25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question. Do the dismissals by General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. so soon after the Budget, which the Treasurer described as slightly expansionary, suggest that the Budget has failed to achieve its objective? Will the Treasurer take supplementary action to promote sales of motor cars and to prevent threatened unemployment in the motor vehicle industry?
– The first thing that I say in reply to the honorable senator’s question is that I certainly do not think he or anybody else could say at this juncture what effect the Budget has had in this field. All over the world the motor industry is notoriously an up and down industry. It plans for a certain expansion, but its estimates are often a little wide of the mark. The type of thing that is occurring in Australia at present has taken place thoughout the world. It is to be hoped that with the apparent breaking of the drought - I think the drought, which the Treasurer mentioned in his Budget speech and which has continued for two years, has had a great effect on the industry - the industry will pick up as it did recently after there had been dismissals. On that occasion the people who had been dismissed were taken back again.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, by stating that last year I had discussions with the then Minister for Defence about the possibility of establishing a naval base in the far north of Queensland. My question is as follows: Will the Minister arrange for an investigation to be made of the desirability of establishing a naval base in the Cape Kimberley area, some 40 miles north of Cairns, north Queensland, before any final decision is made to proceed with the establishment of a base on the western coast of Western Australia, especially in the light of the fact that the area to which I refer has outstandingly valuable features for such a base, lends itself admirably to maximum security restrictions and has the additional merit of being within some 250 miles of the newly established Army base at Townsville?
– I think the honorable senator had better put his question on the notice paper so that the Minister for Defence can reply to it. But I would be pretty sure that in any such reply the Minister would point out that the need for some presence in the Indian Ocean would be one of the overriding reasons for examining the possible establishment of a base in Western Australia.
– Can the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister explain the apparent salary increase discrimination that is manifest in recent adjustments made to the salaries of Third Division clerks in the Taxation Branch under Commonwealth Public Service Determination No. 104, in that some employees who have service dating back to 1947 were excluded from such salary increases?
– This is a matter of a Public Service award. I suggest that if the honorable senator wants some details of it he should put his question on the notice paper. If he does that, I will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In the light of the worldwide trend towards the use of ships carrying containerised cargo and shortly the arrival of such ships at Australian ports which could well be many hundreds of miles from the ultimate destination of the containerised goods, has the Minister or his Department studied the question of changing the current procedures for the assessment and collection of import duties on containerised cargoes so that the Australian importer will enjoy the maximum benefit from the lower freights and charges which the adoption of containerisation is expected to provide?
– I was not in the chamber when Senator Laught spoke during the Budget debate, but I have read subsequently his comments on containerisation. 1 am happy to be able to say to him that following the conference that was called by the Minister for Trade and Industry in May, at which senior customs officers were present, my Department has set up a study group to examine this position very carefully. Officers have been seconded in order that they can give their full attention to the problems inherent in this new form of shipping control. It is expected that possibly two customs officers will go overseas shortly to continue the study of techniques being employed in other parts of the world. There is a United Nations convention on containerisation. Australia is not a party to that convention, but at present consideration is being given to the possibility of Australia becoming a member of it.
It has to be understood that in the first instance decisions in relation to the selection and development of containerisation sites have to be taken by the State maritime authorities and the shipping companies. I have personally, in the presence of Mr. Swanson, the Chairman of the Melbourne Harbour Trust, inspected the site which has been chosen for the port of Melbourne. Apparently there is still some disputation as to where the site will be located in Port Jackson, but my officers are being kept informed of developments there.
The only other thing I need to say is that I think we all recognise that with the advent of containerisation there will be a tremendous saving in freight costs. This will be of great assistance to the whole economy of the Commonwealth. I am certain that nothing that my Department does will hinder the introduction of containerisation to Australia. In fact, we will be up with it all the time. When the State authorities have done their part, the Department of Customs and Excise will be ready to proceed with the normal procedures for import entry.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is supplementary to that asked by Senator Cavanagh. In view of the importance of this issue in South Australia, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate give an immediate assurance that the Federal Government will take action to preserve the motor body building industry, which is one of Australia’s most valuable industries? Has the Government forgotten the drastic effects on the economy when the motor body building industry was similarly recessed in the early 1960’s.
– The Government naturally is watching very closely the developments in this industry. If the Government makes a decision it will advise the Senate of it in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Subsequent to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health held on 26th July last, the Commonwealth Minister for Health, Dr. Forbes, made a statement in which he said he had agreed with the suggestion by the State Ministers that a mental health committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council should be established. As such a mental health committee would be of great service in raising the standards of mental care and psychiatric treatment throughout Australia, could the Minister say whether consideration has been given to establishing the committee and, if so, whether its formation will take place in the near future?
