supporters of the Government know themselves.
– They do not know, because they have become accustomed to this diet of stop and go. It is like something sprinkled on porridge; the two go together in the Government’s thinking.
– Do you really believe that?
– I am talking seriously. Later you will have an opportunity to say what you believe. I am doing my best to tell honorable senators about things which I believe are very important to the people of Australia.
I now want to refer to the problem of foreign investment. Last night the Leader of the Government in the Senate saw fit to criticize what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) said when stating the Labour Party’s policy on foreign investment. He treated Labour’s policy as though it were inadequately defined and as though it were likely to turn away overseas capital. Senator Kennelly stated the position very plainly. It has also been stated plainly in another place by the Leader of the Labour Party, in these words -
Our policy in regard to overseas investment is this: We welcome overseas investment when it genuinely contributes to the growth and prosperity of this nation. We do not applaud investment that merely takes over control of existing, wellestablished Australian industries. We believe that because our real need for overseas capital springs from our need for national development, foreign investment should be encouraged for the purpose of undertaking genuine development. We believe that provision should be made to ensure Australian equity in all Australian industry, whatever the origin of the capital controlling that industry may be. We believe that the control of basic Australian industries should remain in Australian hands. We believe that the present restrictions on exports imposed on Australian subsidiaries by British, American and other foreign companies must be abolished if Australia is to increase her exports and make her way as a great trading nation. When we come to power we will legislate towards those ends. We believe that the Constitution already gives the Commonwealth power that will enable us to do those things.
The leader of my party has therefore made a very clear statement of the Opposition’s policy. But the Opposition does not stand alone. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), on more than one occasion, has expressed his views which correspond very closely to the attitude of the Australian Labour Party.
– Do you know whether Mr. Heffron told this to the Japanese?
– I do not know what Mr. Heffron told the Japanese, but I know that Mr. Heffron would fully subscribe to the principles that are enunciated in the declaration of policy by the Australian Labour Party. It is not the slightest use for the Minister to attempt to suggest that Mr. Heffron believes something different about this matter.
– Did he carry the principles into practice in negotiations in Japan?
– -I believe he did, and I believe history will show it. What Mr. Heffron is doing is to encourage new industry to come in and not to encourage the taking over of existing industries by overseas business interests. There is no answer to that.
– Yes there is. I will give it to you later.
– You will have your chance. It is very curious that while I am trying to show what the Deputy Prime Minister said about this very problem, the Minister is anxious to divert attention from that by saying something about what Mr. Heffron did in Japan. The deputy Prime Minister was also in Japan recently, but that will be the subject, perhaps, of debate on another occasion. Here is how Mr. McEwen’s statement at Lakes Entrance in April of this year was reported -
There has been an increasing tendency for capital to flow into Australia, not to establish some new and highly complicated technical activity, but to come in to buy out an Australian flour mill, or an Australian bakery, or an Australian dairy factory, sometimes a co-operative
The Deputy Prime Minister went on to say -
I make it quite clear that I can’t welcome tha transference of ownership to overseas people of the simple food processing activities which have actually been established by Australians and, in many cases, successfully operated by Australians for more than half a century.
Mr. McEwen repeated the same sentiments in a speech at Orange on 26th June of this year. He said -
The short-term convenience of addition to our resources of overseas currency does not, in my opinion, compensate for the transfer from Australian ownership. The position is even less attractive where an overseas company of great financial strength buys into Australia with a very modest expenditure of the currency of its own country and then proceeds, on the basis of its creditworthiness, to draw upon Australian savings for business expansion.
I could not express more cogently the policy of the Australian Labour Party than did the Deputy Prime Minister in those two speeches. As though what he was saying were part of the conscientious thinking of groups of Australians I want to refer to a recent address on 17th June, at the annual meeting of shareholders of the National Reliance Investment Company Limited, given by the chairman of that company, Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, a gentleman of great influence in business and investment in this country, and especially in Victoria. Mr. Ricketson said, on the subject of capital inflow -
It is agreed that Australia does need some inflow of captial from abroad, ft may be true that if we were in a position to pick or choose we might prefer some forms of capital to others. This, however, is a minor facet of the problem of foreign ownership. Objection may be taken to the practice of many overseas companies of either buying an Australian enterprise outright or setting up a company in Australia of which they hold all of the ordinary share capital, and completing the financing by borrowing money in Australia. In either case Australian investors have no share of the equity.
Then Mr. Ricketson went on to say that it would be wise to consider enforcement. Surely that means legislation. He said -
It would be wise to consider enforcement of the offering to Australian investors of 30 per cent, of shares in Australian registered companies owned by overseas interests.
Without being wedded to the percentage that Mr. Ricketson suggests, it is obvious that he believes that something has to be done in order to deal with what is becoming a major problem. He referred to something which may not be known to many honorable senators, namely, that this question was recently made the subject of a gallup poll survey in Victoria which found that 75 per cent, of the people interviewed were in favour of this proposal. That was the proposal as to 30 per cent. The poll showed that 17 per cent, were opposed to the proposal and 8 per cent, were undecided. Mr. Ricketson went on -
In advocating such a course, there is no thought of confiscation or even of Australian domination of enterprises financed by overseas investors. There is, however an element of justice in the thought that the Australian public should have a share in the profits of overseas controlled companies operating in this country.
He said further -
The proposal put forward is not unreasonable and should go far to allay the prejudice against overseas investment which is becoming apparent.
That is the view of an influential and conservative businessman about this matter. This is an important question. It will have to be considered by the Government whether it likes it or not. The Australian people and the business community expect from this Government some positive action on this question in the very near future.
In the time that is left to me I want to say a word or two about the Government’s attitude to social services, and particularly to child1 endowment. What is the Government’s policy on child endowment? Is child endowment a social service which is to be allowed to slip into the limbo? Nobody can seriously pretend that the 5s. or 10s., as the case may be, represents in real money terms what is represented back in 1948 when child endowment was introduced. Year after year the mothers, and the families, look forward to an announcement by the Government of its willingness to increase child endowment rates. The Labour Party put forward proposals for substantial increases prior to the last general election. It made those proposals because it is perfectly obvious that present child endowment rates do not correspond to present-day economic realities. The Government should have the courage to say that it has stopped thinking of child endowment as a social service that has to be brought up to date. Other payments received by sections of the community are over a period of time brought up to date, whether they be wages, pensions or compensation for injury. All these payments have gradually to be modernized and streamlined. Even though many of us are highly critical of the very modest increases that are made from time to time by conservative governments, nevertheless there has been a recognition of the principle that the movement in these payments should be upwards. Is this Government content to accept the position that child endowment can stay for the next twenty years where it has stood for the last fourteen years? That is a very simple question and we are entitled to have an answer to it. We are entitled to know whether, as a matter of policy, it is on the back shelf. It was interesting to hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate, prompted by a question from Senator Vincent, one of his supporters, permit himself observations about some of Labour’s policies being on the back shelf. We could find on the back shelf many more items of social services which this Government has placed there. We are entitled to know what the Government thinks about this matter.
– Would you be agreeable to the appointment of an all-party select committee on social services?
– I should want to consider such a proposal. I do not think it is for an individual to make a decision like that. There are many aspects of social services that ought to be looked at carefully.
– But expressing a personal opinion, would you be agreeable to it?
– You are putting it to me for the first time. I should like to think about the suggestion and to talk to the honorable senator about it. I do not want to say more at the moment, because my time has almost expired.
– Do not worry about that. We will give you an extension.
– You may regret it, if you do, because we have to adjourn tonight. However, I do not ask for an extension of time.
The Government, in this Budget, proposes to make some welcome increases, such as the increase of pension for single pensioners, but it has failed lamentably on the issue of child endowment. It has failed, also, to give justice to the married pensioners. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Leader of the Government in the Senate should have said last night that the married pensioners, knowing that the single pensioners have received an increase of pension, will not feel too badly about it and, indeed, will be very pleased that somebody who needs an increase more than they do has received one. I say that the married pensioners need an increase of pension just as much as do the single pensioners. Other people in the community have been receiving increases in one way or another, and pensioners also arc entitled to an increase. It is very late in the day to say that the needs of married pensioners are less than those of single pensioners. It is true that occasionally they live in different circumstances, but it is also true that married pensioners are in dire straits and need some relief. It is a shocking thing to say in 1963, in a Budget of more than £2,200,000,000, “ We cannot give anything to the married pensioner “, or, “ We refuse to give something that we could give “.
To sum up my thoughts on this Budget, I say that it is an uninspiring document. It is not giving Australia the leadership that is required. On the big issues of health, housing, education and development it is silent. I do not want to go over ground that Senator Kennelly traversed yesterday, but he said there is already evidence that the rate of progress is slowing down. Economists can argue about these things, and it is always interesting to have a contrary view, but the inescapable fact is that we are not as far ahead this year as we ought to be. There is no real prospect of the necessary lead coming from this Government because on all the major issues it has become a tired government. After fourteen years in office it has been found wanting. It is neglectful in the extreme of the true interests of the Australian people. The subject of juvenile delinquency is discussed a great deal in the press, among the people and on television. The real problem that this country faces is not so much juvenile delinquency as delinquency in high places, and on a grand scale, too.
– 1 have much pleasure in supporting the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers and in opposing the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Despite what members of the Opposition have been saying since this debate began yesterday, the Budget provides for economic expansion and stability, and it does not provide for one at the expense of the other. We have only to examine it to see that that is so. Senator Kennelly commenced his remarks by saying that this Budget is one for the big business man. I wonder how many people he could find in Australia who believe that that is correct? There may be one or two in Melbourne, but I am afraid the honorable senator would be hard put to it to find any one in New South Wales who would adopt such a statement. The Budget is definitely not one for the big business man. On the contrary, it is designed to provide assistance for those to whom we often refer as being in a small way.
Proof that such assistance is being provided is contained in the newspapers. I was amazed to see, as early as Monday of this week, while driving past a local supermarket, a placard which stated that because of the Budget proposals, the price of biscuits had been reduced by 2d. per lb. In a newspaper published yesterday there is an advertisement which states that new ice cream prices have been declared consequent on the removal of sales tax, and a current price list, showing reduced prices, is given. In yesterday’s Sydney “ Sun “ there is a full-page advertisement under the heading “ Sales tax reductions passed on to customers by Coles Food Markets “. I do not mind giving the company concerned a plug under these conditions. Another advertisement states, “Flemings fabulous sales tax reductions - not just a few reductions but dozens “. This is concrete evidence which gives the lie direct to statements by members of the Opposition that the effect of the removal of sales tax would not be passed on to the consuming public. The benefit of the Government’s action has been passed on, not in a matter of weeks, but in a matter of days.
It has been said that the effect of the removal of sales tax, if it were passed on to the public, would be a mere bagatelle, lt has been estimated that the removal of sales tax on foodstuffs will benefit the average family by 4s. or 5s. a week. I should have thought, having regard to the tenor of the remarks of honorable senators opposite, that 4s. or 5s. a week for people in the lower income groups should not be sneezed at. Because of this action of the Government, people will be helped to keep down living costs. Just as rising prices tend to spiral, a reduction of prices tends to keep them from rising.
It has been said that this is a farmers’ Budget. My reply is that it is about time we had such a budget. Certainly, the primary producers will derive benefits from the Budget proposals, but in the last two or three years the primary industries have had to bear additional costs and expenses because of the encouragement and assistance given to the secondary industries in an attempt to expand our export markets and keep up the rate of employment. The primary producers have been bearing the burden of that activity. Therefore, I say it is high time that we had a farmers’ budget. I am very pleased indeed to see that concessions are being given which will benefit not only the primary producers but, in the long run - and this is a fact which still has to sink into the minds of many people - the whole of Australia.
– Including big machinery manufacturers.
– The honorable senator apparently does not realize that farmers have to buy machinery. Senator Kennelly was entirely wrong, incidentally, when he referred to a depreciation allowance of 40 per cent, in the first year. The Budget provides for a 20 per cent, investment allowance in the year of purchase of new machinery, in addition to the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance. This new allowance will help to keep costs down in the primary industries.
In some quarters, but in too many, lip service only is paid to our primary industries. However, when it is proposed to give the primary producers concrete benefits to help them, and thereby to help the nation, too often support for the proposal is found to be lacking. I am glad to see that the
Budget makes provision for assistance to industries which, after all, keep us on our feet.
The primary producers will also be helped by the decision to lift the exemption for probate purposes from £5,000 to £10,000. I have been pressing for such relief for some time and am pleased that the Government has reached this decision. Already the announcement is achieving results because the Treasurer of New South Wales is looking at the probate laws of. that State apparently with a view to lifting the exemptions there to put them in line with the Commonwealth provisions. The people of New South Wales, particularly the primary producers, have suffered heavily in this respect because the New South Wales probate rates have been higher than those in the other States.
– Poor old primary producers.
– When Senator Ormonde goes out into the country he is the champion of the primary producers, but it is only lip service. He does not give two hoots for the farmers so long as he gets their votes, but he cannot fool all the people all the time. Now that he is in charge of the Labour Party’s advertising he will probably do better. On that score I could not help thinking when Senator Cohen was speaking that he seemed to think he had converted the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to Labour policy on overseas investments, and I wondered where the take-overs would end. We have had Senator Ormonde indulging in them and now Senator Cohen is doing the same thing.
The primary producers will be helped also by the bounty of £3 a ton on superphosphate. I have supported such a proposal for years and I am pleased to note that the Government has reached a decision. Superphosphate is a product that is taken into account when arriving at the cost of production of wheat and other commodities in connexion with certain schemes. The bounty on superphosphate will reduce the cost of production and therefore it will have a double-barreled effect.
I understand that a n.ew wheat agreement is to be announced shortly, and I hope that the Cabinet has seen fit to agree to the representations made on behalf of the farmers for a guaranteed price on 150,000,000 bushels.
Opposition speakers have said we have reached a stage of stagnation in Australia. Do honorable senators opposite think they can get the people to believe that statement? One has only to compare financial statements that are circulated now with those of a few years ago to get the answer. If honorable senators opposite cannot read they cannot get the answer, but if they can read the answer is obvious. Incomes from trading and industrial companies are approximately as high as they were in the boom year of 1959-60. Does this indicate stagnation? Quotations on the Sydney Stock Exchange have reached the previous highest peak within one or two points.
I heard an announcement on a radio station that Mr. Thompson, chairman of the New South Wales Taxpayers Association, had condemned the Budget as many of our leading newspapers have done. Why do not these people come out honestly and say that they want a policy of inflation? We know where inflation leads. As I have said, this Budget provides for expansion, but not at the expense of stability. If the Opposition’s policies were put into effect inflation would go skyhigh in no time. The Opposition knows that. It is all very well to have airy-fairy schemes when you are in opposition and have no responsibility. The Opposition’s main role is to offer criticism, and it has no responsibility for putting policies into operation.
There has been a marked increase in the population of Australia through immigration. The target this year is to be increased by 10,000 to 135,000 and provision is to be made for 45,000 assisted British immigrants. A Sydney newspaper announced to-day that 145,000 British immigrants were applying to come to Australia but only 45,000 assisted passages were available. Surely if the image of Australia abroad is one of stagnation, as the Opposition has said, we would not have migrants clamouring to come here in such numbers.
From time to time we hear criticism of the information given to intending immigrants. When I was in London last year I took the opportunity to make personal inquiries about this. Although I had a letter from a mutual friend to the head of the immigration service in London I did not go to him directly. I went into the department, watched people coming in and saw the literature they were given. I talked to one man who had just left the counter and learned from him what he was told, his intentions and his status in life. The officer behind the counter had been eyeing me and wondering what sort of a nosey parker I was. I identified myself to him and heard from him his angle on what intending migrants were told. Copies of Sydney newspapers were available containing details of jobs and houses available. By and large, 1 was fully convinced, after going from the ground floor right to tha head of the department, that our immigration officers in London are doing a fine job. They are not attempting to pull the wool over the migrants’ eyes. This was in early December or late November of 1962, and there were more migrants offering than were permitted by the quota. The immigration officers were applying for an enlargement of the quota and this they subsequently obtained. That nails another of these furphies that get about. I made similar inquiries in Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna. It was refreshing to learn of the information that is collected about intending immigrants. They are subjected to medical examination, and the girls and some others are given a little training in basic English. I think our immigration service overseas is doing a fine job. This applies to Italy, Greece and other countries where I made inquiries. There is no doubt that Australia has a high place in the opinion of people, in continental countries. This is not surprising because it is evident from information they receive from immigrants living here that we have one of the best countries in the world. We certainly have better living conditions than any country that I have seen. These conditions have been assisted by the government that has been in office since 1949. Provided we can retain that government in office these conditions will continue and, I think, improve. Later I propose to reply to some statements that were made by Senator Cohen on the economy. For the moment I remind the Opposition that last year we absorbed 135,000 immigrants despite housing and employment difficulties.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting 1 had reached the stage of commenting on the 135,000 immigrants who had arrived in Australia during the past twelve months. That was 10,000 more than the number of arrivals in the previous year. Senator Cohen commented on our unemployment figures for the month of July and said that there were only 2,000 fewer unemployed then than in July of last Vear. He was quite condemnatory of the Government on this aspect. When we realize that an additional 135,000 migrants have arrived in Australia during the intervening period, and that in addition there have been 82,574 school leavers in that time, I think it must be admitted that, in the circumstances, the Government has not done a bad job in keeping our unemployment figure down to 78,000. Of the 82,574 school leavers, only 4,800 were unplaced in June of this year, so I think that is an achievement from which the Government can derive much satisfaction. Admittedly, we would have liked to place more people in employment, but to have found jobs for the work force component of the 135,000 migrants, plus the school leavers has been an achievement of no mean order.
We have been told that the unemployed in Australia represent about 1.8 per cent, of our total workforce. I recall a Belgian representative speaking in, I think, the Second Committee of the United Nations. He referred to the economic position and financial welfare of Belgium and emphasized that his country had no unemployment problems at all. He said, “ We have no unemployed; we have only 2 per cent, unemployed “. So Belgium, an old country, felt that it was very well placed in having only 2 per cent, unemployed. I am not suggesting that we should be satisfied with that figure in Australia, but I think what I have said answers the rather hysterical outbursts from members of the Opposition who have accused this Government of having done nothing to put people into employment. We must remember also that we will always have a hard core of unemployable people. If honorable senators opposite are honest they will recognize just as we do, that when that hard core is subtracted from the 78,000 referred to, the figure is reduced very considerably.
Housing has been mentioned. This problem is aggravated, of course, by our large intake of migrants. Surely it is not suggested - I have not hoard it suggested - by the Opposition that Australia should reduce its intake of migrants. After all, our longrange defence policy for this country must include the bringing of many people from overseas. Australia must have migrants if we are to be able to hold this country. Despite all the problems that have been mentioned during this debate, and indeed on other occasions, the main task confronting Australia is to hold this country. Let us have no illusions about that. That is our first task and our main task, and it is not an easy one.
This Budget does something towards that end, first by way of immigration and, secondly, by the proposed defence measures. We have heard criticism from time to time of the Government’s alleged failure to spend enough on defence. This year we will be spending an additional amount. Money should not be spent haphazardly on defence; that will not put the defences of the country in a sound position. The defence vote must be spent in the correct way. For instance, for the Navy we must have the right vessels; for our Air Force we must have the right type of aircraft and our Army must be suitably composed.
Some criticism has been made of our pentropic division on the score that there is no provision for replacements. Under the old setup, with infantry divisions and so on, there was no difficulty in providing similarly trained replacements for six, 50 or 100 men. Any group that was taken out could be replaced with comparative ease. But that does not apply to a pentropic division. I do not know the answer to this, but I suppose one solution would be to have one or two extra pentropic divisions trained. Again, this would create many problems. The Returned Servicemen’s League has suggested a reintroduction of national service training. That suggestion has much to commend it, but having seen the report of the committee that was set up only recently to investigate this matter I realize that the reintroduction of that system of training would not be as easy as it sounds. Indeed, I do not think there would be much point in introducing a system similar to the one we had previously. It would need to be different.
The re-introduction of national service training would have many advantages. One advantage would be that it would reduce considerably unemployment among youths. A bigger advantage would be that it would provide training for Australian youths that would do them a world of good. It would also remove some of the juvenile or teenage delinquency that persists in various areas. All these factors have been taken into consideration, but so far it has not been found possible to reintroduce this training system. I personally, look forward to the time when it will be possible.
