25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- 1 have to advise the Senate that Senator Professor J. C. I. Dooge, M.E., M.Sc, Deputy Chairman of the Senate of Ireland, is in the precincts of the Senate. With the concurrence of honorable senators I propose to invite Professor Dooge to take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear! (Senator Professor Dooge thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.)
Senator WOOD presented a petition from two signatories on behalf of the Queensland Committee of Women’s Organizations on Social and Moral Questions praying that Parliament will make all -television and radio authorities answerable to the Australian people for their programmes.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Several times during the last, sessional period, I asked the Leader of the Government whether he could confirm a report in the “ New York Times “ of 24th February this year that in 1965 alone there were 113,000 deserters from the Army of South Vietnam. The Minister said he was unable to give me the information I sought. 1 now ask the Leader of the Government: Has he seen a report from Australian Associated Press in the Melbourne “ Herald “ yesterday and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ today that desertions from the South Vietnamese armed forces at present: are nearly 20 per cent, higher than last year? In view of the Government’s policy of conscripting Australian youths for service in Vietnam, will the Minister on this occasion undertake to verify the reports and tell the Senate what the facts are?
– -The honorable senator’s question should be put on notice; but I should add that it is not quite correct to say that I did not proceed to get an answer to the question the honorable senator asked in the last sessional period. I made two sets of inquiries and passed on to him the information I obtained.
– I said the Minister was not able to give me exactly the information I sought.
– If the honorable senator will put his question on notice I will endeavour to get the information for him.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister. Did the Minister see a tragic picture of a large group of investors in Reid Murray Acceptance, which is in liquidation, attending a meeting to inform them of the remnants they will receive from the collapse of a financial empire? Is the Minister aware that shareholders of this company have been robbed of their equity in a manner that would make Ned Kelly look like an effeminate playboy? Has the Minister seen* or heard the report that the Equity Trustees and Agency Co. Ltd. will receive one third of a million dollars as receiver’s commission which is only slightly less than the total paid up capital of the company? Does the Government’s philosophy of so-called private enterprise encourage vultures to pick the flesh from the corpses of capitalism without firing a shot to frighten them off? When can the ordinary citizen of this country expect legislation to ensure that fringe banking organisations, aided, abetted and sponsored by this Government’s policy, will receive protection from unmitigated swindlers in high places?
– The honorable senator has covered a number of aspects of this matter. 1 saw the photograph to which the honorable senator referred and I fully realise its import because I happen to be one of those concerned. I have a thorough appreciation of the circumstances. However, he has overlooked the fact that a great deal of work has been done by the Attorneys-General ©f the States, in whose hands this matter largely lies, and also by the Commonwealth Attorney-General to tighten up the companies acts and the regulations governing companies. It is now necessary for reports to be submitted by directors who must assume full responsibility for the activities of companies. This is helpful. There is an old adage which for many years has been known world-wide. It is that a person who expects large interest rates from an investment takes risks. No-one has been able yet to devise how to obtain both.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate which industries will benefit from the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty which was proposed by the Government in the recently presented Budget? Is the Minister able to inform the Senate also of the percentage of total usage of nitrogenous fertiliser applicable to the several industries?
– I am not quite sure of the accuracy of the figures I have. I will obtain accurate figures for the honorable senator from the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that between 40 per cent, and 45 per cent, of nitrogenous fertiliser is used in the production of sugar, approximately 40 per cent, in the production of fruit and vegetables and about 15 per cent, for other crops. As I said, I will endeavour to obtain more accurate figures for the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Are employees of the United States Agency for International Development in Vietnam paying road tax on civilian vehicles to Vietcong organisations in some areas as reported in the “ Daily Mirror “ of 25th August?
– I would not have any knowledge whatsoever of what taxes are paid in some other country by nationals of a third country. This is not my responsibility.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the statement in today’s Press attributed to the Minister for Air in which the Minister is reported as having urged State Governments to restrain some developmental projects, however desirable or even essential they may appear at the present time, be taken as an indication of Commonwealth Government policy and official advice to the States? If so, how does the Government reconcile this view with its stated Budget objectives of expansion and balanced development?
– I have not read the statement made by the Minister for Air to which the honorable senator refers. I have a recollection that these remarks were made in the course of a speech that the Minister delivered in Parliament yesterday. Is that so?
– That is correct.
– No doubt the Minister for Air gave what he thought to be good advice to the country and to the States. I think that all of us should realise that we are reaching a time at which our capital resources are being strained to the utmost and at which, as was pointed out in the Budget Speech, priorities are of the utmost importance. I think that is what the Minister for Air said.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport state what route the standard gauge railway between Cockburn in South Australia and Broken Hill in New South Wales will take? Will the railway follow the route of the Silverton Tramway Company, or will it go direct from Cockburn to Broken Hill? If this matter has not yet been resolved, when will it be so resolved?
– If the honorable senator is referring to the standardisation scheme which is related to the linking up programme, the standard gauge will be 4 ft. 8i ins. As to the other details of the precise route which this line will follow and the negotiations which, I understand, have been taking some considerable time in relation to that link of the railway, I will have the question put on notice and obtain precise answers from the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the honorable senator,
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Works who is also the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. In view of the present day accent on science education, will the Minister consider widening the scope of education grants and place greater stress on the concept of education for living, not merely for getting a living, by the provision of laboratories and other facilities for education for leisure which may help to solve some of the problems of modern clay youth?
– The objective of and the end result to be achieved by any properly run university or other tertiary institution must be to turn out people who are educated for living and not merely for earning a living. There is no doubt that a very great amount of support is given to the institutions that seek to do this, and that included in the assistance given to them is assistance for such things as libraries, which (he honorable senator mentioned.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise been directed to an article in the Melbourne “ Age “ regarding uniform literary censorship in Australia? Can he tell the Senate what progress has been made by the Commonwealth and the States in their endeavour to put the principle of uniform censorship into practice?
– My attention has been drawn to a leading article in the Melbourne “ Age “. I can inform the Senate that quite a degree of progress has been made since the Commonwealth accepted in principle a proposal submitted to it by the States for a degree of uniformity. A conference between officials from the various Slates and officials of my Department was held in Canberra in June. It ran over two days. Considerable agreement was reached on matters of detail covering the establishment and operation of a proposed joint board. Certain issues under one or two cf the heads of agreement between the officials called for further examination by Ministers. I hoped to have a conference with the State Ministers concerned just prior to the commencement of this sessional period. But, unfortunately, owing to the commitments of the State Ministers and my own commitments, it was not possible for me to arrange a suitable date for that conference. I therefore negotiated an exchange of correspondence with State Ministers with the object of resolving the outstanding issues. When I have received replies from all the States I will be able to assess the need for, and the possible extent of, further negotiations on this matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Air in a position to advise whether it is true that four of our Mirage fighter aircraft, each costing $5 million, have crashed over the past 18 months? Is there any truth in the belief that these aircraft, if they travel at more than 720 miles per hour, become defective and that to all intents and purposes they are obsolete? Can the Minister advise whether we are committed to the purchase of any more of these aircraft?
– I will have to refer most of that question to the Minister for Air in order to obtain an answer. However, I take this opportunity to stress that the Mirage aircraft is regarded by the highest of our Air Force personnel as a very fine aircraft.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. By way of preface, I refer to the statement which he made yesterday and in which he defended the decision of his Department to construct a new customs building at Neutral Bay. In view of the continued resentment expressed by State Government and civic leaders, will he confer with these people and have regard particularly to the views of the North Sydney Council, which has offered to find an alternative site and so avoid further ravishment of the foreshores of Sydney Harbour?
– Naturally, I would confer with any State Government authority or any other authority or person who wished to put some views to me. But I point out that yesterday I made a statement covering all the facts in relation to the proposed erection of a new customs establishment at Neutral Bay. I have not much to add to that statement. But perhaps I should make two supplementary observations. The first is that, significantly, the statement revealed that the North Sydney Council was informed of this matter on 6th July. It is rather amazing that approximately seven weeks afterwards it should be having meetings on this very subject. Secondly, a leader writer obviously had not read his brief, because he suggested that this establishment would be a big concrete building. As a matter of fact, if the leader writer had read another part of his own newspaper he would have seen that the building is to be a brick and glass structure.
– I would like to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. No doubt the Minister, in common with all honorable senators, has read in the Press that both Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines have asked for an increase in air fares. Will the Minister request the Minister for Civil Aviation (o withhold a decision on this matter pending the debate on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation, so that at least members of the Parliament, both in the Senate and in another place, who desire to put their point of view may do so?
– I shall refer the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the promise made to this Parliament and to the Australian trade union movement In May 1965 concerning costs under penal clause proceedings. The Government promised that regulations would ‘be made to prevent, except in special circumstances, the awarding of costs to more than one counsel in penal clause proceedings. The Minister, in requesting the Senate to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1965, on 12th May 1965 stated that the proposal as to costs was an integral part of the Government’s approach and would remove any justification for the argument that costs of penal proceedings had been deliberately inflated. A period of 18 months has elapsed and no regulations have been made. Why has the Government broken its promise?
– I have not the recollection that Senator Murphy has, and therefore at this stage I am not prepared to say that the Government has broken its promise or, indeed, that it made any promise in specific terms. It may have done so. All I am saying is that I do not remember whether it did. In any case, this is a matter that comes directly within the administration of the Attorney-General and the question must be put on notice so that he can provide an answer.
– I desire to ask a question of the Acting Minister for External Affairs. In view of questions we have heard reflecting on the people of South Vietnam, their armed forces and their share in the war effort, will the Minister agree, first, that the people of South Vietnam worthily played their part in their country’s war of independence from France, and secondly bore almost the whole burden of their defence against North Vietnam until the last three years when American and Australian forces came in? Does the Minister agree, therefore, that the people of South Vietnam and their armed forces are entitled to respect and admiration rather than attack and criticism for political purposes?
– Anybody with knowledge of the last few years as they have unfolded must agree with what the honorable senator has said, that the people of South Vietnam have indeed, over a long period of time, been engaged in a struggle of one kind or another for freedom and
Independence. During that time they have suffered great casualties and have borne themselves extremely bravely. As was pointed out by Senator Henty in reply to a question by Senator Cohen during the last sessional period, the armed forces of South Vietnam have been increasing year by year. They have borne the brunt of the struggle year by year.
Opposition Senators. - Oh!
– I am sorry that honorable senators opposite do not agree with what I have said. They should look at the numbers. The armed forces of South Vietnam now number 570,000 or more.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– It is a matter of great astonishment to me that the paying of a tribute to forces numbering about 570,000 which are righting against Communists should lead to such an outcry from the Opposition.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report that a recommendation has been made to the Government which, if implemented, will make it necessary for servicemen wishing to offer themselves for election to Parliament first to present themselves for interrogation before a Services screening committee? If the report is correct, are the Australian people - and Australian servicemen in particular - to assume that a bureaucrat is desirous of eating into the democratic rights of Australian citizens? Will the Minister on behalf of the Government give an assurance that any citizen wishing to stand for election to Parliament will not be denied his democratic right?
– The honorable senator has raised a matter of policy. If he places his question on the notice paper I will get an answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs arising out of my previous question. I now ask: Does the Australian Government in order to enable Australian vehicles to use some roads in Vietnam, pay a road tax to any Vietcong organisation?
– The answer, as the honorable senator ought to know, is: No.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, arises from an answer he gave to a question yesterday. For a long time a new Customs House has been in the course of construction in Melbourne which is not, of course, a small city. I ask the Minister whether he or his officers could give the Senate any idea when the building is likely to be finished. It is a matter of great interest to Victorian senators and Victorian members of another place, because I understand we are to be put out of the building we are at present occupying and are to be allocated rooms in the old Customs House. I was asked about nine months ago whether I had any objection to changing. I said that I had no objection. I ask now: How long will it be?
– I would not like to be held to a precise date, but my understanding is that it will be early next year before the Department of Customs and Excise enters into possession of the new building. A contract was let and then some additional decisions were taken, notably one in relation to air conditioning which made new arrangements necessary. For that reason, the original time for the completion of the work has now been overrun. I will obtain a precise answer for the honorable senator, if I can, and convey it to him without delay.
– I redirect a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Apparently the Minister misunderstood my question when I first directed it to him, because he confined his answer to university education, which is only one part of education and is not concerned with grants for science blocks to schools. My question therefore is: Will the Government consider widening the scope of its grants to schools by providing lor libraries and other facilities for education for leisure which may help to solve some of the problems of modern day youth.
– I had understood the ‘honorable senator in her previous question to use the words “ higher education “.
– Perhaps I misheard her. The Government does provide assistance in various ways to solve this problem. For example in new schools in the Australian Capital Territory it provides an initial grant to help with the provision of a library. Its grants to technical schools can cover the provision of technical libraries in those schools. Its grants for science teaching can cover the provision of libraries relating to science. The States in various ways also provide assistance for libraries in their own particular spheres.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer let me know as soon as is convenient whether the report of the National Debt Commission, which is required to be furnished to the Treasurer during this month, has yet been received? When is the report likely to be presented to the Parliament?
– The Commission met in Sydney last Monday. The report is here. lt will be laid on the table of the Senate today.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation attempt, as did his Leader last year, to have the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines tabled before the Estimates are discussed? The Senate is entitled to have this report before it during that debate. The report seems to be months late each year.
– I shall raise the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation and see whether I can have the report presented in time.
– On 25th August 1966 Senator Lillico asked me the following question -
Will he bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the long delay, extending at times to more than one hour, in obtaining a telephone connection between the north west coast of Tasmania and Canberra, as well as other mainland centres? ls it not a fact that more than 12 months ago the Postmaster-General promised that there would be an improvement in this respect because of the inauguration of a new system? This improvement has not taken place. Will the Minister follow up this matter with the PostmasterGeneral with a view to bringing about some improvement in the existing service?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information in reply -
Delays are occurring on calls between Ulverstone and Canberra due to the shortage of circuits between Tasmania and the mainland. Most calls between Ulverstone and Burnie, through which calls from Ulverstone to the mainland circulate, are being connected within about 15 minutes. The Post Office is presently installing a multi-channel radio system between Launceston and the mainland. It is expected that this radio system will be cut into service in November this year.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which follows upon that asked by Senator Kennelly in regard to the report of Trans-Australia Airlines. Will the Minister use his best offices to see that the report of the Department of Civil Aviation is presented to the Senate before the Estimates are debated?
– I shall raise that matter also with the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Deputy President. I would be obliged if you would make inquiries of the authorities who monitor the microphones in this chamber to see whether we cannot get better sound reinforcement. Sometimes it is quite impossible at this end of the chamber to hear Ministers when they are replying to questions. I suggest that in the course of your inquiries you should make the point that on occasions reception is quite good and one can hear excellently. However, on other occasions it is quite impossible to do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I shall take up that matter with the authorities concerned and let the honorable senator have a reply as soon as possible.
. -I present the following papers -
Economic Inquiry - Report of Committee (VolumesI and II).
The Senate will recollect that when the report was presented in its initial form on 21st September 1965 it was stated that the final version would subsequently be presented so that it could be printed as a parliamentary paper. Meanwhile a number of copies of the report in its initial form were issued to interested persons. Copies of the final version have already been made available to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have received letters from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee) requesting that he be discharged from attendance on (he Regulations and Ordinances Committee and nominating Senator Cavanagh for appointment to the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Willesee be discharged from attendance on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Cavanagh having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order No. 36a be appointed to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 192), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Senate take note of the following papers -
Civil Works Programme 1966-67.
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1966-67.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30 June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1966.
Income Tax Statistics.
National Income and Expenditure 1965-66.
Upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ the Senate condemns the Budget because: -
It fails to recognise the injustices wrought upon wage earners because real wages have fallen as prices have risen faster than wages.
It makes inadequate adjustments to Social Service payments.
It fails to recognise the serious crisis in education.
It does not acknowledge the lack of confidence on the part of the business community in the future growth of the economy.
It does not recognise the need of further basic development, public and private, in addition to the need for adequate defence, and that balanced development can only take place by active encouragement to Australian industry and cooperation with the States.
It does nothing to relieve our dependence on a high rate of foreign investment to finance the deficit in our balance of payments.”
.- Mr. Deputy President, 1 formally advise you that for the present my remarks will not be directed to the main question. I propose to refer only to the amendment moved by the Opposition, foreshadow a further amendment, and reserve my right to speak to the main issue at a later stage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I suggest that the honorable senator confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I propose to do so. The Democratic Labour Party cannot support the amendment that has been moved by the Australian Labour Party, because we believe on examination that it is entirely destructive in character. It contains six clauses, five of which pinpoint certain defects in the Budget but offer no constructive remedies, and the sixth of which contains a vague reference to decentralisation. This failure to be constructive makes the A.L.P. amendment, in our view, hopeless of improvement. We shall therefore move our own amendment after the Senate has dealt with the A.L.P. amendment. In our amendment we shall offer constructive remedies for a number of the Budget’s principal defects. We shall move -
Leaveout all words after “ That “, insert “ the Senate condemns the Budget because it fails to -
recognise the injustice of wage earners caused by real wages having fallen behind the cost of living;
adequately raise social services, which should be taken out of the field of politics and determined by a tribunal of experts;
provide that pensions increase as the cost of living rises;
make progressive steps towards elimination of the means test injustice suffered by Australians, by providing for those receiving superannuation and small fixed incomes; ultimately a comprehensive national insurance plan is the answer;
make a worthwhile contribution to solving the crisis in education by providing a $100 million special grant for the training of teachers in both State and independent schools, and for buildings, equipment and research, pending provision for a per capita payment for children attending independent primary and secondary schools;
stimulate national development, particularly by a vigorous decentralisation programme with special attention to the north;
encourage the birth rate by a programme of increased family allowances, child endowment and maternity allowances;
eliminate the housing lag, with special assistance to co-operative housing societies;
make a worthwhile contribution to foreign aid to counter allegations that our overseas interests are purely military;
adequately provide for Australia’s defence. That is the amendment that I foreshadow and I desire to reserve my right to speak on the main question at a later stage.
– I must say that it is very nice, during this Budget debate, to hear rain falling steadily on the roof this afternoon andI am sure, Mr. Deputy President, that no State is more worthy of it than is New South Wales. One of the fascinating things during this debate has been the Australian Labour Party’s efforts, both in the Senate and in another place, to find a name for the Budget. The Party’s spokesmen have indulged in all sorts of attempts to cast one forth but every suggestion has remained unrecognised, un wanted and unknown. I believe that a very good name for the Budget, and one that we might all accept, is the “ Sensible Budget “.
Listening to the debate here and reading the record of the debate in the other chamber, one is concerned at the tremendous obsession with detail and individual issues. Sometimes it has not been a Budget debate at all; it has been a debate on elements of foreign policy. It seems to me that we are tending to lose touch with the principles on which a Budget is based. I rather feel that the function of the Senate is to take a fairly broad view of Budget issues.
Most of the issues which govern a Budget have been decided well before Budget day. They are issues which have been decided in earlier legislation, in earlier attitudes and in decisions on Government policy taken perhaps in the previous year or the year before that. Invariably the growth of the community and the effect on the community of various outside measures set the pattern of the Budget. On Budget day there is not a lot of room in which to argue on Budget items. My own wish would be that we would have more time to spend in debating the Estimates even though this meant having a little bit less time in which to debate the Budget itself, the principal points of which have been fairly clearly established before.