– The Minister for Health has given me some information concerning this matter. I think it will answer the question raised by the honorable senator. The next meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council is to be held on 4th November 1966. A proposal to form a mental health committee will be considered at that meeting. If the National Health and Medical Research Council approves the proposal, the mental health committee will probably hold its first meeting early in the new year.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether an appeal has been made to the Australian Government to set up a film fund such as that operating with government support in both Great Britain and Canada? In view of the numerous bounties paid and assistance given to so many industries, would the Government give favorable consideration to the establishment of such a fund to assist the film industry in Australia and thereby encourage the great talent we have in this country? Such an investment would be repaid a hundredfold by the publicity Australia would receive overseas.
– I will convey the honorable senator’s question to the Prime Minister and have an answer provided for him.
– No decision has been made by the Government regarding the introduction of colour television in Australia. In supplementing that information, the Postmaster-General has informed me that it is essential that technical equipment for the media be determined definitely before a decision is reached. This is in the interests of the people of Australia, television operators and manufacturers. Australia is not lagging in giving attention to the introdutcion o of colour television. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board recently obtained the views of the industry and has been represented at the last two international conferences on colour television standards.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the
Senate been drawn to a statement by the general manager of the new marketing subsidiary, Nissan Motor Company (Austrafia) Pty. Ltd., to the effect that he is confident that the Federal Government will act to stimulate the flagging Australian car industry. I ask the Minister: Is this confidence misplaced? If not, will the Government direct such stimulation to the true motor industry in Australia which builds motor cars, as distinct from the assembly plants of foreign companies, which it has been truly said are only roofs over a paddock?
– I did not see the statement referred to by the honorable senator. I do not think there is anything I can add to the answers I have already given to two honorable senators on this matter.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which follows upon the questions asked by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Toohey in relation to the dismissal of 700 workers employed by General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. Is the Minister aware that as a result of these dismissals great hardship and mental anguish will be caused to these workers, their wives and their children? Has the Minister seen a very recent report, I think as late as this week, that the price of the Holden motor car shortly will be increased because of added safety provisions being made to the vehicle, the cost of which will be added to the normal list price? In view of the high profit margin shown by General Motors-Holden’s in past years, will the Minister consider asking the company to absorb within its cost structure the limited costs involved in these added provisions, thus saving the jobs of some of the retrenched workers?
– I am all in favour of any safety provisions which any car manufacturer applies to his product. This is a move in the right direction. I commend General Motors-Holden’s for having taken this step. As to the rest of the question, I said yesterday and again today that it is yet too early in the piece to pass any judgment on the motor industry. Because of two years of drought we have passed through more difficult times than perhaps honorable senators realise. This has had a marked effect upon purchasing power in Australia. That is only natural, and it would have happened irrespective of which Government was in office. We can only alleviate the effects of drought; we cannot cure droughts altogether. I repeat that it is too early yet to judge. However, the Government has the matter well under consideration. It is as concerned about this matter as is anybody else.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. I should like to mention that the sugar industry in Queensland has exhibited its difficulties to the Federal Government. I think that part of those difficulties arises from freight charges. The Minister will know the great impact that is being made on the fruit industry, with consequent apprehension, by the 10 per cent, increase in freight charges for refrigerated cargoes which has just been announced.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I ask the honorable senator to direct his question.
– With that sensible preface, Mr. Deputy President-
– I rise to a point of order. Is it correct for an honorable senator, when you, Mr. Deputy President, ask him to state his question, to say in reply: “ With that sensible preface “? To my mind, that is an insult to the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I asked Senator Wright to direct his question straight away. I take it that I stopped him just as he was about to ask the question. [ now ask him to continue with his question.
– This is my question: We levy a payroll tax in relation to the stevedoring labour content of overseas freight of I think 3s. 4d. per man hour. Will consideration be given to assisting the sugar and fruit industries by relieving them of that tax in the same way that relief is given to manufacturing industries to stimulate exports by relieving them of the general payroll tax?
– The matter is one of policy and therefore must be referred to the Treasurer. I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice paper.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state the total allocations of special loans, grants and other Commonwealth finance that has been made available to Queensland for developmental purposes in the financial years from 1957-58 to 1965-66, both years inclusive?
– I certainly cannot supply that information off the cuff. The statistics cover a wide field and no-one could carry them in his head. If the honorable senator will put the question on the notice paper I shall obtain the information for him. I suggest that this is a type of question which should not be asked without notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister seen the report in today’s Press about 200 Aboriginal workers, who were employed on Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory, being on strike? Has the Government arranged to send a conciliation commissioner to Wave Hill to deal with the dispute and, if possible, to effect a satisfactory settlement?
– I understand that a number of Aborigines employed as stockmen on Wave Hill Station have for some time - for some days, at any rate - been on strike and that the strike is not authorised or was not called by their union but is a local strike. I know of no conciliation commissioner having been sent to the area or whether one will be.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate been able to ascertain the conditions associated with the recruitment of hostesses to staff the Australian pavilion at the impending Canadian Trade Fair?