I had begun to speak about housing. I do not know whether it has sunk into the minds of my friends of the Opposition that the State savings banks of this country have been making available annually £1,000,000 for housing. That is not an inconsiderable sum, even to the banks. Under the Budget proposals the limit on savings bank advances for housing loans will be raised from 30 per cent, to 35 per cent, of depositors’ balances. This should certainly help solve our housing problem. Indeed, the Government is entitled to claim some credit for the persistance with which it has tackled this problem.
I turn now to the Development Bank. Such a bank was first mooted many years ago. The legislation necessary to establish the bank was devised prior to 1958, but it was not until the Government attained a majority in the Senate in 1958 that it was possible to get legislation through. Surely the Opposition has now seen the benefit of having this bank. Why was it so shortsighted as to prevent implementation of the proposal until the Government had a majority in the Senate? I have heard no regrets expressed by the Opposition for its previous action on this score. Still, I suppose honorable senators opposite will see the folly of their ways sooner or later. It would have been generous of them if they had acknowledged their error. We have had acknowledgment of an error from Senator
Kennelly, who admitted that although he had opposed the Japanese trade treaty when it was first entered into by the present Minister for Trade, he realizes now that it is a good thing for Australia. I am looking forward to the time when members of the Opposition will say, “ We opposed and blocked legislation to establish a development bank, but now we see that we were not doing the right thing. We are very pleased to see it in operation.”
What is the position? The Commonwealth Development Bank started with a capital of between £16,000,000 and £18,000,000 which has been augmented from time to time in lots, I think, mainly of £5,000,000. That bank is playing a very important part in the development of Australia. I have made myself conversant with what it has been doing wherever I have gone throughout Australia, particularly in New South Wales. I have made inquiries as to what the Development Bank is doing in each State that I have visited. I have invariably found that the people who have had dealings with it, in the main, are very well satisfied. One of the complaints of the bank, at any rate until recently, was that it was able to provide people with means of assistance of which no advantage was being taken. The capital of the bank has been increased by an additional £5,000,000 in the present Budget. The loans that it has made, up to date, amount to about £37,000,000. The total amount available to the Development Bank is about £70,000,000.
As I have mentioned several times before, some of us are a little disappointed because, unless the proposition which is put to the bank is of a developmental nature, under the charter granted to it by Commonwealth legislation, the bank cannot entertain the proposition. Consequently, an applicant for a loan may possess all the other qualifications required of him by the bank but cannot obtain the money that he requires because his proposition is not of a developmental nature. To some extent, this state of affairs has been offset by the extension of the activities of the trading banks into what was first called the “special term lending “ field. It is now commonly known as “ fixed term lending “. Under “ fixed term lending “ the trading banks have been able to lend amounts from their liquid assets, which had previously been frozen, for periods of from five to eight years in respect of developmental projects similar to those financed by the Development Bank.
There is one drawback in this scheme. I know that the trading banks will not stick rigidly to a term of five or eight years in respect of each loan. But I think that an extension of the term is badly needed, particularly in rural areas. Sooner or later, there will be a return of drought years. Generally speaking, we have been very fortunate over the past five or ten years. We have had pockets of drought, particularly in Queensland and in other States, but, generally speaking, we have not had one of our dreadful, old-man droughts. We will get those sooner or later. When we do, I think we will find that the terms of the fixed-term loans have not been long enough. I have no doubt that the individual who has negotiated a loan with a trading bank, provided that he is pulling his weight, will be given consideration. But it would tend towards peace of mind for the borrower if he knew that the money he had borrowed would be available for a long term. Of Course, the primary producers have been used to the old method of overdraft whereby the money lent was on call. Such loans often extended over ten or twenty years and, in many cases, for longer periods. I recognize that it is considered to-day that there must be a turnover of the money in the banks. This is brought about by shorter term lending. That is quite good provided that it does not restrict the production of our primary industries and our secondary industries.
To my way of thinking, the New South Wales Government has put it over the Commonwealth Government with regard to the Blowering dam. I have mentioned this before. First of all, the Blowering dam was to be built by the New South Wales Government when the Snowy Mountains scheme was ready for the dam to operate. We have had questions galore on this subject. The New South Wales Government has promised almost everything in respect of this matter. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority offered to construct this work on behalf of that Government, but the latter would not accept the offer. Naturally, the New South Wales Government would have had to finance the work. That was to have been the arrangement. But the State Government would not have a bar of it. It wanted to do the work itself. What happened? Procrastination has been the thief of time. Now, the State Government has had to come, cap in hand, to this dreadful Federal Government which it continually berates for not giving it enough money. The Federal Government has had, once again, to go to the assistance of the New South Wales Government and provide it with the necessary money. Thank goodness, the Snowy Mountains Authority will construct the dam.
– It is a national work.
– It is a national work to some extent. But the New South Wales Government did not live up to its undertaking. Senator Ormonde knows that as. well as I do. We will be faced with a similar position with regard to flood mitigation on the north coast of New South Wales. There, works of a very urgent nature are required. Here, again, the New South Wales Government has been sidestepping its obligations. Now, a scheme has been put to the Federal Government which, I hope, will once again come to the assistance of the New South Wales Government for the sake of the residents of the north coast area. This Government will help the State to proceed with this work which is vital to the people and production in that area. We have been told that sufficient money has not been provided for development. Western Australia has received £6,500,000 for this purpose. That is a State which is going ahead in leaps and bounds. As one who knows that State fairly well, I am quite satisfied that its present progress will continue for many years to come. It is a great State with great potentialities. I am very glad that the Federal Government has given the Western Australian Government the assistance that it not only needs but also deserves.
Turning to beef cattle roads in the Northern Territory, one would think, listening to Opposition senators, that this Government does not give a thought to the development of the north. Indeed, that seems to be the idea in the minds of many people who should know better. Of course, that is very far from the truth. Money has been spent in the north in considerable quantities from year to year. We have to remember, in this regard, that this is not an area into which we can whack a lot of money with the idea of completing this or that developmental project in twelve months or so. The development of the north must necessarily be of a long range character. That is the attitude of the Federal Government to this matter.
In speaking of northern Australia and beef cattle roads, I think that we must pay tribute to an organization known as “ Fido “ which originated in New South Wales - the Federal Inland Development Organization. It has done a magnificent job in bringing to notice the needs of the north, including beef cattle roads. I heartily congratulate that organization on its success. It has not yet got everything that it wants, tout it is getting it piecemeal. A further £7,300,000 is to be spent on capital works and services in the north. This will tend to give effect to that desirable aim of decentralization which the Government has always had. This is in keeping with other measures which I mentioned earlier, such as the Government’s provision for investment allowances for -the primary producer and the payment of £3 a ton in respect of superphosphate. AH these measures will help towards decentralization. I hope that Senator Ormonde and his friends opposite will check what I am saying, because they will find that I am correct.
One of our present troubles in rural areas is that people are leaving country towns and looking for jobs in the city. They swell the already congested populations and leave country areas where we need more people. The measures to which 1 have just referred will certainly foster decentralization. I hope that we will be able to do more in that direction, that we shall do more to help industries already established in country areas and help to start new ones in such areas. I am very glad indeed that the New South Wales Government has established a Ministry of Decentralization. The ministry is doing some work. As it has not been in operation for very long, I am not prepared to condemn it at this stage for not having done enough. I suppose we are all prone to think that no matter what is done more should be done. At least a start has been made. I have mentioned these matters to show that the development of the north occupies a very high place in the thinking of the present Government. It is all very well to say, “ Why do you not have a scheme? “ A scheme has been nutted out. Let us not forget that commissions of inquiry have prepared schemes. Suggestions have been made for other investigations, but I do not think that these would be warranted. Provided the Government has in mind a particular objective r.nd moves towards the realization of that objective in the shortest possible time, we shall do Australia good service in the long run. There is quite a deal of urgency about the development of the north. I recognize that; we must populate the north as well as other parts of Australia. But this depends upon the funds that are available and we must keep that at the back of our minds.
An appropriation of £25,000,000 in respect of Papua and New Guinea is proposed this year. Even if the amount were to be increased to £75,000,000 or £100,000,000, it would still not satisfy those overseas nations which have the idea that, willy-nilly, New Guinea must have self-government at the earliest possible date, even before the people of the Territory are ready to take over the responsibility. This is unfortunate, but it is one of the facts of life and we just have to recognize that. While in New York, I spoke to Sir Hugh Foot, who was a member of the United Nations mission which reported on New Guinea. I told him that New Guinea would not be ready for self-government by the time that the committee recommended. He admitted it. He said, “ I know that, but it is better to give self-government before the people are ready for it than to have them hankering after it “. It is that philosophy that brought about the trouble in the Congo. I hope that it will not bring the same kind of trouble to New Guinea. Like many other senators, I have been to New Guinea and have seen the natives. They are happy and quite content with Australian rule. Australia has done a very good job for New Guinea and we can be proud of it.
I was glad to learn that the Government proposes to increase certain defence forces retirement benefits and Commonwealth superannuation benefits. That is a good provision, as is also the proposed increase of 10s. in the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated persons.
The proposed payment of an extra 10s. a week to single pensioners has been a cause of heartburning to many people. Let us look at the facts. Of a total of 786,000 pensioners, 516,000 will receive this increase. There is no doubt that two people can live, not as cheaply as one, as the old saying goes, but more cheaply than two people can live separately. They would need to make only one payment instead of two, in respect of house insurance, water rates, land rates, and radio and television licences. Let us look at the other aspect. To grant a 10s. increase to the remainder of that group would cost about £12,500,000 a year. There is a limit to what any government can do in the way of providing benefits, irrespective of how great the need. 1 know that my friends opposite recognize this position. Had all pensioners been granted 10s. honorable senators opposite would have said that they should have had 15s. If the amount had been 15s., our friends would have said that it should have been £1. These are things with which we have to live.
I mentioned sales tax earlier. The reduction has already had repercussions. I am sorry that Senator Kennelly is not here. Later I shall let him have a look at the newspaper reports. This reduction will cost the Government about £11,500,000. Again, however, it is said that nothing has been done. The allowable deduction for education expenses is to be raised to £150. 1 think I heard one Opposition senator refer to the average education expenses. That is all very well. Let us consider people living in the country, whose children may have to travel 15 or 20 miles to school, perhaps in a locality where a school bus is not available. These children have to be boarded at school. I do not refer to childern being boarded at large schools in the city. They may have to be boarded in order to receive a primary education. These matters are not considered by our friends opposite. As one who has spent most of his life in the country, I know these conditions very well. This concession will be of very great value indeed.
So also will be the removal of a limit from the allowable deduction for medical expenses. We were told what the average medical expenses were. If one incurs only the average expenditure, that is all very well, but persons who undergo big operations will certainly feel the benefit of this alteration. The Government is to be commended on its wisdom in bringing down these proposals.
I note that there will be a slight increase in air navigation charges in order to recover from operators the cost of maintaining and operating airport and airway facilities. That is only fair. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to our wonderful international air service, Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Overseas I travelled on ten or twelve big airlines and I found Qantas outstanding, in respect not only of aircraft and air crew but also of ground staff, lt provides a service of which Australia can well be proud and it is one of the few overseas air services paying their way at present. It is the oldest overseas airline in the world, a fact that we sometimes forget.
The proposed increase in retention allowances will help small companies, particularly. 1 should like to refer now to foreign investment. There has been a lot of talk about this matter. The Labour Party has endeavoured to make political capital out of the situation. 1 said jocularly that Senator Cohen was suggesting a take-over of Mr. John McEwen, when the honorable senator said that Mr. McEwen’s views were identical with those of the Labour Party. I have been worried about overseas investment ever since I came to this place in 1.958 and, indeed, since before then. We must have foreign investment in Australia. That is recognized. But what we must guard against is that we do not get into the same position as Canada. I say that without any desire to discourage foreign investment. Australia needs foreign capital; we must have it. I was rather interested to learn a few days ago that it seemed at one stage that the Pan-Am building in New York would not be finished because there was not sufficient capital and that, in the main, British capital was responsible for its completion.
I return to the point from which I started. The Budget does provide for expansion in the Australian economy. It does provide for stability. The newspapers and some of our other critics would do better to come right out in the open and say that they want inflation. It is surprising to see the number of people and firms in Australia who look upon inflation as something to be desired most of all. Inflation is all very well while the boom is on. When we start to reap the whirlwind, it is not nearly so good. Perish the thought that we should have to go through such a period of inflation as would follow the adoption of some of the policies suggested.
I conducted a gallup poll of my own during the week-end. I consulted eight or ten persons from all walks of life, from commercial people to retired civil servants and persons still in industry. I asked for their criticisms of the Budget and their grouches. Then I said, “That is your opinion. What are the comments of the people with whom you come into contact? “ They said that there had been no comments. That was the universal reply I received. Only one inference can be drawn - that the people are not very critical of the Budget. We have too many Senator Kennellys in Australia for people not to bc vocal when they do not like things. If an Australian does not like anything, he is not backward in saying so. I repeat that the only inference which can be drawn from the result of my inquiries is that on the whole the people are satisfied with this Budget. I have very much pleasure in supporting it.
– We have just listened to some interesting observations made by Senator McKellar, a member of the Australian Country Party, which is the minority party in the coalition Government and which, by its numbers alone, has been responsible for the Government having remained in office for fourteen years. Far be it from me to criticize the political beliefs of the honorable senator or of any other person in the Australian community; but I intend to show that the honorable senator and his colleagues, by helping to keep the Liberal Party in office - the Budget seems to be heavily loaded in favour of the man on the land - is doing a disservice not only to the people of Australia as a whole but particularly to those who live in country areas. Senator McKellar seemed to claim that now, for the first time, farmers are to be given a bounty of £3 per ton on superphosphate. Let me quote the following passage from the policy speech of the Honorable A. A. Calwell, delivered on Thursday, 16th November, 1961-
It will be remembered that the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments paid a subsidy on superphosphate. The Menzies Government abolished this subsidy payment.
This benefit, which was denied the farmers in the past by this Government, is to be restored. When we study the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), we discover that the reason for the restoration of the bounty is that there are large tracts of arable pasture land which are seriously deficient in phosphorus. The discovery of this deficiency was one of the great steps forward in the expansion of our larger primary industries in the.. first place. I pose this rhetorical question: If the land is arable now and is seriously deficient in phosphorus, was it not in that condition when the subsidy was removed by this Government?
Senator McKellar made a passing reference to unemployment. Later I shall attempt to show how this Government has abysmally failed not only members of the industrial section of the community, but also people who live in country districts. But, before I come to the gravamen of my remarks, let me say that I was particularly pleased to hear the honorable senator’s comments about overseas investment. No doubt he was expressing a point of view on behalf of the Country Party. His views coincided with those that have been expressed by members of the Australian Labour Party, including Mr. Calwell, in another place, Senator Kennelly, who led on behalf of the Opposition in this debate, and Senator Cohen. I wish to quote now a statement made, not by Mr. Calwell or the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), but by Mr. John B. Fuller, the chairman of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Country Party, when opening the annual conference of the New South Wales Branch, on 26th June last, in the large and salubrious city of Orange. This is what he said when dealing with the question of overseas investment - . . two aspects worry me. One is the increasing extent to which access to such enterprises by
Australian investors is prevented by the form of capital structure used by many of these overseas companies? so preventing us from having a stake in our industries.
The other is the unfortunate fact that much of this capital has lately been diverted from, shall I say, development projects to the purchase of existing successful Australian companies.
Mr. Fuller continued ;
An examination of the ownership of our major food distributing companies is an example of this unhealthy trend. It could be said that we are being bought out; that we are losing our freedom. This is not the sort of capital that will do us much good in the long run.
They are the views of the chairman of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Country Party.
T now propose to quote a statement made only on Monday last, as reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, by Professor John Ewing, Associate Professor of International Trade and Marketing at the Stanford University of California. The press report of the statement made by the.,learned professor, who is visiting Australia with four other professors to conduct a special extension course in advanced management techniques which began at Terrigal in New South Wales on Monday last, reads -
No matter how great the capital inflow, outside domination was not good for Australia’s economy.
To suggest that all forms of restriction dissuade foreign investors was nonsense.
Japan and Mexico had restricted foreign investment to partnership with local capital, guaranteeing local interests, but this had certainly not stopped foreign investors investing in cither country.
Professor Ewing went on to say that if Australia did not take drastic remedial action in the immediate future, we would find ourselves in the same position in which Canada has recently found herself - being dominated by United States economic interests.
I have attempted to review briefly one or two of the arguments that were advanced by Senator McKellar in his speech. Almost twelve months have elapsed since I made my maiden speech in the Parliament. I well recall that we were debating a motion which was similar to that which is now engaging our attention. I was then a comparatively young Labour man who had just been elected to the Parliament by a majority of the people of New South Wales. I came here convinced that it was in the interests of this country for a federal Labour government to be elected. Having spent approximately twelve months in the Parliament and having watched the performances of the Government and members of the Ministry, I am more than ever convinced that if Australia is to expand and if there is to be equality of opportunity, that result can be achieved only by the Australian Labour Party being elected to form the Twenty-fifth Commonwealth Government. Having seen the performances of the last twelve months, I have come to the conclusion, to borrow the words of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, that the Government is a tired and incompetent Administration which is completely bereft of constructive ideas and which is retaining office, not to fulfil a mission or to propagate an ideal, but merely for the purpose of keeping Labour out of office and of denying the people of Australia all the tangible benefits that would flow from a Labour Government.
This Government quite dishonestly - I use the expression advisedly - has put abroad the idea that it stands for free and unfettered enterprise. What are the facts? Since this Government assumed office nearly fourteen years ago, monopoly after monopoly has been established. Likewise, small business after small business has gone out of existence. We have found that permanent unemployment has come to stay, that business ventures have become uncertain of the future, and that the wants of the family man under this Budget - as indeed under all budgets brought in by this Government - have been completely ignored.
Harking back to my original remarks, it does appear thai the big brother branch of the coalition - the Liberal Party - is no longer satisfied to exist with its junior partner, the Australian Country Party, of which Senator McKellar is a member. Only on Monday last it was reported that the Liberal Party has decided to contest the present Country Party-held seats of Indi and Wimmera in Victoria at the next general election. Apparently the Government is not satisfied with establishing monopoly after monopoly outside the framework of politics but wants to establish also a monopoly of its own in government. I suggest to the Parliament that the
Government cannot be trusted, and I warn members of the Country Party that they cannot trust the Liberal Party. I pose the question: If the Liberal Party cannot be trusted by its coalition partner, how can it be trusted by the people of Australia?
As the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday night when giving the Labour Party’s reply to the Budget speech, it is important to Australia to have at its helm at this critical period of its development and history those who are willing to give leadership. More importantly still - and I especially agree with the Leader of the Opposition in this regard - it is necessary to have out of office those who have lost the will to lead. Of course, because of the very manner in which members of the Ministry are elected we cannot expect the Government to give effective leadership. The Ministers who for the time being sit in government are all selected by the Prime Minister and by him alone. They do not have to satisfy their colleagues of their ability or run the gauntlet of selection within the framework of the rules of a party. Interpolating here, let me pose the question: If they did have to run this gauntlet, how many of them would survive such an ordeal? They have to pass the scrutiny of one man - the Prime Minister alone. Virtually they have to be men of definite, affirmative and negative minds - definite when the Prime Minister is assertive, affirmative when he says yes, and negative when he says no. I am prepared to say that they have to practise the doctrine of hierolatry - or perhaps it may be referred to by the people of Australia as “ Menziesolatory “. Indeed, this is why this nation has for year after year had the same Treasurer, who has been baffled and puzzled as to why he is not able to solve the nation’s economic problems. The system of selection of Ministers also explains why we have had the same Minister for Labour and National Service who each month appears to be offering excuses for the unreasonably high and ever-continuing unemployment figures. This no doubt is why we have the same Minister for Social Services who, apparently, refuses to encourage the birth of Australian children by awarding increases in child endowment, and who at the same time discriminates between pensioner and pensioner - one because he is single and the other because he is married. No doubt also, Mr. Acting President, this accounts for the fact that we have one man holding two of the most important portfolios in the Ministry - the portfolio of External Affairs and the portfolio of Her Majesty’s Attorney. General. Hence the failure of the Government to ratify certain international conventions to which Australia has become a signatory over the past ten or twelve years, and hence one of the reasons for the delay in presenting to the Parliament legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices.