I suggest that there are certain broad aims in a Budget’. They are, first of all, to protect and defend Australia; then to maintain living standards; to maintain full employment: to have a policy for the growth of the population and the resources of the country; to provide social security; to provide increased opportunity; to endeavour to stop inflation and to endeavour to stop deflation; to protect the balance of payments of the country and of the community, and to safeguard the country’s reserves. Those are the kinds of things at which I believe the Budget should aim and at which the people of Australia should aim through their Government. One might be asked: What is a Budget, really? A Budget is really a statement of intent for the future based on known facts and on decisions taken, in most cases, at an earlier stage. Some of the facts are known and some of the facts are not fully known, but have to be guessed at. The Treasurer and the Government in any community are expected to and are entitled to take some risks and make some judgments on the future. Indeed they do this but we expect them to be prudent and good housekeepers. This they must be, above all things.
Considering all the circumstances, and all the pressures, it is my considered opinion that this is a sensible Budget. I believe we should approve it because it has been drawn within sensible and wise limits. The real issue of the Budget at present lies between a consideration of available resources from internal and external sources and an examination of the critical needs of the community which have to be met before any new claims. No matter how worthy those claims might be, they have to fall behind the considerations already agreed upon by all of us.
The resources of the community can be made up only from three places if we want more funds to spend, more concessions, higher rates of pension, higher repatriation payments and greater development. We want to see all these things happen but they can be financed only from three areas of available resources. They can come from taxation and from loan funds. They can also come from inflation, creating a fictitious position to satisfy today’s needs and leaving the bill to be paid tomorrow and in the days thereafter.
I have taken out a few figures in relation to taxation which I think are of interest. In 1951-52 about eight million Australian people paid $1,838,056,000. That was equal in that year to $229 per head of population. In 1966-67 about 12 million people - I cannot give the precise figure because it is not yet available- will pay $4,420,500,000 equal to $385 per head of population. Perhaps honorable senators would gather from these figures that the Australian people are paying more in taxation. This is not really correct and in this connection I shall submit some figures taken out by the Legislative Research Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. These relate to total taxation in 1951-52 and in 1965-66. I have used those years because the evidence can be supported. The population is given at 31st December 1951 and 31st December 1965 in known terms. In 1951-52 taxation per head was $216. In 1966 it was $361. The increase in taxation per head of population in that period was 67 per cent.
– Is that income tax?
– That is all taxation. I purposely asked for total taxation to avoid any confusion. The average weekly earnings of employed males in Australia was $28.26 in 1951-52 and $56.90 in 1965-66. This was an increase in the average weekly earnings of employed males in Australia of over 101 per cent. The total taxation in that period has been increased by 67 per cent, and the average weekly earnings have risen by 101 per cent. One might fairly argue that the average contribution towards Australia’s needs for development, social services and defence by the Australian people is less than it was in 1951-52. If we want more done in Australia, in due course we will have to do something more about it ourselves. To illustrate my point I incorporate the following table in “ Hansard “ with the concurrence of the Senate -
On the question of loan money in effect supporting a programme of greater needs against a programme of lesser resources, we have a statement at page 16 of the Budget
Speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). Honorable senators will see from that page that this year we have budgeted for a loan figure of $150 million. Loan raisings fluctuate fairly widely over the pattern of years. Honorable senators will know from the statements attached to the Budget Speech that in 1956-57 the total loan raising was $77,096,000. In the year 1962-63 the figure reached the very high point of $454,504,000. I contrast that figure against the loan borrowing programme for this year of $150 million. From these figures honorable senators can see the fluctuations that occur in loan raisings.
From the Treasurer’s point of view and from our point of view we can only expect the Government through its officers to make a sensible estimate of the amount of money that can bp raised by loan. I have no objection to the Government’s raising loan money in Australia. I have tremendous confidence in this country and its people. I do not think that an examination of our loan structure will find that it has worsened iti any way. But if we undertake the development of this country from our own capital alone we will slow our development down. We have to obtain loan money to develop the country but we must keep these raisings within bounds. We must bear in mind (hat loan funds today are harder to obtain. There is a scarcity of international finance and it is costing more to service. So the Treasurer is right in doing what he has done. He has budgeted in this financial year for the real position, taking into account a greater difficulty in raising loan funds than we might all like to contemplate.
The other thing that we can consider doing in a fictitious fashion to balance the Budget is to create inflation. I do not recommend this as the solution to our problem. Inflation is something that always has to be watched in a developing and full employment economy. It is always hovering around the door. Inflation has a number of effects to the disadvantage of the community. It erodes the savings of the people. It dispossesses the thrifty and the provident. Inflation destroys incentive. So inflation should never be regarded as the means by which a person may obtain something today thai he wants but for which he is not prepared to pay.
The question we face may be stated something like this: How do we increase income or resources above present expectations? How can we do this? No proposition has been put forward by anybody with respect to increasing taxation. It is not as though the Government will borrow money very easily. We ought not to overestimate the amount of money which the Treasurer has stated is available to us. Some guesses can be made. People can say that rains may come. Indeed, they have. But we should bear in mind that the rain that is falling now will not put much money into the pocket of the Treasurer or in the pockets of the people until next Budget year. That fact must be thought about. The rain that is now falling is not the solution to our problems today. The rain today will stop us having trouble with the Budget next year.
Fortune might smile on us but we cannot count upon this as a certainty. Fortune might frown on us for that matter. Export prices might rise. But the Treasurer, the Government and the members of this Parliament cannot consider a Budget which provides for expenditure on the basis of something that might happen. We have to be a little more careful than that. It is possible that people from overseas might lend Australia more money. But we must be careful here too because we do not know whether this will happen or not. We have to provide in our estimate for a sensible sum of money that we can raise by loan and that we can service effectively. I do not believe that we can depend on any of these things which might improve the situation.
The first thing that we must look at in the propositions before us is the level of expenditures throughout the economy. Let me read to the Senate my view on this matter which I have written out: Expenditures are the result of the continuation of Australia’s expectations reinforced by decisions already taken in this and earlier years. I want to repeat that statement because it is the heart of the matter. We have a level of expenditures which is very large and very difficult to alter. These expenditures are the result of the continuation of Australia’s expectations reinforced by decisions already taken in this and earlier years. At Budget time, it is the job of the Government and the Treasurer, and also the job of the members of this Senate, perhaps more so than the members of any other chamber, to do our housekeeping and to examine the whole position of the economy as well. We do not help the Australian people, ourselves or anyone else by presenting a false picture on Budget day. The time for argument is when the decisions are being made on legislation which affects the elements of the Budget.
Our main responsibility at this time is to examine the expenditure tables. They may be examined from two angles. The first is the rise in total expenditure over the years. When we look at the figures given in the Budget and the appendices to it we see that in 1951-52 the total expenditure was $2,266 million; in 1956-57 it was $2,650 million; in 1961-62 it was $3,785 million; in 1966-67 the estimated total expenditure is $5,930 million. In 1951-52 the Australian population was about eight million. In 1966-67 it is expected to be about 12 million. So since the base year 1951-52 the population has increased by 50 per cent, and the total annual expenditure by 160 per cent. Those are fairly potent factors for the Australian people and the Senate to consider. There has been a tremendous increase in expenditure throughout Australia by the Commonwealth and State governments.
Secondly, when we analyse the Budget expenditure for this year we find that defence accounts for 17 per cent, of it; payments to the States for general purposes and drought relief account for 16 per cent.; works, services, the Territories, immigration and education for 28 per cent.; external economic aid for 2 per cent.; social services and repatriation for 21 per cent.; administration and the business undertakings - the latter is a self-balancing item - for 12 per cent.; and miscellaneous items for 4 per cent.
The issue is still the same. The needs of the Australian people, which have been set in earlier years by legislation passed in this and other chambers on the basis of various kinds of considerations, have to be financed by the Australian people and those people outside Australia who have enough confidence in this country to lend us money and to invest in us. One of the most significant increases in Budget expenditures is in the defence vote. This has been referred to by many other people and I do not wish to develop the argument very much. The defence vote has risen by 90 per cent, in three years, as a result of decisions taken in this Parliament in this year and earlier years in the interests of the people of Australia.
In regard to development, one can range over a wide field. I have calculated that it takes 44 per cent, of the Budget. I include expenditure on education under the heading of development, for the purposes of simplification and because I think it is fair to do so. I believe that when we spend money on education in the way that the Commonwealth is spending it now we are developing the resources of the Australian community, because our best resource is our people. One of the important things that we should do in Australia is build the most educated, most skilful and most talented group of people that we are able to build. So I suggest to the Senate that expenditure on education should be considered as expenditure on development. I submit that the present is not a bad stage in our economic history to be developing people in addition to developing physical resources; that this is not a bad lime to be making some slight alteration in our financial priorities.
One can argue that in the defence vote there is some element of expenditure on development. It is very difficult to isolate it, particularly in the system that we have at the moment of purchasing overseas equipment that cannot be manufactured in Australia because we do not have the necessary skills or scale of production. But I have left the development element of defence expenditure out of account. I suggest that when we look at the Budget and the percentage allocation of expenditure based on decisions that have been taken and reinforced, it is not easy to scale down the expenditure. One might make a case very briefly and say that for a long time in Australia there has been an overwhelming need for the States and the Commonwealth jointly to decide priorities for capital expenditure on resources development in the physical sense. Instead of having competing schemes, desires and aims, one hopes that in due course we will have the situation where everybody sits down and examines the total need for resources for the whole of
Australia. One could hopefully suggest that a system of priorities might be worked out to allow for a more sensible utilisation of money which is, I am afraid, increasingly difficult to get.
The provisions in the Budget relating to social service and repatriation benefits account for 21 per cent, of the total Budget expenditure. This need grows steadily as Australia’s population increases. All of us hope that we will be able to afford to increase benefits, in both the social service and repatriation fields. But again it comes back to a question of what the community can and will afford and what other people will provide for us.
In addition to meeting this expenditure, the Government has to try to maintain momentum in the economy. This is not an easy thing. Whoever the managers might bc at a given date, they would find that this is not an easy economy to maintain in what might bc called a fairly evenly balanced position.. It is not easy to keep the economy stable when droughts occur which decrease revenue and when loan funds are harder to acquire and cost more to service. Those are things that bring us back to reality.
Looking at the whole level of expenditure on defence, development, education, social services and immigration, on which of these items are we going to reduce expenditure in order to have a better balanced position? Most of the proposals that have been made by honorable senators opposite, and many of the points raised in the Opposition’s amendment, seem to be matters which would increase expenditure, lt has been said, both here and in another place, that we have come to the stage when we need to be a little more careful about expenditure; that we need to scrutinise expenditure in a little more detail.
That is why I said earlier that I thought the Senate could do a very useful job for the Australian people when the Estimates are being debated. We could give close scrutiny to the expenditure. I think that over the years, this will become more and more important. We, as a country, want to maintain momentum. We want to continue to grow, lt will not be easy to keep resources at the level that we would like in order to maintain our desired growth rate. But there are a couple of ways in which this could be done. We could, perhaps, manage our resources a little more skilfully which would call for expenditure checking on a more precise level, or we could go ahead at a slower rate. I ask honorable senators to remember that many of our resources would go further if more careful management methods were adopted.
It has been stated by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) that the Budget is substantially an expansionary one. People have said that this is not so. In fact, it is so. Many factors will operate in the economy from now on. Honorable senators may argue later as to the particular effects that these factors will have upon the economy, but they are all expansionary effects. First, there is the’ recent basic wage increase. Then there has been an increase of $57 million in the Budget for social service and repatriation benefits. There will now be an increase in farm income, although it will occur a little later. There is the possibility of a margins increase. Finally, there is the Budget deficit itself, which is a very substantial one. These matters are of great consequence in maintaining expansion in an economy. The deficit that has been budgeted for is designed to maintain expansion. The other factors also are of an expansionary nature.
People have complained that the growth rate is not being maintained. I have not the figures as at the 30th June 1966, but at 31st March 1966, growth was being maintained at the rate of 5.8 per cent. When we consider that the drought reduced farm income by 30 per cent, in the nine months to 3 1st March 1966 compared with the nine months for the previous year, I do not think it is fair to argue that the growth rate is not being maintained. This country is very much subject to the influence of the seasons. The fact that the growth rate was maintained during the period of the drought is a tribute to our economic and financial management. This has been a very difficult period in Australia’s economic development.
Refining the arguments for and against the Budget, it is difficult for me, as an individual and as a senator, to see where expenditure could be reduced. Looking at the figures and on the best information that I have been able to gather, it seems that the loan raising estimates are realistic. They might be better, but they are realistic. One may ask the question: Will we fill the gap by increased taxation, or will we hold the line with a deficit Budget? I believe that by holding the line with a deficit Budget we have done the correct thing in the present stage of the economy. Honorable senators may argue about this point later. If we had increased taxation, I believe that we might have tended to destroy incentives a little and thus lower the expansionary effects of the Budget. We have taken some risk with this deficit Budget, but at this stage I believe that it is a proper risk.
Returning to my earlier reference to maintaining certain factors in the Australian economy, it is and always will be important for Australia to maintain its reserves. In this connection I refer to page 11 of the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia, which deals with the position of Australia’s reserves, lt will be seen that in 1962 our net gold and foreign exchange holdings abroad amounted to $1,097 million. In 1966 they amounted to $1,375 million. As at June 1966, we had an amount of $152 million as reserves with the International Monetary Fund. So despite some difficult years and a decline of 30 per cent, in farm income for the 9 months ending 31st March 1966, we have managed not to weaken our overseas reserves position between 1962 and 1966; in fact, we have strengthened it. This is quite a good performance in the circumstances.
The other question that one could discuss at some length, although not at the present time, is the matter of our overseas reserves and where they are held. As honorable senators know, we belong to the sterling bloc. Our reserves are held in London. From time to time many of us have heard that there is to be a run on sterling and that devaluation of the £1 could take place. It is part of our job to see that sterling is held up. Sterling forms part of our trading operations. We belong in the sterling area. We have as much at stake as anybody else in the maintenance, strength and security of sterling. So that people in Australia will not make the charge that the management of the country is not thinking about some of these problems, I wish to refer to figures that were extracted from an article entitled “ Australia under the Sterling Area Strain “, which was written on 4th August 1966 by a special writer in London. The article refers to the ratio of sterling to gold and dollars. In 1950, 7 per cent, of our overseas reserves were held in gold and dollars, and in 1965 we were holding 30 per cent, of our overseas reserves in gold and dollars. Those figures speak for themselves. They also indicate a general changing pattern in our trade.
I sum up by saying that the Budget is not in danger, and neither are we, of being faced with non-expansionary inflationary trends. If there is a danger, it is far more likely of inflation. What are the elements in the Budget which could lead to inflation if we did not have ourselves in a fairly well managed position? This is a heavy spending Budget. There is great pressure on the Government to spend more money on developing the resources available to us. But we must remember that it is a deficit Budget and that the spending on which the Government is embarking in the Budget is cumulative and will tend to generate further expenditure in its train. This is what the Treasurer said the Budget would do. As I have said before, it is an expansionary Budget. It is also a sensible Budget at this stage. One ought to point out that there is a limit in any economy to deficit budgeting. You cannot go on doing it forever. 1 think that it was proper to have a deficit Budget this year, and I confine my remarks to this year’s issues.
Adding it all up, I think that the Budget has done as much as is possible to maintain expansion in Australia and to service essential Australian needs. We all have to consider where the money will come from to do all the things we want to do. I have spoken in this strain because I believe that at Budget time we ought to be thinking about the principles which govern the Budget. We shall have to think about those principles later this year when legislation is brought forward which will increase expenditure by Governments and when claims are made that we ought to be doing certain things. We shall have to begin to think about the effect On our levels of income, because if the demands on the Government continue, it is hard for me to see how, in the end, the Australian people will not have to face up to paying what would appear to be a greater share of their incomes away in taxation totally than they have been used to paying. I suggest to honorable senators that it is indeed a sensible Budget and I commend it to the Senate.
.- I support the six pronged amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee) in relation to the Budget. Many epithets have been applied to the Budget. During his speech Senator Cotton on several occasions referred to the Budget as a sensible Budget. I could not agree less. If “ sensible “ is the correct word to apply to the Budget, it is so sensible that it is dull and boring and it merely makes us yawn. The epithet that springs to my mind in discussing the Budget is that it is a fraudulent Budget. It is fraudulent because it does not deal frankly with the present state of the nation. The Government could have done a lot more in the Budget in a number of directions to inspire confidence in the business community and to give some kind of hope for the future to the ordinary man in the street. It is plain from the Budget that the Government is saving its big throw for the November elections. Then we will find that many things now said to be incapable of achievement will become miraculously possible.
I say that the Budget is fraudulent because the Government is pretending to be what it is not and what it never can be - a government determined to protect Australia and to make something great of this young country. It never can be a free and independent government with its mind on Australia’s problems and a frank and open approach to the Australian people for support. I believe that the Budget reeks of insincerity. I believe the Government can and will promise more at election time and that what Australia desperately needs at this moment is the alternative of a Federal Labour government.
To my mind a number of important questions are suggested from a consideration of the Budget papers. I shall not have time to deal with them all. I hope to deal with some of them. I want to pose them so that my approach to the Budget can be seen and, indeed, the approach of the Opposition. First, is the Government to be allowed to get away with the incorrect and insincere claim that the increased expenditure on defence means that other essential areas of national activity such as education, social services and development are to suffer by receiving less than they need? Secondly, will the Government act responsibly to control prices and to put value back in the £1 - I seem to recall that it made that promise when first elected to power in 1949 - and to make wage increases mean something to the working man and the salary earner? Thirdly, will the Government tackle the problem of uncontrolled foreign investment before it comes to mean foreign control politically as well as economically? Fourthly, will the Government stop playing a public relations game in relation to the war in Vietnam, put an end to our military involvement there and especially to sending conscripts there, and so help to preserve Australia’s integrity which it has so imprudently placed in peril? Fifthly and finally, will the Government cease its unpardonable posturing on all the big issues of our time, national and international, and make way for a government which will be dedicated to serving the best interests of the Australian people?
I turn first to what the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has described as the central problem of the Budget. That is the conflict between major national purposes - between the requirements of defence and of growth. The Treasurer has said that this is a real and substantial conflict. I want to s’.art at this point, because everything flows from the exaggerated claim that a great deal more is being spent on defence and that therefore little remains for the positive national needs of education and development. That claim is much less than frank. The estimate for defence, a nice round figure of $1,000 million, is said to contain a 34 per cent, increase over actual expenditure in 1965-66, but in fact $114 million of that amount is to be spent in the United States of America. It is to be covered by credits and is not to be paid for out of the present Budget. It is to be paid for by future credits. So, in fact, the increase in defence expenditure is $138 million, or less than £70 million, so far as it is to come out of the present Budget.
Senator Cotton, who spoke before me in this debate, referred to the need to scrutinise expenditure. The Government has produced the broad general figure of $1,000 million and has used the alibi of increased defence expenditure for doing nothing for the real needs of the Australian people, but in fact an increase of only $138 million in defence expenditure is to come out of the present Budget. I believe that the Government has made a fraudulent claim and that it should be exposed as such. In my opinion, it is not possible to apply different standards of criticism to defence expenditure from the standards applied to other types of important national expenditure.
The Treasurer has referred to the conflict between defence needs and the needs of national growth. It all depends on what words are used and what is sought to be said. What is the Treasurer trying to say in the Budget Speech? ls he trying to say that because of defence needs we will have to put up with a second class education system? Is he trying to say that in the schools it will be necessary to suffer a continued shortage of accommodation and facilities? Is he trying to say that the States will just have to put up with a critical shortage of qualified teachers in the secondary schools? If he is trying to say that, he is saying it on behalf of a Government which denies the existence of a crisis in education and which cut out the heart of the Martin report last year when it refused to adopt the recommendations of the Martin Committee relating to teacher training.