– No, I have no information on this matter. I understand that this matter is the subject of a question on the notice paper. If it is not, I shall get the information as soon as possible for the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. After 12 months experience, is the Treasurer convinced that two can live as cheaply as one? If he is not, will he confer with the Minister for Social Services on the difficulties experienced by the wives of age pensioners who are not themselves of pensionable age and must therefore exist at a very low subsistence level on portion of their husbands’ pensions? Would it be possible for portion ot the $500,000 to be saved by the earlier changeover to decimal currency to be diverted in order to assist in providing some relief to these women this year, pending the insertion of provision for a proper pension for them in the next Budget to be brought down by the Treasurer?
– The honorable senator from long experience knows that all such matters are considered before the Budget is drawn up. The matter of social services was taken into consideration and a judgment has been made. She asks me whether the Treasurer, after 12 months experience, knows whether two can live as cheaply as one. I understand there is likely to be more than two before very long. I do not propose to ask the honorable senator whether she thinks one can live as cheaply as two.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government a question that concerns the motor vehicle industry. Is it a fact, as reported in the Press, that the Government had prior knowledge from General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. that 700 retrenchments would be made on Wednesday last? I ask the Minister whether he personally had this information when he replied to me on Tuesday and said -
Let us look at the matter and judge it when we have more facts before us. They will show whether this trend is temporary- as I believe it will be- or whether it indicates a future recession in the motor vehicle industry.
Has the Minister’s opinion changed? Will he recommend immediate discussions with the motor vehicle industry in connection with its future?
– At the moment I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the honorable senator on Tuesday.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he ask the Government to accede to the recent resolution of the 2 million-strong trade unions represented by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, calling upon the Commonwealth Government to hold a referendum on the question of conscription for overseas military service?
– The Government’s policy on this matter is well known. I suggest that the honorable senator put his. question on the notice paper.
(Question No. 925.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate of any decision regarding proposals to convert the Sydney Customs House into a national maritime museum?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
I know of no firm proposals to convert the Sydney Customs House into a national maritime museum. The situation concerning this building-, has not changed since 1st December 1965, when I informed the honorable senator that no decisionhas been taken on the future of this building.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 59), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– With one exception, the Bill before the House is largely a machinery measure and the Opposition is in agreement with it. The first thing that the Bill does is to alter the description of the High Commissioner from “ High Commissioner for the Commonwealth “, to “ High Commissioner for Australia “. The Opposition wholeheartedly supports that amendment.
The Bill will give the High Commissioner authority to delegate the powers conferred on him in relation to the appointment of permanent officers and the engagement of temporary employees. It will validate, first, appointments made otherwise than by the High Commissioner, and secondly, certain salary increases paid by way of ministerial approval to locally engaged staff. It appears quite sensible that authority should be given to delegate the power I have referred to. There is also power to revoke the delegation, and that, of course, is normal procedure in these matters. We think these are desirable amendments. We offer no opposition to the Bill.
– This Bill to amend the High Commissioner (United Kingdom) Act is one that I believe the Senate should take note of, but not from the point of view of opposing what it asks us to authorise. Looked at quickly, this is an innocuous Bill but I believe it to be an important one, which the Senate should examine. We as a Parliament should be more interested in and more informed about the background to this delegation of power. We should pay more attention to this validation of appointments and increases in staff.
We are living in a time of change. Our responsibilities are changing. Particularly in respect of our representation requirements, the Australian component in the United Kingdom should be the subject of a searching examination. Great Britain herself is looking to new horizons. She has new outlets for her trade and new responsibilities closer to home. The United Kingdom has less authority and less responsibility as a mother country as we knew her when the first High Commissioner for Australia was appointed to London. Since that time there has been a gradual growth in staff and other departmental representation in London.
But we for our part have a new role in relation to our requirements in the United Kingdom. Australia is now a nation with greater responsibilities at home. Our horizons have altered since 1939. So we have to consider where we should expand our representation and where it should be less. Our thinking should be in line with the new look in our international representation. We have areas of special importance to us in connection with trade and security. Perhaps we need to be more attentive to some of them while taking more away from the Australian component in the United Kingdom. Our component there has been growing and is still growing but in my opinion we should have started a reducing process some years ago. Certainly, the time has arrived when our representation in the United Kingsom should be reduced. I have sought information on the salaries paid to our representatives in the United Kingdom. The official figures are not published and they are not all available to me but reliable figures I have obtained show that in the financial year 1961-62 we paid out to our representatives in the United Kingdom $1,521,984. This amount had increased to $2,221,504 in 1965-66. That is an indication of the nature of our expenditure on the Australian component in the United Kingdom.