Whilst basically, I suppose, these Ministers are responsible for their negative and nebulous approaches to our national problems, the people of this country must blame the Prime Minister himself primarily. But one must feel sorry for the Prime Minister, because he must be a very tired and, indeed, a most discontented man. He must hardly have had a night’s sleep in the last twenty months, because on 29th November, 1961, speaking in New South Wales during the course of the last general election, the Prime Minister went on record as saying that he would never rest content until every capable man and woman wanting work was able to work. He went further and said1, “ I want none of unemployment “. About a week later, on 7th December, 1961, about three days before the last federal election - when he saw that the practical policies of the Australian Labour Party were being accepted by the Australian community - the Prime Minister went on record as saying that the Liberal-Country Party Government would restore full employment within a year.
Before that, the Attorney-General - for once getting out of the atmosphere of legality - entered into an economic controversy, and on 30th July, 1961, some four or five months before the last election said -
Unemployment resulting from the credit squeeze was greater than the Government would have wished or could have expected, but it will have passed by Christmas.
– He did not say which Christmas?
– Christmas 1961, but here we are nearing Christmas 1963. Let me refer also to a statement made by the Minister who is responsible for this situation, namely, the Minister for Labour and National Service, who said on 8th December, 1961, that the Federal Government expected to place young people leaving school in employment, without any unacceptable waiting period. Mr. McMahon at that time was addressing a street corner meeting on behalf of a Liberal candidate who was annihilated politically at the last federal election.
Despite these assurances by the Prime Minister, despite the prognostications by the Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service we find, as Senator Cohen so ably said last night, that on the Government’s own figures to-day there are still some 78,000 registered unemployed in Australia, some 23,000 of whom are under the age of 21 years. I ask: What greater indictment could there be of any government than this: That in a country crying out for population and pleading for development and expansion there are 23,000 people under the age of 21 years - perhaps the most freshly trained of our brains and the strongest of our brawn - searching for work?
As a result of 78,000 Australians being unemployed, to take the Government’s figure, some 3,220,000 production manhours are being lost each week, in a country of 3,000,000 square miles and 11,000,000 people. This is happening in a country which appears to have as its catchcry, “ We want people “. In a land in which the Government seems to be adopting development as its slogan, one might think it would be the simplest task to find employment for the younger generation. However, the fact is that, eight months after the last batch of school leavers came on to the labour market for the first time in their lives, there are some 20,000 people under the age of 21 still out of work. Unfortunate as that figure is, it does not take into account the number of misfits, to use a crude expression, or young people who have been trained for a specific task but who, because of the economic circumstances brought about by this Government and which are continuing under its administration, have had to take a lower-paid joh merely for the sake of obtaining employment.
Let me turn to the figures released by the Department of Labour and National Service on Monday, 19th August last. I shall refer only to the figures for New South Wales and shall ignore those for all the other States, because honorable senators representing those States no doubt will be able to speak of conditions there. Leaving aside the three great metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, with an unemployment figure of 9,985 out of a total of 33,275 for the State, or 30 per cent., we find that there are listed in the Minister’s news release 22 country areas which have the greatest degree of unemployment and which account for 6,398 unemployed persons, or 19 per cent, of the total number. To cite only some of the figures, Maitland has 556 unemployed, Gosford 565, Lismore 535, Wagga 285, Kempsey 345 and Broken Hill 329. I suggest that it is from this position that one of the problems connected with the economic structure arises. Unemployment no doubt accounts for the drift of a large number of people from the country to the city, thereby swelling the numbers of unemployed in metropolitan areas.
If we look at the figures for the various occupations, it becomes increasingly obvious that it is harder for women, especially young women, to find employment. When we turn to the category dealing with professional, semi-professional, commercial, clerical and administrative employment, we see that 12,870 females are registered for employment. In the category of other skilled and semi-skilled manual workers, 9,067 women are registered. In the general category of employment, there are 5,041 males and 9,234 women. I know of a fully-trained marine engineer_who, at this very moment, is selling vacuum cleaners because he recently was displaced from an industry in which he had been employed for eleven or twelve years. Incidentally, he was displaced because of a take-over by a foreign company. In the border town of Tweed Heads recently I met a girl of seventeen years of age who last year had gained a senior matriculation pass in Queensland. She saw me about obtaining a better job. Although she was qualified to go to a university, she was spending her time working in a milk bar. I do not know the attitude of the Government to this very grave and nationally important matter of unemployment. In the Budget Papers, which consist of seventeen foolscap pages and about 12,500 words, and in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, we find the word “ unemployment “ mentioned once and once only.
Referring to development, the Treasurer stated in the first part of his Budget speech -
Some say the rate should have been even faster; yet, clearly, it was sufficient both to absorb the increase in the work-force and to make possible a significant reduction in unemployment.
But in contra-distinction to what the Treasurer said in his Budget speech, let us turn to statements which appear in the Government’s “White Paper on the Australian Economy “, published in June last. At page 9, under the heading “ Employment, Output and Expenditure “, we see the following passage: -
Improved though it has, however, the labour situation still has unacceptable features. Unemployment is still too high, especially in some areas and amongst some classes of labour. In particular, it is evident that some young people have been finding it hard to obtain regular work . . , Recently, the number of school-leavers has tended to level off and a bigger proportion of young people has been moving on to other forms of education instead of seeking work immediately on leaving school. Clearly, there remains here a problem of real urgency.
I ask: Had those young people sought work instead of moving on to other forms of education, what would be the number of unemployed persons under the age of 21 years to-day?
At page 29 of the White Paper, dealing with the prospects which may lie ahead in the next decade, we find the following statement: -
The prospective change in the age structure of the population also raises doubts in some minds as to whether demand will rise fast enough to enable a greater work force to be employed … If, to the wave of young people now reaching adult agc, there are added increasing numbers of migrants needing to establish homes as well as to satisfy their day-to-day needs, the human forces from which demand arises should be stronger, not weaker, than those which ruled in the last decade.
Despite the pre-election prognostications of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service, some twenty months ago, all that the Treasurer says in the Budget speech of 1963-64 is that it has been possible to make a reduction in the numbers of unemployed.
But as Senator Cohen pointed out when comparing the figures for last month with those for July, 1962, the fact is that there has been a reduction of only some 2,000 in the number of unemployed. While this Government is in office and while the present holder of the portfolio of Labour and National Service is in that position, his title should be changed to that of “ Minister for Excuses for Unemployment
So much for the employment situation and overseas investments in Australia. What is the housing situation? In a speech I made in this chamber on 30th April last, I was able to show that as at 30th June, 1962 - I give the latest complete figures for a year that are available - there were 74,945 applicants registered with the housing authorities of the various States for suitable and reasonable accommodation. I repeat what I said then, that these figures do not take into account the number of persons registered for housing in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. The figures for the individual States were -
When one takes into account those who have not sought assistance from the State housing authorities but have decided to grin and bear it, the number seeking accommodation could well be 100,000. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said in another place last Tuesday, according to housing authorities in New South Wales and Victoria it will take another 75 years to clear away the slums of Sydney and Melbourne at the present rate of reclamation. Of course, all this is sheer estimation, because there has been no national survey by any authority of the housing needs of the Australian people. Despite a unanimous resolution - by the State Ministers for Housing early this year, requesting the Commonwealth authorities to conduct a national survey, nothing has been done along those lines.
The fact is that the Government has failed miserably in these Budget Papers to satisfy the reasonable wants and tha genuine needs of the average Australian family. Before the Budget was presented we read forecasts in the press of concessions that were likely to be granted. 1 recall that the press predicted that child endowment and the maternity allowance would be increased; that funeral benefits would be higher and that, for the first time, workers would be allowed to deduct as a tax concession a reasonable amount for fares paid in travelling between their homes and places of employment. But, nothing like this has come about. Child endowment rates have remained unaltered since 1950. There has been no tax concession in respect of workers’ fares to and from work. Funeral benefits are the same as they were some 20 years ago when Commonwealth finances were directed, by the then Labour Government, to winning the greatest war the world has known. Nothing has been done about the maternity allowance.
When one goes through the Budget speech one finds that the inadequacies and deficiencies in the so-called national health scheme have been dismissed perfunctorily as unimportant. From my reading of the Budget speech - and I have read it two or three times - I do not think the various aspects of the national health scheme have rated a mention in the annual accounting to the nation of our economic affairs. One could go on ad infinitum, but there are other senators who wish to speak for the electors from other States.
In recent weeks we have heard much talk about the possibility of an early election. But on the Budget speech for 1963-64, as on all its other efforts, we say to the Government, “ Climb into the dock and face the verdict of the Australian people “. Whenever and however soon a general election may take place, we of the Labour movement are confident that the mass of the Australian people will find the case for Labour proved beyond reasonable doubt, because there is an old saying in politics that Oppositions do not win elections; Governments lose them.
We believe that, as the people of Australia, by a majority in numbers, gave us a mandate to govern at the last elections, not only will it be so according to the number of electors on the next occasion but also according to the number of electorates. On behalf of those for whom I speak I condemn the Budget and its authors for its inadequacies and deficiencies.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [3.22]. - I rise to support the Budget Papers and oppose the amendment. I was rather surprised by the comments of Senator McClelland about the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Ministers of this Government. If ever men have served this country nobly and well, these men have done so. The record of to-day’s events in this chamber does not matter so much, but when the historian lays down his pen after writing the history of Australia, the names of Sir Robert Menzies and his Ministers will be remembered as men who served the people of Australia courageously and splendidly, doing not always the popular thing but what was honest and courageous. I would stand behind these men, remembering these things at all times.
Looking at the Budget, one first feels pleasure at the record of achievement of this Government over a very long period. I thought this as I read these comments by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech -
It was a year of expansion and yet, signifying much, it was also a year of stability. . . . The supply of goods and services seems on the whole to have been adequately matched by demand. This demonstrates in actual experience a great fact - one which the Government has consistently asserted - the fact that stability of costs and prices and economic growth can and do go together.
These are very important factors and they are ones which those who oppose the Budget are pleased to forget. This Budget has, I believe very rightly, been called an everyman’s Budget. As we go through its pages we see clearly that there is consideration for the family man, for those in need of social services and for the young people setting up homes. There is planning for the development and growth of Australia, particularly in the northern areas which are of vital importance to this country. In this growth and development there is, of course, a whole story of increased opportunities for employment. This is of tremendous importance. The Budget Papers show also Australia’s place in world affairs, and the tremendous growth in our export trade. Surely as Australians we are all tremendously proud that to-day Australia is the twelfth trading nation in the world.
This is also a Budget which shows a full recognition of our responsibility in the field of defence and in caring for those in need. It recognizes our responsibility to those people who, through the years, have served this country so well. All this is shown in pension benefits which we believe are so tremendously important.
This Government has worked untiringly, and will continue to do so, recognizing as it does its important responsibility to provide favorable conditions for the growth of the nation. This Budget, above all else - and how important this is - is a forwardlooking Budget for this young country with a great future. I deplore the attitude of the Opposition. It is a miserable dirge, as though this country were old and tired and had no future. This is a country with a great future, and this forwardlooking Budget, I believe, is filled with features which will work towards the tremendous development and growth of this nation.
The future of Australia I believe is an exciting one. It is a future in which there will be greater production; it is a future in which it is estimated that the value of mineral production will be at a new level. Production in basic industries such as steel and coal will be at record levels. It is estimated that rural production will be about 6 per cent, higher than the previous record level of 1961-62, and it is estimated that the net income of farmers will be more than £1,000,000 above last year’s figure. These are figures of tremendous significance, I believe.
I am amazed at members of the Opposition. From their speeches, one would imagine they had not read or heard of all the development that is going on in Australia. They speak as though no such programme was ever considered. But the story is, of course, that there is a tremendous programme of development. Let us remind ourselves of the beef roads programme, of the brigalow lands development, and all that it will mean, of the improved coal ports of New South Wales and Queensland, and the KalgoorlieKwinana railway. Let us remind ourselves again of the great work on the Ord River diversion dam and other works associated with the first stage of the Ord River irrigation programme; of the money that has been provided for the Derby jetty, and the proposed expenditure of £7,000,000 on capital works and services in the Northern Territory, including, of course, housing, schools, hospitals, municipal services and pastoral improvement. Provision is also included for the extension of the Stokes Hill wharf at Darwin and a laboratory for animal husbandry research at Alice Springs. This is all part of a great forwardlooking programme. This is all part of a programme of development which must give employment on a very large scale to a very great many people. It must also mean, of course, an increase of population in these areas and development which is of tremendous importance.
I think it would be rather a pity if in mentioning those things I did not refer to some of the amounts of money that will be involved. It is very easy to forget what governments do over a period of time or what costs are involved, and so it is very important that at a time like this we should remind ourselves of these very things. Over the last five years a total of £6,500,000 has been provided for the north of Western Australia. Of that sum, £5,000,000 has been applied to the Ord River scheme, £1,200,000 to the provision of beef cattle roads and £300,000 to the Derby jetty, which I mentioned earlier. Already the Government has intimated its intention to provide an additional £2,250,000 over the next three years for beef cattle roads and an additional £500,000 in the next year and the year after for the Derby jetty. It is proposed to spend an additional £3,500,000 during the ensuing three years on further developmental works in the north.
This is a great story. In my own State of Queensland, £2,500,000 is being provided this year as part of a total programme of £8,300,000 for the construction of beef roads in the north of the State and in the Channel country. Also, there is £7,250,000 for development of that great project in the brigalow lands. These things will give a new look to the part of the country in which this money is to be spent. Let us look now at some of the other things contained in the Budget which must have an important bearing on the growth and development of Australia. Mention is made of immigration. I have always been tremendously interested in our immigration programme and I think it has been a wonderful thing for this country. We have seen people coming to us from other countries, bringing with them their history, culture and skills. They have worked side by side with our own people and they are helping to develop this great country of ours. The immigration target for 1963-64 of at least 135,000 permanent and long-term arrivals is an increase of 10,000 on last year’s target. It is expected that this will mean 100,000 new settlers. These people will make a valuable contribution to this country, and in the years to come we will see the influence that they have had upon the development and growth of Australia. I am pleased to notice that the programme provides for 45,000 British migrants under the assisted passage scheme. This, I think, is of great importance. It is the largest intake of assisted British migrants in any financial year since the post-war programme began. It is good to know that in this programme there will be special emphasis given to attracting to Australia professional people, skilled tradesmen and key workers. I do hope that there will always be in the programme of immigration very special consideration given to families because I believe that this has already proved most successful. When whole families come to this country and the children grow up in it they very quickly become Australians. In this form of immigration I think we see the very best of an immigration programme.
I should like to deal now with the section of the Budget relating to housing, for this, I believe, has been a wonderful story of achievement in the period since this Government has been in office. When this Government first came into office housing was one of its great problems, and the Government gave special attention to it. 1 think it would be a good thing if we were to pause for a moment in our looking forward to look back and remember what conditions were like in 1949. Do honorable senators remember, as I do, the terrific need for housing in those days? I remind the Senate of the housing camps, the shared homes, the terrible overcrowding and the disastrous results of these conditions on families; the broken homes and broken marriages that resulted; the disastrous effect this had upon children. This Government, believing in the importance of homes and the security of the family unit, tackled this housing problem with tremendous energy and effort, and so the building programmes since then have been splendid. But of course the Government recognizes that there is still a great deal to do and that more and more must be done.
In this Budget, the Government has provided over £90,000,000 for expenditure on housing. I am interested and pleased to note that this will be made available for new dwelling construction and also for the purchase of existing homes. I believe that this is of tremendous importance. Tha Government, recognizing that further lending is necessary, will initiate the amendment of the present regulations so that the savings banks will be able to invest up to 35 per cent, of their depositors’ balances. This will make more money available for housing loans. More people will be able to get loans so that they can acquire the homes that they want. This must mean a tremendous lot to many Australians. As we speak of this record and as we have, for a moment, looked back, let us look back again and remind ourselves that 36 per cent, of all houses and flats in Australia have been built in the fourteen years since this Government came to office. That is a figure which should be recorded and repeated over and over again - 36 per cent.
In 1947, 54.8 per cent, of Australian homes were owned or being bought by their occupants. Since the Menzies Government has been in office the percentage had risen to 75.5 by 1960-61. I believe that we are in the proud position of having the greatest degree of home ownership, or very close to it, of any country in the world. This is something very worthwhile, for home ownership is surely one of the most important things to a nation. Since 1949, when this Government came to office, it has spent £957,000.000 on housing the Australian people. It has spent £446,000,000 under the war service homes scheme. It is good to remind ourselves that this Government has made more homes available under that scheme than all other governments put together since, the scheme was first brought into operation. Is that not a record of which we. as Australians, should be tremendously proud? The Government has made £460.000,000 available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It has made £51.000,000 available for housing in Commonwealth territories. Yes, Mr. Deputy President, this is a record of achievement of which we can well tell the world and be well proud of.
This Budget, as I have said, is an everyman’s budget. Turning to another part of it, 1 notice the superphosphate bounty. 1 know that a number of people has been most anxious that this bounty should be provided. I know the tremendous help that it will mean for the primary producer. The bounty of £3 a ton, in effect, is a Government investment of £9,000,000 in a full year. This must mean higher productivity, and it must give a tremendous boost to our export income which is tremendously important.
As I think of this bounty, I think of the country areas; I think of the distances and 1 think of what this means to people who live in our great, vast areas. I am reminded that one of the records of achievement of this Government has been made under the administration of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in the construction of all-weather country airstrips. Do not let us forget these things. This has been a record, I believe, of which we can very well be proud. The number of aerodromes taken over by local authorities, the number for which approval has been given to be taken over and the number under consideration under this plan now total 144. During this year the government aerodromes at Glen Innes and Wilcannia in New South Wales, at Kerang in Victoria, and at Winton in Queensland have been taken over by local government authorities, bringing the number of Government aerodromes transferred to local authorities by the Commonwealth to 56. Because I travel very widely in the enormous State of Queensland of which I am very proud, I hear, over and over again, how beneficial this particular service has been to people who live there. Where once people took days and days to travel from country to city areas, and children took days and days to get to boarding school, now, with these airstrips and fast air travel, distance means nothing to such travellers who are practically at no greater disadvantage in this respect than people who live in suburbia. This is a wonderful thing. These are things which this Government has done to carry out its belief that every man should have a place in the Budget.
Let me turn now to the section of the Budget Papers that deals with social services. This, of course, is a very important section. I am delighted to see that further assistance is to be given in the field of social services. The plight of widows has, for a long time, been very disturbing. I think of the times that Senator Wedgwood and I have pleaded their cause, and of our pleas for the provision of hostels for handicapped people. Our advocacy in these matters goes back a number of years. I remember visiting some areas in which we had these problems brought to us in a substantial way, as Senator Wedgwood will recall. I am very delighted that in this Budget the Government has seen fit to assist widows and other social service pensioners and has made possible the provision of accommodation for disabled persons on a £2 for £1 basis. The great thing about assistance and accommodation for disabled persons is that people who are disabled and who are being trained or have been trained will now be able to take up some form of occupation and will be enabled to live close to their place of employment. This will give hope to many for whom previously life seemed very hopeless.
I should like also to remark on what I think is the valuable assistance to be provided to the family man in connexion with education expenses. The fact that the maximum allowance for education expenses has been raised from £100 to £150 shows again how this Government not only considers the problem of the family man but also genuinely recognizes the need to provide assistance in the field of education. This concession not only helps parents in respect of taxation but also often means that a child can be given a fuller education.
Then we see another provision in the Budget which I believe will be of tremendous assistance to the family - the taxation concession in respect of medical expenses. The limit of £150 per person as a deduction from gross income in assessing income tax liability has been removed. I ask Opposition senators why they belittle these things which are of assistance to people, such as the taxation concessions in respect of medical expenses and education expenses. Why belittle them because they have been brought in by this Government? They are of assistance to the families and people of Australia as a whole. After all, with respect to illness, I think the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) are of very great importance. He said -
The existence of a limit undoubtedly works to the detriment of a taxpayer when he is in most need of assistance - that is, when he is faced with exceptionally high medical costs for himself or members of his family.
Illness is not a respecter of persons or bank balances. Illness can strike at any time at any member of the family. I believe that one of the most worrying expenses can be long illness in the family. Probably, the worry of such illness and what it will mean very often helps to delay the patient’s recovery. This particular benefit, allied with medical benefits, must, I believe, mean greater financial assistance and also an easing of the mind.