The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot appear disappointed at being unable to provide for essential needs in education, welfare, social services and development and at the same time withhold from those who are able to improve the system the means whereby to do it. lt seems to me that if the Government chooses to say that the defence expenditure is irreducible - and of course every citizen would say that if the need is clearly shown for a particular amount of defence expenditure, it is irreducible - why cannot the same test be applied to the other needs of the people? Why cannot we say that expenditure on education, health, welfare and development is also irreducible? If expenditure on defence is irreducible, the same is true of social welfare. The question is not whether we can afford it, but rather whether we can any longer afford to withhold the resources from the education administrators. I can well understand the thoughts of those people who perform wonderful service in the field of education in the various States. I can hear them saying: “ If only we could get our hands on the amount of money that the Government is spending in one year on defence, that is $1,000 million, we could do something with it. We could make the whole world look rosier. We could make Australia’s future look brighter. We want to make a bold attack on the problem as part of our general responsibility in the field of education.”
I do not claim that everything can be done in one year and in one Budget, but I challenge the basic statement Which the Treasurer has put before us. We must see that the needs of education, research, development and social services stand on their own feet and are judged by what the community can do for I and are not regarded as something to ^ attended to when all the defence needs have been met. Especially is this so when we examine the Budget and see that a sum of only £70 million more is to be found for defence out of the present year’s income than was found last year. Let us have no humbug about this matter. Let us understand that the Government is really saving up for the November election. It is doing now much less than it could reasonably be asked to do, because it wants to hold the bait until the people are ready to go to the polls at the end of the present Parliament.
I now want to refer to prices. The Treasurer claims that there has been no undue rise in prices in recent years. Let the Government ask the housewife and the pensioner what they think about the price of essential commodities, foodstuffs including meat, and essential utility services such as gas and electricity. The Treasurer says that there has been a rise of only 9 per cent, in the consumer price index during the last five years. It was shown quite conclusively in another place by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) that the 9 per cent, increase has occurred over the last two years and not over the last five years. During 1962, 1963 and 1964 we were enjoying a period of comparatively stable prices, because we were emerging from the recession which had been created by this Government in 1960 and 1961. To talk about the present situation as though it were a time of relative stability is nonsense. Every working man knows what is happening to his wage increases. The increases are swallowed up in price rises before he gets any real benefit from them.
Whatever might be said about the pros and cons of the arbitration system, its decisions can have meaning and substance only if the community can devise some form of price control. That is central to Labour’s thinking on these questions. Our Leader has said - I emphasise it - that if Labour is elected to office at the end of this year it will submit to the people a referendum to give the Commonwealth power over prices and interest rates. This is a critical question. It is extremely important that the Commonwealth should be endowed with, power to take measures to make the awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission effective. If the constitutional power does not exist, itshould be sought. To do less than this is merely to play with the problem. What the Government is doing in’ this’ respect is characteristic of its approach to these matters. Totally absent from the Government’s thinking on economic problems is the acceptance of a degree of economic planning. We ‘believe that, without sacrificing the freedom of individuals “in the community, there is room for a great deal more economic planning at the national level and that this is clearly the way of the future.
I come to the subject of social services. The Government has again embarked on the stratagem of giving to the pensioners just a little more than they really hoped to get and of expecting them to be eternally grateful for it. The Government has given a miserable pittance to the pensioners. It is interesting to note that the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Association not only has described the proposed increase .as being totally inadequate but also has called upon pensioners to use their strength at the ballot, box in the forthcoming election, to change the government. It is encouraging to note, that the Association recognises the reality that this Government is no friend of the pensioners.
What has been given to the pensioners in this Budget is little enough, lt is far less than they ought to be able to expect in justice from a community which has a duty to those who live on social services. There is a clear and urgent need in our country for an entirely new approach to social services. It is no longer sufficient or tolerable for us merely to think in terms of paltry annual adjustments of pensioner rates at budget time. We need to adopt an entirely new attitude, a new and different approach, which will lift pensioners from their present plight as annual mendicants, if that is not too strong a term to use, to a right and proper place as citizens whose financial security and well being is guaranteed and endorsed by a nation which should accept ungrudgingly their unqualified right to genuine justice. I believe that is a proper statement of principle that we should accept when dealing with the position of the pensioners.
As I have said, after examining this Budgetthere are many critically important questions that we must answer. One of the most important relates to the Government’s complete and utter failure to take note in the Budget of the great problems which arise from our increasing dependence upon overseas investment. Nowhere in the Budget can one find a single proposition .which indicates to the Australian people that the Government is aware of or is concerned about the dramatic increase in the amount of overseas investment. A question mark hangs over the whole of Australia’s future development. The Government’s attitude seems to be to leave it to overseas interests to move in to exploit our Commonwealth and to plunder our resources. The Government sits back and describes that as being national development. Where does the Budget even begin to note the alarming effects of overseas investment to which the Vernon Committee drew attention in its. report? In 1959-60 about one quarter of total company assets in Australia were owned overseas compared with approximately one fifth in 1949-50, a decade earlier. In 1959-60 about one third of the manufacturing companies of Australia were directly, owned overseas. A survey undertaken by the “ Australian “ in 1965 showed that of the 500 largest production companies no fewer than 165, or approximately one third, were controlled overseas.
Early in 1965 a symposium on foreign investment was conducted by the stock exchange in Melbourne. A number of people spoke at that symposium, including the Commonwealth Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) and Mr. J. G. Wilson, Managing Director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd. In the course of their contributions they agreed pretty largely on the percentage oE various industries under foreign control or equity. I have a table taken from the address by Mr. Wilson, which sets out the extent of foreign control or equity in Australian mining and manufacturing generally, and in 17 major fields in particular. I ask for leave to have that table incorporated in “ Hansard “.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Tangney). - Is leave granted?
– No. I want to know the source.
– The source is the paper by Mr. J. G. Wilson, Managing Director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd. I do not mind. I shall read it out. It is agreed to in all but one or two minor details by Senator Gorton. These are the percentages given -
Those figures indicate a very high degree of concentration of foreign control or equity in Australian manufacturing and mining industry and no amount of interjection or attempted diversion by any honorable senator can gainsay those facts. It ought to be perfectly plain to honorable senators that a government in this country in 1966 has a responsibility to face up to this problem and try to bring it under some measure of control. Opinions may differ as to the precise mechanism that might be employed in order to do this, but what is needed, first of all, and what is conspicuously lacking in (his Government is the political will to do it, the willingness to stand up to very large investors overseas in the basic interests of the Australian people. We want foreign capital. The Australian Labour Party is not opposed to overseas investment in Australia. We welcome it where it produces new wealth and new growth. We do not welcome it where it simply means a takeover of existing Australian concerns and the exporting of dividends out of Australia so that the Australian people do not get the benefit of it.
There has recently been a careful study of this problem of overseas investment by two Australian scholars, Professor E. L. Wheelwright and the late Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick, in a volume entitled “ The Highest Bidder”, which is described as “a citizen’s guide to problems of foreign investment in Australia “. lt was published in 1965 and I would commend it to honorable senators as containing a very interesting conspectus of the whole problem so far as it affects Australia. I want to deal with one point that they make after considering whether something ought to be done to bring the level of foreign investment under some kind of Government control. They say -
There is no real difficulty economically, constitutionally or administratively . . .
I ask honorable senators to note those words - . . in using existing Commonwealth powers and institutions to achieve much greater Australian ownership of the equity of foreign companies and to “ push and pull “ their policies into such a shape and form that they serve Australian economic interests in those areas where there is a conflict between these and the interests of companies concerned.
I commend that approach to honorable senators because basically, I am sure, we have the ability to do it if we have the will to do it. We cannot any longer s’and by and allow these interests to determine not only the economic ownership of Australia but ultimately the political ownership, because everybody knows that where there is a strong concentration of economic power there is at least a strong probability of the use of that power in a political context. Australians do not want to see this happen and they want to see their country tackle the problem much earlier than it was tackled in Canada. We know the story of the subservience of the Canadian economy to United States financial interests. We want to see this matter dealt with effectively before we reach such a stage that the position is uncontrollable. That is what Australians expect from their Government. It is completely missing from this Budget and from the Treasurer’s discussion of the Budget. That is what Australians will get from the Labour government that will take office at the end of this year.
I have time to deal with only one other subject and 1 want to do it within the limited time that I have. 1 refer to the defence commitment in Vietnam and particularly to the policy of the Government in sending young national servicemen or conscripts to Vietnam without the right to opt out of it. 1 want to deal with this question from one particular angle, that is, in relation to conscription, I have said what 1 wanted to say about the problems of the cost of defence expenditure and what might be done with money spent on developing the positive potential of the nation. In relation to conscription, putting it at its very lowest, everybody knows that the war in Vietnam is an issue that is dividing the country in two. I am not going to debate at the moment whether 52 per cent, or 60 per cent, or 38 per cent, or any other percentage of the population favours or is opposed to conscription, but it is obvious from the division of opinion within the community that very large numbers of youths who are being called up for service must be opposed to this war in Vietnam. If they represent a cross section of the young men in the community, a very considerable percentage of them must be opposed to the war in Vietnam. They may be opposed to it not necessarily on religious grounds but on political grounds because for example, they agree with the policy of the Australian Labour Party in opposition to conscription and in opposition to Australian military involvement in Vietnam. For a host of different reasons they may be very strongly opposed to taking part in this war, very strongly opposed to Australian participation in it, and still be without some religious or similar conviction which would be the only circumstance that might found an application for exemption on the ground of conscientious objection.
Many of these young men are being taken from their ordinary lives and being sent over to fight in a war in which they do not believe, to be ready to kill and be killed, and that places a very heavy responsibility on any government that wants to send them there. How can the Government justify imposing on this small section of the Australian community the whole of the burden of defending this country? If there is to be conscription, it must be on a basis on which there is equality of sacrifice by everybody in the community. 1 want to conclude what I have to say on this matter by reading from an article in the “Catholic Worker” of July 1966 by Niall Brennan, who is the son of the late Frank Brennan, who was the distinguished Attorney-General in the Scullin Labour Government. Mr. Brennan has put this issue on the line for all who are grappling with this problem of Vietnam and conscription. He puis it in this way -
Conscription depends for its validity upon a sufficient state of emergency. In this state of emergency there must be some attempt at equality of sacrifice. There can only be conscription when conscription is total. If the Government, acting as the responsible head of the people, decides that the issues are worth the lives of young men, then the issues must equally be worth at least the wealth and comfort of old men, of young women or old women. There must be sacrifice on the part of everyone., You cannot morally send young men out to kill and to be killed while the rest of the population slays at home doing nothing except cheer. This is monstrous. The thought of young men at war is only endurable if the effort is shared by the whole community. To send some out, literally as a token force, in order that the rest of us will be undisturbed is, in my view, wicked.
I believe that, in those few moving sentences, he has summed up and crystallised the basis upon which decent people - ordinary people in this community, including members of , the Australian Labour Party - are opposed to this Government’s war policy.
To conclude, I have said that this Budget is fraudulent and that it fails to deal wilh the realities facing the Australian people. I do not think the Government is sincere when it says that it cannot alford more money for the essential needs of education, development and social services. I think the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. When we come to the November election we will be faced with a string of glittering promises by the Government about things it now says it is unable to do.
– By his closing remarks Senator Cohen has made it clear - I do not blame him - that he is following the example and, I presume, the commands of his parliamentary leader who has challenged this Federal Government on the matter of defence and the security of the Australian people, and on the matter of its own treaty and moral obligations in Vietnam. He has approached this debate on election winning or losing terms and the people will adjudicate in this matter in their own good time. I approach this debate from a different angle.
I shall not refer in detail to the social services involvement in the Budget, or to repatriation benefits, because legislation will be introduced into this chamber in due course to give effect to the Government’s policy in respect of these matters and I will have a chance to speak then. I merely say now that I agree with the Budget provisions for these purposes. I have already addressed the Senate on our commitments in Vietnam. My views are on record in “ Hansard “ and I stand fully behind the Government’s policy and its actions, thus far. But if I hear many more speeches like that delivered by Senator Cohen I will take the opportunity that will be available to me during the debate on foreign affairs to put my views again and to answer some of the harmful and distasteful things implied by the honorable senator.
This Budget, which I fully support, is in line with the Government’s declared policy on the development of Australia and in line with its measures to ensure the security of this continent. It provides - the Government hopes and I believe it will succeed - for expansion; that is, for the continued development of Australia; and it provides a vast amount of money for the defence Services. 1 believe that the time is now with us - it is not approaching and it has not passed - when we in Australia must realise that all our future welfare is bound up in the one word, trade. From trade radiates all development and energy. This island continent wa,s discovered by people who came to it in ships and I believe that we will perish, economically, if ships do not continue to trade to and from this country and around our coastline. If, as a people, we have a fear - speaking from the economic point of view and that of development - it is a fear born of possible man-made stagnation of trade activities.
Trade involves many problems. Australia has other problems to which I do not propose to refer today in the time allotted to me, but I am emphasising that shipping is part and parcel of our trade problem. I do not think it is fully realised in Australia how important shipping is to us. It has many diverse effects and they can be harmful effects if our shipping services are not modern and if they are not properly run for the welfare of the Australian people. The world is embarking on a new era in shipping. It is vital that we in Australia take heed of this and take our place in this new era. which will be of vast importance to us. But the time is getting lute because overseas, and particularly in America, great stress is being placed on the building of container and bulk cargo ships. The day of the conventional ship is past; it is fast going out of fashion, and the Americans are awake to this. I believe that in the United Kingdom too, with all its worries and economic problems, firms, businesses and industries are awake to the fact that shipping hy means of containers is of vast importance, and already a consortium of companies is being formed to go fully into the question of container transport.
In this new era - this new transport revolution - containers will be used ‘not only by ships but also by our railways and by our motorised transport. I believe that a worldwide code of measurements and sizes of containers for transport must be determined and that we must play our part in this. We have in Australia everything that is required for us to take full advantage of this transport revolution. We have the people; we have the materials and we have the knowhow. What is more, there is the historic fact that we in Australia have in the past taken full advantage of a new form of transport, have maintained it, developed it, modernised it and kept it running successfully. I refer to air transport and to the early pioneers of Qantas, which is now a worldwide, respected and efficient air service. We have made similar progress with our main internal airlines, Ansett-A.N.A. and TransAustralia Airlines and the subsidiary organisations throughout this nation.
When we have taken advantage of a revolution in transport, we have proved that we can provide within Australia what the country needs.
In the immediate future, the carriage of cargoes overseas and from coast to coast, on long and short hauls, will be done in container ships. If we are to keep pace with the progress in this development we must face up to many great problems. If they were thoroughly analysed, these problems would be almost frightening but they are not insuperable. The first requirement is a statement of national policy on shipping to and from Australia and around our coast. In recent years, the development of shipping by private enterprise has been diminishing. It is not unified or monopolistic and it is not co-ordinated. 1 believe private shipping enterprise is waiting for a national lead.
The problems facing Australia in this respect fall under three separate and distinct headings. First there is the availability of shipping and associated with that is the construction of ships. The second heading is wharf, storage and harbour installations required for the new form of shipping transport. The third question to be decided is the ownership of shipping radiating from Australia and returning wilh the goods we need for progress and development. I emphasise that the world picture in shipping and long haulage is concentrated on containers and bulk carriers. The word “ containerisation “ is often used these days. This system of transport will greatly affect the wharfage situation in our major ports along the Australian coast. Already some harbour authorities are looking into this aspect of transport and they have found that huge sums of money will be required to provide for containerisation. The railways throughout Australia must also take heed of this new development in a co-ordinated way. So also must the motorised transport industry.
I am confident the day is with us when Cargo will be carried principally in containers. Goods in containers will be taken to ships by rail and road transport. The goods will be loaded into the ships in containers, taken to ports of destination and then will be carried by road or rail. The containers will be built to specified requirements. We should welcome this new form of transport because it is the only answer to Australia’s major problem of crippling transport costs. This problem is having a serious effect on the Australian economy. Only recently, increases in overseas freights were announced. Containerisation represents a revolution in shipping and transport and Australia should be thoroughly versed in it. Articles in newspapers and commercial magazines and statements by persons associated with shipping indicate that the surface is being scratched. Last night, Senator Laught referred to the container service between Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne. Great benefits are accruing to Tasmania because of the shipping services providing roll-on roll-off facilities for the transport of cargoes from Tasmanian ports to Melbourne and Sydney and return. But we are only scratching the surface of this new development and that is not. good enough.
Organisational and administrative brains in the shipping and transport industry have been dormant for too long. They need to be aroused. One way to do this is by a factual and plain statement of national policy on shipping and modern transport. Some serious thought is being given to this problem in some quarters and some action is evident but if we miss out on the development of this new system, we will be paying a very high price which we will never recoup. I know we have handicaps in entering into this form of transport. We have overseas control and ownership of the ships plying to and from Australia. There are indications that unless we act for ourselves, the containers used in the new system will be controlled from overseas so that Australia would take only a minor role in this form of transport. Economically and in a defence sense this would seriously handicap Australia. We must be active in the building of ships and their ownership and in the construction and control of containers which will be used for transport to and from Australia and around our coasts. If we do not get the ownership and control of a large share of this form of transport, Australia will be seriously handicapped in time of international conflicts or in international competition for trade on the principal trade routes of the world.
We should also take into consideration the state of our harbours and wharves.
These are inadequate for the larger container ships that are being constructed now and will be prominent along the major shipping routes of the world in the near future. Many people in Australia realise the truth of my statements. It is also realised that the change in transport involves very big stakes. That is . why many of those interested in shipping and transport in Australia are loath to come out openly and announce their plans, their requirements or their wishes.
The Commonwealth Government took the lead earlier this year on the initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry, and called a conference on containerisation and shipping. A largely attended, well organised and valuable conference was held. That conference clearly showed to be correct the view that I have just given that many people interested are not prepared to make public at the moment their requirements and their desires because there is an obvious lack of lead in our national policy. It is up to the Federal Government in my view to realise this fact and, with quick but thorough examination of the situation, to make a clear cut statement of policy on all aspects of shipping transport to and from Australia.
I said earlier that the problems fall into three classes. The first is the availability of shipping. The hard cold facts of this matter are that the days of the conventional ships are numbered. These ships must be replaced. Without an adequate fleet of modern ships, Australia will be missing out on the trade that it should have and which it requires. I hope that part of the Government policy will be that new ships for the Australian trade will be Australian made ships. I believe that there should be a slogan in Australia to the effect that as we develop this new mode of shipping we should transport everything from Australia and travel around Australia on Australian bottoms.
I believe that we need an Australian owned overseas shipping line. 1 am conscious of the vast amount of money that would be required to get a fully operative Australian owned shipping line in this country. But I do not believe that such a line is beyond the realms of possibility. I do believe that it is practically an economic necessity. Now is the time, while this change is taking place, when Australia should take action. If a clear cut statement of Commonwealth Government policy were given I would hope then that the shipping and the transport interests in Australia would get together. I visualise a consortium of Australian companies providing Australian capital and being licensed by the Government to charter or purchase ships suitable for an Australian overseas shipping line. I would not hazard a guess at the actual number of ships these companies would need to gain a footing in the overseas shipping business. However, as a basis of discussion, let us say that these companies were licensed to operate 10 ships or 12 ships. I believe that another proviso would be that this consortium of companies would have to undertake that, as and when they were required to replace their ships with the new type of shipping required, those ships would be built in Australia by Australians with a subsidy from the Commonwealth Government.