A change has been evident and the Bill indicates that at last the winds of change have permeated to those responsible for this legislation. Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill omit the words “ of the Commonwealth “ and insert in their place the words “for Australia “. The effect is that we will no longer have a High Commissioner of the Commonwealth but a High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom. The Australian Commonwealth no longer exists. We are an Australian nation - a federation of States. We are a member of a Commonwealth. If honorable senators go to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting as I did in November last year they will find to their sorrow, as I did, that we are not a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations but a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. So, the winds of change are with us. Our ties with Britain, in my view, are firm. They are cherished. These ties are terribly important to Australia. I believe that this Parliament will do all it can to keep these ties always firm and binding. Anything that I say today has nothing whatever to do with the traditional ties of loyalty to, respect for, and co-operation with Great Britain which is still, in my view, our mother country.
But we have to look at this matter in the pure, hard, cold light of financial facts and business reasoning. We have to see whether or not we do have the requirement that has been built up. I believe that Parkinson’s Law has ruled the situation in the United Kingdom as far as our Australian component is concerned. I sincerely believe that a thorough examination of our representation in Great Britain would be fruitful, and that this would cause no harm to, and no weakening of, our required rep.resenation there. The Bill, as I have said, gives new titles. It gives the High Commissioner power to delegate authority. In clauses 5 to 10 of the Bill appointments, increases of staff and payments of staff are validated. This is being done because the octupus has grown, and grown and grown. No single ministerial head is in authority over the Australian component in Great Britain. Therefore, there has been no direct responsibility placed on any Minister to study how our representation in the United Kingdom has grown. We find that the administrative work has become too big for the legislation that provided for the setting up of our representation in Great Britain years ago. I have said that full information as to the numbers of Australian staff, and Australian paid staff, in the United Kingdom are for me - a mere senator - difficult to obtain. However, the Budget papers reveal sufficient to arouse one’s curiousity and confirm my opinion and my belief that an examination is warranted and could be very helpful.
Several departments are involved. There is shared responsibility. I have taken the figures in relation to some departments from the estimates papers. The departments I shall mention are not taken in order of priority as far as importance is concerned; they are in alphabetical order. I note that the London office of the Department of Customs and Excise this year will cost $58,992 compared with $19,528 last year. The appropriation for the London office of the Department of External Affairs is $67,120 for this financial year. This com pares with $63,864 in the last financial year. The appropriation for the Department of Immigration also receives a good lift. Possibly, this is understandable. The more British we can get out here, the stronger we will be. The vote for the Migration Office in the United Kingdom rises from $449,800 last year to $496,000 this year. In relation to the Prime Minister’s Department we find that the appropriation for the High Commissioner’s “Office in the United Kingdom is to be increased from $1,028,700 in 1965-66 to $1,114,400 in this financial year. Staff in this office rises from 412 to 413, an increase of 1. The vote for the Department of Trade and Industry which is an important sector of our administration rises a mere $800, from $61,600, in 1 965-66 to $62,400 this financial year. The number of staff remains static.
Other departments may be represented. I do not know how the News and Information Bureau is set up in London but I suggest that it has a component there somewhere. The Department of the Treasury no doubt has highly qualified and necessary officials in the United Kingdom but the Budget papers reveal to me as far as the overseas office of the Treasury is concerned that $59,449 is appropriated for the current financial year compared with $40,822 last year. I believe that every facet of our administration and representation in the United Kingdom calls for examination. There should be diminishing costs as our responsibilities and requirements diminish. Only the outsiders will see the gain. In this case the outsiders, in my opinion, are the ministerial heads here in Canberra of the departments that are represented in the United Kingdom.
Only this week I read in the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “ that the Australian Government has just paid or is about to pay $500,000 for Canberra House. The building will be used for office staff and administrative requirements, in addition to Australia House. So we are seeing a big growth in costs when I believe there should be a diminution in costs.
– What work is to be done on Canberra House?
– Canberra House is a fairly tall building. I understand that the first four floors will be let to business firms at high rentals in order to reduce the cost. That is quite a good move if all the other floors are required by the Commonwealth. The buildings that the Commonwealth has been occupying and which it is now vacating are in pretty poor shape. I understand from the Press report that there are well founded fears that the income received from these buildings will not be very great. However, I do not want to go into detail. My purpose is only to arouse interest in this matter. I do not think it is a laughing matter. I believe it is a serious matter at which the Cabinet should have a look. I believe that each Minister should examine his department’s setup in London and then report to the Cabinet. Then the Cabinet should tell the Parliament and the people what the Commonwealth has in London,’ why it has what it has there and what it proposes to do in the future.
I have no quarrel with the Public Service. But we have to ensure that we are not over-represented, with too many people doing too little, in overseas posts. My only experience of Australian representation overseas was at the United Nations in 1956. I believe that our office there was understaffed and that the officers were badly housed-
– And badly paid.