Then we go further on and, among other things, we see that attention has been given to sales tax. Every family and every householder is very aware of the cost of living of every-day articles. Over the years, the Government has been disturbed about every-day costs and has removed or reduced sales tax on a variety of items which are associated with the home. This has been done in Budget after Budget and, in this Budget, sales tax on food has been removed completely. Of course, its removal must be of assistance to the family, to the householder and, indeed, to everybody throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Now I want to speak for a moment or two on a matter which is not mentioned in the Budget. As you know, Mr. Deputy President, this is a debate in which we have the opportunity to speak on a variety of matters. I am quite certain that those honorable senators who are members of the medical profession will agree with my remarks. I want to bring before the chamber the problem of children who are suffer ing from the serious disease, cystic fibrosis. I have seen a number of children who are suffering from this most terrible and distressing complaint. I have known families which have had more than one child afflicted with it. Indeed, four children from one family died of it. I understand from American publications that it is estimated that one child in every 1,000 is born suffering from this disease. One of its terrible effects is on the lungs. They become clogged with a thick, gummy mucus. This means that sufferers from the disease have terrible lung conditions as well as other unfortunate disabilities.
It is recorded in American publications that cystic fibrosis ranks as one of the most deadly diseases of children in the United States. Until the antibiotic age, the outlook for 90 per cent, of these children was hopeless and while there appears, as far as I know at present, to be no specific cure, there are helpful treatments. I want to pay a tribute to our Minister for Health (Senator Wade) for the assistance that his department gives to the parents of children suffering from the disease, by putting on the 5s. list the valuable drugs that are required. This is of great financial assistance, but a great deal more needs to be done.
The parents of these children face many problems. I am filled with admiration for the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Parents Committee in Queensland - I am sure that similar committees exist in other States. They face the problem with great courage but they need a great deal of help. As I may not be putting the position very clearly, let me refer to some American publications. In one newspaper it is stated that cystic fibrosis is fourteen times more common than poliomyelitis and more common by equally substantial margins than leukemia and other forms of cancer in children. Dr. Joseph G. Molner expressed what I feel for the parents who are working so hard to care for these children when he stated -
A few years ago it was thought that children with this disease never grew up. Since then we have been finding some who lived through high school, and college, and into the ‘thirties and perhaps beyond that.
But, of course, most of them die when they are very small. He went on -
It is a long, hard fight to keep these children alive - but progress is real and substantial. It ii a longer, harder research to find the causes (and some day the cure) but that work has substantially begun now.
At best, the disease is difficult to deal with, but much progress is being made by use of antibiotics to curb infections, other drugs to prevent the thickened mucus from clogging vital processes, and diets to coax lots of calories into children who can’t absorb enough of their food yet don’t necessarily have strong appetites . . . My heart goes out to the parents of children with this disease, but I must at the same time say that my hat is off to them for the valiant battle they now are waging to help find the causes of it.
I should like to think that through our federal health associations, we could do something to help fight this terrible scourge and bring some relief to these little children. One of the great needs is that this complaint should be diagnosed as soon as possible. It is good to know that medical men practising throughout Australia are giving much greater attention to this matter. 1 am informed that at the medical school of the University of Queensland there is a great awareness of this problem. I pay tribute to this school for its work and also to Dr. Reilly of the Children’s Department of the Brisbane General Hospital, where the undergraduates receive clinical training. It is splendid to know also that research is being carried out on a significant scale at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne by a unit headed by Dr. Charlotte Anderson, who is a world authority on the disease and makes frequent trips to America to keep up with United States research. Australian doctors refer to Dr. Anderson, consult with her, and attend clinical demonstrations and lectures. This is of untold advantage to the parents who have to face this very real problem.
After discussions with medical people, with the Queensland committee that works for these children, and with the parents of the children, I believe that there are two ways in which the Federal Government could assist. I put these two points to-day in the Budget debate to the Minister for Health. I ask him to consider the possibility of the National Health and Medical Research Council carrying out a nationwide survey of the incidence of cystic fibrosis. If such a survey could be organized by this very special council, which is in a position to gather statistical data from all doctors, it would. I believe, be of great advantage, not only in making people aware of this tragic ailment and the importance of diagnosing it early but also in giving an opportunity for more to be done to help the helpless little ones. The tragedy of this disease is terrible in tiny babies. It is tragic to know that a little child cannot possibly live very long.
I also ask the Minister for Health whether his department could assist parents by helping them to get the important mistogen machines and other breathing apparatus, without which many cystic fibrosis babies cannot be kept alive. I am told that apparatus is available for use in some hospitals, but parents need these machines in their homes for daily, or in some cases hourly, use in order to keep these babies alive. I gather from parents that most hospitals have not such machines to rent, sell or give to parents, and cannot even advise where to get them. Through our own local organization in Queensland, a few machines have been purchased and are available, but there is a crying need for so much more to be done in this field. I believe that we need a much greater supply of the machines throughout Australia.
Perhaps the Commonwealth Department of Health could be asked to study the question of how machines could be made available swiftly to parents as the need arises. Could provision for their acquisition be included in the Commonwealth grant to State hospitals, or could the research council work out financial details of a plan for the department to help parents acquire machines, which can mean life or death to a child? This Government does very great work in the provision of hearing aids. I know of children who have been trained in oral deafness schools. As tiny babies, they have been fitted by the department with hearing aids which make their later training possible. These aids are not sold or given. As I understand it, they are only loaned for an indefinite period. Could a similar arrangement be made so that the parents of children who need breathing apparatus so very much can be provided with it.
The main requirement is that a study of the problem be undertaken in order to find out what assistance can be given. I am reminded of the words of Dr. Luther Terry, Surgeon General, United States
Public Health Service, when addressing the board of trustees of the National Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation in April, 1962-
The gift of a full and healthy life should be the birthright of every child. I join with you in the hope that this gift will soon be a reality.
I hope that in some way these two things can be done to assist these helpless children and their courageous parents.
As I said at the beginning, I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the Budget. It displays a fine record of achievement and a recognition of the needs of all sections of the community. It is a forward-looking budget. It reveals that Australia is an exciting young, growing country that has a great plan of development and which must provide more opportunities for young Australians and a greater choice of employment. The Budget will ensure, above all else, the right of every member of the community to live in a happy and welldefended country. I pay a tribute to those who have been responsible for all the benefits that have been provided. I believe that Australia has a great future. It behoves us to ensure that we do our best to support a government which has achieved such a fine state of affairs. I support the Budget but oppose the Opposition’s amendment.
– I support the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly). In that part of the speech delivered by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin which I heard there is very little which could be condemned. She has mentioned the plight of the unfortunate sufferers from cystic fibrosis. I assure the honorable senator that any agitation to improve the lot of these unfortunates will receive ready support from the Opposition.
I also agree with the honorable senator when she says that Australia is a great country which has a great future. That is the opinion of the Opposition. That is why we seek to have elected to the treasurybench a government that will make Australia an even greater country by developing it thoroughly. In no speech that has been delivered by members of the Opposition has an attempt been made to, belittle the Government’s effort in granting an increase of pensions and other social service benefits. Reference has been nude, though, to the inadequacy of such benefits and the lack of understanding that has been displayed of cases in which relief is needed. As we of the Opposition are not holding the reins of government, it is difficult for us to say whether the increases which are to be granted are in accord with the Government’s capacity to pay. We do know, however, that the increases will not meet the needs of those unfortunate members of the community who are forced to live on pensions or other social service benefits.
From time to time honorable senators seek laurels, as did Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin to-day, and are satisfied to compare what this Government has done with what was done in the past by another government. But surely our main consideration should be whether this Government is satisfying the needs of the population. A comparison of present-day governmental activities in Australia in the field of aviation with those of governments of 50 or 100 years ago would show that infinitely more is being done to-day than was done in the past. But that is not a fair comparison, because at that time there was not a demand for this form of transportation. Likewise, to say that 36 per cent, of the homes which exist in Australia to-day have been built during the period of office of this Government is not a true approach to the problem of ascertaining whether the Government has discharged its responsibility in the sphere of home building. As Senator McClelland pointed out, the true approach is to ascertain whether the Government has met the housing needs of the Australian people.
The best that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) could do when money for housing was being made available last year was to produce figures which showed that from 1954 to 1961 the housing situation relative to the population had improved to the extent of 3 per cent. I can recall pointing out that although that may have been the overall position in Australia, the population of South Australia had increased to a greater extent than that of the other States and that South Australia was falling behind in meeting her housing needs. Senator McClelland has pointed out that at the present time 74,000 people are in need of homes. Surely that must indicate that the Government has fallen behind in trying to satisfy the needs of the people during its term of office. Although 36 per cent, of the homes at present in existence may have been built since this Government assumed office, the people of Australia need more homes than are being provided. Therefore, the Government must stand condemned. Yet we see an honorable senator rising in her place and saying that the Government is very proud of its achievement!
The Government proposes to lend or to make available the same amount for housing this year as it did last year, and in addition to permit the savings banks to invest an additional 5 per cent, of depositors’ balances in housing loans. The report of the Reserve Bank of Australia which was tabled1 in the Senate last night and which was distributed to-day stated that, because of increased deposits, the savings banks had been able to lend more money for homes last year than in the previous year. But because the banks had been able to do this, when the Australian Loan Council met, the State Premiers found that, pursuant to a statement by the Minister for National Development, they had to accept £2,000,000 less than the Commonwealth Government was prepared to give them. It is useless to prepare for additional home building if the State governments are short of the funds that are needed to supply services for the homes. At Taperoo in South Australia 130 new homes have been completed, but they cannot be occupied because sewerage has not been provided.
As I have said, when the need for homes was met partly by additional finance which was made available by the savings banks last year, the Government reduced its allocation. To permit the savings banks in this year to invest an additional 5 per cent, of depositors’ balances in housing loans will not increase the rate of home building; rather it will mean that the allocation of money for home building will be transferred from the Commonwealth to the savings banks. The savings banks will allocate more money and’ the Commonwealth will allocate less, unless in some way more money can be made available to the State governments to provide the necessary services. As I said earlier, last year £2,000,000 more was available for home building than the States were able to accept. To make provision in a budget for an extra allocation for homes without considering increased grants for other services is not to improve the home building position one iota.
I suppose there has never been a budget in history to which people looked with greater expectation. It was brought in after the credit squeeze and a period of deficit financing. In fact, the previous Budget did not prove to be a deficit budget although that had been the Government’s intention. That budget was brought in for the purpose of restricting the economy on the plea of arresting inflation. Following on that alleged deficit budget the Government was in a position to grant some increases. The country being in a good financial position there were great expectations that the present Budget would be good for the people of Australia. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that he hoped it would be what he termed a “ happy budget “. I do not know for whom he expected it to be happy. It was said that the Budget would assist the family man and that there would be pension increases. This led newspaper reporters to say that the Budget would increase child endowment and pensions. That was the expectation when we assembled last week to hear the Budget brought down.
We found that the vaunted assistance to families was a reduction in sales tax, mostly on foodstuffs. This is something that the Opposition says is long overdue, but whether it will assist the family man will depend on policing to see that the reduction in tax is passed on. We have been told already that in South Australia there might be some reduction in the price of large blocks of ice cream and that the removal of sales tax on ice cream will afford relief to ice cream manufacturers.
– What about the small lick-ups?
– On the small lick-ups there will be no reduction of price for the children in South Australia. No 12J per cent, reduction on many items will occur unless the thing is policed.
I cannot agree with Senator Sir William Spooner that married pensioners will be happy to know that single pensioners are to get an increase. The increases that have been made will not give the relief that was hoped for. Some benefits have been given to the farming community. One might ask whether the Budget has been influenced by the Australian. Country Party rather than by the Liberal Party. The newly-entered-into Japanese Trade Treaty will also benefit the primary producer and will also have implications for our manufacturing industries, which are normally supporters of a Liberal government. Considering the abandonment of the last electoral redistribution proposals one could be justified in wondering which party is controlling Australia in this composite government. Is our ageing Prima Minister reaching the stage where he cannot control the Government, and is there a bigger force, emanating from the smallest group in the Parliament, controlling Australia?
I desire to make a case for the sma-il man in our community. In any civilized community the Government must accept the responsibility to provide for the unfortunate members who cannot provide for themselves. If through age or invalidity a person is unable to provide for himself the Government should accept the responsibility. There is another section of the community which is unable to provide for itself although it is comprised of young and able persons. I refer to the unemployed. They are possibly just as much, if not more, deserving of consideration by the Government than the aged and invalid, because their condition has been brought about, in the main, by government policy.
Possibly the Government’s heaviest responsibility is to returned soldiers who at the request of past governments of this country were prepared to make sacrifices. They are entitled to reasonable provision for their future, in keeping with the promises that were made to them at the time of their enlistment. I desire to quote from the 47th annual report of the national executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League, published from the national headquarters in Canberra. Prior to the preparation of the Budget the organization made a request to the Government. It sought to justify its request by quoting the pension rate payable to returned soldiers in 1950-51 just after the Labour regime of the war years. The organization compared this rate with the average male earnings in Australia at that time and sought to justify its present claim by a comparison with the average male earnings in 1962-63. However, for some reason the organization, in its representations to the Government, did not ask for the restoration of the full value of the 1950-51 pension, but asked for something less. In 1950-51, when the average male rate of wage was £11 Us., the 100 per cent, service pension was £3 10s., or 30.33 per cent, of the average wage of the male earner at that time. In 1961-62 the average male earner received £23 9s. A pension representing 30.33 per cent, of that amount would be £7 2s. 3d., but the organization asked the Government for a pension of £6 10s. compared with the £5 15s. pensioners are receiving. It got nothing. Had the organization asked for a wife’s allowance based on the same percentage it would have requested an allowance of £3 ls. lOd. Instead, it asked for an allowance of £3, but received nothing. Using the same calculation, the allowance for children would have been £1 3s. 6d., whereas at present it is 13s. 9d. The Returned Servicemen’s League asked for £1 a week, but no increase was received from the Government.
Let us turn to war widows. Using the same calculation, based on the value of the pension in 1951-52 and the proportion of 30.33 per cent, to which I have referred, a war widow would to-day be entitled to £7 2s. 3d. a week. The Returned Servicemen’s League asked for a pension increase to £6 10s., but again no increase was granted. The domestic allowance, according to the calculation to which I have referred, should be £3 5s. a week. The league asked for £4 a week, but no increase was granted. On a comparative basis, an allowance of £2 4s. 8d. a week was justified for the first child. The league asked for £2 a week, but no increase was granted. For subsequent children, in respect of whom the allowance should be £1 lis. 9d. a week, the league asked for £2 a week, but no increase was granted. In the case of double orphans, who should be receiving £4 ls. Id. a week according to 1951-52 values, the league asked for £4 a week, but no increase was granted.
In respect of service pensions, the rate in 1951-52 was £3 a week, or 26 per cent, of the average male earnings. On an equivalent basis, the rate to-day should be £6 ls. lid. a week. The league asked for £5 10s. a week. The Government has decided to pay a pension of £5 15s. a week to single pensioners, but no increase has been granted to married pensioners. The allowance for the wife of a service pensioner, on a comparative basis, should be £3 ls. a week today. The league asked for £2 15s. a week, and the Government has granted an allowance of £3 a week. On a comparative basis, the allowance for the first child should be £1 3s. 6d. a week. The league asked for 15s. a week, but there appears to be no provision in the Budget for an increase in this respect. For each additional child over one year of age the league asked for an allowance of 15s. a week, and an increase of 5s. a week has been granted.
The supporters of the Government boast of the pension rates that have been provided, but in effect, returned servicemen are not receiving as much by way of pension to-day as they received in 1951, having regard to the value of money. It is of little use to speak of the social service benefits we have provided if we do not consider whether the conditions of the recipients of those benefits have improved or declined as a result of the Government’s custodianship of the country. I submit with respect that that is the proper test to apply; and it is the test which the Returned Servicemen’s League has applied, but it has received no response. The returned servicemen asked for something less than the value that their pensions should have to-day, having regard to 1951 values, but they are receiving far less than that. It is true that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen have received an increase of 10s. a week in their pension, but that has been condemned by the Returned Servicemen’s League because T.P.I pensioners will lose the benefit of the increase. The condemnation of the league was referred to in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of Friday, 16th August. The following statement appeared in that newspaper: -
Repatriation Department officials admitted to-night that about 7,000 of Australia’s estimated 25,000 T.P.I, pensioners would not receive the 10s. increase.
When we look at the increase that has been granted to the T.P.I, pensioners we must consider that it will not apply to every T.P.I, pensioner. Approximately one-third of the total number of such pensioners will not benefit from the increase that has been granted.
Why does the Government consider that it is necessary to provide £5 5s. a week for a married pensioner, whether by way of service pension, age pension or invalid pension, but only £3 5s. a week to maintain an unemployed man? I cannot understand the Government’s reasoning in this respect. Why is an allowance of £3 a week granted to the wife of a service pensioner, but only £2 7s. 6d. a week to the wife of a person who is unemployed because of circumstances entirely outside his control? In all probability, the person who is unemployed is out of work because of Government policy which has resulted in unemployment. Why should his wife be expected to exist on £2 7s. 6d. a week? Again, that is something I cannot understand.
I think it was Senator McKellar who said earlier to-day that every one knows that two persons can live more cheaply than one, and he referred to wireless and television licences. A single person who is a pensioner is to receive £5 15s. a week under the Budget proposals, with an additional allowance of 10s. a week if he is renting accommodation, making a total of £6 5s. a week. A married couple who are pensioners receive only £10 10s. a week, which means that either the husband or the wife is expected to live on £4 5s. a week, having regard to the amount which the Government says is essential for a single person to live on. The Government has acknowledged that the pension provides for a bare subsistence, because it has stated that it is helping people in the most unfortunate circumstances. It has said, in effect, “ We cannot give an increase to every one. We shall help the single people because they are suffering the greatest hardship.”
The Labour Party is of the opinion that £4 5s. a week is not sufficient for a person to live on. I have heard no one on this side of the chamber condemn in any way the proposal to increase the pension by 10s. a week for single pensioners; but every one is agreed that it is unfair to leave out of consideration pensioner married couples. We all realize that, even with the increase, the pension will not permit luxury living. Senator McKellar referred to television licences. I believe that he was speaking of pensioners who do not have to rely solely on the pension. There are many people in Australia, particularly in the smaller communities, who must exist on the pension alone. Their plight is harsh. We have cause to worry about their accommodation and living conditions.
I have referred to this matter on a previous occasion. When the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) was in Port Augusta during the Grey by-election campaign, I raised with him the question of assistance by way of an adequate allowance for the wife of a pensioner who is not a pensioner herself. I think the Minister was quite honest in his beliefs when he said we forget that there is some responsibility on the children to supplement the means of a pensioner. He said we could not take away from the children the responsibilty to look after the parents in their old age. This would be a good sentiment if provision were made for the children to help their parents, but when one studies the wage rates and the employment conditions to-day, and understands the poverty that exists in the lower paid sections of the community, it is unrealistic to expect children to contribute towards the upkeep of their parents. These people simply cannot Help.
Under the terms of this Budget the wife of an invalid or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner - not any age pensioner - gets an allowance of £3 a week. If she is of pensionable age the Government is of the opinion that she is entitled to £5 5s. a week. If she is not of pensionable age and her husband is not a permanently incapacitated pensioner, but just an age pensioner, she is expected to get by on £3 a week. If a woman happens to be the wife of an unemployed man who is not old enough to claim a pension she gets £2 7s. 6d. a week.
I refer to these matters because I have personal knowledge of a particular case that I referred to in the Senate last year. A person who was the president of the trade union to which I belonged had reached the age when he could obtain a pension, but his wife was much younger than he was and he could not get a pension for her. He was therefore in financial difficulties. Being of pensionable age he could not get the unemployment benefit. When I referred to this case the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) spoke of the responsibility of the children to look after the parents.
I reported at that time that this individual had found some employment he was capable of doing, and I take the opportunity afforded by the Budget debate to relate the further experiences of this man. He had four and a half years’ service in the First World War and three years service with the military forces in the Second World War. Most of his service in the First World War was overseas and he was in action. He qualified for a pension at 60 years of age and is now 66. He did not get a repatriation allowance for his wife, because he married a girl much younger than himself. A man cannot go through seven and a half years of military campaigns without suffering some effects, including premature old age.