I am not one who thinks that the paying of a shipping subsidy by the Commonwealth is an excessive drain on the money of the taxpayers. If we look at the financial effects of such a subsidy we see that the Commonwealth receives a great deal of it back by way of taxation. In other words, it is the taxpayer who is getting that money back. This would be one further move to ensure first of all an Australian owned and based overseas shipping line. This policy would give a fillip to Australian shipbuilding. It would be a number of years before the licensed ships would have to be replaced by the modern, suitable Australian built and owned ships. We do not want a sudden boom in shipbuilding in Australia. We want a steadfast Commonwealth policy which will ensure that the shipyards of Australia can modernise, develop and, if necessary, be added to, to provide the ships that we want to ply from Australia and around the Australian coast.
I think there are four recognised shipbuilding yards in Australia. One has only to see the ships that have been constructed by those shipbuilding yards to know that we have proved that we can build ships of a quality and standard second to none in the world. I believe that shipbuilding and construction costs would fall if a definite programme of building and construction of ships were -guaranteed to those shipbuilding yards. I have said that, in my opinion, conventional ships will all be replaced. Honorable senators only have to go to the harbours of Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and the other important ports of Australia to see the large number of vessels there which in a comparatively short span of time will have to be replaced. That is my belief. If a sincere look were taken at this aspect, I think it would be found that room for at least another shipbuilding yard exists in Australia.
– At Hobart.
– Yes. I would not oppose that suggestion in any aspect. But, of course, capital in Australia is a difficult problem. We heard Senator Cohen a little while ago criticising overseas capital in Australia. I believe that we will never develop this country at the rate at which we want to develop it, and at which we can develop it, without a big share of overseas capital. This applies particularly to the construction of ships for overseas trade. If another shipbuilding yard could be constructed here I would suggest that it be constructed on Austraiian capital of 51 per cent, of the total cost with the remainder of the capital coming from overseas. Overseas capital is available for investment in Australia because of our great resources, our stable Government and our prosperous society. We should also take advantage of the money that is available for investment here. We will find overseas also the know how in relation to modern shipbuilding yards. We could benefit from this know how.
The question of our harbours would raise a very serious problem only in respect of our connection with the main shipping channels and trade routes of the world. I was given some information this morning to the effect that currently the Japanese are building for National Bulk Carriers of Liberia a bulk ship of 276,000 tons. This ship will have a draught of 72 feet. I am told by people in the shipping industry that the 50,000 tonners which will not be few and far between and which will not be strangers on the main world shipping routes have a draught from 30 feet to 35 feet. The 100,000 tonners which 1 believe we are to have on the Australian coast for bulk ore carriers have a draught of from 45 to 47 feet. A problem will arise in respect of the Australian ports at which these ships will call.
Sydney must have some problems in providing the wharfage to handle the large container ships. As Senator Laught pointed out last night, the container form of shipping requires large container marshalling yards right alongside the wharves. Sydney and Melbourne would have problems in that regard. 1 do not know Adelaide or Fremantle sufficiently well to refer to them in this regard. The point is that when these container ships and bulk carriers come into operation they may call at only two or three ports in Australia. We all know that shipping pays and freight rates can be kept down only if ships spend more lime at sea than in port. Container shipping provides for that, but we must have the right wharfage and harbours in which they can sail in all weathers.
My colleague, Senator O’Byrne, by way of friendly interjection, quite rightly mentioned the port of Hobart. I believe that it is not absurd to think that in the days to come Hobart may be the terminal port in Australia for the very large container ships, which will unload there directly on to smaller container ships which, in turn, will go interstate. That is a possibility because Hobart has the water, the foreshore, the harbour - in fact, everything that is needed for the terminal port in Australia. In conclusion I say to the Government that, as there is so much complaining about Commonwealth ownership of installations in the port of Sydney, it might look at what is there now and what is not needed there. The port of Hobart and its environs and hinterland have every facility that the Commonwealth would want, and we would welcome the spending of Commonwealth money in the State of Tasmania.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee). It seems to us that the Budget cannot give any lasting stimulus to the economy at a time when it is most needed. As honorable senators will remember, the amendment says that the Government can and should act to ensure that the real values of the basic wage and wages generally are maintained; that there should be improved social service payments over and above what is proposed in the Budget; that there can and should be some improvement in education grants; and that something can and should be done to restore confidence in the economy, mainly on the part of the business community.
We know that the business community - particularly the manufacturing industries and especially the motor car industry - is very fearful of the future. The Government can and should have discussions with business leaders - particularly the leaders of the motor car industry, about which I shall say something later on - to persuade them that the Budget has been shaped so as to give some continuity and some progression to the economy. We also claim that the Government is doing nothing to relieve Australia’s dependence on overseas investment to finance the deficit in its balance of payments.
It seems to me that the issue is very clear. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and Senator Henty, who represents him in this chamber, expect some expansion in the economy. The Treasurer said that he expects some increase in consumer demand. He claimed that there would be an increase in consumer spending arising from the decision in the national wage case and the increases in social service benefits. But I put it to the Government that that claim is badly based because these increases, which are always belated and retrospective, are already being eaten up and will be eaten up further by increases in State Government charges. So the Treasurer’s argument in respect of expansion is not well founded.
Another popular subject in Australia is criticism of the State Governments. We hear that the State Governments ought to do this or that they ought to do that. But I put it very plainly that the Australian community depends on the Federal Government to set the economic climate. If the State Governments now find themselves forced to increase charges to make their revenue equal to their spending, that is obviously the result of the policies of the Federal Government. For instance, it is of no use to blame the Victorian Government. As we know, recently the Premier of Victoria was very critical of the Federal
Treasurer. In fact, he disputed the state of the Budget. He claimed that in a public debate on this matter he could prove that the policies of the Federal Government were wrong. If there is danger of a recession and of unemployment - there is every chance of a recession in the motor car industry - we have to make sure that action is taken and that criticisms are made of Government policies in an effort to alert Ministers to do something about the state of the economy instead of blaming the State Governments for it.
It seems to me to be well established that the Government is expecting some dramatic change in the economy as a result of some automatic measure, such as the circulation of more money because of wage increases. But, because there is no price control, there is no guarantee that profits will not increase and that real wages will not fall. The Federal Government has made no proposals to consult with the States on price control. The workers who, for a short time, will enjoy some increase in wages as a result of the national wage case can do little to increase consumer demand, because already they are faced with the huge, charges to which 1 have referred. Those charges will apply unless the State Premiers can wring some extra money from the Federal Government - sufficient to reduce the pressures on the ordinary people. Unless that happens, nobody will be better off.
Another matter that concerns me is a statement that the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) made in the other place yesterday in respect of certain State commitments for developmental works. It seems to me that his statement represents the thinking of some members of the Cabinet. The Government certainly has not said anything to satisfy the Australian Labour Party that its policy is any different from what the Minister for Air said. Speaking about the position of the States, he said -
I believe that the State Governments must also assist the nation at this time by restraining some of their developmental projects, however desirable or even essential they may appear to be at the present time.
Honorable senators will remember that, when I asked the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) what his reaction to that proposition was, his reply was very similar to the statement made by the Minister for Air. In this age of modern expansive capitalism, we should not have such talk in Australia. We should have encouragement from the Federal Government for every developmental project that the States can carry out. The sort of statement made by the Minister for Air concerns us very much. Apparently it represents the views of the Government.
Although the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has said that the employment situation in the building industry is not too bad, we know that unemployment exists in this industry in most of the States. In my home State of South Australia it is growing. As was pointed out, the position in New South Wales is not quite satisfactory. Overall, we know that activity in the building industry is down. When that is the position, the manufacturers of hardware, electrical goods, furniture and the other commodities that go to make up a building, experience a downturn in activity. In my home State people in factories are concerned about whether there will be some improvement in the building industry. The situation is the same in the other States. Employment generally is not good. We have 58.000 people out of work. Many other people are not registered for employment because they think that the conditions of unemployment might be temporary. That means that quite a number of people are not applied to production. Although many of them are skilled, they are not helping to produce the wealth that we require.
I now turn to deal with the position in the motor vehicle industry, which gives me the greatest concern at the moment. lt seems to me that the Government is turning away from the problem that confronts it at the present time.’ Honorable senators will recall that yesterday in the Senate 1 asked a question about the position in the motor vehicle industry. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that we should wait and see what happens. In another place yesterday, when the Treasurer was asked a question concerning the motor vehicle industry, he said - . . we looked at this position most carefully during the course of the Budget discussion. We came to the conclusion that it would be doubtful whether we could adopt the kind of measures that would stimulate to a reasonable degree the sale and registration of motor vehicles.
I know that the Liberal Party’s philosophy does not encompass planning, but I have just listened to a speech from Senator Marriott which I thought encompassed as nearly as possible a plan for the establishment of an Australian owned overseas shipping line. We on this side of the chamber have always said that there ought to be a general economic and social plan. Without such a plan, the progress that we would expect within Australia will not be made.
I am conscious of the fact thai the Leader of the Liberal Party has said that the Party does not have such a plan and that he does not believe in one. I shall refer to a speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) made on 24th November 1965. lt seems to me to establish the view that I have expressed. When addressing the Associated Chambers of Manufactures in Canberra, he said -
Not having direct powers of control over the disposition of resources tor wishing to have them) we cannot hope to effect the desired adjustments wilh neat precision.
It seems to me that in all of these things the Government says: “ We have a Budget which should be expansionary, but wc go no further than that.”
We of the Opposition are concerned about the trends in the motor vehicle industry. Rather than saying: “ Let us wait and see about secondary industry “, the Government should be surveying the position which we, on this side of the Chamber, the manufacturers and the Press, are putting to it. While the Government is almost standing still in relation to the Australian economy, it is running headlong into external military commitments which could not only commit the youth of this country to a very hazardous occupation for, perhaps, 10, 15 or 20 years, but also create a danger to world peace. We should be very concerned about this matter.
I come back to the question of wage levels, lt seems to me that if there is a main argument on this question it relies on the contention that because wages have been increased by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, there ought to be a greater amount of money circulating in the community. For a number of years the Australian Labour Party and the Australian trade union movement have said that if the trade union movement must make applications for increased wages to the Commission, controls should be exercised over prices and profits. But the Liberal Party does not believe in this. The Government has taken no stand on increased prices and high profits. The Labour Party has said that there should be consultations on these matters between the Commonwealth and the States. It has also said that it would support a referendum in order to get the necessary power to deal with these matters.
What happens when a wage increase is granted? The benefits are only temporary. The argument often used is that wage increases mean increased costs. But we know that costs increase irrespective of wage levels. Managements and business . groups increase prices without any interference. In 1960 Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, put this issue in a nutshell. He <said -
It is clear that for a wide range of goods throughout the economy, prices are determined by management rather than by market prices. This has developed by the emergence of strong monopolistic elements in our economy characterised among other things by “ gentlemen’s agreements “ on price policies and successful take-over bids. In addition, there appears to be a general reluctance to pass on to consumers the advantage of lower costs achieved through higher productivity despite the fact that, in the manufacturing industry especially, there have been very significant reductions in unit costs of production and distribution.
This is the basic issue which confronts us. It is one of the points that we have raised in our amendment. We ought to have a plan which will provide stability in price levels.
We know that depressing influences are appearing iri the motor vehicle industry. Registrations have fallen. 1 shall compare the number of registrations in May 1965 with the number in May 1966. The Commonwealth Statistician, in his latest report to the end of June 1966, showed that in May 1965 the total number of registrations of new motor vehicles in Australia was 37,459 and that in May of this year it had dropped to 33,853.
– Is that for the period from January to May?
– I am taking the period of 12 months to May 1965 and to May 1966, which show the trend. Between June J 965 and June 1966, registrations of new motor vehicles fell from 35,889 to 30,881. We know, too, that in New South Wales retrenchments have taken place in three of the major motor vehicle organisations. While it might be argued that these organisations are generally controlled by overseas interests, the fact is that they comprise a large sector of the Australian manufacturing potential. As a result of their activity, the workers are able to gain greater skills and production techniques are improved. The advantage to Australia is considerable, even leaving aside the employment angle.
Although these factors are evident, in the motor vehicle industry, the Government has not taken the action that I have suggested. Rather, the .Treasurer and the Leader of the .Government in the .Senate have said: “ We will wait and see “. It seems to me that this is the easy policy which the Government has applied over the -years. The Government, in its last Budget and in all of its former Budgets, has endeavoured to damp down consumer spending. This is apparent if one reads the document entitled “ The Australian Economy 1966 “, which was published by the Treasury in June of this year. In surveying the Budget for 1965-66 it said -
Some tax increases were therefore applied which would operate to slow the growth of consumer spending.
I now return to the question of the motor vehicle industry because in my State of South Australia the industry is a very important unit of the economy. The workers engaged in it are gaining greater skills. Modern techniques are being applied. It is helping to develop associated industries, such as the spare parts and accessories industries, which supply the basic requirements for the manufacture of motor vehicles. The motor vehicle industry is one of the main industries in South Australia. It employs 22,262 workers. They are split up into various groups, the largest of which is employed in the manufacture of motor bodies. There are 14.626 people employed in this section of the industry. There are 478 people employed in the assembly section and 7,158 in the motor vehicle repairs section.
As I. have said, it is a very important industry in our State. However, rumours are circulating in South Australia that because of a decrease in sales, a slump is likely to occur. There is no discounting this fact. Retrenchments have taken place in other States. The management in South Australia is concerned about the effect the Budget will have on the industry. I understand that the management has made representations to the Commonwealth Government. However, to this stage the Government has done nothing about the situation. The Ministers have said: “Let us wait and see “. This wait and see policy is not good enough. If the motor vehicle industry topples, or if a slump occurs in my State, the responsibility will lie clearly with the Federal Government and nobody else. Nobody can blame the Labour Government in South Australia because the motor car industry slackens and there is no other work for the people put out of a job. Not only are the people in the industry injured by a slackening of production, but also our export earnings are injured.
Despite the continuing recessive influences, the Government takes no action. It says: “ Wait and see.” I suggest that what is more pertinent is the fact that the Government disowns its own contract which was made last year when it decided to- recommend to Australian motor vehicle manufacturers that motor cars manufactured here should contain 95 per cent, of Australian components. In the main, that recommendation has been adopted by the manufacturers. In doing so, it is clear that they have had to re-equip their workshops. They have had to spend money on capital equipment in retooling and making machines to turn out the additional Australian components. It seems that the Federal Government has not honoured its obligations to ensure conditions favorable for the manufacturers to implement its recommendations. We should not have to wait until a depression comes along before action is taken. This is a most important and urgent matter. It should not be left to rest at the position taken up by the Treasurer and supported by honorable senators opposite. Discussions should be held urgently with representatives of the motor car industry to ensure that a recession does not occur. If necessary, sales tax payable on motor cars could be reduced to safeguard the industry.
It seems that some honorable senators opposite think that the motor car industry is somehow superfluous. I remind honorable senators that in these days transportation is of great importance. Honorable senators opposite who have spoken today have referred to the need for co-ordination between road and rail transport and shipping. I agree that that need exists, and a part of that co-ordination must embrace the motor car industry. In these times, factories are often built in newly settled suburbs. The motor car is necessary to transport workers to the factories. In handling their cars, the workers acquire some special skills. Many of them acquire the skills of trained mechanics. These skills can be of use to the nation if allowed to be properly applied. If workers in the motor car industry are placed out of work they cease to be wealth producing. Although the Australian motor car industry is foreign owned, it has become an important export earner. We are selling on markets we did not reach before. It may be argued that we should be selling in areas which have been excluded but, in fact, the motor car industry is earning export revenue. The Government should ensure that the increased revenues obtained by the motor car industry are returned to the Australian people. Urgent action should be taken to prevent the effects of any untoward influences on employment in South Australia.
I referred earlier to the building industry. Yesterday the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) made a statement which contained details of the levels of constructions. It showed that some improvements have occurred, but the fact is that there has been a general down turn in the industry. As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, in relation to dwellings at least, the average wage earner - often with his wife working - is hard put to it to save enough money to buy a modern home, largely because of inflated land prices brought about by speculation, lt might be argued that lack of finance prevents many people from creating a demand.
I have a publication issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on 29th July last which sets out the levels of approvals of new houses and flats. The figures given yesterday by the Minister showed separately new houses and flats, because houses showed a bigger improvement than flats. The combined figure for approvals of new houses and flats from the quarter ended September last year to the quarter ended June of this year showed a drop from 30,163 to 28,923. Commencements dropped from 28,741 to 27,872. Completed dwellings - houses and flats - dropped from 28,838 to 27,955. The figures for dwellings under construction showed a drop from 59,438 to 53,951. The number of approvals for new houses - this is the separation by the Minister to which I referred - for the quarter ended June 1965 was 21,192. For the quarter ended June of this year the figure had dropped to 20,857. Commencements of new houses were 20,111 and in the quarter ended June of this year they had risen slightly to 20,885. That is the only upward movement. The number of completed houses fell from 21,384 to 20,473, while the number of dwellings under construction dropped from 39,636 to 37,532.
– Are those figures endorsing the claim that it is more difficult for a man to purchase a house today?
– No. The figures 1 have cited show that there is a down turn in building about which the Government ought to do something. They differ to some extent from those presented yesterday by the Minister. I am not saying that the Minister attempted to disguise the trends, but the trends are there. A general down turn has occurred and I am concerned that building workers in the States should be out of work. Their abilities ought to be applied to assist the economy. They should be employed at building and I do not believe that the Minister should say: “ Some of these works ought to be stopped by the State Governments.” Further unemployment would arise and it is possible that skilled workers - masons and bricklayers - brought out from the old country would return home.
I wish now to refer to the question of the erection of a block of Commonwealth offices in South Australia. I have raised this matter on a number of occasions. The Commonwealth Government might well consider now the construction of a block of Commonwealth offices in Adelaide which would house some of its 27 departments.
Most Commonwealth employees in South Australia now work in private buildings - mainly buildings owned by insurance companies. The Commonwealth is paying top rentals for accommodation and the departments are spread widely. Communication difficulties occur. If officers of the Department of Works wish to consult officers in another department, they have to travel some distance or rely upon telephone communication. The Government should be able to arrange the building of common office block in Adelaide. The State’s economy would be helped and the Commonwealth Government would in the long run save millions of pounds. In 1964 ;he Commonwealth Government spent about £403,000 on rentals to provide accommodation for about 27 departments. That is the latest figure I have, been able to obtain. As I said, in 1964 the Commonwealth paid $806,000 in rent. Today the relevant figure would probably be in the region of $1 million. The Commonwealth could easily provide accommodation and arrange facilities for communication between departments and in doing so save a huge sum of money.
– Do those figures apply to South Australia?
– Yes. I have heard Senator Cant and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber refer to the need for this sort of planning. Why should the Commonwealth pay money to private insurance companies for accommodation when it could provide adequate facilities itself? I hope that Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who is now in the chamber, will take note of what I have said.
I come now to the Treasurer’s statement that excellent financial arrangements have been made with the United States of America for the purchase of materials and equipment. He said that the Government had arranged for $114 million worth of material to be purchased on credit. If will not have to be paid for during this financial year. How much of this money could have been spent on equipment produced in Australia? There is clear evidence that some of the materials that we are getting from overseas could, and ought, to be produced by Australian manufacturers. I can see no sense in the Government or in any department letting contracts to overseas companies for the production of, say, earthmoving equipment. Recently a magnificent order for earthmoving equipment was given to an overseas firm, in spite of the fact that in this country we have efficient manufacturers who learned the necessary techniques from other countries during the war years. These manufacturers are now capable of manufacturing all the equipment that we need, with the exception perhaps of some very special cranes. We ought to be purposeful about this matter. We should say to the Government departments: “ Get Australian manufactured goods instead of building up debits overseas “. The Government ought to be criticised strongly for its policy on this matter.