– I believe that the conditions have been improved. Senator Cormack, who has just interjected, would know about the situation there because he has been to the United States recently. He might be able to help us in our request for an examination of Australian representation in the United Kingdom. I have said what I believe should be done.
One other aspect of the examination that I would like to see carried out and reported on to the Parliament is the proportion of Australian born, educated and trained people employed in our United Kingdom offices, compared with the proportion of local manpower. I believe it is terribly important that Australians represent Australia in the United Kingdom, as far as possible. Having expressed those few thoughts, I conclude by saying that I am glad that this Bill has been introduced. It is designed to validate acts that resulted from some laxity of administration in the
United Kingdom. It also changes the title of the High Commissioner in acknowledgement of the winds of change. It has also given the Senate an opportunity to express some views on Australian representation overseas.
– I did not intend to enter this debate until Senator Marriott made his contribution. I rise to express my appreciation of what he said. Some years ago in this chamber I expressed much the same opinion, that there should be some inquiry into the position of our representation in London. I would not like it to be thought that I am being critical of our people at Australia House, because on the occasions that I have visited London I have had nothing but courtesy and help from them.
– The honorable senator should go there and see the position under the present consul.
– 1 have not been there for three years, but when I was there I could not speak too highly of the wonderful assistance that I received from members of the various departments which have been enumerated by Senator Marriott. I feel that a great deal of confusion exists in London because of the multiplication of representatives from the States and the Commonwealth. When a person walks down the Strand he sees signs referring to the Agents-General for Western Australia. South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, but to the average passerby, only two of those officers have any connection with Australia. They are the representatives of Western Australia and South Australia in which the word “ Australia “ appears. So to the uninitiated or the uninformed, the Agents-General for Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland do not mean very much.
– Some people confuse Tasmania with Tanzania now.
– There is confusion. While I do not deny the sovereign States their right to be represented in London, I think that the time has come when they should be housed in one Australia House. When we come to the question of migration, we find State competing with
State for migrants. As this is a Ferera matter, I think that there could be a great deal more co-operation between the State representatives and the Commonwealth representative - or the Australian representative as he will now be known under the terms of this Bill.
I was rather dismayed to read in the Press recently, as did Senator Marriott, about the high annual rental that is to be paid for a building in London called Canberra House. To begin with, I deprecate the name. If we aTe to have Australian representatives there, they should be housed in Australia House. I hope the time will not come when Canberra House takes over altogether from Australia House. The fact that the announcement was made about (he additional expenditure on rental of premises in London at the same time as we have this Bill before the Senate, gives us an opportunity to raise the matter of adequate and complete representation on a proper national footing in the United Kingdom.
The change in the title of our representative in the United Kingdom from the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth to the High Commissioner for Australia is a commonsense one. I happened to be a delegate at a conference in Westminster in 1948 when, against my vote, the name of the British Empire Parliamentary Association was changed to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The new name did not seem to me to have much connotation of origin. Since that time the word “ Commonwealth “ has become confused in people’s minds when it is used to describe Australia. Australia is referred to as the Commonwealth of Australia and the Commonwealth. I think it is about time that this change was made in the title of our representative in London. I am glad that even at this late stage it is being done.
With regard to the expenditure on staff and so on at Australia House, I think that it is up to the Senate to see that this matter is discussed properly in this chamber when the Estimates are being discussed.
– That is when it should be discussed.
– Yes, but it is one of those matters that seem to be passed over, in conjunction with many other matters. We get so many items to be discussed in, say, two minutes, that we cannot get down to brass tacks. As has been mentioned by other honorable senators, 1 would like to see more time devoted to the discussion of the Estimates, even if it meant a curtailment of the Budget debate. That might sound a little selfish after I have made my speech, but I have always said that. We should be able to give more time to the discussion of the Estimates, even if it means sitting four days a week as we used to do in the bad old days of the Labour Government.
.- I had no intention of speaking in this debate, but as I have been listening to Senator Marriott and Senator Tangney, 1 have been impelled to reach for my own flask of vitriol. I seriously question whether we should without comment allow a change in the nomenclature of the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. I do not know by what right it should be done or why we should consent to the pre-emption of the word “ Commonwealth “ by these scattered and diverse groups who now call themselves the “ Commonwealth of Nations “. In fact, I am rapidly reaching the stage where I find it intolerable to be faced with a situation where groups of nations issue constant threats that they are going to leave the Commonwealth of Nations. I think the time has almost been reached where we should consider whether we should leave it.
– That is all they have been saying, too.
– I think we should leave it. This month a meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Nations is to be held. A report states in this morning’s Press that six members of the Commonwealth of Nations - so called - have expressed their disapproval of the Commonwealth of Nations and are not even sending their Prime Ministers to the meeting.