Many men carry on their normal occupations at 65 years but this man had been engaged in arduous work for many years and he could not carry on. He could not obtain the unemployment benefit and it was impossible for him to live on the pension. Finally he obtained work with the F. W. Hercus Manufacturing Company Ltd. at Southwark, South Australia. It is an engineering firm and his job was to sweep the steel filings and other material from the floor around the benches. It was a job that was not easy to fill because it was lowquality work and of a monotonous nature, but he was commended by everybody in authority, from the manager down, for the way he kept the place clean. The company expressed complete satisfaction with him.
After eighteen months, he was informed that the directors had decided that they could not continue in employment anybody over 65 years who had not been with the firm for twenty years. Out of sympathy for him they gave him a good reference stating they were completely satisfied with his work, but he had a month’s notice of the termination of employment. He asked whether he could see the directors and was told that it was not a matter for the directors, but for the parent company, McPhersons Limited in Melbourne, who are machinery importers. He said he would see the manager but was told that the manager was in Melbourne.
When he came to me, I wrote to the manager in Melbourne and was told that they did not interfere with employment or dismissals at their State branches and that it was nothing to do with the Melbourne company. I was told that my letter had been referred to the Adelaide office. I telephoned the Adelaide office and the manager, Mr. Thomas, said it was purely a matter for the Hercus company. I rang the manager of the F. W. Hercus Manufacturing Company Limited and was told that it was a decision of the directors and nothing could be done. When I asked whether they were satisfied with the man’s work they said he was one of the best men they had had in the job.
Here was a firm compulsorily retiring a man who could not get subsistence for himself and his wife under Government policy. According to certain senators, his family should help to provide for their parents in their old age. In this case, that was impossible. This man has two daughters. One is married to a clerk in the South Australian railways, with six children, and one can imagine that his wage is not high. How can that daughter contribute to her parents’ welfare? The second daughter is married and has only one child, but she and her husband are purchasing a new home and the wife has an incurable disease necessitating constant medical attention. lt is impossible for her to help her parents.
The man cannot apply for a pension for his wife and he does not qualify for tha unemployment benefit as he is of pensionable age. After all the service he has given to his country, that is his reward. The Government has made no attempt to rectify such anomalies in this Budget. Ministers will not face up to the facts of life to-day.
I want to press the case of the poor man in society, and I give credit to Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin who took somewhat the same line in seeking assistance for some unfortunate members of the community. The Opposition has been pre pared to join with her in seeking assistance for children with fibrosis. We have asked the Government to consider the unfortunate people in our society. In expressing my condemnation of this Budget I am endeavouring to show that proper consideration has not been given to certain sections of the community. Honorable senators opposite regard it as an achievement to have lifted from £105 to £209 the income at which a person begins to pay tax. I use the words of Senator Kennelly - it is mere window dressing. As is true of pensions, £209 to-day has not the value that £105 had in 1949.
– The concession affects 160,000 people.
– Let us examine that. In 1948-49, when a Labour Government was in office, tha exemption was £105. According to the “Year Book”, in that year 194,947 persons were in the income group from £105 to £150, and the total number of taxpayers in that year was 2,643,440. The proportion of taxpayers in that group, therefore, was 7.3 per cent. The percentage decreased to 5.84 per cent, in the following year and to 4.9 per cent, in 1950-51. Not only did the percentage decrease each year but the number of persons in that income group also decreased. In 1948-49, 194,947 taxpayers were in that category; by 1949-50 the number had decreased to 165,454, and by 1950-51 it was down to 152,219. After 1950-51 the “ Year Book “ no longer shows the number in the income group from £105 to £150; it shows those in the group from £105 to £200, and this, a? course, brings m many more. In 1951-52 266,134 people received incomes between £105 and £200, whilst the total number of taxpayers was 3,260,015. This represented a proportion of 8.16 per cent, compared with the 4.9 per cent, in the narrower group in the previous year. The percentage of taxpayers in the £105-£200 group dropped from 8.16 per cent, in 1951-52 to 4.9 per cent, in 1953-54, to 3.9 per cent, in 1955-56, to 4.27 per cent, in 1956-57, to 3.9 per cent, in 1957-58, to 4.04 per cent, in 1958-59, and to 3.8 per cent, in 1959- 60, the last year for which figures are available in the “Year Book”. So, in that year 3.8 per cent, of the total taxpayers
Vere in the £105-£200 income group, compared with 7.3 per cent, in the £105-£150 group under a Labour government.
– People are nsw getting higher incomes.
– That is the very point I am making; they are getting higher incomes. Honorable senators opposite take credit for the higher exemption proposed in the Budget but it is clear that because of higher incomes, the percentage of income-earners now exempt from tax is not as great as it was under the Labour Administration. It is true that the exemption is now to be increased to £209, but even a school leaver starting in his first job would not come within that figure; he would be compelled to pay tax.
– If he can get a job!
– Yes, if he can get a job. Not only is the percentage of income-earners in the lowest income group now half what it was under the Labour Government but clearly the number actually coming within the exemption must be less. My figures in this connexion differ from those of Senator Wedgwood. As I have said, whereas under Labour there were 194,000 income-earners in the £105-£150 income group, now there are only 157,786 in the £105-£200 group. It may well be that this higher exemption will mean a saving to the Taxation Branch in cost of administration but it is of little real value to the taxpayers. On the question of taxation generally I merely make the plea that more consideration be given to the small man in the community.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred to certain unfortunate members of our society. I should like to refer to a matter that was reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 10th July. A magistrate, Mr. John Marshall, S.M., heard a case at Whyalla in which a thirteen-year-old boy was charged with stealing a bicycle. He had been caught in possession of the bicycle and was brought before the court. One would expect that a magistrate who, during the course of his career, had possibly dealt with some of the worst criminal elements of our society would be hardened and unsympathetic to those who break the law, and would inflict a severe penalty on an offender such as this. The report In the “Advertiser” states that before convicting the boy the magistrate asked him whether he had a bike, to which the lad shyly replied, “No”. The magistrate said, “I think it would be nice if he had a bike and a dog; I think he is the sort of boy who needs a bike. It must have been a great temptation for him to take it.” The magistrate asked Detective Standford of the Whyalla Criminal Investigation Branch, who was in court, to see whether he could1 get a secondhand bike for the boy, and a £1 note was passed from the bench. A later report said that the boy was eventually given a bike.
– A good bike that would be!
– I do not know how any honorable senator can laugh at hardship. Instead of interrupting, Senator Scott should hear the whole story and see whether it is a laughing matter. It may be a laughing matter to a wealthy individual who shuts his eyes to other people’s hardships, but it is not a laughing matter to those who are in daily contact with human problems. Perhaps the honorable senator has been so long a supporter of a government that represents vested interests that he, too, has become hard and cannot spare some compassion in cases such as this. That is an added reason why this Government is not the best that we could have for this country.
When we look at the facts of this case we learn that the boy who stole the bicycle was thirteen years old. He had the same desire that every boy has to own a bicycle. He impressed the magistrate with his sincerity. He had been walking home from school when he saw the bicycle; he took it and rode it about for a while. He then took it home and his father, who saw it1 next day, asked where it had come from. He then directed the lad to take it back. While returning the bicycle the boy was found by a policeman and subsequently taken before the court. The magistrate was impressed by the fact that this lad was not a criminal but merely a boy who had an urge to have a bicycle. As the magistrate said, there must have been a great temptation to take it. The stepfather said that he was supporting a wife and six children on a wage of less than £20 a week. This man is representative of the small man in society, and I ask the Government to give him consideration. A wage of nearly £20 a week is a tradesman’s wage comprising a living wage of £14 3s. in South Australia plus a margin for skill which at that time, 10th July, was £4 16s. I say that this man would be receiving something over the tradesman’s wage. I am not referring to labourers who receive £14 or £15 a week, but to the average tradesman in Australia of whom there are about 35,593 receiving £20 a week at the present time. The man to whom I have referred had six children. This was sufficient to convince the magistrate - a man whom you would expect to take some convincing - that this was a most deserving case and, out of his own pocket, he purchased a bike for the lad.
Let us consider the man to whom I have referred as having £20 a week which would represent £1,040 a year. With a wife and six children, he would have a taxable income of £481, being entitled to dependants’ allowances amounting to £559. He would pay income tax at the rate of £23 15s. a year. It is in respect of cases such as this that the Australian Labour Party says that there must be a complete redistribution of tax liability so that those who are receiving the dividends from industry should make a greater contribution to the cost of social services. There are 10,967 taxpayers in Australia in receipt of annual income between £5,000 and £5,999. A man in receipt of £5,000 a year, having a wife and six children, would have a taxable income of £4,441 on which he would pay tax amounting to £1,341 lis. 8d., leaving him £3,658 8s. 4d. for himself. There are 684 people receiving an income of, and in excess of £20,000, which seems to be an exorbitant amount. There are 146 receiving incomes between £30,000 and £40,999. The man in receipt of £20,000 a year, having a wife and six children, is able to claim dependants’ allowances amounting to £559. His taxable income is £19,441 and he is liable for the payment of £10,176 6s. 4d. in tax. This leaves him £9,823 13s. 8d.
I am making this analysis for the purpose of comparison with the position of the man in receipt of £20 a week. If he is unable to claim the dependant’s allowance in respect of his wife, the man receiving £20 a week and having six children would pay £17 2s. more in tax than he would pay if he were able to claim the allowance in respect of his wife. However, the value in tax deduction of a wife to a man in receipt of £5,000 a year, would be £70 8s. 4d. and the value of a wife, under these circumstances to a man in receipt of £20,000 a year would be £90 lis. lid. How the Government can justify permitting those on higher incomes to receive a greater benefit from dependant’s allowance in respect of their wives than those on lower incomes is something we do not know.
The value, for taxation purposes, of the first child to the tradesman on £20 a week whom I have mentioned, is £10 Ils. The value of the first child to the man in receipt of £5,000 a year is £44 17s. The value of the first child to the man in receipt of £20,000 a year is £57 12s. lOd. The value to the tradesman of one of his other children, in respect of whom a deduction of £65 may be claimed for income tax purposes, is £7 9s. 8d. The value to the £5,000 income earner of one of his other children is £22 2s. 8d.; and the value to the £20,000 income earner is £41 3s. 5d. For income tax purposes, the value to a tradesman on £20 a week of his wife and six children is £85 8s. The value of his wife and six children to a £5,000 income earner is £359 13s. 4d.; and the value to a £20,000 income earner is £454 ls. 4d. These figures illustrate the value of the tax concessions which the Government gives to the wealthy man.
I do not agree entirely with the statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) that few workers would benefit from the increased allowance in respect of education expenses. A tradesman with a wife and six children who was able to claim a deduction of £150 from his gross income in respect of education expenses would benefit to the extent of £12 4s. in respect of that expenditure. The man who earned £5.000 a year would benefit to the extent of £70 7s. 5d.; and the man who earned £20,000 a year would benefit to the extent of £95. If the tradesman receiving £20 a week, with a wife and six children, spent £300 on medical and educational expenses he would pay £1 17s. in tax. The expenditure of £300 would reduce his tax liability by £21 18s. The man in receipt of £5,000 a year with a wife and six children who spent £300 on medical and educational expenses would have his tax liability reduced by £139 16s. lid.; and the £20,000 income earner under similar circumstances, would have his tax liability reduced by £190. These figures show that the income tax allowance in the case of the tradesman is insignificant. But the man in receipt of £5,000 a year is able to recoup approximately half the amount that he pays for educational or medical purposes whilst the man in receipt of £20,000 a year is able to recoup two-thirds of such expenditure under the Government’s taxation system.
This Budget does not provide the benefits that a budget should provide for the poor, unfortunate sections of society. I could say much more on this subject but my time has almost expired. I ask that the Government consider the whole question of whether it is meeting its responsibility by making provision for those who are unable to provide for themselves. The Government should consider whether it is obtaining a disproportionate amount of its revenue from those who are least able to make a sacrifice in order to pay for the administration of the country.
– 1 support the motion and oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Kennelly. This amendment is a little different from those which we have enjoyed debating on similar occasions in the thirteen years during which honorable senators opposite have occupied their correct position in this chamber. The amendment reads -
At the end of the motion add the following words: - “ but while approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries, the Senate condemns the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, education, housing, health, social services and northern development. The Senate is also of opinion that the Government’s failure to provide for full employment, and for increases in child endowment, which has remained stationary in respect of the second and subsequent children since 1948, is wrong and unjust.”
The Opposition accuses us of being an old government. That is the image that it tries to create in the minds of the electors. It says that we are not fit to govern, as we are too old. When I first entered the chamber in 1950, we were told that we could remain a government for only a few months, as we had not any experience. Statements of that kind were made for a year or two, but we survived. In the middle 1 950’s we were told that the Opposition could do far better than we were doing and that it could provide more amenities by way of social services. We were told that the electors would be putting us out at the forthcoming election. These things were said on three occasions. If the Labour Party had been elected on these promises and had fulfilled them, it would have had to find these amounts of money additional to those which this Government found: In 1954, £372,000,000; in 1955, £187,000,000; in 1958, £165,000,000; and in 1961, after the all-out attempt by the Labour Party, £418,000,000. Despite all these promises we remain in office, as we have done for thirteen years. I look forward to the enjoyment of seeing Opposition senators sitting where they are now sitting for the next fourteen years.
– From where do you get the figure of £418,000,000?
– That is what I assess as the cost of what Labour promised. Senator Cavanagh referred to the lifting of exemption from income tax from the level of £105 to the level of £209. He referred to the period when Labour was in government. By raising the exemption level from £105 to £209, we shall lose in tax revenue only £196,746, but we shall exempt 159,541 taxpayers. On these figures, to allow the exemption to remain at the £105 level is not warranted. I commend the Government upon increasing it to £209. This will relieve the Taxation Branch of the need to issue about 160,000 income tax assessments to collect approximately £1 a head. The total amount involved is only 04 per cent, of income tax collections.
Senator Cavanagh said that if Labour were elected it would go into the problems of income tax and its effect upon the lower income groups. He meant that if Labour were elected it would raise the rate payable by people on high incomes and reduce the rate payable by people on low incomes. Let us look at Labour’s record, which does not compare at all favorably with that of this Government. In 1949, Labour’s last year of office, a single person earning £300 a year paid £13 12s. in income tax and social services contribution. This year such a person will pay ?7 10s., a reduction of ?5 12s., or 42 per cent. A person receiving ?600 a year would have paid ?53 10s. to the Labour Government in 1949. This year we will collect from him ?37 12s.. a reduction of ?15 8s., or 29.7 per cent. It will thus be seen that this Government has already taken account of people in the lower income group and given them considerable relief. Why does Senator Cavanagh now say that Labour will examine the whole question of income tax and impose a higher rate on earners of higher income and a lower rate on earners of lower income, when the Labour Government in 1949 charged people on lower incomes more than we are charging them?
Let us compare social services contributions in 1949 by persons on lower incomes with what we are charging the people for social services. I remind Senator Cavanagh that in 1949 a person who had an income of ?30,000 a year contributed1s. 6d. in the ?1 for social services, but to-day he pays on a percentage basis. I remind the honorable senator also that in 1949 a man on the basic wage paid1s. 6d. in the ?1. A flat rate was levied by the Labour Government.
– You still collect it.
– Don’t be silly! Apparently I have not stated it plainly enough for the senator from Tasmania and should explain it again. I point out that in 1949 under a Labour administration a flat rate was levied on all incomes from the basic wage upwards. Under this Government’s administration people who are earning less than ?209 a year do not contribute to social services. I suppose that if Labour were returned to office it would repeal the existing legislation and would re-impose a flat rate of1s. 6d. in the ?1. When we assumed office we recognized that this imposed a burden on people in the lower income bracket. To-day people who are in receipt of ?30,000 a year are charged according to their ability to pay. In some cases the rate is as much as 13s. 4d. in the ?1. When we assumed office in 1949 the maximum rate of income tax was approximately 15s. in the ?1, but we have been able, to reduce it to 13s. 4d. That is a record of which we can be rather proud. In addition, we have been able to help people by removing the sales tax from foodstuffs. That is an important concession.
Every time a member of the Labour Party rises, we are hammered on the subject of unemployment. Last night Senator Cohen said -
Thefacts are perfectly clear about unemployment. We have 78,000 people unemployed in Australia, which is about 2,000 less than we had about this time last year. That is the plain fact of the matter. There were 80,000 unemployed at 30th November of last year.
How cunning it was of him to mention November! He continued -
So there is nothing in that for honorable senators opposite to crow about. All that the Government has been able to manage in nine or ten months is to reduce the number of unemployed by 2,000, and that is nothing to boast about. Quoting the Premier of Tasmania, Senator Lillico said that it is a better guide to use the unemployment benefit figures than the number of persons registered for employment.
Senator Hannaford said, by way of interjection ;
That is what Mr. Reece said.
Senator Cohen replied thus ;
If the honorable senator will be patient for a minute I will deal with that matter. Senator Lillico did not mention that the figure of 37,000, representing those receiving unemployment benefits, is in fact higher than the corresponding figure in May of this year, and is higher than it was in April of this year, or in October or November of last year. . . .
He got back to this reduction of 2,000 in the number of unemployed.
If we look at the unemployment figures, we find that at the end of July in this year approximately 78,000 people were registered for employment. At 31st July, 1962, a total of 90,091 persons were registered for employment. If we go back to July, 1961 - a year earlier - we find that 113,000 persons were registered for employment. So in two years the number of persons registered for employment has dropped from 113,000 to 78,000. Members of the Labour Party, which, like the Government has a policy of full employment, should rise and say how many people should be registered for employment before we cease to have full employment.
– An irreducible minimum.
– That is the term I was trying to think of. Members of the Labour Party talk about full employment, but never at any stage was the Labour
Administration able to attain the position where no people were registered for work. Let us go back to 1949. Of course, whenever I mention 1949, honorable senators opposite say that there was a coal strike in that year.
– It is the old old story. You have been repeating it for years.
– I do not intend to dwell on the position in 1949, because I have a better example. I was about to mention that in the June quarter of 1949. 5.6 per cent, of the work force was registered for employment. The Commonwealth “Year Book” No. 40 of 1954 shows, at page 355, that at 30th June, 1947, when a census was taken, a total of 82,774 persons who were usually engaged in industry, business, trade or services were out of work. A Labour government was in office then. One million more people are in employment in Australia now than in 1947. Notwithstanding that increase, at 30th June this year we had 78,000 registered for employment, whereas at the census in June, 1947, a Labour government had 83,000 people registered for employment. Under the heading “ Proportion of Trade Unionists Unemployed “, we find that in 1945 the proportion was 1.2 per cent.; in 1946 it was 1.4 per cent.; in 1947, 1.2 per cent; in 1948, .9 per cent; in 1949, 2 per cent.; in 1950, .8 per cent; and in 1951, .7 per cent. The best record that the Australian Labour Party achieved in any one year was a percentage of .8 per cent., compared with the present Government’s best figure of .7 per cent. Whichever way honorable senators opposite compare the figures they will find that they are on the wrong end of the stick.
Any government has a terrific responsibility in a matter such as this, but to be able to create a balance in which the percentage of unemployed never rises above 3 per cent., and gets down to only .7 per cent, of unemployment among trade unionists is very good indeed. I think that this is the only government in the Western world that has been able to achieve such success. A record over thirteen years of never having unemployment in excess of 3 per cent, is unbeatable by any other administration that has been in office in Australia.
– Those figures would include some migrants resident in migrant camps.
– Yes, they are included. The Government has been able to achieve a record of employment in this country unequalled in any other country in the world, and yet it is being hammered by the Opposition. I know full well that if the Opposition ever became the government, in a couple of years we would get back to the stage where a large percentage of our work force was unemployed. The Government has a terrific responsibility, not only to check unemployment but also to hold back inflation at the same time. In times of inflation a government can keep its unemployment figures down but can very easily ruin the export trade of the country. The present Government has not done that. In the last few years, particularly, it has been able to maintain stable prices and almost full employment. The figure of 78,000 includes many seasonal workers, an element in the figures which is hard to identify. I am not saying these people are not out of a job, but some do not want a job. I believe that it is the duty of the Labour Party to quote to us a definite figure so that we can check it and hammer honorable members opposite if they ever attain office.
The Government, on this occasion, has brought down a budget in the best interests of Australia as a whole. I have been in the Parliament a long time and this is the best Budget that this Government has produced from the point of view of the people all over Australia. When the economy is balanced as it is the Government must be careful how it spends its money. Unemployment must be considered and development projects must be looked at. Money has to be found for these things. Above all, it is the responsibility of the Government to maintain a fairly balanced economy. It must not allow an inflationary spiral to occur. If the Government were to make too many concessions we would get back to that state of affairs very quickly. The Government has considered all the industries of Australia and has tried to help those that are producing export income. At the same time, it has tried to relieve unemployment.