I conclude my remarks by referring to a subject that was mentioned in another place and which I think has been referred to here by some of the Government speakers. 1 refer to the need for the co-ordination of transport and the present position in relation to the standardisation of rail gauges. Because I was employed in the railway transport industry from early in life, I have always been concerned with the place of the railways in the economy. Because of the introduction of modern power units, railways are playing an important part in long distance hauls. But unfortunately, no general plan has been evolved. Discussions have been held between the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport and State Ministers in relation to the co-ordination of rail services, but not enough progress has been made. Let me take progress on rail gauge standardisation in my own State of South Australia as an example. Although good progress is being made with earthworks on the Port Pirie to Cockburn section, no decision has yet been made in relation to the part that the Silverton Tramway Co. will play in the future or, as Senator Laught has mentioned, as to which route is to be chosen. Is the traffic to be directed over the route followed by the Silverton Tramway Co. or are we to use the route which has been surveyed by the Commonwealth Railways? Nobody has yet stated why the Commonwealth Railways surveyed this route. lt seems to me to be important that in a standardised system a manufacturing and maintenance workshop should be established. Even though rail traffic can go from east to west on a standard gauge line, we have not as part of that system a workshop which could produce a modern sleeping car. I am referring not to the State workshops but to the need for a Commonwealth workshop. I have raised this matter before. 1 cannot understand why the Government does not ensure that we have a Commonwealth workshop which could meet all our needs in the event of war. At the present time we are relying upon State workshops, such as the Islington workshop, to make rolling stock. Unfortunately, we have relied upon the Germans and the Japanese to produce sleeping cars. We should not do so. I hope that the Government will ensure that the 30 new sleeping cars which will be required for the standard gauge service will be manfactured in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I acknowledge and appreciate the honour conferred on me tonight in being allowed to speak to you here in the Senate as a senator representing the State of Queensland. This has been brought about primarily by the death of Senator Sherrington, a man whom I think you all knew and highly respected, and who had the greatest sincerity and belief in Australia’s future. I sincerely hope that I can emulate what he did in this House. Tonight, at exactly this hour, is the anniversary of an occasion 24 years ago when I left a trench to take up the starting line in a battle which was to be the rehearsal for the Battle of Alamein. Fortunately, tonight the opposition is not as strong nor as offensive as it was on that night.
As a senator from Queensland, 1 venture to say that while we must retain our hereditary rights and duties as watch dogs for our respective States we must also consider adopting a federation of views and minds and actions to the benefit of the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to national security and development. This would prove that the Government does not simply provide for sectional or parochial development by overriding the convenience of the Federation of States purely for the purpose of trade and finance. We are taught from infancy of the heritage of our respective States, generally to the detriment of our knowledge of our true heritage, that is, the’ heritage of Australia. A certain amount of insular pride is, perhaps, necessary but it is imperative that we now teach our children, our new settlers and the children of our new settlers, what our heritage is. Last year we had an influx of nearly 150,000 new migrants. When these migrants arrive here, many of them can speak very little of our own language with ease. But they do have something in common in that they will become Australians. However, unfortunately, through the invisible barriers that still stand they will, to my way of thinking, become Victorians, Queenslanders, New South Welshmen, Tasmanians and so on. This, I hope, we can overcome.
By virtue of the allegiance that we hold to our respective States development has proceeded and is proceeding in a piecemeal way, whereas it should be taking place on a national, radical and priority basis, lt should not be as has been the case in certain instances, on a basis of population and financial pressures. There is every reason why we should protect our State interests. That is the duty of senators and that is the reason for our Senate being here. Let us meet together in committees and in the Senate, make our decisions and stand by them without any further animosity or illfeeling, but with a belief that we have done something for national development and at the same time discharged our duties as a States’ House of Review.
It is not in contradiction of my earlier statements that I turn to my own home State, for I represent it as an Australian and I speak as an Australian. As an Australian. I abhor the waste or lack of development that has been the lot of Queensland and, to a lesser degree, of Western Australia, since the cessation of hostilities in 1945. We have heard with monotonous and repeated regularity the references made to the potential of the State of Queensland. This topic I do not propose to labour. I repeat that we must approach the problems of exploiting these resources in a more methodical manner which will be to the ultimate benefit of us all.
I was drawn into this field of politics because I felt I could help in the service of the Commonwealth as a whole and particularly in the service of the State of Queensland. To date, I feel, our State has contributed more than its share towards the financial and even the military security of the country. I also felt that by being present here in this chamber I could help to present a case which would show that Australia as a whole was being thrown more and more on its own resources and initiative and that I could help to persuade the other States that we in Queensland are going through the growing pains of our late development in a far more difficult fashion than that in which the other States have developed. This huge task of national development must be approached on a priority basis, according to the means at our disposal. In this respect, if we study the loan fund allocations to the respective States, it is obvious to all that under the formula at present adopted Queensland does not share in equal proportion, particularly when we consider the area and abundant resources that we have to develop. This applies particularly to the loan housing allocations. We do not ask for this development to take place overnight, much as we would like to see it. We look for it on a planned, radical and national priority basis - I repeat that expression “ priority basis “ for various reasons which I will later explain - and not on a sectional basis for the convenience of election victories. Our State’s wealth to date has been derived mainly from rural industry. Although we appreciate and admire the work of institutions such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the extension services, we feel that the results of their investigations and discoveries must be disseminated more quickly to the people concerned, so that more can be achieved than has been achieved up to date.
I will deal with Queensland’s industries in the order in which I have been associated with them during my lifetime; namely, from north to west and from south to east. In the north we continue to rely primarily on grazing and sugar. These have been the two main interests of that area; but they are now being reinforced by mining, tourism and, finally, to a growing extent, by secondary industries. In relation to grazing the problem of drought is ever in our minds. It is of great concern to us now because pf the drought which we have not yet passed through, but are still experiencing. From this we must learn the lessons. We need better farm management, more water conservation and a fuller use of the technical skills that are available to us from Government sources.
Queensland has at least one third of the total water runoff of the Australian continent - one of the driest continents in the world. We do not expect all our rivers and creeks to be dammed forthwith; we expect this work to be done on an economic basis so that we can produce commodities with an assured market. If we expected it to be done forthwith I think Queensland would be extremely selfish. But we do hope and expect that a continuous study of this most important developmental work will be given the highest national priority.
Further north, on Cape York Peninsula, we see the investment of foreign capital. Money is being poured into what were once almost non-productive arid areas. This part of the State is being developed by wealth which was not forthcoming from our own private or industrial resources. The development is being done by American interests and I am very proud to see them at work there. In fact, when I was in the United States some years ago, I pleaded with the Americans to invest in this country and help to develop these areas. They have taken a calculated gamble; they hope to increase the carrying capacity of the land by at least 4,000 per cent, in the foreseeable future.
This development will involve many ancilliary industries. There will be a need for fencing wire, steel pickets, bulldozers and other vehicles, garages, food of all kinds, mail and telephone services, roads, ports, air services and so on. I think this is a pattern of development which we can only welcome, for reasons which I will explain shortly. The investment capital which, as I have said, has not been forthcoming from our own resources but is coming from overseas, has important secondary benefits. Once the undertakings in which it is invested become profitable the Commonwealth Government will derive a 42i per cent, interest by way of taxation and, in addition, under the terms of the present leases, at the end of 30 years the State can resume, 10 per cent, of the land, fully improved - and it must be fully improved in accordance with the conditions laid down by State legislation. Meanwhile these properties are managed and staffed by Australians, includ ing indigenous people. The investors do not propose to take any of their profits out of Australia, but to reinvest them for a period of at least ten years. Even then, if they started to repatriate what we considered to be excess profits, the Federal Government has the power to impose restrictions.
Further to the south we have new developments in what was virgin country. This land is now being opened up for the production of grass and legume seeds. These seeds are being used extensively on properties which are engaged in intensive fattening of cattle and are improving the stock carrying capacity of land throughout Queensland. What the people of these areas need is the development and maintenance of roads, ports, air facilities and post and telegraph and other services. When these facilities are provided these areas will no longer be remote, and that applies also to the central western and south western districts of Queensland. I will have more to say about roads at a later date. For the purposes of this debate I need only state that we in Queensland have full confidence in the planning by men of the calibre of our Co-ordinator General of Public Works, the members of our northern development organisation and our Commissioner for Main Roads. I speak with first hand knowledge of our Commissioner for Main Roads, having served under him for some years in the Army. I know his foresight and his engineering and adminstrative ability. I do not think we could find a better man to handle the development and construction of roads in Queensland.
Coming now to ports, I believe the encouragement of coastal, interstate and overseas shipping must remain the subject of constant study by the Department of Trade and Industry and, particularly, the Department of National Development. I asked a question apropos of air services in this House yesterday, because to date, in certain areas of Queensland, private and commercial air services have been relying solely on the local knowledge of the pilots in charge of the aircraft. This is not good enough considering the volume of air traffic that is necessary in a State the size of Queensland. I am pleased that the Department of Civil Aviation has this matter in hand and that there will be a rapid improvement in the facilities.
I feel some sympathy for the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) and his Department with new fields being opened up in postal services and calling for the use of more of our resources. I do not know of any other country that has developed its postal services as Australia has done, particularly when we take into consideration the distances and the geographical and topographical problems facing the P.M.G.’s Department.
We should not adopt the attitude that the future of our rural industries depends entirely on the prospects of northern development. The contributions to our national income from northern, western and coastal districts have been a major factor in maintaining our favourable balance of trade overseas. This has been achieved despite the vagaries of the seasons and in some cases without the application of modern scientific methods. These results have been achieved through the initiative and determination of the people who are typical not only of Queensland but of Australia as a whole.
One of our problems is related to the sugar industry. About 300,000 people depend directly or indirectly upon this industry for their living. I have spent many hours, clays and weeks studying the problems of the sugar industry. I have worked with the men involved and have returned to Canberra to discuss their problems with the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and even with the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). I know that no effort has been spared to seek a solution to the problems of the sugar industry. Unfortunately this is not only an Australian problem but is international in scope. A solution will not easily be found.
Until recently our main income has been taken from above the ground. Now because of new technology we are developing our minerals and in the near future the wealth that we derive from below the ground will compete with that produced above the ground. We are entering upon a very interesting period. Fishing is an industry of which at limes I feel ashamed. While many countries are clamouring for food, we see hundreds and even thousands of tons of fish dumped on our beaches because of a glut, or lack of storage and treatment works. We also see shoals of pilchards and other shoal fish passing by untouched by the fishing industry because we have not the treatment works to handle them, freeze them and fillet the fish for export. Ways and means must be found to convert this produce into food or into fertiliser for our own use or alternatively into fish flour which can be used to supplement the diet of starving people.
I have not time to deal in detail with the secondary industries of Queensland but I can refer briefly to the foundries such as the Toowoomba foundry which exports to all parts of the globe, shipbuilding and many other subsidiaries. Another important industry is reafforestation. Queensland is trying to replace our ravaged timber resources and particularly softwoods. 1 am sure the closest attention will be paid to this development in the near future.
Education is one of our most important aspects of community life. Much attention is being given to education in Queensland and the Government has opened a university college in Townsville. Defence is a matter of close interest to Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. In those areas we are probably aware of our vulnerability and our proximity to other countries. I commend the Treasurer for the provision in the Budget of such a large proportion of our resources for national security. We in Queensland are not lazy despite the general opinion that those who live in or near the tropics adopt a manana attitude. The latest census shows that in relation to population the percentage engaged in primary production, mining, quarrying and manufacturing in Queensland is extremely high.
As the time allotted to me has almost expired, I want to say that no senator could wish for a more amicable or considerate introduction to this House than I have experienced from all sides of tha Senate and for this I am deeply grateful.
.- At the outset, may I congratulate Senator Heatley on his maiden speech. I have vivid recollections of making my maiden speech about 1936 or 1937 in the Victorian Parliament and I know what an ordeal it was.
– The honorable senator had been on the Yarra bank before then.
– I had spoken on the Yarra bank just as Senator Gair had. I may have spoken with him.
– I was not so fussy in those days.
– I do not know that the honorable senator is too fussy now I suppose the facts are that if Senator Gair was not so fussy then, the disease has remained with him over these long years. May I say to Senator Heatley that I was very interested in his speech. I was interested particularly in that portion of his speech where he emphasised more than once the word “ priority “. That word struck me as” meaning some sort of plan. A priority: The making’ of a decision as to which was the first job to do. 1 hope that his associates do not drive that thought from Senator Heatley’s mind. One could judge from what Senator Heatley said that he is a. man who knows his State. I may say that Queensland is a State of which I have very fond recollections. But I am certain that in a State as huge as Queensland a great deal of planning is certainly needed. I wish the honorable senator well until, of course, the time when the party to which I belong becomes the Government and takes his seat. The honorable senator understands that. I will be most joyous if that time ever arises. I wish “the honorable senator well. While he remains in the Senate I hope that his term is a “happy one.
– He has three months to1 go.
– I will leave that to Senator Keeffe. At times he has not been the best of judges. I will not come in on that one. I hope that the honorable senator is a good judge on this occasion.
The Senate at this time is discussing the Budget. I have listened to Budgets in the last 13 or 14 years, but I have never listened to a meaner Budget than this one. It is mean from every Australian outlook that one can visualise. It was conceived meanly as a political handout. It is mean in the meagre handout that was given to the pensioners of this country. It is mean because it provides insufficient money for the States to carry out their legitimate functions. Even Senator Heatley had something to say about the lack of finance provided for his own State in this Budget. It seems to me that what the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has said to the Governments of the States, because an election will be held within a few months, is this: “ If you want your State to run, you do all the unpleasant things “. The States will have to do these unpleasant things. Already these things are being done in some States. I refer to my own State in particular. In Victoria, rail and tram fares have risen and the price of gas has been increased. Hospital charges have risen to the point where anyone who lives in Victoria has just one thought - do not get sick. It is a choice between remaining well or dying because you will not be able to pay your hospital bills if you are sick.
– Come to Queensland where free hospitalisation is available.
– I thank Senator Gair and his successor for that. Free hospitalisation in Queensland was provided at the time when the honorable senator and I were together on the bank and other places. At least, when we were together, wc did not do such a bad job. No one can be happy from an Australian point of view with this Budget with the exception of my friends of the Australian Country Party who sit in the corner. They are not happy because this Budget helps the man on the land to any great extent. It does not. But they can be happy because once again they have humiliated their larger partner in the coalition. The Budget provided for the payment of a bounty in relation to nitrogenous fertiliser. But what did we find with respect to that bounty? We find that the bounty operates from 17th August, the day after the Budget was introduced in the Senate. But when we come to the increases for aged pensioners, what does it matter? They will have to wait five or six weeks before they will receive their increases. So we can see that our friends in the corner, small in number but powerful in pressure, have once again humiliated their Liberal partners. Of course, my friends opposite take that humiliation time and time again as long as they can sit on the benches on the right of the President. lt is only by doing this that they can help the friends who provide the sinews of war and keep them in their position.
It is true that this Budget increases the defence vote by 34 per cent. In fact, the expenditure on defence rises from S748 million to §1,000 million. I hope that, when the Estimates are discussed, we will be able to (ind out how much of this increase is due to the Vietnam struggle. That is what I want to know. 1 have never been against the provision of money for the defence of this country; nor has any member of my party been against the defence of Australia. All we have ever been against is what we consider to be wastage in the defence expenditure of this nation over many long years. Of course, this Government will not declare war. It does not think there is a war anywhere. I do not know what the 17 mothers of those men who were killed about a fortnight ago in the Vietnam conflict will say about this. I do not know what the mothers of the 29 men who were wounded will say about this. If it is not a war, what is it? I believe that the Government would be honest if it did declare war. The reason why 1 want the Government to declare war is that then each and every one of us here who is not on the breadline not only could clap these men when the boats take them to tight for something they know nothing about, but also could do something to help them.
As senators know, the Australian Labour Parly does not believe that we ought to bc engaged in this struggle at all. But now that our soldiers are there, surely it should not be a case of our men being killed and others spilling their blood while business goes on as usual in this nation. Profits are being reaped here while our young men unfortunately are suffering in the Vietnam conflict. I hope that when the defence estimates are before us the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) will be able to tell us how much of this extra expenditure on defence will be spent on the Vietnam campaign. Then, some honorable senators who think as I think will be able to say to the Government: “ Why are you not strong and honest? Why do you not impose a defence tax? Why do you not put on a war tax? Then we will be able at least to cover the amount of money that we are spending in this war.” At present only one section of the people of this country is involved in the conflict. These young people know nothing about what is happening in Vietnam. Yet a great number of them have been conscripted to go to Vietnam, conscripted to be killed and conscripted to be wounded. Those of us here and the people outside - particularly the backers of this Administration - who have the money should contribute towards the cost of this conflict. If the Government made them do that it would be much more honest than it has been up to date.
Having said that, I desire to say some words about one aspect of the Budget that has not been touched on as yet. I wish to discuss the question of a high and sustained rate of economic growth. I begin my remarks on this matter by pointing out that when Sir Robert Menzies, as Prime Minister of this country, delivered the 1963 policy speech on behalf of his party, he said these words - . . wc will press on with growth in no timid or fainthearted way. We believe, and confidently expect, that over the next five years, given good government, growth should at least equal a total increase of 25 per cent, in the gross national product, in terms of constant prices.
Growth in all its forms … is the prima objective of our policies.
They are extremely fine words. But let us look at what has been done. Despite the fact that the population of this nation increases by 2 per cent, per annum taking the natural increase and the increase from immigration together, the rate of growth particularly in the 1950:s - these are the latest figures that one can obtain for the purposes of comparison with other countries - is very small indeed. According to a United Nations world economic survey, our rate of growth in the 1950’s was 4.33 per cent, per annum, compared wilh 4.6 per cent, for the Netherlands, 5.7 per cent, for Italy, 5.7 per cent, for Austria, 7.5 per cent, for Germany and 9.1 per cent, for Japan. But 2 per cent, of the 4.3 per cent, was due to population increase. That brings our normal rate of growth down to 2.3 per cent.
– That is in terms of gross national product.
– That is right. I do not think any honorable senator will say that that is a high enough rate, compared with the rates of the nations that I have mentioned.
– Can anybody convince me of the reality of those figures?
– If the honorable senator wants to be convinced, I suggest that he do as I did and put in a bit of study of the United Nations world economic survey. If he does that, he will find out as much as I did about this matter.
– Yes, but-
– -Wait a minute. I have only a certain amount of time and I do not want to exceed it. I might do so by five or ten minutes; but honorable senators opposite have always been good and kind in the past.
The importance of growth was acknowledged in the Report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry - the Vernon Committee. I doubt whether anyone has ever seen an important paper submitted to this chamber or another place receive such scant respect as this Report received. It is true that a motion in connection with it is on. the notice paper at the moment; but it is very doubtful whether we will have much time to consider it. The Committee said - . . we have no doubt about the importance of growth as a national policy objective for Australia. Growth provides the means of raising living standards and of promoting national security. Growth is self-generating, lt stimulates enterprise, encourages innovation and provides a constant spur to technical and managerial efficiency. Moreover, a growing economy facilitates economic and social mobility; economic mobility, because changes in the pattern of industry can occur through the flow of new recruits to the work force and the flow of new investment; social mobility, because economic expansion widens the range of opportunities to enterprising and imaginative members of the community.