I think we should examine the whole question of whether the validity of this complex which we regard as the Commonwealth of Nations should be allowed to continue without a pretty close scrutiny as to the value it presents to us and the value that it might present to the people who adhere for nothing else but pecuniary advantages, it seems to me, to the loose group known as the Commonwealth of Nations.
– It has lost its value.
– To me it has become almost meaningless. When we turn to the question of representation of Australia in London, I think there is some justice in the comments made by Senator Marriott and Senator Tangney to the Senate. I particularly take up the point made by Senator Tangney that the AgentsGeneral of the States should be housed, perhaps, in the new Canberra House, so called. On the occasions on which I have been to London, if I have wished to be welcomed and received with warmth and treated with kindness and courtesy and have my small requirements met with efficiency, I have gone to the office of the AgentGeneral for Victoria. I have not gone to Australia House.
– Everyone says that.
– I suppose when each honorable senator goes to London he finds he is received with greater civility in the office of the Agent-General of the State from which he comes than he receives at Australia House. There is an egalitarianism about Australia House at present, because senators and members of the other place are received with the same contempt shown to the denizens of Kangaroo Valley.
Perhaps as the status of the High Commissioner in London rises with a vast increase in staff and the acquisition of a great number of buildings, the position is best described by a scene I witnessed the last time I visited Australia House. As I walked into the great foyer I heard a blast of trumpets. It came from the trumpeters of the Household Cavalry. I thought that for once I was being received with kindness and courtesy, but then I discovered that it was marking the entry of the High Commissioner for Australia into Australia House. I agree with Senator Marriott that a fine tooth comb should be put through Australia House. It is a most extraordinary thing that with the advent of a new High Commissioner this thing has expanded, not at the rate of Parkinson’s Law, but at the rate of its square. With those comments, I return my flask to my pocket.
.- I have listened to this debate and I wish to express my appreciation of the contributions made by Senator Marriott and Senator Tangney. I rise, though, having been the recipient of great courtesies from Australia House, and even warmer and greater courtesies from the office of the AgentGeneral for Tasmania. Mr. White has carried out his duties for a great number of years. I should like him to know that, irrespective of the fact that he was appointed by- a government of another political colour, every member of the political party to which I belong who has sought his help has been greatly indebted to him for his untiring efforts to make one’s stay serviceable and comfortable. I wish to acknowledge that from Sir Eric Harrison, who has now retired from office at Australia House, I received much greater courtesy than I believe I was entitled to. If, when I was there, I wanted service from any branch of the establishment, I received it with unfailing courtesy.
However, I do not detract from what Senator Marriott, reinforced by Senator Tangney, has so usefully said. It is our duty to watch the growth at Australia House. At this particular time, though, when we are complaining about the withdrawal of British influence east of Suez and when we are comprehending a change in British thinking away from trade with Australia and towards entry into the European Common Market, we may be wise to ensure efficient representation in London. I resent the complete lack of knowledge that London often exhibits in relation even to Victoria. It is almost parallel with the lack of knowledge that Melbourne exhibits in relation to Hobart. These condescensions accompany the pleasantries of life. One enables oneself by a false sense of dignity and so forth to make the other person feel a little humiliated. I repeat that during the next pregnant decade, when change is of great importance, it may be that, rather than multiply our representation in London, we should ensure that it is most efficient and that we are properly advised on all matters, particularly in relation to defence and the re-orientation of thought in London in regard to trade.
I come to the second reason for my rising. With great respect to my friend Senator Cormack, it is unfortunate that aspersions should be cast on Commonwealth countries because of their discontent or illconsidered contributions, or because of their internal policies or external considerations which affect other nations. This all makes life difficult to sustain. We have instances of this even within the peaceful confines of this chamber. We get to the stage where we irritate one another and have to bear one another’s irritation. It would seem, Mr. Deputy President, that Divine Providence, whom you sometimes invoke, has guided me on this occasion. I had meant to maintain silence today. I have here a book of poetry which I have been reading all this week. The prologue contains these words -
Are wc pilgrims yet to speak Out of Olivet the words of knowledge and goodwill?
In relation to our Commonwealth partners, and for their benefit, we presume to put the emphasis on the word “ knowledge “. As usual, I persevere in pursuit of quietude and peace and maintain that Australia should put the emphasis on the word “ goodwill “. I hope that nobody will misunderstand me as presuming to offer anything but an observation which I think should temper any resentment arising out of the arrogation to this body, the Commonwealth, of the name “ Commonwealth “ in substitution for the “ British Commonwealth “. We all know that the word is the expression of an ideal to dedicate the wealth to a common purpose. If we transplant the idea that was appropriate to the six States of Australia in 1900 to the wider field of world conceptions in the hope that that purpose of common wealth will be sufficiently supported, we sustain a real cause. Finally, I would be untrue to a friendship of very great value if I did not say to the present occupant of the post of High Commissioner that I accord my purposeful acknowledgement of his continuing discharge of duty and display of courtesy from which his nature would prevent him from ever refraining.