Under the Government’s immigration policy it is hoped to bring 135,000 migrants to Australia this year: Taking into consideration the number of people who will leave this country we expect to obtain a net population increase from immigration of 100,000 people. That, of course, will help to build up our country at a rate faster, probably, than any country in the Western world has so far maintained. At the same time, the policy of the Government is to maintain full employment.
Let us consider some of the concessions that have been granted. The Government is helping export industries by granting a superphosphate bounty of £3 a ton.
– By restoring it, you mean.
– By granting a superphosphate bounty of £3 a ton.
– By restoring it.
– By restoring it, if you like. I know that there was a superphosphate bounty before, but you could hardly grant a superphosphate bounty when wool was £1 per lb.
– What about the dairy farmers?
– They get a fixed price for their product.
– You have forgotten about them.
– I have not forgotten about them, and I have not forgotten about the wool-growers. If the honorable senator knows anything about the dairy farmers he knows that they get a cost of production price. He has not worked that out. The restoration of this superphosphate bounty of £3 a ton will help Australian farmers to develop their land and increase its productivity, and will help Australia to increase its export income. Because a woolgrower or farmer can buy superphosphate for £3 a ton less he will use more of it, produce more, export more and we will get more income.
Western Australia is going ahead under a Liberal and Country Party Government at a far greater rate, I believe, than at any other time in the history of that State. Possibly it is the fastest developing State in the Commonwealth at the moment. Under its agricultural policy the State is developing 1,000,000 acres a year - clearing the land and putting it under pasture. We are increasing our stock by almost 1,000,000 head of sheep a year - a rate faster than in any other State of the Commonwealth.
– How many new settlers are there?
– Wherever you go, from Esperance right up as far as Geraldton, there are new settlers opening up land in the agricultural areas. We are clearing 1,000,000 acres a year and throwing open 1,000,000 acres a year. The land is taken up immediately it is thrown open. The Lands Department of Western Australia frequently advertises blocks of land - as many as 50 or 60 at a time - which are open for selection. Advertisements appear in the press throughout Australia and inquiries are received from people in the eastern States who want to live in Western Australia. Inquiries come from farmers and sons of farmers in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Many of these people are now living in agricultural areas in Western Australia, and they say that it is a better life than they had in the past.
– We have the same system in Tasmania.
– Yes, but I doubt whether Tasmania could throw open 1,000,000 acres for more than one or two years. Our agriculture in Western Australia is excellent. I think that the State sows the largest acreage of wheat in the Commonwealth, but of course New South Wales is ahead of us in wheat production. In order to help the farmers increase production, the Commonwealth Government has now proposed in the Budget to provide an investment allowance of 20 per cent, in respect of machinery which is purchased for use in developing farming areas, with the exception of road vehicles. A farmer who takes advantage of this provision and who purchases on 30th June a harvester, a plough or other equipment costing, say, £1,000, will be able to deduct from his taxable income 60 per cent, of the cost of that vehicle a year and one day later. This allowance will encourage farmers to become more efficient and to acquire the latest equipment for their farms. Because they will use more efficient tractors and other farming machinery, they will be able to reduce their costs. The allowance will encourage them to produce more and to earn greater export income for Australia.
The Government proposes to make available to the Commonwealth Development Bank additional capital of £5,000,000. Earlier to-day, we heard honorable senators discussing finance for farming. In the old days, a farmer worked from year to year on a bank overdraft, but in the last few years the banks have turned against longterm lending. The Development Bank was established by the Government for the purpose of helping farmers and others to obtain finance for essential developmental works and enterprises. After the £5,000,000 has been added to the capital, the bank’s total resources will be in the vicinity of £70,000,000. The bank will be able to provide greater financial assistance to farmers who cannot obtain assistance from other sources for the development of their properties.
– What is the rate of interest?
– The Development Bank charges 6 per cent. The Government has agreed to allow other banks to lend money on long-term conditions, repayable over a number of years.
– At what rate of interest?
– It varies. I cannot remember the exact rate, but I know that the rate charged by the Development Bank is 6 per cent. The Commonwealth Government is carrying out developmental projects in the north of Australia. It has agreed to help finance the Mr Isa railway project, at a cost of approximately £20,000,000 in the last couple of years. A great deal of money has been made available for the construction of beef roads in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. In addition, a sum of money has been made available to the Queensland Government to help it clear the brigalow lands which, I understand, are some of the richest in the State. In the last few years we have helped the State governments to improve their coal ports so that they might have efficient coalhandling equipment and so that our exporters of coal might be able to compete with overseas exporters on the Japanese market. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) said, in answer to a question to-day, originally the idea was to send millions of tons of coal to Japan. However, spiralling inflation made it necessary for the Japanese Government to apply a credit squeeze, as a result of which steel production has been restricted. Japan does not now require quite as much coal as it did two or three years ago, but we must remember that that country is now throwing off the effects of the credit squeeze and is returning to another period of increasing production. It is expected that Japan’s steel production will rise from 20.000.000 tons a year, as it is now, to 40,000,000 tons by the end of 1970. Japan will be requiring more and more coal, and we in Australia want to be in a position to supply it. If we are to compete satisfactorily with overseas countries, we must have efficient port facilities so that coal may be handled cheaply.
The Commonwealth Government is helping the Government of Western Australia with the Kalgoorlie-Kwinana rail standardization scheme. The Commonwealth is providing £35,000,000 or £40,000,000. and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has agreed to spend a further sum of approximately £45,000,000 in constructing an integrated steel mill, including a blast furnace, by 1967 or 1968. I understand that the company is well up to schedule with this project. The work of standardization is going ahead almost on schedule, if not a little ahead of it. There is an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales. South Australia and Victoria for the construction of the Chowilla dam at a total cost of about £14,000,000, 25 per cent, of which is to be provided by the Commonwealth. I understand that an agreement has been reached with the Government of New South Wales, whereby the Commonwealth Government will help it to find its share of the cost.
A great deal has been spoken recently about the development of the north of Australia. The Australian Labour Party says that it would set up an independent authority to develop the north. I want to speak on this matter because the Government has a policy for developing the north, and it has been criticized by the press.
I believe it is the Government’s responsibility to set up utilities so that private enterprise can hop in and go for its life. Over the past three years we have made available to Western Australia a total of £6.500.000. About £5,000,000 of that amount has been spent on the Ord River diversion dam at a place called Bandicoot Bar about 30 miles downstream from the main dam site. This was designed so that the Western Australian Government could establish irrigation areas adjacent to the site to prove what could be done economically by irrigation in the north of Australia.
The Western Australian Government has no doubt that the scheme is economically sound, but many people in the north have made extravagant statements about development. I do not believe that we should throw possibly thousands of millions of pounds into development until it can be proved satisfactorily, not only to the Australian Government but also to the taxpayers, that the expenditure is warranted, because it would be a pity to see such an effort crash. I do not think our development policy will crash, but we have to go along steadily.
About 1955 the Chase syndicate of America took up large areas of ricegrowing country adjacent to the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory. Until last year - I have not been there this year - not one crop of rice had been grown in that area over a period of five or six years. The same can be said of the Fitzroy scheme. I do not believe that at present - and certainly up to twelve months ago - it has been shown that rice can be grown profitably in any of the areas I speak of. Therefore, we must have other forms of agriculture that will show handsome profits and pay interest and sinking fund on the money necessary for development.
We have read in the press that there are great opportunities for cotton-growing along the Ord River. No doubt cotton will be grown also in the Fitzroy area and adjacent to the Adelaide River, and I hope this production is successful; but at this moment we have no figures to prove definitely that large amounts of money can be made from cotton-growing. I am confident that the production of cotton and safflower can be a success, but time is re quired and I do not believe the setting-up of an organization will overcome the problem.
The State governments are set up for development. We supply the money and go along with them in the development of various areas from time to time, lt is all very well to say we should establish an authority similar to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The “Canberra Times “ stated in an editorial to-day that the Government had fallen down in the development of the north. All I want to say to the author of that article is this: There is land available in the north which he can take up. We will provide the facilities - water, ports and roads. All we want him to do is to go there and prove that this development can be made a success.
I do not believe that a government farm will make a success of it. A government farm can do valuable research work, and we have one on the Ord River which has done a mighty job in showing potential growers and the Australian people just what can be done along the Ord River. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture have been carrying out experiments more or less on a 50-50 basis since 1945 and they have done a marvellous job and have solved many problems. But let us face it: At the moment no crop has yet been grown there on an economic basis. When it can be shown to the Government that it is economically sound to go ahead with the development of these areas we will go ahead. In the meantime, in the interests of the taxpayers we should act cautiously.
Everybody in the south believes that with irrigation in the north the land there would grow anything. But what about dry farming? The Government has encouraged the C.S.I.R.O. to establish a research farm at Katherine in the Northern Territory. We have a research place at the Ord River for irrigation work, but at Katherine much of the work has been done on dry farming. It has been proved that, with the establishment of Townsville lucerne and siatro land there can carry and fatten approximately one beast to the acre whereas previously it carried only one beast to 30 acres. With proper pastures, cattle can be carried through the dry period of the year. These methods are suitable for land where there is a high rainfall. Katherine is 230 miles south of Darwin and all the country north of ‘there has a rainfall of from 35 inches to 70 inches. That applies across to the Kimberleys and to large parts of Queensland. So there are large areas that will respond to dry farming methods if people are prepared to invest in the country up there.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was advocating the adoption of dry farming in our northern areas. I had mentioned that in my opinion there is great scope in the high rainfall areas of northern Australia for the development of our . primary industries, such as cattle production. This is particularly so in view of the research that has taken place not. only on the Ord River but at the Katherine research station and farther north by officers of the C.S.I.R.O. Much work has been done to establish certain types of pastures, including siatra grass and Townsville lucerne. With adequate supplies of superphosphate Townsviile lucerne could be established, and if it were established it could increase the carrying capacity in those areas from one beast to 30 acres to one beast to each one or two acres. For that to be done it may be necessary for the Government to look into the possibility of ensuring that superphosphate can be sold in these areas at a price as low as that charged in the southern parts of the Commonwealth. I believe that that will have to be done, particularly in the early stages.
I mention at this point that the country surrounding Mount Morgan, Gladstone and Rockhampton, known as the Fitzroy Basin, at present carries more than 1,000,000 cattle. This number could be increased tenfold. The Mount Morgan Mining Company has readily available pyrites which could be used for the manufacture of sulphuric acid,, and if works were established there sufficient superphosphate to supply the needs of central Queensland for many years could be produced.
I was pleased to see in the Budget that an amount of £5,000,000 has been pro vided for oil search in Australia. Since the Government came into power in 1949 it has been very keen to promote the search for oil. It has spent increasing sums of money to encourage oil companies to intensify the search for this vital commodity. Thanks to the Government’s oil search subsidy, oil was found at Moonie in Queensland. The existence of an oilfield has now been established but it will supply only 5 or 10 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. I believe that we will eventually discover other oil fields and that in the next decade we will find sufficient oil in Australia to meet our entire requirements.
Since the lifting of the export embargo on won ore in 1960, reserves amounting to about 10,000,000,000 tons have been discovered. We are led to believe that the export price of iron ore is about £4 a ton. This means that the value of the deposits that have been discovered in Australia since the lifting of the embargo is about £40,000,000,000, which, in round terms, is equal to the Commonwealth’s budgetary requirements for twenty years. Initially, we will export the ore to the countries that need it. Recently an agreement was reached between Conzinc Riotinto and the Western Australian Government, under which about £80,000,000 will be spent on the development of the iron ore deposits. First there will be the drilling, and then it will be necessary to have roads, railways, port facilities and, eventually, an integral steel works will be established in the north of Australia.
I believe we should have our own steelworks somewhere in the north of Western Australia. I know that we are short of coal in Western Australia, but in the north of Queensland, at Moura, there is highgrade coking coal which is now shipped from the port of Gladstone to meet the requirements of overseas producers. I believe that a deep port should be developed at Gladstone and one should be developed in the north of Western Australia so that vessels could ply between those two ports. They could carry coal to Western Australia and have a backloading of iron ore. There could then foe a steelworks in each State. At present Queensland does not have much iron ore, but there is plenty in Western Australia; in Western Australia, however, we have not large quantities of coking coal. With ships plying backwards and forwards the necessary commodities could be carried from one State to another to satisfy the need of both States. I just mention that in passing because I think it is rather important to the development of Queensland and Western Australia that we establish steelworks in those States.
Since this Government has been in power there has been a great development of bauxite deposits in the north. At Weipa, Comalco is expected to spend eventually more than £100,000,000 on the development of an aluminium industry. At Gove, a French company has become interested and is prepared to go ahead with development. Alcoa, in conjunction with the Western Mining Corporation, has large deposits of bauxite in the Darling Ranges of Western Australia. All this development will require an investment of about £250,000,000, but when the industries are established we can expect them to supply not only our own needs but also much of the world’s requirements.
I have mentioned all these things because they involve large capital investment in Australia, and capital coming to Australia means work for our Australians, which in turn means less unemployment. This is a point on which I disagree with the Labour Party, which says we must not encourage capital into Australia.
– That is what you have said down through the ages. That cannot be contradicted. I believe that we should bring capital into Australia, not only for development, but also to provide work for our people. This Government has encouraged capital to come to Australia. The Labour Party should be careful not to discourage the inflow of capital to Australia because it amounts to an investment of about £300,000,000. That provides work for many Australians. I believe that by encouraging capital to come to this country we can achieve a higher standard of living for our people.
– Sell our birthright for a mess of pottage. That is what Jack McEwen said.
– That is completely stupid. If capital is encouraged to come to Australia, you as a government, or we as a government can decide at any time what is to happen to the returns from that capital. I would not prohibit foreign capital coming to Australia. I believe it should be encouraged. This Government has been able to stabilize the economy of Australia and create a condition of almost full employment. That is more than any other political party has been able to achieve. Therefore, I have much pleasure in supporting this Budget and condemning and voting against the amendment.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I have just listened to the most constructive speech delivered by Senator Scott since he has been in the Senate. I must give him credit for having made a good speech apart from one or two points in it. I was disappointed when I heard him talk about the unemployment of 1949 without comparing it with the unemployment of 1939. If he examines the incidence of unemployment in 1939 and in the few years preceding 1939, when governments of the kind that he supports in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments were in office, he will never again mention 1949 in that context. Senator Scott also said that the Labour Party would not encourage capital to come into Australia. Nobody knows better than he does that that is a fabrication and a complete untruth. I deny it completely. The Australian Labour Party does not favour the continuous mortgaging of this country to overseas interests in order to obtain finance for its development when there is ample money inside Australia to develop it. For a considerable time, the Government has been borrowing money overseas to pay the interest on money that it has already borrowed. That is where we are in conflict with the Government. But the statement that we do not encourage capital to come into this country is far from the truth. Labour welcomes overseas capital to this country. At the same time, if we were the Government we would not allow it to be spent willy-nilly by overseas interests. We would have some say as to how it would be spent, as to what dividends would go overseas and as to how much of the profits would stay in the country. Senator Scott is not the slightest bit interested in that policy. To say that we must have new capital flowing into the country all the time in order to develop it is not a statement of fact. That has been borne out in the past by the great developments that have taken place in this country.
Whether the development of this country is proceeding fast enough is a question for consideration. Personally, I think that some developments are not proceeding as fast as they should be in the national interest. Senator Scott said that it is necessary to study the taxpayers when speaking of the development of the north of Australia. That is perfectly true. But we have to study also the interests of the people of Australia when preparing the defence of this country. While the north of this country has. hundreds of thousands of acres of virgin bush it must be said that we are lagging in our defence preparations. If we want to defend this country effectively we must push ahead with the development of the north as fast as possible. Nobody knows, if a crisis should come, in what way it will come. Hydrogen bombs or atomic warfare might be outlawed. The crisis might come as a result of infiltration from the north. We all know what is to the north. Any intelligent Australian must know where any danger to this country would be likely to originate.
I think that the greatest breathing space this country has ever had has been provided by current developments overseas between Communist Russia, which has been decried so much in the past, and the Western allies in Europe. I think that those developments will give us a great breathing space for some time to come. I predict that when a crisis arises again some of the major powers who were allies in the last war will be allied again against future aggression. I refer to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America and the other Western allies. But I think that our danger does lie to the north of us. It would be foolish of anybody to think that the danger did not lie to the north of us while a country of 800,000,000 people in that region is adopting a warlike attitude.
The development of the north of Australia, whether it be right across the continent or a portion of it. is essential. The development of the north, from the west to the east of Australia is most essential from a defence point of view. The few millions of pounds that have been spent there should be regarded as having been spent on a defence project, and the development of that area should be speeded up to a far greater extent than is the case to-day. I give the Government full credit for the amount that it is spending in northern Australia, but I claim that that expenditure falls far short of what it should be for a country of this magnitude in view of the dangers that confront us from the north. Although the taxpayers have been called upon to make greater contributions for defence in the last few years than previously they have been given very little for their contributions. Some of the money that has been spent on defence should have been spent on the development of the north about which Senator Scott said so much.
In developing the north, the Commonwealth Government should follow the example of the Western Australia Government, which Senator Scott mentioned, and also that of the Tasmanian Government. It cannot be said that the whole of northern Australia is barren land. Parts of it would be suitable for some form of closer settlement. Something could be done along those lines to bring the rich patches of northern Australia into greater productivity. While we badly need exports in order to balance our trade, we have lying dormant hundreds of thousands of acres of what could be highly productive country. Our agricultural policy is at least 50 years behind that of some of the countries which we call backward and which we are helping under the Colombo Plan.
– It is not rubbish. Government senators claim to support agricultural settlement and boast of the little tax deductions that they have given to primary producers by way of depreciation allowances on machinery. Those allowances were provided for long ago. They were then withdrawn by the Government hut have now been given back again. The Government has adopted a similar policy in relation to sales tax.
Coming back to the subject of development, a policy should be inaugurated by the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, to bring many hundreds of thousands of acres of potentially productive land into production. What hope has the small man of getting on to the land, to-day? The Government has given some assistance to the Queensland Government to settle the brigalow country; but a man would need at least £12,000 in cash before his application for such land could go to the ballot. There is not much encouragement for the small man with ambition to go on the land. Where would he get ?any sum approaching £12,000? If that is indicative of the Government’s policy to develop the land and to ease congestion in over-populated centres, it is a very .poor policy. I do not give much credit to the Queensland Government if the brigalow scheme represents the best agricultural policy that it can produce.
I was in Colombo at a time when there were newspaper headlines concerning a sum of 100,000,000 rupees which the Australian Government was giving under the Colombo Plan to assist in various directions. Colleagues of the Minister for Agriculture, to whom I spoke in Colombo, criticized him for being too conservative. I spent a little time with the Minister for Agriculture, himself. Let me tell Senator Hanaford this: In Colombo the authorities enter the maiden forest - we have hundreds of thousands of acres of such forest - clean it up, and install the water facilities and machinery that are needed. They build a home and allow a citizen to go to each property at a rental equal to 4 per cent, of the unimproved value, that is, the value of the land in its native scrub state. They do not apply the unimproved value to which we have regard for closer settlement.
Where in Australia or in any other Western country is there a land policy to compare with that in encouraging young people who want to go on the land? An honorable senator opposite says “ Nonsense”. The Government allows 20 per cent, or 40 per cent, as a depreciation allowance on machinery in the first year, and that is called an agricultural policy! Applicants come from the mainland of Australia to the small State of Tasmania in an effort to settle on the land. They do that without much assistance from the Commonwealth Government. As Senator Scott said, Western Australia receives applications from persons in eastern States who desire to go on the land. This is so despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of acres on this side of the continent require development. People cannot get on to the land because they have not the thousands of pounds that are essential in order to make a start. When a major depression was facing this country - the greatest crisis through which we have ever been - and there were many persons unemployed, I heard a Liberal senator say that we should plough virgin land and let these people go out and grow the food they needed. It was said that there was no need to build them good homes, that a slab hut would suffice, as a bush fire would probably go through the property and burn the hut down. That was the best that he could suggest.
Such days as those are past. A home seeker wants a house that he can occupy and pay off from his weekly income. In the same way, a man who desires to go on to the land wants better provision than some of us. or the fathers of some of us, had 30 or 40 years ago. Where is there a Com.monwealth land policy that will enable us to develop this country as it should be developed? Government supporters ought to acquire some experience of closer settlement by going to countries not far to the north of us and to other parts of the world. They will then realize how far we lag behind in land development.