If my friend, Senator Wright, wants to read this, he will find it on page 2 of the second chapter of the Report. The Committee emphasised that a high rate of growth opens up a wider range of effective choice in the community. The community can choose the things on which it wishes to spend the additional money. It can spend it on defence, on national development in the wide open spaces of Queensland, for instance, as our friend, Senator Heatley, said tonight, on hospitals, on higher education, on roads, or on all sorts of other things that this country lacks at the moment. The Committee went on to say -
The Labour Party has always favoured a rapid rate of growth. In the 1963 election campaign we set out a three year programme which, in the third year, would have cost $800 million. Of course, we were assailed with questions on where we would get the money to finance it. If I remember correctly, for the first time in my political life the Government used the Public Service to attempt to prove to the people of this nation that the money could not be found. Yet since 1963 we have seen that it has been found.
We set ourselves a target of an economic growth rate of 5.5 per cent. We calculated that expansion at that rate would increase the gross national product from $15,600 million to $18,400 million in the three years from 1963 to 1966. As revenue, at a time of high economic activity, amounts to about 21 per cent, of the gross national product, we calculated that, without any alterations in the tax structure - I emphasise that - revenue would be about $800 million a year higher at the end of the third year of the programme that we laid down than it was at the beginning in 1963.
Whilst some people may say that a growth rate of 5.5 per cent, is high, when all is said and done, taking into account a population increase of 2 per cent., all that we were seeking was a growth rate of 3.5 per cent., which is not so high. To prove that we could have done that, I point out that the next year the growth rate was 5.6 per cent, under this Administration. In spite of all the help that the Government received from the Press in saying that we could not achieve such a growth rate and in spite of all the high placed officials in the Public Service whom the Government used to be able to tell the people that this would mean increased taxation, the Government’s own figures prove that what the Labour Party said was true.
Growth is being widely canvassed overseas as being indispensable if nations are to achieve their goals. For example, Walter Lippmann and Francis M. Baton wrote in “The Goal of Economic Growth (1962)” that the United States was not producing enough wealth to keep up the arms race, to finance adequately its allies and independent neutrals who were very poor and in need of capital to develop their economies, to pay for developing internal needs and to enjoy a continually rising standard of living. They went on to suggest that all of these goals could be met only if a higher rate of economic growth was attained. Robert G. Lipsey, writing in “ An Introduction to Positive Economics (1963)”, suggested another reason for desiring economic growth, which I am sure will commend itself even to my friends on the other side of the chamber. He wrote -
Another reason for desiring economic growth might bc that it i< politically more feasible to redistribute the increment of income resulting from growth than to redistribute present income. If existing income is to be redistributed, then someone’s standard of living will actually have to be lowered. If, however, there is economic growth and if the increment of income is redistributed (through Government intervention) then it may be possible to reduce income inequalities without having actually to lower anyone’s income.
I suggest that is a commonsense approach and a much easier way of dealing with this question, particularly for our friends on the other side of the chamber and those who back them, and to a lesser degree - let us bc quite honest - for us on this side of the chamber because we would be able to reduce the inequalities that exist in this country. The heavy sword of extra taxation would not be used on us in order that this position might be adjusted.
As 1 said earlier, in my opinion the Vernon Committee report received extremely scant attention in the Senate, and in another place the then Prime Minister attacked it. He said that the Committee had gone beyond its powers, that it had developed its own theories and that it had predicated a degree of planning, lt does not matter whether everything else in the report is right, the moment the word “ planning “ is used, the Government says that the report is all wrong. All that the
Government wants to do is to leave things as they are, so that those who contribute heavily at election time can continue to reap profits from the mass of the people, as they have in recent weeks. They are hoping that their profits will be even greater. In the few weeks prior to the election in November, Government supporters will attempt to fool the mass of the people. If members of the Labour Party do not say, as Mr. Holt said when he was in the United States: “ Anything that L.B.J, wants is all right with us some Government supporters will say that we are too close to the Communists. We believe that in the interests of the country we must have an independent policy, whether it is a foreign or internal policy. But because we have this policy, we are classed as being anti-America. It is said that we are opposed to what is in the best interests of our security.
It is true that it takes two sides to make economic growth possible. I realise that this country has to pay a great deal of attention to the two sides of this question. On the one hand, we must get the most tip to date equipment in our factories and we must obtain proper managerial staff so that the people who work in the factories are led as they should be led. On the other hand, we have to give a fair go to the mass of the people who do the work in this country. Unless the Government does that, it is useless for it or anyone else to ask those of us who are near to the mass of the people to go out and appeal to the people to make a greater effort.
We have seen what has happened in recent weeks. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, after taking months to hear evidence and then adjourning to consider its decision, granted a $2 increase in the basic wage. I am not questioning whether that was a just increase, because I would not know. I was not there to hear the evidence from both sides. But the thing that concerns me is what happened immediately the workers received the $2 increase. The prices of the essential commodities that they have to purchase were increased. Fares and gas charges have been increased. Speaking of my own State, we are awaiting taxes that the Premier has told us he will impose. No one can tell me that the cost of living has not risen out of all proportion since the introduction of decimal currency. The Government said: “ We will make $1 equal in value to 10s.” When we asked the Government to make $1 equal in value to 8s. 4d. so that there would be no need for price rises to cover the halfpenny, it would not accede to our request.
The basic wage was increased by $2 ou the first pay day after 11th August. But when the good woman with two or three children went to buy the necessities of life, she found that she was worse off financially than she was before the basic wage increase. It is true that the single person’s board may have been increased by only 50c to $1. He came out of it with perhaps an extra SI to spend, but that was soon absorbed by increased prices.
Senator Cohen said earlier today that the first duty of a Labour Government when elected will be to give to the people of this nation the right to say whether or not they want prices control. In .1948 the supporters of the present Government frightened the people with false propaganda about blackmarkets and so on. They did not say that we had just emerged from a wartime economy and were attempting to achieve a peacetime economy. Of course, there had been people who engaged in blackmarket activities, but for the mass of the people prices control was not a bad thing. The supporters of this Government, however, in order to help their friends who will put in approximately §250,000 between now and 26th November to help in the election campaign, frightened the mass of the people. For as long as honorable senators opposite sit on that side of the chamber they follow along like sheep. The welfare of the mass of l his country does not matter to them, lt is ridiculous to say that the people are better off today than they were before the basic wage rise. When the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granted a rise in the basic wage it was implied that industry could afford to pay it. That is how the unions got the rise. I wish I now had the time to read out all the commodities that have risen in price since the basic wage was increased. It is a farce.
The Government is bleeding the people of this nation. If it were honest and believed in the welfare of this country, at least it would have given something in the
Budget to those people who need it most. Some social service benefits could have been extended to the young people who are attempting to buy homes while supporting wives and families. But no. An election will be held on 26th November and the Government wants to go out to the people with clean hands, without increasing taxation.
– And bring down a little Budget afterwards.
– Possibly, as my colleague says, a little Budget will be brought down afterwards. In order to show how far the Government will go, 1 shall quote what a Minister said in another place last night. He said -
I believe that the State Governments must also assist the nation at this time by restraining some of their developmental projects, however desirable they may appear to be. . . .
The main reason for the Government’s actions is that its supporters are like the person - I forget his name for the moment - who wanted to wash his hands of all ill deeds.
– Pontius Pilate.
– I am not so good on the history of years gone by. I. would expect Senator Bishop to have that knowledge. I believe that this is the most unAustralian Budget 1 have ever seen, lt is a disgrace to the National Parliament to think-
– Tsk, tsk.
– lt does not matter to my friend, so long as he is number two on the Government’s ticket. He will go along, whatever happens. If any people should hang their heads in shame, after the years that the present Government has been in office, they are the members of the present Administration.
.- I wish to address myself now to the seventeenth Budget of the Liberal and Country Party Government as I consider it should be debated in this chamber - wilh a degree of calm and a little quiet thought as a contrast to the manner of Senator Kennelly who preceded me in this debate. I feel a great sense of privilege at being in the chamber that heard tonight the maiden speech of Senator Heatley. Senator Heatley shares with Senator Laught - a colleague of many years standing - the epic and historic distinction of having served at El Alamein. I wish my friends of the Opposition, especially those of them who have distinguished war service, to allow me to pay acknowledgment to that battle which was the turning point of freedom in our lives and of world history, I believe, for 500 years to come.
– We were in that.
– I was not in it. I am asking Senator Ormonde to join with me in paying tribute to the two men in this chamber who had the unexcelled privilege, when their courage committed them, to participate in that engagement. We have listened tonight to the strength .of voice and the sound and the fury and the furore that come from practice, as Senator Kennelly reminded us, gained on the Yarra Bank. I say that in no disparagement, because I admire his spirit, if he will permit me to say so. Tonight we see the exodus from the Australian Labour Party of a most stalwart character who, with comparative silence, has gone to the exclusion which (hat Party’s rules impose on him.
– A self-inflicted wound.
– As the honorable senator pleases. In view of the experience and great distinction and courage of the honorable senator, I think that insinuation is untimely. We hear the cacophony of cant and humbug coming from the side lines as Opposition senators interject. I am trying to bring to the attention of the Senate that a quiet man of great purpose - one, Benson by name - has accepted the exodus that has been forced on him through standing forthrightly by his claim to membership of the Defend Australia Committee. It is time that I once more reminded the Senate that within this parliamentary set up we are beset with challenges. I shall read to honorable senators what was said in a House of Commons debate in 1959 by one of its purposeful members, Mr. Nigel Fisher. He said, with regard to the challenges that grow within the parliamentary system -
After all, Parliament was not intended simply as a machine to ratify measures proposed by the
Executive. We private members have constitutional rights in this place which are important, rights for which men have died in the past and which we should not lightly sacrifice to the Executive. Much of the early history of this House, as all honorable members know, is the struggle for the preservation of those rights against the eroding domination of the Executive. In stressing that, we are only stressing the rights and freedoms of the nation as a whole.
I “want to impress upon the Parliament the inviolability of a private member’s right to free speech on behalf of the people whom he represents, so long as he does not misrepresent them. I say that in the spirit of genuine representation of the people as against the influences that challenge us from within the party system.
Having made that point, I want to concentrate on the danger, the risk and the challenge that come from those who beset us from outside the parliamentary system. When we witness men impose an embargo on a man like Benson, proscribe him from membership of the Defend Australia Committee and challenge the parliamentary system, the matter cannot be ignored. I am not surprised that this should evoke some resentment on the other side of the chamber. If only these people would listen to what Senator Kennelly has said to us about the claims of the common man and his right to genuine representation of his interests in this Parliament instead of being represented by a phoney group of men who take their orders from an outside executive, there would be no need for me to undergo the purgatory that I have to undergo to try to claim some arresting of the avalanche of officialdom that is filching from the common man his opportunity of ease and prosperity. When will Labour regain its right to represent this man instead of yielding to the executive decision of an outside caucus which seeks to limit his freedom to join the Defend Australia Committee, which is creditable and exists in the national interest? This man, an orphan of the war in France and a distinguished sailor of the Second World War, true to the traditions of his service, goes away in comparative” silence with the charity to say that among honorable senators opposite he has found some individual friends. But he goes out as an exile. There we have an example of the way in which the true representation of the common man is being eroded and corroded by this caucus system that has no purpose whatever for its existence other than continuing to enjoy the emoluments of office and the prerogative of executive power which it will accept from 36 faceless men. 1 now proceed to refer to one of the submissions that fell from the lips of Senator Kennelly. He had the debating pertinacity to put forward views with regard to the Vie:nam conflict. He referred, 1 thought without much sympathy, to the sacrifice that is being accepted there. I refer to it as being a sacred sacrifice. I accept his proposition that it has to be shared and honoured. But when Senator Kennelly suggests that the Labour Party’s defence policy can sustain the national security of Australia, I experience sorrow. Mr. Benson revealed his conviction that security in the Pacific as it relates to Australia. New Zealand and the United Slates of America - three countries which owe their democratic existence and traditions to a common source, that is, the English speaking islands of Great Britain - depends upon cohesion in the alliance of those countries. A most dismal viewpoint is adopted by the disciples of the Labour executive who would divorce us from true unity with the United States cause in this region.
– Talk a little bit of sense.
– Senator Hendrickson gets ruffled. The fact is that America, accepting the responsibility that comes from its foremost position as a world power, has said in the words of President Johnson that there is a challenge to South East Asia and that a challenge threatens Australia at the gateway to the waters which separate Singapore from Australia. President Johnson has said: “ We did not choose to stand at the gateway, but there was no one else.” President Johnson and President Kennedy themselves faced the conflict of 1941 and 1942; both knew the horrors of war. But both have shown an awareness of the value of free institutions. I am not a disciple of American leaders or an admirer to a great degree of many things that are American; but 1 have unstinted admiration for the leaders of this democratic country, with all the political dangers that they encounter, who have assumed the role of leadership at a level which will bring America out of the position that led her to make a retarded entry to France in 1916 and which led her to delay entry into the Pacific war during 1939, 1940 and 1941 and who, realising that the first of the few will not be forthcoming from the British Isles, have said: “ We did not choose to stand at the gateway but there was no one else.” Those leaders have taken the responsibility of leading their democracy into this conflict, even though it has meant the sacrifices associated with committing 400,000 troops. American casualties already number more than 100,000.
– We will go astray with L.B.J.
– Let me say to
Senator Cavanagh that I pay a tribute to leaders who will take a risk and will endanger political opportunities by forthrighttly facing their enemies. These are the people in public life whom one can admire. The Labour Party will not face up to the present situation. Unless this danger is faced in its present dimensions, within a decade the sacrifice that could be inflicted on this country would be tremendously multiplied. I say that in deference to what Senator Kennelly said.
– But with no facts to support it.
– If only Senator Cavanagh will allow himself to understand, he will hear my acceptance of Senator Kennelly’s proposition that it is not only 4,500 troops who are to make the sacrifice. That sacrifice has to be shared by the nation, even if some are privileged to share it only in the pocket, it is necessary in a democracy that these things be stated especially when debate engenders reference to misguided ideas such as I have had to answer tonight.
One or two facts remain to be stated on the economic plane. I regard the Budget in the main as merely a reflection of the basic wage decision, which relegates to the elected parliamentary Government of the country little more than a reproduction of a decision come to by an industrial tribunal. There are dangers to our democracy in this country, not only politically but economically. We must have embedded in the Arbitration Commission industrial mechanism of awarding the basic wage an insight to understand the realities of prosperity instead of figure making which has led to an increase of about 10s. per annum since 1953.
– Is the honorable senator objecting to that?
– Certainly not. Senator Murphy knows that I would join him if his Party would only become a true Labour Party in getting for the underdog a greater share of the prosperity of this country instead of these falsified figures of gross national product - artificial, mesmeric and mysterious figures that mean nothing. I would join him if he would get an organisation that would give a basic wage relative to true productivity, so that we could say it meant more refrigerators and more homes for the working man, instead of this nonsense. This basic wage rise is to be reproduced first in the public services, such as tramways and railways, where there is not one farthing of capitalistic profit, but where the necessity to pay an artificial increase means increased freights.
Let me go on, because my attitude is not one that delights in the discomfort of the Labour Party, although I feel bound to demonstrate it and refer to it from time to time. Let us take the statistics in relation to two items. In 1949 farm income, which I have converted to decimal currency for ease of comparison, amounted to S896 million, while wages and salaries totalled $2,394 million. Let me now take the figures for 1966. Members of the Australian Country Party, as our colleagues, will have some responsibility here. The old leaders in my learn were good only when each took the weight of the yoke on his shoulder evenly. I appeal to those to whom Senator Kennelly refers as being “ in the corner “ to note that today farm income amounts to $914 million while wages and salaries amount to $10,582 million. There is a diminishing population in the countryside due to the ingenuity of the farmers. I do not join with those people who get up here and say that we must have greater capacity in management of farms if we are to get economy there. The smaller population on the farms, using ingenuity in mechanisation, has increased the productivity of farms by 50 to 60 per cent., notwithstanding the reduction in their numbers, and still produced between 50 and 60 per cent, of our export income. They cannot be subordinated, even though the growing wealth of the mines of Western Australia and elsewhere gives us prospects of another unit of export income that are really exciting. This country will make the most unforgivable mistake if it abandons :he farms to the inferior economy that is revealed by the figures I have cited.
I take exception to the way in which the Budget Papers are put out. They even invert the sequence of years in order to distract one’s mind when reading the paper from the significance of the danger. Let me refer to page 7 of the White Paper on Income and Expenditure. It shows that the income of non-farm unincorporated enterprises increased by about 5 per cent, in 1965-66, compared with 9 per cent, in 1964-65. However, the income of farm unincorporated enterprises decreased by $326 million in 1965-66, or 26 per cent., following a decrease of $142 million in 1964-65. It gives no satisfaction therefore, to say that the Budget gives an increase to the pensioners - they deserve it; they are entitled to it - but denies similar assistance to the small farmers who are suffering that diminution of income. Unless they are succoured by appropriate primary producing policies, they will be excluded and the farms of this country will pass into the hands of great capitalistic enterprises. Instead of our small farmers being stalwart, yeoman, independent countrymen, they will be servants paid by the big enterprises.
These things I refer to with great spirit, because they are, as far as I have been given to understand anything in this life, fundamental to my outlook: First, the right of freedom of speech in Parliament, free from the Executive within and certainly abhorring executives without; secondly, expansion of the economy of the countryside, producer of the bulk of our export income, if the real backbone of this country’s economy, looked at from the external point of view, is not to be wounded in a mortal respect. I conclude by saying that we are a remarkably privileged country. If only the common man could regain the support of a party whose leadership would genuinely represent him, and if the country man could be raised to the economic level that his work deserves, then all those people would see our conflict in the Pacific in its proper perspective. They would realise the direct threat to Australia’s national security and I believe that we, as a Parliament, would face the challenge with less rancour, certainly with less irritation than we had demonstrated here tonight, and in a quieter atmosphere that would give free scope for real thought.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [9.3 1 J. - After listening to the last half hour of this debate I enter into it with some trepidation, because although this is the 24’h Budget debate that I have been privileged to hear in this Parliament, I have never before entered into a debate in which the Budget has been so rarely touched upon by previous speakers. I am afraid that I cannot contribute in any way to the theatricals of the debate in the Senate this evening. I propose to deal with the Budget as it has been presented to the Senate and with the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. We maintain that this Budget is to be deplored, not so much for what it does, as for the great number of things that it does not do. As time will not permit me to deal with them all, I intend to deal only with certain sections of the Budget Papers with which 1 am particularly concerned. I will deal with these in a rather superficial way tonight as I will have more time to debate them when the relevant legislation comes before the Senate later in the sessional period.
There is not a great deal being done in the realm of social services, apart from the giving of a $1 a week rise to certain pensioners. This rise, of course, has already been partly swallowed up by the high cost of living, which has been accentuated by the rise in prices consequent upon the introduction of decimal currency. Of course the Government says that no significant rise in prices has been brought about by the change to decimal currency. But there has been a rise in the prices of many of the commodities which attract quite a large part of the expenditure of people in the lower income groups, such as pensioners. I will give an example of this. Quite recently I went into a shop in Perth to buy some vegetables. They were 8d. per lb., or 7c. per lb., I bought 3 lb. and handed over my 2s. and immediately the shop assistant said: “Another cent, please, madam.” I said: “ Three times 8d. is 2s.”, and she said: “Yes, but three times 7c. is 2lc; another cent, please.” So I gave her back the vegetables and went to some of the other shops and did a bit of what is called in colloquial language, “ tabbing “, to see how the prices compared under the old system and under the new. 1 found that there was a rise of at least 5 per cent, in the price of many commodities in every day use. To those on parliamentary incomes this may not seem a very great rise, but it is a very great hardship to those on fixed incomes and particularly those on pension rates.