– I should like to have two shillings each way in regard to this matter. Senator Cormack spoke a great deal of truth when he said that it was time we stopped talking about the British Commonwealth. In doing that we just bury our heads in the sand. However, he can have great pleasure in the fact that his own Government is doing its very best to make Australia the 51st State of the United States of America. I must take exception to his remarks about the staff at Australia House. I found them extremely courteous and very helpful and they did everything possible for me. Of course, we have to bear in mind that we are senators and we wonder whether we get special treatment from the staff. What happens to the ordinary person who comes from Kangaroo Valley? So far as I myself can speak, the service was excellent, but that does not alter the fact, pointed out by Senators Marriott, Tangney and Cormack, that Parkinson’s Law seems to be working full time in Australia House, and the whole position should be looked at thoroughly when the Estimates come before us for consideration.
The second suggestion that they made was that the Agents-General of the States should be in the Commonwealth building. I agree that this is most essential. A question that has not been raised today is: When are we to get rid of that ghastly Victorian mausoleum called Australia House? To anyone who goes into it, it is a most depressing place. It is most difficult to get around upstairs. It is time the building was pulled down. I do not know how many years ago it was erected. The structure must have looked impressive in the days of Queen Victoria.
– Does the honorable senator want go-go introduced over there?
– A little more gogo. We have another building called Canberra House, which is modern. It is time the Government gave consideration to pulling down Australia House altogether and putting up a modern building in the interests of increased efficiency. I do not know how the place impresses other senators. To me it was just a mausoleum. It is the most dreary and depressing place one could ever be in. It is just ghastly. If we pulled the place down, built another Australia House and made sure that all the States put their offices in the building, it would be a good thing.
I support the suggestion that we should look into the question of costs and also the suggestion that the States should be represented in Australia House. I deplore the suggestion that the Australian office should be called Canberra House. It should be called Australia House. Canberra may be our capital city but Australia, I think, is more important than Canberra.
– in reply - I should like, at the beginning, to express appreciation of the fact that the Opposition agrees that this is a sensible proposal and a sensible Bill. What it does, of course, as the” Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) has pointed out, is to make it legal for the Australian High Commissioner in London to delegate authority to appoint locally engaged officers and temporary employees. At the moment he has not legal authority to appoint a typist, clerk or doorman. This will give him right to delegate such power. In addition, the Bill proposes that his name be changed. This rather simple, quiet and confined proposition - because the Bill deals only with what I have said - has led to quite an interesting discussion ranging widely over a number of matters, none of which has anything whatever to do with the Bill but all of which are nonetheless interesting for that.
– They are all related to the Bill, really.
– With great respect, none has anything to do with the provisions of the Bill, but they are nonetheless interesting for that. They ranged through matters such as how many people are employed - which is quite different from how how they are appointed - and I agree that they are matters proper for consideration of this Parliament at the appropriate time when the Estimates come in. I give now to Senator Marriott, who raised this question, an undertaking that if he does have any difficulty in dissecting the numbers engaged in various fields in the office of the High Commissioner in London before the Estimates come under consideration, I shall be glad to extend to him all of the assistance in my power to see that he gets the figures that he may want.
We ranged from that through questions of vitriol, questions of. poetry, and discus sion of the Commonwealth of Nations as opposed to the Commonwealth of Australia. There are one or two matters on which I should like to comment. I think that all of us who listened to Senator Cormack can understand, although we cannot share, his irritation that it was not for him but for the High Commissioner that all the trumpets sounded on the other side. That seems to be insufficient reason for a rather generalised, sweeping attack on all members of the staff of Australia House and on the High Commissioner in particular. If sweeping attacks of this sort are made, some specific reason should be given and 1 think that the attacks are detracted from if, before they are made, we are told that the man who makes them never goes to Australia House but goes only to the Agent-General of his own State. We then had a contribution from Senator Wright with a poetic conclusion, which leads me to my own.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have looked at the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) and I have listened to all the speeches in the debate. I listened most attentively to the concluding remarks of the Minister when replying to the debate, but what feelings of appreciation I may have I will suppress at the moment. I direct his attention to clause 6 of the Bill. I ask the Minister to disclose to me that part of his second reading speech which explains the purpose of, and to tell me now what is the necessity for, clause 6, which provides -
.- The High Commissioner was appointed under section 2 of the Act with the title “ High Commissioner for the Commonwealth”. He is now to be known as the “ High Commissioner for Australia. It is desired to make plain that the appointment cannot be questioned because the title of the office has been changed.