– You said SO years behind?
– That is what I say is rubbish.
– The development of this country is 50 years behind the times.
– That is an indictment of the people on the land.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order!
– How many constituents of the honorable senator who is continuously interjecting want to go on the land but have not £12,000, which is the amount needed by a person desiring to settle on brigalow land in Queensland? The Government has emphasized the urgency of production for export. I hope that at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council some plan will be devised to develop land that is now idle and wasted. It is nonsense for any government - Labour, Liberal, or any other kind - to say that money cannot be found for this purpose. I heard one honorable senator say that this was a matter of money. It is a matter not of money but of manpower and materials. Money does not come into the picture. The money is there at any time that it is needed. Start a war and see whether there is a shortage of money where the money will come from. A war was never stopped because of lack of money, therefore we should never cease to develop the country because of lack of money. Money is only the link between production and labour and materials. If we have not the labour that is required, let us step up our immigration programme and bring in the migrants that are essential for development. We are living only on borrowed time, as I think the honorable senator must realize.
– We are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on development.
– I heard Senator Scott say that it would have cost over £400,000,000 to implement the policy that Labour proposed at the last election. He gave other figures that he suggested represented the cost of implementing other Labour proposals at previous elections. During the period to which he referred, this Government increased its Budget by hundreds of millions of pounds. The money is there. The greater our population, the higher the production, and the larger the revenue that pours into the coffers of the Treasury. If we reach the point where we have not enough workers, we must step up the immigration programme and bring in more people for development. I heard Senator Scott and others, not so long ago, say that the Leader of the Australian Labour Party could not find the money to put into operation the policy that he enunciated in the election campaign. It would be safe to say that in the budgets last year and this year this Government has adopted 80 per cent, of Labour’s policy, although Government supporters had said that it was impossible of implementation. We are not complaining about that. It is nice to be in Opposition and have one’s policy put into operation when the pressure is applied. The Government has implemented this policy because the election result was so close that the Government knew that if it failed to apply this policy it had no possible hope of remaining in office much longer.
I have stood in this spot previously, with a grocery journal in my hand, complaining about sales tax, up to 12£ per cent., on foodstuffs. I said then that the imposition of sales tax resulted in inflation. Government supporters claimed that this was not so, but every time sales tax was increased further inflation was caused. Now the Government has seen the folly of its actions and is removing sales tax ‘from some items. Nobody is more pleased than I am. The reduction will be passed on and the consumer will receive the benefit of it. Competition is very keen; I know the ins and outs of the retail trade.
However, although removing sales tax from foodstuffs, the Government is allowing it to remain on major, expensive items in every home. Food is not of much use in the home without hygiene. The Government is allowing sales tax to remain on washing and toilet soap, soap powders and detergents. Sales tax of 12i per cent, will continue to apply to every type of soap that is used in the home. I venture to say that statistics would show that the sales tax paid on soaps and soap powders equals, if not exceeds, the amount formerly paid on foodstuffs. Soap is a major, expensive item, and who buys the most of it? A bachelor receiving £10,000 a year might buy only one small cake of toilet soap, but a married man with six children, receiving the basic wage, uses a considerable quantity, probably eight or ten times as much as the bachelor uses. If the Government wants to assist the family man by removing the sales tax from various commodities, let it do so by removing the tax from soaps, soap powders and detergents, which are among the more expensive commodities that are in everyday use.
Developmental work could be undertaken which would be of far greater importance to Australia than that which is at present being undertaken. I am speaking not only of the development of the north of this continent. I do not decry the efforts of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) when I refer to New Guinea, because I believe that he has done a fairly good job up there. He has built on the foundations that were laid by his predecessor in office, Mr. Eddie Ward. I regard New Guinea as being of great importance to Australia. Whether the taxpayers of Australia like it or not, there should be no let-up in the development of the Territory. The security of Australia is as important as is the payment of taxes for the upkeep of this Government. We have a very friendly nation on our border in New Guinea; it has extended the hand of friendship to us. We should grasp that hand of friendship but we should follow up that action by placing 25,000 trained natives on this side of the border opposite the 25.000 Indonesians who are on the other side. If we want to maintain peace in this part of the world, we must be friendly with our neighbours and must match every move that they make.
The population of New Guinea is sufficient for us to be able to place that many trained personnel on the border. From the viewpoint of defence the money would be well spent. We owe a debt to the people of New Guinea. The Minister for Territories has given a pledge never to let them down, never to desert them. We now have an opportunity to do something of major importance to help them besides continuing with the development which we have undertaken. The Government should seriously consider affording such protection; the people of Papua and New Guinea would welcome it. It would not require many additional Australians to train these people, because we must have the nucleus of a trained army there whether we use it in warfare or not. That nucleus could train the natives in jungle warfare so that if the hand of friendship was withdrawn and an emergency did arise they would be prepared to defend the Territory.
– Do you want them to die for Australia?
– I would expect a stupid remark from a senator who has not been here very long and who did not see the crisis during the last war as we in this Parliament saw it. How many Australians died for the people of New Guinea during the last war? If the honorable senator does not know, he should.
– I was there. There were 15,000 of them.
– Well, what a stupid question it was for you to ask. We do not expect them to die for us, but we do expect them to play their part in defending their own country just as we would play our part in defending them, and as we did during the last war. The natives - the black race - of Australia, some of whom rose to officer rank, went to the war to die not only for us but also for the preservation of their own country. The same should apply to New Guinea. Do the people of New Guinea expect the Australians to do all the fighting if a crisis should develop?
– Yes, they do.
– They do not. During the last war they proved themselves to be more worthy than that.
– Were you there?
– The honorable senator may not like my remarks, but if he does not die an early death he may live to see the day when some of my words come true.
I have taken great interest over the last 25 years, and more particularly in the last decade, in developments not only throughout Australia but in the Parliament. We have had the spectacle of a splinter party, the members of which have been proteges of Mr. Santamaria, sitting in the Senate and in another place. That party has not been a major force but has been somewhat of a nuisance. I refer to the Democratic Labour Party. A similar group in Queensland has described itself as the Queensland Labour Party. We have seen the members of that party in the House of Representatives annihilated, we have seen all but one of its members in the Queensland Parliament annihilated, and we have seen all but one annihilated in this place. The lonely, remaining member in the Senate, who claims that he represents the party, receives all the privileges and perks that the leader of a party receives. He is a oneman party; he is the leader, the deputy leader, the whip and the rank and file. So that he would not be a lone star ranger in the whole of Australia, the party recently merged with the Queensland Labour Party. They now have two members in all the parliaments of Australia. I venture to say that at the next general election the party will be completely annihilated from this chamber, and that after the next election in Queensland the party will be completely annihilated there. The members of this party are a nuisance; they have no respect for this Parliament or the members of it.
– What has this to do with the Budget?
– It has this to do with the Budget: I recently saw the man who represents the party in this place rise to eulogize the Gevernment and heard him declare himself to be 100 per cent, in support of the Government and 100 per cent, against the Australian Labour Party. When I saw him do that my mind went back to 1952, when I suspected him to be what he really is. He played every trick in the game to get rid of me from this place and to get me out of politics altogether; but he failed miserably. After his failure, I came up here to Canberra. He came after me. During the previous week I had the pleasure of announcing to my own party what I suspected he would do. He did it.
Yesterday this senator referred to the bounty of £3 per ton on superphosphate and said that the Australian Labour Party stole ‘the policy from the D.L.P. and that the Liberals stole it from Labour. He had taken so much interest in the matter that he did not even know that the Labour Party had instituted the bounty in the first place. He did not even know that the Government which he eulogizes removed the bounty. He did not know that the Government now proposed to re-instate something which it took away.
That is the attitude adopted ‘by this gentleman. He says that my membership of the Senate probably will be short. I assure him and all other honorable senators that when I retire from the Senate I will not be thrown out on my head. My term might be short; it might be long. I have not made up my mind finally about the matter. If I decide to come back to the Senate I will come back to it, but if I decide to retire in the interests of my health I will do so with a record behind me of which I will be proud. It could never be said that I ratted on my party, defected from my party or was refused endorsement as a Labour candidate.
– You bucked the party once.
– The honorable senator says that I bucked the party once. Let me tell him that every time I have been returned to the Senate I have been returned as an endorsed member of a Labour team with the backing of the Labour movement. Nobody in this chamber or in the Labour movement can say that that is not a fact. But Senator Cole, the honorable gentleman who sits over there, did his best to get me out of the way. At one time he had the audacity to send me a telegram telling me that if I did not do what I was told my name would not be included in the Labour team on the ballot-paper. I threw that telegram in the wastepaper basket, just as I have thrown a lot more of his nonsense in the wastepaper basket.
I can tell him his fortune now. The only possible chance he has of coming back into this chamber will be if he is endorsed as a Liberal candidate in the Liberal Party team. His chances then would be very slender, because I know what the Liberal Party would do to him. It would do the same as a farmer would do to a blighted potato, and that is putting it mildly.
– You are only attacking him because he is not here.
– It is not my fault that he is not here. You can bet your life that he is in his office listening-in through the speaker that has been provided for him by this Government to every word that I am saying. The reason he is not here is that he has not the courage to sit in his seat while I am speaking. He will be here when his vote is wanted to support the Liberal Government. Honorable senators opposite know that he will be here and they know why he will be here. I am attacking him in view of his attitude and his remarks in the past when he unsuccessfully sought by political intrigue and sabotage to get me out of here. When he failed he then sought the help of the press, including the murder gang of “Truth”. I have lived through it all and I am happy to say that I am not afraid of the Democratic Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the murder gang of the press. They did not get me down as they thought they would. There was a time when I was a very sick man, but now I can stand here and exchange punch for punch with anybody who cares to throw punches.
My concern to-night is not to go into details of this Budget, because my colleagues have done so paragraph by paragraph and word by word. The Labour Government will do some advanced thinking and will tell the Government what it has told it in the past. If the Government does not put what it is told into operation as it has done in the past, then the people will put the Labour Party into office.
The major developments in Australia in the last decade or so would have taken place regardless of what government was in power. A circle of progress is sweeping through all the Western countries. What else could take place in a young country of this nature but progress? If progress could not take place in a young country of this nature it would not happen anywhere in the world. Why are investors coming into Australia? Because it is the soundest country in the world for investment, and has been so for many decades.
It is foolish to say that the Government is responsible for all this progress. It is responsible for encouraging some of these things. It is only natural that it should do so. What else could a government do but give encouragement in some of these matters? A government would not be worth its salt if it did not do so, but to claim that it is responsible for all the development is sheer nonsense. What a government should do - and what is needed - is to define policy for the development of parts of the country which have not yet been developed and to carry out a policy to attract population to places that are not yet populated.
Again I will disagree with the policy of Mr. Santamaria. I do not agree to building up” our population by immigration from Asian countries. There are plenty of people of our own race who would only be too happy to come here. I do not think we should be unfriendly towards Asian races. They realize our problems as we realize theirs. However, I hope I will never be one to support an influx of Asians into Australia. That would break down the standards of living that we have created. I am not in any way antagonistic towards our neighbours in the north, but I would be antagonistic to anybody who supported a policy of smashing the standards of living which we have built up over a number of years. That is the reason why we. should carefully watch our immigration policy and bring in those people who can integrate with the people of Australia and uphold the standards and conditions which we enjoy.
I do not wish to say any more at this stage because a number of my colleagues will deal with the details of the Budget. Seeing that the Government has implemented a major portion of the policies of the Labour Party - although it said it was impossible for Labour to carry them out - before the next election the Government will find Labour bringing forward further policies that will put it on its toes. If the Government is unable to carry out these policies it will go out. As for the splinter parties and the proteges of Mr. Santamaria and others, their political term is about finished, and it will be a great benefit to the Parliament and honorable senators on both sides of the chamber when that day comes. It is not very far away.
– I rise to address the Senate on the Budget papers for the year 1963-64. I cannot help but open my remarks by saying that I believe that a National Parliament that is discussing the expenditure of £2,282,000,000 should discuss the matter quietly and not in the ranting fashion used by my former Tasmanian colleague, Senator Aylett, who has spoken on behalf of the Opposition. In respect of the Opposition and its interest in the welfare and development of the Commonwealth economy, I should like it to be recorded in “ Hansard “ that the Labour Party has moved in another place a motion of censure, but while this debate is going on we have the spectacle of only six members of the Labour Party listening to it. That shows the lack of sincerity of honorable senators opposite. It is a part of the picture they have presented in my experience during the last ten years. They display a complete lack of sincerity. I say to Senator McClelland, who is interjecting, that I do not believe there is a senator in this chamber who spends more time here than he does.
As we all know, in a Budget debate honorable senators may canvass a large number of subjects. However, I propose to confine my remarks to certain subjects in which I am particularly interested. I shall reserve the right to speak later on other matters which will be the subject of legislation to come before the Senate as a result of the Budget proposals. I do not believe it is either sensible or worthwhile at this stage to discuss matters which will come up for debate in the Senate later, after the enabling legislation has been presented. I commence my remarks on certain aspects of the Budget by saying that it is my sincere and honest opinion that this is the best Budget for Australia that has been introduced during my ten years in the Parliament. I have listened to the contributions from members of the Opposition. I have never heard less sincere comments. Seldom have I heard such meaningless speeches, lt is widely known that in the press of 14th August last, following the introduction of the Budget, the Budget proposals did not receive a good reception. There had been much kite-flying by politicians and members of the press before the Budget was presented. It was played down and criticized by quite a large body of influential opinion, both in the press and in the business community.
– It was irresponsible opinion.
– No, I would not say that at all. Opinions were expressed on the spur of the moment, after those who expressed them had read the kite-flying ideas that had been put forward prior to the introduction of the Budget. Of course, any government is a sitting shot for critics. 1 firmly believe, and I wish to go on record as saying, that within three or four months the early critics of the Budget will be proved to have been entirely wrong. The members of the Australian Labour Party will be proved to have been not only wrong but also insincere in their statements about the Budget, both in this chamber and in another place. The dissension within the Labour Party is amazing, Mr. President. Later in my speech I shall refer to a few statements by so-called leading spokesmen for the Labour Party. This dissension, to which we have become accustomed in the last few years, shows that the Labour Party does not know where it is going. One member does not trust another member. Reports in to-day’s newspapers of the most recent caucus meeting indicate the backstabbing that goes on in the Labour Party. The Opposition has proved that it would not be acceptable to the Australian people as an alternative government.
One of the great assets which this Budget provides for the Australian people is represented by the fact that many millions of pounds will be ploughed back into the private sector of the economy. We have been criticized by the Labour Party on the ground that we have not reduced certain forms of taxation. I have heard criticism from people in big business on this matter, but after I have spoken to them they have come my way on it. The ordinary people spend the money, but it is big business which makes the profits. We have only to look through the daily press of the last six months and to read the balance-sheets of big business in Australia to-day, except for one or two notorious examples, to see that the big business interests have never had it better. They do not need, nor do they deserve, reductions in taxation.. We want to see full employment in this community. The ordinary man and woman in Australia should have more money to spend on the things they need, thus keeping the wheels of industry turning. Profits are made and big business is satisfied.
I say with all the sincerity I can bring to bear that I have never felt, during my ten years in the Senate, that the Menzies Government could be accused of political expediency. I believe that the Government has planned its economic policy and its budgets for the future welfare of Australia and its long-term development, expansion and prosperity, regardless of what the press or the voters may think. Since 1949, the electors have shown that they agree with that contention. They have brushed aside the rash promises and the stupid assertions of the Labour Party regarding the action it would take if it attained power. I am very proud to be a member of a government party which could never honestly be accused of taking advantage of political expediency.
We hear a lot of talk about unemployment in Australia. The great regret of the Labour Party at this time is that, during the Budget debate, it was officially announced that there had been a record reduction in unemployment in the month of
July. If only there had been more unemployed, the Labour Party would have been so high-spirited and happy that we would never have been able to stop its supporters in this place from talking. It is my firm belief that there is no member of the Commonwealth Parliament who wants to see any Australian who will work and who can work unemployed, but I think that an Opposition party does itself no credit and does not assist the economic structure of the country by playing up the question of unemployment. I still believe we must get a new system for registering unemployed people. Each month figures showing the number of registrations are published and also there are monthly statistics showing the numbers drawing the unemployment benefit.
As a senator representing Tasmania, I have a fair idea of the difficulties of employing a large body of people. The Commonwealth Government and the State governments must realize that we are living in an era of specialists and skilled tradesmen, and that is an important factor in the problem facing us. Most of the unemployed are not skilled tradesmen, and I think the Government could well look at this problem. Possibly it could make a special grant for these people. I deal with a number of them and one cannot get them a job although they are good, decent, honest Australians. They are not skilled for any of the work that is available.
So I say to the Australian Labour Party: Do not try to win political popularity at the expense of the unfortunate unemployed. The Opposition knows that the Government wants to see everybody in employment and enjoying social security. It is quite wrong for a political party like the Australian Labour Party, or the Democratic Labour Party, to imply by statements through their leaders, and in debate, that this Commonwealth Government wants unemployment. It is untrue and mean to say that. The A.L.P. has got into a rut: it makes a habit of trying to trigger off class warfare. Such tactics lower the stature of the A.L.P. and of the National Parliament.
What are the good aspects of the Budget? First, the Government has decided to lift the immigration target for the coming year to 135,000 - an increase of 10,000 on the previous year. It is wonderful that this
Government, knowing that each year 100,000 school-leavers will enter the employment market, still goes ahead fearlessly to seek 135,000 migrants. Our great task to-day is to bring people here, settle them and give them economic security.
The second good point about the Budget is the Government’s attitude to housing. In this Budget the Government has done amazingly well - first, in allocating more money for housing while retaining the provision of £35,000,000 for war service homes and permitting the savings banks to inject £72,000,000 into the building of homes. There is no doubt that married couples without the ability to buy a home are economically insecure. Their home life, their happiness and the welfare of their children are in jeopardy. Once somebody goes to a building contractor and states that he wants to build a house, a man in the bush begins to cut down a tree and from there on every sector of the economy is assisted. People are working, things are being produced to build and furnish a home and that is what we want in Australia to-day. We want to keep people working and housed in their own homes. We do not want the little capitalists of the Dedman days, but people housed in homes that they can buy with reasonable finance.
At a later stage I want to speak about housing in Canberra, as I think the Government could be severely criticized on that score, but it is a fact that the Government’s approach to the housing problem is shown by its record. Since 1949 it has made available from its various resources £957,000,000 to help house Australian residents. I wish it could evolve a system under which the first loan to a couple could be increased and the interest lowered, because those factors present problems to young people to-day. However, the Government deserves credit for what it has done and I hope it continues to study this problem and endeavours to improve the situation. No member of the Australian Labour Party can direct any real criticism at the Government’s housing policy. There is not a Premier - Labour or Liberal - who could utter sincere and valid criticism of the Government for its housing record.
We need to obtain markets overseas, and principally the products that we have to sell must come from the rural industries. I have pleasure in supporting the Government’s policy of assistance to primary producers. 1 shall’ not go into the details, but I was particularly interested in the subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate, because this will be of more help to primary producers in Tasmania than to those in any other State. We have been trying to get this concession for years, and everybody will be pleased that the Government has adopted this measure as one means of encouraging the production of goods that we can market overseas.
The Government has expanded its plans for social services and I shall deal with these matters further when the enabling bills are before the Senate. For the moment, 1 challenge the Opposition to show that any government has been more considerate and more studious in trying to improve social service and repatriation benefits.
I now refer to child endowment. I have studied this subject very closely and have spoken on it several times in the Senate, but I do not mind going on record again as saying that I am not in favour of an increase in child endowment without a means test. Members of the Opposition, without knowing what they are talking about and without the responsibility of government, say, as did Senator Cohen this afternoon and Senator Cole last night, that we must increase child endowment. They say, “ If we were in office we would increase child endowment “. They suggest that the Government has done nothing since 1951.
– You are in favour of child endowment in certain circumstances?
– You should be interested in this but I thought that you might have been quiet on this point because you have possibly never given it any thought.
– I have six, so I should be interested.