There has not been any increase in many of the basic social service payments such as maternity allowances and child endowment. I think the attitude of this Government is the same as that of the Tories of old in this Parliament, who, when a maternity bonus was first suggested, said that it would increase immorality in the community. As I have said before in this chamber, people do not become immoral for a fiver. A similar attitude was adopted to the unemployment benefit. When legislation to introduce that benefit was before this Parliament - largely as the result of the work of a committee of which 1 happened to be a member - the Leader of the Opposition of that time, who was of course a member of one of the present Government Parties - said it would encourage idleness and malingering. Both these attitudes of mind, which are now happily passing from the majority of the people in the community, still seem to reside in the mind of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who has not given these beneficiaries any rises in this Budget.
There is another aspect of the treatment of the aged to which I wish to refer, although it comes within the ambit of another section of the Budget. I refer to homes for the aged. A conference between the relevant State Ministers and the Federal authorities was held recently in Canberra and the Western Australian Minister, on his return home, said that the present plan for homes for the aged catered only for the affluent and the healthy; that is, for the wealthy and the healthy. I am pleased that there is one aspect of this criticism which is no longer as valid as it was a few weeks ago, because there is in this Budget a gesture to improve the lot of the aged who are sick. I refer to the new grants which are to be made to homes for the aged in which a certain number of beds are to be reserved for those who are ill. But to my way of thinking this does not remove the initial handicap suffered by the aged who require to be housed. I refer to the high premiums people are called upon to pay before they can obtain occupancy of the homes subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. From time to time in this chamber I have questioned the Government on. this matter and I was rather surprised to find a few. months ago, in answer to a question I asked here, that persons who are housed in homes for the aged subsidised by the Government need not be pensioners at all. They need only be of pensionable age or, if they are a married couple, only one of them needs to be of pensionable age. In other words although people may have plenty of money, so long as they are within the specified age group they can become occupants of homes subsidised at the rate of £2 for fi by the Commonwealth Government.
I do not include the church organisations in my criticism of this scheme, nor do I include any other body approved by the Government, but I would like to see the Government extend this scheme in one direction and restrict it in another. I would like to see eligibility extended to State Government, and local government authorities, who could do a much better job in the housing of the aged than is being done at present by various companies which have been formed for this purpose. I am reminded of the words of Mr. Mackinnon, who said that the homes for the aged scheme catered only for the affluent and the healthy. I would like to see the first part of his statement become as obsolete as the second part of it has now become’ owing to the new approach to the scheme contained in the present Budget. I applaud the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) for what is being done in this respect.
Yesterday T raised in this chamber a repatriation matter with which I know the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is in full accord. I refer to hospital treatment of aged -servicemen and the widows of servicemen. We have in the community an ever dwindling number of servicemen who saw service in the Boer
War or in World War I; there are also the older men who went to the 1939-1945 war and who are now approaching an age- at which many of them are not able to work at all. If these men do not suffer from war caused disabilities they cannot be treated in repatriation hospitals. I may be wrong in including Boer War veterans in this. Perhaps the Minister can tell me whether they can now be treated in repatriation hospitals.
– Yes, If they come within the means test.
– Well, quite a number of men from World War I cannot receive treatment in repatriation hospitals. If it cannot be linked with war service they have to go to a C class hospital. We all know what a terrific racket is being worked on the community with many of the C class hospitals. I have seen it myself and have wondered how in the world they get away with it. I have had to spend a lot of time in the last couple of years at repatriation hospitals and time and time again I have seen the difficulties posed to the authorities by the fact that they cannot keep patients there and have nowhere else to send them.
The Returned Services League in Western Australia has a fine war veteran’s home and a place for aged war widows, but that is only touching the surface of the problem. You cannot get these people into homes other than C class hospitals which take not only every penny of their pension but also the allowance made by the Commonwealth Government to C class hospitals. They have not even the price of a stamp left and in some cases, relatives have to find money to pay for the inadequate treatment received in these hospitals. That applies also to a number of the aged who do not come within the ambit of the Repatriation Department.
The Repatriation Department could give a lead in this matter by the creation within the repatriation hospitals of a section which could be classed as a C class hospital. The standards of nursing would not have to be maintained at the level of the repatriation hospital and the costs therefore would be less than in a repatriation general hospital. But in such a place, exservice men and women and war widows would have the company of others of their own kind. Then they would not be worried into the grave by this terrific problem of costs and finding the wherewithal to get the little extras which are so necessary for comfortable living. Many of them are very distressed by their situation. Something could be done without a great deal of expense. The cost would not be as much as the money expended at present on the subsidy for C class hospitals which in many cases leave much to be desired. Here and there you find a good one but if you do, you are lucky.
I pass from that to another aspect of health services. The Government is spending a great deal of money on its pharmaceutical and health schemes but much of that is being wasted. For example, if I go into a chemist’s shop and buy a proprietary preparation, 1 might pay 8s. 6d. for it. If I get it as a prescription from a doctor, the label is taken off and another label is put on the container with a written instruction or simply the words “ Take as directed “. The cost then goes up, either to the Government or to the patient. A dispensing fee is charged but the dispensing consists merely of taking one label oil the bottle and putting on another. In many cases, the chemist has only to empty some tablets from one bottle into a smaller bottle. The cost of these preparations and the cost of the medical services for chemists should be thoroughly investigated. If there is to be any economy in social services or health services, the economies should not be directed at the patient but at those who arc making a great deal of money from this so called National Health Scheme.
Everybody is becoming tired of hearing me talk on the matters to which 1 shall now direct my attention but I will not give up until I get satisfaction. There are two matters on which I have harried the Senate for many years. The first is a naval base lor Western Australia and at long last I see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Whether it will die after 26th November 1 do not know, i have started to count the number of times I have raised this matter in the past 15 years. I reached well over 60 times after perusing copies of “ Hansard “ and I have not finished yet. That is how many times I have tried to get the Government to act in this matter. It is an important project. Now the Government has awakened to the fact that, over 50 years ago, Cockburn Sound was surveyed and sounded for a naval base. I know about it because my father worked on it when I was a small child - and 1 was small once. We used to play on the breakwater. That is the only remnant of the old naval base still in existence. Part of it was blasted away recently when the channel was being deepened in connection with the Kwinana project or something of the sort. In those days, it was called Henderson Naval Base. Admiral Henderson said during the First World War that it would be a most desirable place for a naval base and the work was begun but it petered out. So it has remained with a rock breakwater, a local hotel called “The Naval Base” and a few camps for picnickers. The name “ Naval Base “ is still retained.
There has been great industrial development south of Fremantle and everything that is necessary for the development of that area is close at hand. 1 hope that the site will be found to be suitable for a naval base and that other factors will also be taken into account. For the past two days we have heard a lot about containerisation. That is a terrible word that has crept into the language. Because of the time it takes for shipping to travel around the Australian coast, an extra 25 per cent, in travelling time is added to the time taken by ships bringing goods from Europe to Australia. The port of Fremantle has been developed considerably. Those who were fortunate enough to see a film in Parliament House last week on the Fremantle Port Authority will realise what has taken place there so that it can cope with the expanding trade. But we are sadly lacking in docking facilities. We are only a few hours flying time from the troubled spots of South East Asia, and in fact we are much closer to them than we are to Canberra. That is rather a sobering thought.
Parts of Western Australia have been attacked by an enemy in the past. I have seen the graves of women and children who were killed in an air raid on Broome in the Second World War, and at Wyndham the remains of a ship, the pride of the State ships, sunk by enemy action. So we in Western Australia are peculiarly alert to the defence needs of the western third of this continent. The fact that so much has been achieved over the past few years in the development of mineral discoveries only adds to the importance of that coast and its attraction for others. So because of defence needs and for reasons of trade, the setting up at long last of a committee to investigate the possibilities of Cockburn Sound is at least a tiny step in the right direction. 1 shall not let up on the Government until it goes the full distance. [ have also kept at the Government consistently for the creation of a national disaster fund. I have been told that it is difficult to diagnose a national disaster. What is a national disaster? Some say that I am one. We know that the drought over the past two years has affected adversely not only two States; but also the economy of Australia. Even if we do not consider it from an economic point of view, we realise that it will take at least a couple of years for Australia to recover from the effects of the drought from which two States are still suffering. When we take into account the human side of drought, there is a great deal more to be said for this scheme of national insurance against national disasters. I am quite certain that it should not be beyond the talents of all the experts who are available to this Government. The experts talk about what we are going to do when we get to the moon. For heaven’s sake, what about clearing up some of the problems on Earth. I am sure that these are things that come within the ambit of many of our people who are really interested not only in the economic future of this country but also in the future of the human beings who make up this nation.
This leads me to one further question. This is the problem of education as envisaged in this Budget. I take my hat off to the Government for what it has done with regard to university education. As a member of the Council of the Australian National University for the last 15 years - in fact, since the inception of that university - I will say that the Government has done a very great deal for university education. This applies not only with respect to the Australian National University but also with respect to the other Australian universities. I believe however that the Government is starting at the wrong end, and that the beginnings of education are not receiving the full attention that they deserve. For instance, until a few years ago the proportion of secondary school children who went on to university education was approximately 3 per cent, or 4 per cent. In recent years that percentage has increased considerably. But at the same time, by concentrating the whole of the Government assistance to education on the top most level, we are leaving the bottom rungs of the educational ladder completely unattended. It is on primary education that the success in the secondary and tertiary section of education is built. If the primary education system is lacking in any of the essentials, then the secondary and tertiary systems of education will suffer as a result. Therefore, I ask the Government to undertake a complete review of the educational needs of Australia.
We hear all this talk about giving aid to science. This is all very well. But science is only one small portion of the problem of education. If honorable senators look around Australia today they will see, as I have said in the Senate in the last couple of weeks, that the whole of the problems of our educational system have come home to roost. We have never before had so many teenage problems. Never before have we had these gangs of teenagers roaming our streets. We have never had these terrific demonstrations of mass hysteria that appear at many gatherings of young people. We have never before had this terrific incidence of venereal disease, not even in the darkest days of the last war when I made some investigations as a member of this Parliament in relation to the matter. Nor did we have at that time the high rate of illegitimacy that we find in the community today.
I think that these problems can be traced back to the fact that our education system is lopsided. We are only educating our young people to obtain a living. We are not giving our children enough to occupy them in their leisure time. We are not educating them to become complete human beings. We are merely educating them so that they oan be put in various pigeon holes where they can get only enough to peck at to keep them going but never enough to help them in the thirst for knowledge or to help them to occupy their leisure time which is becoming increasingly greater as we legislate for shorter working hours and as automation comes into the field of industry. This is a very important aspect of education.
How many schools throughout this Commonwealth are equipped with libraries? I know about these things because I was a teacher before I became a member of this Senate. I know that we had to conduct tuck shops every now and again in order to have money to buy books for our library shelves. Otherwise we had to ask the children to bring books from home for the school library. Some of the books that they brought were most unsuitable for a school library. We got a few beauts, I can tell honorable senators. Teacher read them. We have not attacked this problem of education for leisure in the same way as we have attacked the problem of education for science. We approach science education as though every child in the community is to become a scientist. We have forgotten about the humanities. We have forgotten about the arts, the literature and the music of the world. We have just concentrated on science. Whilst science can bring great benefits to mankind, it has brought great destruction to mankind in many ways also. So, I ask the Government to have a complete review of the educational needs of this nation, and particularly the need to have better education for teachers.
In my own State of Western Australia, we have two training colleges for teachers. One of them is very old. It is the one to which I. went so honorable senators no doubt can guess that it is pretty old. The other one was created just after the war in a hut which was part of a migrant hostel. I would like to pay tribute to the staff and students of that Graylands teachers college because of the magnificent way in which they were able to carry on against untold emergencies. I have no words with which to express my admiration for the work that is being done there. We are putting up better hostels, better blocks of flats, and more concrete and glass. But we are leaving the training of our teachers to take place haphazardly. The Commonwealth Government disclaims all responsibility for teacher training. If our teachers are not trained, what will happen to those of the next generation to whom we will bequeath the legacy of what we do for this country. We will pass on to the next generation what we are doing now. We want our achievements to be worthwhile for the next generation to guard, protect and improve. If we neglect this important aspect of living then as a Government and as a Parliament we will all have failed.
There is a great deal more upon which I would like to speak during this debate but unfortunately I have almost exhausted my time. However, there is one point that I would like to mention in relation to the Vietnam war. Nobody could accuse me of being disloyal. I have two sisters who tire war widows, a sister-in-law who is a war widow and a brother who is still on the 100 per cent, pension. Anything I say on this matter comes from me because 1 do not want to see the youth of this generation and the next going through a period similar to the terrible period that we of our generation have seen and those before us have seen in their time also. The whole trouble is that we in Australia cannot get at the truth of the matter concerning Vietnam. Some three years ago, I met Madam Nhu at a parliamentary conference. She was the most beautifully gowned and elegant woman that I have ever seen in my life. She spoke beautifully for a few minutes and then she suddenly became quite fanatical on the subject of Vietnam. Mr. Bullock, the Deputy Clerk of the Senate, knows that what I am saying is true. Everybody was on her side. She gave her version of the story.
A few weeks later, I was in Washington. I was a guest at a Democratic Party luncheon at the Capitol. One of my fellow guests was the father of Madam Nhu. He happened to be on the other side of the fence to his daughter. I feel that this is one of the most tragic things about the Vietnam war. We find a father and a daughter who usually would be so close together not only on opposite sides of a political question but airing their differences in public. By so doing they renounce the closest ties that can bind two human beings together. This was because of the political situation in their country. 1 heard Madam Nhu talking about one side of the question. Then I heard her father holding forth on the other side of tha question. Neither was an ignorant peasant. Both of <these people were highly educated and held very high positions in their country. If they could not agree on what the conflict was all about, how can you, Mr. Deputy President, and I and the other people in this country know the rights or wrongs of the Vietnam struggle?
When we send to this conflict troops who have volunteered to go, I say that that is their business. But 1 do pray that the Government will not continue to conscript national servicemen for this service overseas. -Even when the tide was running against us in World War One, the men who had fought at Verdun and the other battle fields in that war voted against conscription for overseas service in that war. Conscription was introduced during the Second World War but that was when Australia was attacked within its own territory. I ask the Government to review its policy of conscripting national servicemen for overseas service. I do not disagree with national service training. I agree with national service training provided it is universal and provided it is for every young fellow. I believe that every man and woman should know how to defend his or her country in time of war. I do not believe in the lottery system. I do not believe in some people being left out of national service training altogether and the brunt of it being borne by just a small section of the community.
I do not think it is necessary for the period of national service training to be two years. The Government has agreed with that, in effect, by sending these boys overseas after 12 months training. We could decrease the length of the period of national service training and increase the number of people who undergo it. The Labour Party is not opposed to national service training within Australia. As a matter of fact, our Party instigated it before World War I. We are not against it now, but we are against the conscription of these young men for service overseas when, as we have seen in last night’s and this morning’s newspapers, no fewer than 65,000 young Vietnamese have deserted from their own Army this year. If 65,000 young Vietnamese have deserted from their own Army, why should 4,000 of our young men be expected to go there and take the places of those deserters?
– How many of them come back? They go to their villages for harvesting and then come back.
– I doubt whether 65,000 of them have come back. I am willing to be corrected if the view that I express are wrong. This really bears out what I have said; namely, that we do not know sufficient of the truth about Vietnam.
– The Saigon Government is supposed to be taking action.
– Yes. According to Press reports, the Saigon Government is taking action because it thinks the number of desertions will be even greater in the current half of the year. I do not know the facts. I do not know whether Senator Sim is right. He is quite a good friend of mine. I suppose he believes that what he says is right. I take what I can from Press reports. I think this doubt in the minds of the people of Australia causes all the bitterness that exists in relation to the Vietnam war.
I am quite certain that, if the people of Australia thought for one moment that this nation was in danger, there would be no need to talk of conscription because we would have sufficient young men in our military forces. Sufficient young men in our community would willingly volunteer in those circumstances as they have volunteered in their thousands on every other occasion on which Australia has been threatened. In those circumstances there would not be the necessity to send unwilling 20 year old men into a war about which so little is really known.
– Tonight I have the very pleasing duty of saying “thank you” to Senator Heatley for his maiden speech in this chamber. I believe that all of us who listened to him appreciated the research and sincerity that he put into his speech. Whilst I am talking about maiden speeches, I point out that the Budget that we are discussing happens to be the first or maiden budget that the Honorable William McMahon has presented to the Parliament and the first budget presented by the Government of our Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Harold Holt. I believe that the description of the Budget as a sensible one was very fitting. 1 disagree entirely with members of the Opposition who have misquoted figures. I refer particularly to Senator Cohen’s misquotations this afternoon, particularly on the amount of money that we are spending on defence. 1 also cross swords with Senator Kennelly in respect of some of the remarks that he made. However, in one glimpse of-
– Well, most unexpectedly, he said that he wanted plans; that he wanted Australia organised; that in 1963 the Labour Party said that under its scheme it would increase the gross national product by 4 per cent.; and then in the next breath he said that the present Government, which has not a plan or any idea of improving the welfare of the community, increased the gross national product by S.6 per cent, in the very year in which the Labour Party, with all its planning and scheming, would have increased it by only 4 per cent. Why castigate a government that can surpass all your planning? But that was the argument that he advanced and the answer that he gave.
A great deal has been said about defence and the need for it. I intend to say very little about it tonight. I wish to make only two points. One is that we have departed from one of the great principles in our defence strategy. The Government in its wisdom, and I am supporting it, has decided that Australia will have national service - I like to call it national service, but people may call it conscription if they wish - and that the laddies who are called up for national service training may be sent overseas. All that I am saying is that this is a new concept and that we have to rethink the privileges that can be given to these laddies. In my opinion, the days of volunteers for national service training have gone. So I am happy to know that we are having a new look at many of these matters.
The question of Vietnam has arisen on many occasions. Senator Tangney has just mentioned it. Senator Cohen also had a great deal to say about it. I hope that both of them will have the opportunity to go to Vietnam and see for themselves just what is happening there. It might be well to consider for a moment or two some of the things that have happened in Vietnam. I will be as brief as 1 can. As honorable senators know, France had great interests in that area. In 1883 it controlled the whole of Vietnam. France, during its period of occupation, if you wish to call it that, developed the country’s resources. But in 1954 France was defeated. In that year there were the Geneva Accords which ended the hostilities. Vietnam was divided along the 17th parallel. The International Control Commission was formed. The representative of India was made the Chairman of the Commission and the representatives of Canada and Poland were the other members of it.
The two Vietnams - North and South - faced the task of rebuilding their war shattered economies. Their irrigation, drainage, roads, bridges, railways and power plants had been ruined. One million refugees were on the move from the North1 to the South. Hunger and uncertainty existed everywhere. Two distinct philosophies of government arose. The North settled for a Communist way of life and the South wanted constitutional democracy. For 10 years the North experienced industrial gains, but its agricultural production fell. That is typical of what happens when Communists take over a country. But the South made great strides in rice production and had limited industrial success. Both the North and the South received massive aid from abroad. The North received it from Russia and China and the South from the free world.
We hear honorable senators opposite say a great deal about land reform, but the land reform imposed by the Communists in North Vietnam was not a success. In one province alone 6,000 farmers were executed. Not a word has been said about that by honorable senators opposite. It appeared that the economic future of North Vietnam was rather bleak. In 1964, Mao Tse-tung, who is championed by honorable senators opposite, said: “ The North Vietnamese are now living under wretched conditions.” In 1954 the problems of South Vietnam were greater than those of North Vietnam. There were more than one million refugees, many of whom were Communist agents, in South Vietnam.