– If you are a responsible member of the Senate you must realize that if your- party were in power and you increased child endowment for each child by ls. a week, the annual cost to revenue would be between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. Any government would, quite rightly, be laughed out Of office if it did not increase child endowment by at least 5s., if it increased it at all. So the honorable senator is suggesting that the social services payment from consolidated revenue should be increased by about £45,000,000 or £50,000,000 a year.. If honorable senators would only take time off to study our present social service commitments I do not think any one of them would sincerely say that an increase of child endowment is needed. The Opposition is merely trying to catch votes and will not face the facts of life. Many Australian fathers and mothers are receiving cheques for child endowment which they do not need.
– I bet you a fiver that you do it before the next election - in the next Budget
– I should think that Senator Turnbull is completely wrong in offering to take bets in the Senate. I must ignore such an irresponsible man. 1 would be ashamed of a Liberal government that increased child endowment while still using the present formula because many people who do not need it are receiving it at the expense of the taxpayer, and too many people who get it need more. So I say that there should be a means test applied. If a person is in receipt of £3,500 a year; 5s. a week for the first child does not mean anything to him, but to the man earning £20 a week and with three children, it is quite a different matter.
I have finished what I wanted to say about child endowment. I have said all this in the Senate before and it is something in which I sincerely believe. What I have said will be in print to-morrow and I am not afraid of being attacked by any one. I shall deal no further with social services.
Finally, I turn to the attitude of the Labour Party to this Budget. I think that Labour’s attack on this occasion has been the most insincere and disintegrated attack on any Budget that I have ever heard. By introducing a want of confidence motion the Opposition in another place has had to forgo question time. I understand that it now regrets that. How can the LabourParty claim to be the alternative government when it has no unity? On 13th July the “ Mercury “ in Hobart published a report of a speech, which I heard delivered by the Premier of Tasmania, a former federal president of the Australian Labour Party. The report reads -
A surplus of funds in the Federal Budget had just been announced. This was a very good thing and showed. .that the economy of the country was sound, but’ there was ho necessity for that surplus to be applied” ia: gifts to the Australian population.
In other words, a former federal president of the Australian Labour Party said, “You have a surplus; don’t reduce taxes and don’t increase social services “. The “Mercury” df 14th August; reporting the Leader of the Federal Opposition in another place, carried the headline, “Labour would not lower tax”. The report stated -
Because it would need revenue to pay for its election policy on defence, education, unemployment, and housing, a Labour Government would not reduce income tax, the Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said last night.
So we have a former federal president and current State Premier saying: “ Don’t give handouts to the people; let social services and repatriation benefits go. Don’t reduce taxation; we do not want that.” The Leader of the Federal Opposition also said those things. But when we listen to Opposition speakers in this chamber and read “ Hansard “ of another place, we find that all that is being said by Labour critics in the Budget debate is, “ You have not increased pensions enough; you have not given repatriation benefits a sufficient lift “, and so on. So what is the opinion of the Labour Party?
Finally, on the Tasmanian aspect, there was this most interesting article in the “ Mercury “ of - 15th August-
As: a true-blue member of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Reece probably felt he could do no better than follow the line of the Federal Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his comments on> the Budget by referring to it as uninspired. the article continued -
But Mr. Reece was speaking as Premier of Tasmania rather than as a Labour man and as such his criticism was on uncertain ground. . . Tasmania has no right to complain about the financial treatment it has received, as a State.
This article is available in the Library for honorable senators to see. It went on to prove that Tasmania had received more per capita in grants from the Commonwealth than any other State and. that it had received £15 per head in loan funds more than South Australia which was the State which had been treated second best.. This is the point I am frying to make: We are considering a budget which, is of great economic importance to this nation. It should: be , fully and .reasonably debated by fair and reasonable people. Yet, in spite of the facts that I have placed before .the Senate, the Premier pf Tasmania, has . made this stupid, nonsensical criticism of the Budget. His facts were not even right. That proves to me that the Australian Labour Party is not even fit to be considered as a recognized opposition. Dissension, inefficiency and insincerity mark its whole outlook. If Senator Dittmer or any other senator thinks that this is a bad budget, may I quote from the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin”? This publication, which I have read over the years has indicated to me that it rightly and understandably takes the role of criticizing the Government which is the taxing authority. Therefore, one is a bit surprised if one reads in the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin” any great praise of the Government, because the Government must extract taxes from people. As I said earlier, there was not a good reaction to the Budget on the day after it was announced. But I was happy to read in the issue of the “ Taxpayers’ Bulletin “, dated 17th August -
With a tax code bristling with anomalies and bearing unreasonably heavily on certain sections of the community, have its numerous but minor concessions been wisely chosen?
– Turn that page over and read the criticism which appears in that’ bulletin. There is criticism, too, of the Budget in that paper.
Senator Kendall. - Throw out the . senator who is interjecting.
– I am’ just trying to help him.
– I hope that I do not have to listen to two or three minutes of interjections every two or three minutes. I continue to quote from the “ Taxpayers’ Bulletin” as follows: -
We think they have. At least, the items chosen follow largely many of the specific recommendations: made over the last few years- by the Taxpayers’ Association. . . .
I want to make one final comment on the Budget which I support. I believe that it will be for the great good of Australia and of the Australian people. But I was terribly disappointed at a statement made by Senator Cohen this afternoon. Perhaps it was made in the heat of the moment and was not sincerely meant, because it was out of character with the speaker. However, I cannot let it pass. I would be insincere if I did so. I understood Senator Cohen to say that it was thought that juvenile delinquency was a problem in Australia but that, in his view, delinquency of leaders was more of a problem. Any man who gets up in the National Parliament and says that juvenile delinquency is not a problem in Australia must be either ignorant or not sincere. But when Senator Cohen said that delinquency in leadership was the greatest problem in Australia, I presume that he was referring to Mr. Chamberlain and the 36.
.- Senator Marriott has roamed around the Budget. I have found it quite difficult to think of any comment to make on the matters that he has raised for the simple reason that he has become known as one who would back up the Government’s policy whatever it was. He takes the view that there is only one path to follow and that is the path of the big white chief - the path of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who has him very well disciplined and who can expect from Wm, every year, approbation and loud cheers whatever may be contained in the Budget. I should like to speak on wider matters than those dealt with by Senator Marriott and to come down to a few fundamentals about the Budget.
The Budget, in principle - if there is any principle in it - leaves the people of Australia completely confused. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), himself, did not, either intentionally or unintentionally, even announce one of the fundamental things in the Budget in a straightforward way. He allowed to be tucked away in a separate document the information that he was budgeting for a deficit of £309,000,000. In the times in which we are living we expect the Treasurer to be forthright and to take the people into his confidence. Instead of that, there is an element of deceit in the fact that the Treasurer has not divulged the exact purpose of the Budget in a fair and honest statement on the affairs of the country, but has covered up that purpose in wordy phrases. Of course, the difficulty that faces the Government and the Treasurer at this time is that they have no political philosophy. They are drawing towards the end of their political life. Their past sins are catching up with them. There are no more blind alleys up which they can run for shelter. They have reached a stage at which they are completely devoid of any political philosophy. Any political party which believes that it can live in an. unsettled and an uncertain world such as. this without some plan of living to offer the people, both short-term and long-term, is not only deceiving itself but also is doing a great disservice to Australia.
The Budget has been described in variousways. It is very disappointing. Various sections of the community which expected to be able to start anew after all the disabilities of the years since the credit squeezehave been most disappointed. Members of the Government must be purblind to the realities of the situation of the ordinary business man in the community. Last yearthere were more bankruptcies than in anyother year since the depression. Persons who saved and invested in small business undertakings to which they diligently applied’ their own skills and those of their families, have found the economic climate so adverse that they have had to close their doors and. suffer bankruptcy. Any government under which bankruptcy figures equal those of theunenlightened, dark days of the depression, has cause for grave reflection. I am quitecertain that the Government is so strongly influenced by Pitt-street, Sydney, and Collins-street, Melbourne, where the bigtime business organizations are centred, and’ so hypnotized by the amount of capital that can be readily attracted to Australia to tide us over economic difficulties, regardless of consequences, that it has lost touch with the situation. A large proportion of our export income is dissipated in payment of interest, redemption and dividends on capital from’ overseas. The Government is so wrapped up with the easy way of selling the birthright of this country for the proverbial mess of pottage that it is overlooking the very people who elected it as the guardian of their destiny. In cities throughout the Commonwealth, the small retailer and manufacturer, who comprise the backbone of our business life, are struggling along on a shoestring to keep their businesses afloat. This Budget offers very little hope for them.
Persons on salaries and wages had high hopes but are disappointed. We live in a rich country that needs expansion but, comparatively speaking, our economy has not shown any greater expansion than those of some of the older countries of the western world. The Government has overlooked the position created by the new alinement of nations resulting from the formation of the European Economic Community. Our economic system, which sprang from the countries of western Europe, served its purpose until recently, but the realinement of nations has altered the situation quite dramatically in the past few years. In one respect, it has opened up opportunities for all sorts of fluid, hot money from other countries. Owners of all types of floating capital are looking for the fast buck or the quick quid. We have been able to obtain some of that money temporarily but in the long run we must realine ourselves with the new political, social and geographical situation that faces us as a unit of South-East Asia. Traditionally, Australia’s system of education has caused us to direct our thoughts towards the history and geography of Europe. There has been a very strong tendency to treat our nearest neighbours as negligible and the acquisition of knowledge about them has been neglected.
Whether or not we like it, the countries that will comprise the Federation of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma and India will be the centre of our economic future. Trading arrangements in the Western world are becoming so complicated and sophisticated that Australia, as a small nation, will have great difficulty in retaining any substantial share of those markets. On the other hand, in our Department of External Affairs and our external policies are signs of acceptance of the fact that, for good and all, we are a part of South-East Asia. We are laying the groundwork for the children of the present generation and their children. Their prosperity will depend upon the way in which we approach the situation. Recently I travelled through South-East Asia with a parliamentary delegation and was most interested in the things that we saw. Members of the party agreed that the trip was very useful in helping them to realize the problems that arise from our geographical relationship to South-East Asia.
To allow overseas people to come to Australia to buy up vital sections of our industry and natural resources without discipline is to do a great disservice to this country. On the other hand, over the years the Government has exercised very strong discipline over the Australian wage-earner. The Government seems to be content to continue with a form of capitalism which in this part of the world will not be able to sustain itself. Basically, the countries of South-East Asia are socialist in character. Socialism is the only philosophy that can unite the people of that area. I speak mainly of the Malay people throughout the Malayan archipelago, the Philippines and Indonesia.
The Malay people are united at two or three levels in a common purpose. First, they have the Muslim religion in common. That is a very strong uniting factor. Secondly, they have a very interesting form of communal relationship in the villages. The village council, in consultation with various sections of the community, takes part in community activities. Even though it is at a very primitive level, there is a strong community spirit in the villages. Thirdly - this is one of the most important uniting factors - the people all along the line have adopted the electric word “ merdeka “, which means “ freedom “. Behind the use of the word is the history of hundreds of years of various forms of colonialism ranging from the British form, which brought many advantages to these people, including their legal system and opportunities for participation in the administration of their country. The background to the use of this word includes the French influence, under which it was accepted that the French took everything and replaced nothing, and 300 years of Dutch rule over the Indonesians. The Indonesians have a strong and lasting hatred of the Dutch. These people are united under this form of nationalism, with the possibility of the fusion of a greater Malaysia incorporating the whole of Malaya, Singapore, Borneo, Sarawak, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Although these people feel that Australia is not interested in them, they have great respect for Australians. Wherever we went we found that the individual Australian was held in esteem. These people took the view that the Australian had never been a colonialist, that Australians had grown up as a nation after having had long ties with Great Britain, and that they were a people who had great problems of their own in seeking improved standards of living. The Asian people admire the Australians’ ability to improvise and to impart knowledge. Wherever we went in the Malayan archipelago and other South-East Asian countries we found that Australians, whether they were teachers or people with other forms of know-how, were readily accepted into the community and were a great credit to this country.
The attitude of the Indonesian people was that we were inclined to overlook completely the fact that they had a history and a culture in their own right, and that traditionally our external affairs policy had favoured the continuation of Dutch occupation. Australia having consistently voted against them, they viewed our foreign policy, and this Government in particular, with suspicion. They suspected that this Government would rather hinder the Indonesian form of government than help it. It is my strong conviction that the only way in which Indonesia can be made selfdependent and economically viable is for other countries to take the view that she needs sympathy rather than to be criticized and hindered.
Indonesia has a very strong Communist party, but the overwhelming majority of people in that country are followers of Soekarno. They believe that he is their strong man and that he will emancipate them from the depths to which they were driven and held by the Dutch administration. In my view, if Soekarno were to cease to lead his people towards what he calls guided democracy, a situation could arise which would be a menace to Australia. The only alternative to the present regime, which is struggling economically, is communism. The reason I stress this at this particular time is that I believe a different approach must be made by the Government, the press and the people of Australia. We should change our attitude of suspicion and mistrust of the present administration in Indonesia.
– Why do you say there should be a different approach by this Government? It has not shown any mistrust as yet.
– You can usually judge people by their deeds. Over a period of years the Government has supported a policy in the United Nations that has been consistently reactionary in the eyes of the people of South-East Asia. The Government’s mind has been concentrated on the politics of Europe and the United States. It has been living as though it were part of the English public school system and the Eisenhower and Hoover administrations of the United States. It has been following a policy aimed at the maintenance of the status quo at all costs. That policy has been consistently followed to our disadvantage in South-East Asia. The Government has not built up the .goodwill towards Australia and Australians that must be built up if we are to bring about an economic confederation type of common market in South-East Asia. The long-range view, of course, is that for our own protection we will have to make firm military and trade agreements with our near neighbours. We must incorporate them all for the simple reason that if a nation thinks that it can win a war these days it is engaging in a negative type of thinking.
– Has not the Government demonstrated that attitude during the last three months?
– It has demonstrated it in this way: The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) visited Indonesia. When he returned to Australia the press and his own colleagues criticized him for making active and1 constructive moves towards a better understanding with Indonesia. The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) has personally been carrying the standard, or the baton, for Australia, but on the other hand the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), being the old conservative, the old European thinker, the old royalist and the oldschooltie man that he is, will not give up the conservatism that is so much part of him.. He, being the director of overall Government policy, is responsible for the feeling that exists and will continue to exist as long as we follow the line we are following at the present time.
– It does not exist on a government-to-government basis.
SenatorO’BYRNE. - It does exist on a government-to-government basis. I am trying to make the point that the policy of this Government is one of conservatism in a modern progressive world, and particularly in South-East Asia where an economic, political and social revolution is taking place. The nations of that area are in the middle of their revolution and we are not facing up to the fact. The first phase is over. They have reached what they call “ merdeka “, or freedom, and they are going to bold on to it. There is no chance of the old order returning in these countries; it can never come back. If by our votes in the United Nations, and in our attitude generally we treat them with contempt, or overlook the fact of their existence, we will do nothing to enhance our new position in South-East Asia.
I make these few observations because I feel that some special effort must be made by the Government to tidy up its attitude towards our neighbours. The strength of Indonesia lies in the future. At the present time that country is, so to speak, just emerging from the dark. When I was there recently I was most interested to find that nearly 10,000,000 children are attending primary schools. Less than fifteen years ago there was only one university in Indonesia, but to-day there are seven. Whereas thirteen years ago, after the Dutch left, there were 100 Indonesian doctors, 100 engineers and about 25 agricultural experts, to-day there are colleges and universities with up to 30,000 students and undergraduates. The system of education is being developed and widened on a scale that was quite exciting to experience. Of course, there is not sufficient school accommodation, but the limited accommodation available is being used to the full. The first shift of children goes to school from 7 o’clock in the morning until half-past 12. Then the second shift comes along at half-past 1 and continues until halfpast 5 or 6 o’clock. In the evening the same schoolrooms are used by the parents. We were told that even after such a short time the literacy rate has been lifted from 6 per cent. - when the Dutch left - to between 85 per cent. and 90 per cent. The countries of the world to-day that are investing in education are investing in the future. In the future the unskilled man will be at a great discount. I had wanted to have something to say to-night about our own education system and the provisions of the Budget which relate to education. However, I now ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Die casting machines.
Diphenylamine and phenothiazine.
Image projectors and slide viewers.
Magnet winding wire.
Plastic sheets, strip and plates.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to focus attention for a few minutes on the need for the Government to consider the effectiveness of Radio Australia, the short wave station of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I ask honorable senators to consider whether we are providing for the keen staff of Radio Australia, which numbers possibly 150 people, suitable tools for use in the rather magnificent work it is doing. I think I should say a word or two about Radio Australia, because it is perhaps true to say that its work is better known outside Australia than inside it.
Radio Australia, as I have said, is the short wave section of the A.B.C. It operates from transmitters at Shepparton, 120 miles north-east of Melbourne, and Lyndhurst, 25 miles south-east of Melbourne. It broadcasts for approximately 21½ hours a day, on eight different frequencies. The purpose of the station, of course, is to send a short wave signal from Australia all over the world. The signal goes to Europe and the United States of America. Most importantly, of course, it goes to South-East Asia. The Chinese, French, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese languages are used in the broadcasts, as well as English. The station relays news, musical items and plays, and records are played. The most important aspect of its operations is the provision of English lessons for the people in Indonesia. I consider that because of the importance of Radio Australia the station should be nearer to the target area. I am of the opinion that the Government should consider the advisability of having the transmitters situated so far south on the Australian continent. I took the trouble, some six or eight months ago, to visit Radio Australia in Melbourne. I found there a most efficient staff working in rather dilapidated premises which, I think, at one time housed a hat factory.
I was one of a parliamentary delegation which went to South-East Asia recently. Other Senate members of the delegation were Senators O’Byrne, Drury and Maher. My appetite for having a look at things was whetted by what I knew of Radio Australia before I left these shores. In Indonesia, I discovered that the signals from Radio Australia were not at all satisfactory in certain areas. For instance, in the city of Djakarta where there are more than 2,000,000 people, the signals are picked up quite well in some parts of the city and not well in others. I stress the position in Djakarta and Indonesia generally because I have been told that there is an amazing reaction in Indonesia towards Radio Australia.
It is interesting to note that approximately 250.000 letters a year come to the office of Radio Australia from all over the world and that all but 12,000 of them come from Asia. I understand that, in the past, about 80 per cent, of the letters from Asia came from Indonesia. Having regard to that tremendous listener reaction in this near neighbour country, it seems to me a great pity that the signals should not be adequate to penetrate some of the more populous parts of Indonesia. I believe that the facilities which we provide for this dedicated band of 150 people working in Radio Australia may not be adequate in this day and age. When I was in Indonesia I made inquiries of local people about the programmes from Radio Australia. They said they were thrilled with the broadcasts. A number of them acknowledged that they had learnt English by listening to the broadcasts. It should be remembered that more than 1,000,000 copies of the lessons in
English have been distributed in Indonesia by Radio Australia.
Passing to Singapore, I was interested to note that the signal came through fairly well. As a matter of fact, broadcasts of Melbourne football matches are very popular there on Saturday afternoons. Yet, there again, there are periods when the programmes are not very well received because the signal is not adequate. In Thailand, which is a country of great importance to us at the present time, the signal comes into competition with two strong propaganda stations. The Americans have a very strong propaganda station in Manila, and, of course, the Communist Chinese broadcast from Peking. Australians working on the Mekong River project, in the north of Thailand, including engineers and geologists from the Snowy Mountains scheme who are helping with the dam sites, told me what a pity it was that such fine programmes were not always available because of problems with the signal.
I was told that the Laotians and the Thais were particularly attracted to the programmes of Radio Australia because of their objectivity. The people of those countries realized that the programmes did not contain high-pressure propaganda too from either the right or the left. Consequently, it seemed to me a pity that the signal was not as good as it might have been. It occurred to my lay mind that the difficulty might be due to the fact that the broadcasts emanate from Shepparton, in the far south of Australia. I thought that perhaps the long drag over Australia before the signal got away from this continent could weaken it. It must be appreciated that the United States will be putting out a very strong signal, for naval purposes, from the northwest of Australia in the near future.
It is a shame that the broadcasts from this station which we have built up with such care should fail to reach their target because of inadequate facilities. Despite the lateness of the hour, I stress the importance of this matter. I hope that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) will discuss it with his colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and perhaps also with the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick). I trust that a real interest will be displayed in the need to improve Radio
Australia’s signal. I do not expect the Minister to give me an answer to-night, because this is a matter of some technicality.
– I am not in a position to comment on the most interesting matter that has been raised by Senator Laught, but I assure him that I shall bring his submissions to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630822_senate_24_s24/>.