In 1955 several progressive steps were taken in South Vietnam. Land reform was introduced. At the recent conference in
Honolulu, Air Vice-Marshal Ky, who is vilified by honorable senators opposite, promised land reform similar to that of Taiwan, which has the most progressive land reform scheme in South East Asia. South Vietnam prospered. Education facilities were improved and so too were health standards and communications. In 1956 there were 400,000 scholars in elementary schools, but by 1960 there were more than 1,500,000. But what happened? The Vietcong and their agents moved down below the 17th parallel, uninvited. The war would end tomorrow if the Vietcong returned to North Vietnam. What did the Vietcong do? They killed thousands of teachers and destroyed hundreds of aid posts. They denied primary education to more than one million South Vietnamese children.
In 1960 Hanoi declared that it had two tasks to perform. One was to commence a socialist revolution for what it called the liberation of South Vietnam. The National Liberation Front was formed, but no-one of any importance in the South joined it. Whatever we think about Vietnam - and we can perhaps have a difference of opinion on it - let us sit down quietly and think of what would happen to Australia if South Vietnam fell to the Communists.
– Give us some facts on that.
– I have given the facts, but I shall repeat them. The honorable senator does not believe that the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese have penetrated south of the 17th parallel. He will not admit that the Vietcong have attempted to disrupt the lives of the South Vietnamese. Those are facts, but the honorable senator condones the actions of the Vietcong. He says that the North Vietnamese have a perfect right to go into South Vietnam and cause disruption. That is his view which he has stated publicly and also in this chamber. He will support the North Vietnamese although they are doing these things. He is not prepared to help uphold a nation which wants to live its own way of life.
– I want to know how this will affect Australia’s security.
– Perhaps it will not affect Australia’s security tomorrow. The honorable senator will not admit that this is not a war in the ordinary sense. It is a philosophical war. We have to show the world that we are prepared to support any free nation which wants to live in peace.
Senator Cavanagh’s view may differ from mine. I believe that if South Vietnam falls, the rest of South East Asia will fall. I believe that the nations which are looking to us for support will have no chance of surviving against the Communist threat if South Vietnam falls. We know the way of life that the Communists intend to inflict upon the free world, including Australia. When I was in the vicinity of the 17th parallel in Vietnam I heard the loudspeakers blaring out. The people speaking into the loudspeakers told us who we were and what country we had come from. They said: “ Australia is south China. Australia is our land of influence. It is the great prize that we want. It has everything.” I believe that the people who were speaking into the loudspeakers were sincere in what they said. That is why I say that we are fighting for our existence. I have been distracted from the theme of my speech. I did not intend to say a great deal about Vietnam.
– The honorable senator has not said anything.
– I have heard enough to know that the honorable senator is behind us in this matter and that he thinks something of the defence of Australia. This leads me to another matter that is very close to my heart. It is something which we in Australia must take cognisance of in the near future. I refer to Papua and New Guinea. Whether we like it or not, some form of independence will come to Papua and New Guinea in the near future. What form will it take and how will it affect Australia? We have noticed what is happening in Great Britain. There was a time when Great Britain could defend the islands in the Pacific. We lived under the shadow of her flag.
Now there is a quite different concept as far as Great Britain is concerned. Australia has to think very seriously about the future position of and our relationship with
Papua and New Guinea, Bougainville Island and many of the other Pacific islands. If Papua and New Guinea receives its independence, what form will it take? At the present time the people of Papua and New Guinea want to continue their present trade relationships with Australia. They want to be on the same footing as the less favoured nations. As kind as we have been to Papua and New Guinea, we do not give to the people there the same support as we give to the people in the less developed countries.
One of the great problems facing Papua and New Guinea is the raising of the living standards. Another great problem, as I see it, is that if a new nation is born, a decision must be made as to what kind of law it will have. Over 500 languages are spoken in Papua and New Guinea, and not one of them has been committed to paper. A certain amount of diffidence exists among the local people to assume responsibility in respect of the law. I am not denying that Pidgin has advantages, in many respects, but I believe that there must be one common language, and that should be English.
We are hopeful that the standard of living of the people of Papua and New Guinea will be improved. I have found them to be a delightful people. Every time go there - and I have been quite frequently - I try to place myself in their position and to think as they think. It is a difficult matter to appreciate some of their problems. One of their greatest difficulties is the lack of common language. The question has been raised of whether Papua and New Guinea would become the seventh State of Australia. I think we can forget about that.
Senator Tangney referred to our crash programme of higher education in Papua and New Guinea. It has been instigated, I suggest, by the United Nations, which has said that we should train the people to be able and ready for independence. In my opinion this is wrong. I think the education programme should start at the grass roots. I have been very pleased to see what the Administration and the missions are doing to provide basic education in the elementary sphere. Education is not compulsory, but the Administration and the missions are making great strides to improve educational standards. Of the two concepts of education,
I favour that of the missionaries. They take education, as they say, at the grass roots and give training to the boys and girls in the villages. They teach them hygiene and try to inculcate the advantages of improving their agricultural productivity.
I have been delighted to follow the progress of the Papuan Infantry Regiment. If ever there is to be a national spirit and a national outlook, our Army and Navy are doing an extraordinarily good job to bring them about in the new nation. They do not know yet what name to give to the new nation, perhaps because it seems a little too far ahead. The Army and Navy are taking trainees from all over the island, bringing them together and giving them great training in the principles of government, hygiene and citizenship. I do not know that I have ever met a more dedicated band of men than are in the Army, trying to train good soldiers and extra fine civilians afterwards. The Navy is also doing a very good job.
I come now to the question of land tenure. The Administration has been very careful of the rights of the native people. Drilling for oil is being conducted off the coast of Papua. When Papua was under the control of Queensland a definite limit was set to the continental shelf. With the coming of Federation, that agreement was not continued. If oil is struck by off shore drilling, the ownership of the oil will need to be settled. Enormous deposits of copper may exist at Bougainville. Members of the American missions there have said that according to the law in the United States of America what is under the ground belongs to the individual. Under our Administration, it belongs to the Crown. These are matters that will need a great deal of clear thinking so that both sides can be satisfied that they have received justice.
I wonder how the granting of independence to Papua and New Guinea will affect Australia. I believe that at present the people there have a very warm feeling towards Australia. This year we are spending in Papua and New Guinea about $70 million. Wherever you go in that country you hear about cargo kink. The people in the highlands are the stabilising influence in New Guinea. They believe that the Australian people are the best providers of cargo kink. The United Nations has said that they must become a nation in their own right. The people in the highlands ask: “ Where are we going to get the $70 million that Australia in pouring into this country? “
We must have a very close look at the future of Papua and New Guinea from, our defence point of view. It is very important that we should know where we are going and that the people of Papua and New Guinea should be our friends. We should live in peace and equity with them. I would hate to see an outside influence controlling Papua and New Guinea. I would hate to see controlling that country a nation whose political ideology is different from ours. It is possible. T. say to Senator Cavanagh that some very prominent dangers are facing this country we love so well and are prepared to protect.
I have heard a great deal about conscription and about service. I wish to point out what happened in World War I. It was said that the soldiers fighting overseas in World War I voted against conscription. That is not so. I have challenged anyone to produce figures that would prove that the soldiers overseas voted against conscription. I shall cite the figures which appear in the official war history by C. E. W. Bean, an acknowledged authority. In 1916 votes cast in favour of conscription by soldiers at the front numbered 72,399 while those against conscription totalled 58,894. In other words, the majority cast votes in favour of conscription.
– But the people did not carry the conscription issue.
– I am pointing out that it has been said repeatedly in this House that soldiers at the front voted against conscription. I have demonstrated that they did not. Do honorable senators opposite deny the accuracy of the figures furnished by C. e. W. Bean, the official historian? I was there when this happened. In 1917 there were 103,789 votes in favour of conscription and 93,910 against. I put those figures on record, because I have become sick and tired of hearing it stated in this House that men at the front voted against conscription in 1916 and 1917.
I compliment the Treasurer upon the extraordinarily good Budget that he has presented. It must be approved, even by members of the Australian Labour Party. They could not do even half as well.
– Senator Mattner devoted a great deal of his speech to a defence of the Government’s policy on conscription and its decision to send young Australians to the war in Vietnam. If this were a foreign affairs debate, I would be prepared to take him to task immediately. It is sufficient for me to say that we of the Labour movement do not budge one iota from our policy as stated by our Leader. Frankly, we do not believe in the present unfair system of selection whereby some young Australians are taken from their environment and put into the Army, some are sent to this war in Vietnam, some unfortunately to die. Win, lose or draw, at the forthcoming Federal election we will be fighting the Government every inch of the way in relation to this matter.
Senator Mattner maintained that this was a philosophical war - I think that was the expression he used - that was being fought in the interests of the security of this nation. Obviously the Government has not convinced the younger generation of Australians, on this score. Only last week I received a reply to a question that I had placed on the notice paper in which I sought certain details from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall). The Minister informed me that in 1961 approximately 12,900 Australians applied to join the armed forces but only 3,030 were accepted. In 1965, after conscription had been implemented by this Government and after the Task Force had been sent to Vietnam, the number who volunteered for service dropped to only little more than 11,000. It is very interesting to note that whilst 3,030 were accepted by the Army in 1961, only 2,967 were accepted in 1965. Surely it is obvious that the Government has not convinced the overwhelming majority of Australians who are of military age that this is a war that must necessarily be fought in the interests of our security. Australians have never let their country down, and I suggest that they never will. They are proud patriots and lovers of this great land. I suggest that the figures give the lie direct to the Government’s claims in regard to this matter.
As this is a Budget debate, I want to direct my remarks to an examination of the document that was presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon).
Having perused it, I support the amendment that was moved by Senator Willesee. The Budget really fails to grapple with the problems that beset this nation and our economy. It is fair to say that one can take any facet of Government administration as typified by the Budget and find a considerable amount of criticism being levelled against it, not only by members of the Labour movement, but also by many groups of people closely connected with the phase of activity in question. Home seekers and home builders have become frustrated as they have learned that during the last financial year expenditure on dwellings declined by 1 per cent, after having risen by 18 per cent, in the previous year. Motor vehicle firms and people employed in the motor vehicle industry have been staggered to learn that the value of motor vehicles sold in the last financial year was $70 million less than for the preceding year. In spite of that drop we have read in the Press this week that the number of registrations is still declining.
Educationists are very much concerned at the growing crisis in the education field. My colleague Senator Tangney has addressed some remarks to this problem and has pointed out that the Commonwealth Government has directed its attention only to the tertiary aspect of education and has completely ignored the requirements and demands of teachers, children and parents in relation to primary and secondary education. Only today we witnessed a great deputation from people interested in education in New South Wales and Victoria. These people came to Parliament House to seek conversation with members of the Government and of the Opposition and to demand that the Government do something to ameliorate the conditions complained of.
It has been revealed that in the last financial year farm income fell by $318 million as compared with the preceding year. As would be well known to members of the Australian Country Party, primary producers are very much concerned about the future. Throughout the Budget there is evidence of neglect, inertia and lethargy. The sooner the Australian people awaken to the fact that this Government has failed to manage the affairs of this nation, to the fact that the nation’s affairs have been maladministered, the better it will be for all of us. We are no wiser about the economic outlook than we were prior to the presentation of the Budget. As the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ stated on 17th August, the day after the Budget was presented, neither Mr. McMahon’s actions nor his words settled any of the outstanding questions.
Let us look at one or two matters that are of paramount concern to the people of Australia. Let us look at the great national disaster that we have experienced in the form of drought. Apparently with some pride, the Treasurer asserted that last year New South Wales and Queensland were provided with $21,700,000 for drought relief purposes. This year an amount of $35 million is to be set aside. When one considers the great losses that have occurred down through the years - last year alone the fall in farm income was of the order of $318 million - he sees that the sum set aside for drought relief in New South Wales and Queensland this financial year is a mere drop in the bucket. How can anyone have confidence in any stability of policy on the part of this Government when he views its policy on drought relief over the years? As far back as 1960 the then Treasurer, who is the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) was asked for drought relief assistance by the State of Queensland. On 20th October of that year, nearly six years ago, the then Country Party member for Wide Bay asked the Treasurer whether a request for drought relief assistance had been received by the Commonwealth from Queensland, and what was the attitude of the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Holt went on record on that day as saying -
In general, the view taken of drought losses has been that although they may have a serious effect on the finances of primary producers the Commonwealth Government can hardly put itself in the position of virtually underwriting the seasonal factors encountered in the primary industries. Consequently, only in rare and exceptional circumstances has the Commonwealth participated with the Government of the State concerned in some scheme of drought relief.
As I said, that was some six years ago. The present Treasurer, probably because an election is in the offing some 13 weeks hence, boasts about $35 million being- made available to Queensland and New South
Wales for drought relief, although last financial year the loss in value of farm income was of the order of $318 million.
This matter does not touch only primary producers. It affects thousands of small business men and workers in country towns. One can walk into practically any town in New South Wales that has been hit by drought and be met with stories of utter despair. One learns from conversation with people in all walks of life that credit is tight, that jobs are getting harder to find, that housewives are more careful with their cents. Certainly much more than has been done to date by this Government must be accomplished if the rural areas of New South Wales and, I suggest, Queensland are to be relieved.
Even the junior branch of the Government - the Australian Country Party - has been critical of the Government’s policy. As far back as last November there appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ an article headed “ Full Scale Country Party Attack on Drought Relief”, which stated -
The N.S.W. Country Party yesterday made a full scale attack on the Commonwealth Government’s failure to provide low interest long term loans for drought relief and rehabilitation.
I ask: Where in this Budget is there provision for low interest long term loans for drought relief and rehabilitation of those properties that have been scarred by this great national disaster? That was as long ago as November 1965. Now it is nearly September 1966. Ten months ago the Country Party was attacking the Government’s economic policy. Now we find, three months before an election, that there has been a turnabout. As recently as 3rd August last Mr. Hunt, New South Wales Chairman of the Country Party, had something to say on drought relief. According to “ Muster “ of that date -
The drought in New South Wales has become so serious that it must be considered a national disaster.
This is after this great national clamity has been in the air for a period of six years. Suddenly, 13 weeks before an election a branch of the Government finds that this must now be considered to be a national disaster. The newspaper stated that this view had been expressed by the State executive of the Country Party. The report continued -
The executive said that two things had become evident during the course of the meeting. They were: The Federal Government’s $50 million farm development fund was taking too long to become fully operative and it could take 10 years to recover the losses of breeding stock incurred during the drought. The party’s State Chairman, Mr. R. Hunt, said that the executive was most disturbed by the slowness with which the Farm Development Loan Fund was coming into operation. The Prime Minister, in announcing the Fund last March, said that it would be used for farm development and drought recovery. Mr. Hunt said there was some confusion as to who was eligible for long term loans for drought relief. He .said that less than $1 million had been drawn from the Fund, and that trading banks were not encouraging its use.
This was said not by any member of the Labour Party but by the State Chairman of the New South Wales Country Party. He went on to say -
It might be a wise policy to retain a considerable portion of the $50 million for drought recovery purposes. There is nevertheless an urgent need for clarification as to the exact purposes of the Farm Development Fund and the eligibility of borrowers.
The report went on to state that urgent representations would be made to the Treasurer for long term loans for drought relief and development finance for primary producers. After a perusal of this Budget, it appears that the pleas of the Country Party have gone unheeded by the Federal Treasurer. The report continued -
The meeting also decided to point out to Federal Country Party members that no action had yet been taken to implement the Party’s policy to abolish Federal estate duty since the Government came into power in 1949.
There was a prominent member of the Country Party New South Wales making caustic criticism of the Government’s policy on drought relief. When one reads the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and the Budget Papers one can hardly wonder why Mr. Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, and Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, and other leading lights of the Liberal Party are critical of those documents. They realise that for them this Budget means the imposition of heavier State taxation. Obviously the Commonwealth through its inertia, lethargy and neglect, is not facing up to its responsibilities as a National Government. Only recently I read that a very serious world food crisis is closer than we previously expected; that is, closer than 1985. Although our farm income dropped by $318 million in the last financial year, and despite the fact that Australia is one of the leading primary producing countries of the world, the Treasurer was able summarily to dismiss this national problem - soon to be an international problem - in three short paragraphs.
Let me now turn to something which appears to run hand in glove with the problems of drought. I refer to national development. 1 was amazed this week to learn from a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) that up to date no firm decision has been reached by the Government on the future of the great Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, an instrumentality which was established by the Chifley Labour Government to carry out power generation and irrigation schemes utilising the run-off from the great. Australian Alps. As we all know, the Snowy scheme is one of the great engineering feats of the world. It is admired by scientists, engineers, designers and technicians everywhere. People who have come to Australia, inspected the scheme and studied the organisation, have had nothing but glowing praise for the efficiency of the Authority. I understand that upwards of 75,000 Australians go each year to Cooma and the Snowy Mountains area to view the Eucumbene Dam, the Geehi Dam and all the other works undertaken by the Authority. They go away from this scheme amazed at the accomplishments of their fellow Australians.
Australia is one of the oldest continents and certainly it is the driest continent in the world. Surely it is a shocking indictment of this Government that the Prime Minister should say that unless the State Governments can suggest schemes for the future and provide the wherewithal to finance them, the Snowy Mountains Authority will probably no longer be of any use. I would have thought that there is any amount of work available in New South Wales alone for an organisation of this nature. For instance, Sir William Hudson, the Chairman of the Authority, has suggested that it could perhaps be used on the tunnelling for the construction of the eastern suburbs railway in Sydney. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), suggested in another place yesterday that the Authority should be used for the development of port facilities throughout Australia. I suggest that it could well be used in the harnessing of the northern rivers of New South Wales where at present flood mitigation work is involved. The Lake Cowell area, near West Wyalong, is another locality where it might be used. These are only some of the projects in New South Wales alone, which are worthy of consideration. No doubt honorable senators from each of the other States could make a number of similar suggestions.
Surely there are schemes worthy of consideration and investigation in the Northern Territory, in the Australian Capital Territory and the other Territories which come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. 1 say it is a shocking indictment of this Government that, up to date, no plans have been made for the future of this great organisation. Engineer after engineer is leaving the employ of the Authority. I read only this week that since May - three months ago - 18 engineers have left the service of the Authority.
– Where are they going?
– I do not know, but they have left the service of this great instrumentality, obviously because they are concerned about what their future will be when the scheme reaches completion in 1974. The Authority is naturally finding it hard to replace them with men of equal skill. Everyone in the employ of the Authority is concerned about his future and the future of his family. Despite this, the Government continues to vacillate on the subject. All it can say is: If the States can suggest schemes and provide the wherewithal we will give the matter further consideration. I wonder whether it is actually the policy of this Government to let the Authority run down to such an extent that eventually this great organisation, with its assets and its knowhow, can be practically given away to private enterprise.
National development has obviously been put to one side, according to this Budget. Very little attention was devoted to this subject by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. If one needs further evidence of the
Government’s attitude it can be found in a report of a speech made on 17th February last in the Dawson by-election by .the Prime Minister. The report stated -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Holt, tonight reaffirmed that Australia could not increase its defence spending without “great detriment” to national development.
He was speaking two days before the visit to Australia of the United States Vice-President Mr. Hubert Humphrey.
In short, whilst this Government is in office, all the plans that may be made for the development of this nation’s great resources in the north will, I believe, be pigeonholed. Finally, I come to another subject which I and other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have aired from time to time. I refer to the failure of the Government to do anything to encourage and promote the Australian television industry. As with national development, the Government should be indicted for its lethargy and failure to act in regard to this matter. Recently some of those engaged in this industry - the owners or managers of commercial television stations - went to the United States of America and complained to the American producers and American networks about the imposition of further high costs on the programmes that are imported into Australia.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 August 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660831_senate_25_s32/>.