– With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make one or two further comments. As the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) rightly pointed out, we on this side said that we completely agreed wilh the Bill, and I now wish to dissociate the Australian Labour Party from some of the comments that were made during the second reading debate by some of the Minister’s supporters. They are his supporters on other occasions, but they did not seem to be his supporters today. If, during my comments, I misrepresent Senator Marriott, he still has an opportunity to put the record right.
I was a little disturbed by the honorable senator’s attitude. He said he regrets - this, of course, relates to a question of opinion - the change of the title of our parliamentary association from “Empire Parliamentary Association “ to “ Commonwealth Parliamentary Association “. I remember attending a meeting - I think in 1950 - at which we agreed, if not unanimously, then almost unanimously to this change. I am not very worried about that phase of the honorable senator’s remarks, because we can all regret certain things, but a little later on, dealing with the financial provision for the London offices of some Australian Government Departments, he eulogised the fact that more money was to be spent on immigration and he used the expression: “The more British we can get here, the better “. To me, there is a suggestion of racial preference, of racial superiority or even of racial prejudice in that remark, and he seems to link that thought with the substitution in the Bill of the word “ Australia “ for the word “ Commonwealth “.
Let me make it quite clear that the Australian Labour Party welcomes this change. We think “ Australia “ is a healthy word. We are all Australians and, on this side of the chamber, with two exceptions, we are all members of the Australian Labour Party. I would not have thought that there would be any worry on the score of this change, or any umbrage taken at it. I do not think the change could be resented by other countries. However - the Minister may be able to advise me on this - it is likely that other members of the Commonwealth of Nations would be resentful if we inferred by using the word “ Commonwealth “ in their titles that our ambassadors or high commissioners represented the whole of the Commonwealth of Nations and not just one country which is known to them, and to us, as Australia. That could be confusing and could be resented.
Senator Cormack went so far as to say that it ought to be us who are leaving the Commonwealth of Nations. 1 want to make it clear, on behalf of my Party, that this is not contemplated. In fact, we believe that now, when the emerging nations are coming into the councils of the world, we should go out to meet them and assist them. I do not want to extend this debate further, but one of our criticisms of the Government has been that we feel that not as much has been done as could be done in the area of Asia to meet these people and to make the contribution that we believe Australia should make. If we withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations just because there are in it new nations not so skilled in the arts of diplomacy and politics as are Australia, Canada and the members of the old British Commonwealth of Nations, that would be a retrograde step in the world today, in which the winds of change mentioned by Senator Marriott are blowing.
I can never understand this talk of breaking the ties or of cutting the painter with Britain. Everyone of us in this chamber has heard such talk since we were small children. I think the position was put best by the late John Curtin at the time of his historic appeal to America. Criticism of that appeal was one of the very few things that hurt John Curtin in his long political career. He asked: “Cannot people understand that the very reason we are making this appeal to America is not to break ties with Britain but to make it possible for us to maintain them?”
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having let me make these remarks, which 1 realize have been quite outside the scope of the Bill. The course that the debate took was something which neither the Minister nor I contemplated. I did not want it to be thought that we are agreeing with some of the sentiments that were expressed not by the Minister on behalf of the Government but by some of the honorable senators sitting behind him.
– Together with Senator Lillico, I was recently a delegate from this Parliament to a meeting overseas of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. At that meeting there were 30 delegates from various countries.
– With what clause of the Bill is the honorable senator dealing?
– I am taking the Bill as a whole. My leader has really said what 1 was going to say. I found great doubts among the coloured delegates. There were only four whites there, and only one delegate from Canada. The coloured delegates really feel that the Commonwealth is falling apart, and they are completely distrustful of us. They do not know very much about democracy. I spent three weeks trying to explain to a couple of delegates from Kenya that I was a member of the Opposition. They asked: “ What is an Opposition? Apparently you have a general election and elect a government, and you also elect an Opposition to it”.
– Order! The honorable senator is getting a bit wide of the Bill.
– I will come back to it in a little while. Seriously, these people are very distrustful of us. I am certain that when the news of this Bill gets over to them, through the newspapers, they will say: “ Here is another move towards the disintegration of the Commonwealth.” I do not think the Government means to indicate by this Bill that it is weakening the ties of the Commonwealth, but I want to know by what means it is going to explain to other members of the Commonwealth, who will be looking for an explanation, that the Bill seeks to tighten the ties of the Commonwealth, not to loosen them.
– I would not imagine that it was necessary for anybody to take action to explain to other people that this Bill has not been introduced to loosen the ties of the Commonwealth. I think the honorable senator must be speaking about the fact that the Bill changes the title of our High Commissioner from “ High Commissioner for the Commonwealth “ to “ High Commissioner for Australia “. The only explanation that needs to be given to anybody is that Australia is a nation and is growing up. It is known as Australia throughout the world, not as the Commonwealth. Therefore, our representatives to different nations ought to be called high commissioners or ambassadors for Australia. What that has to do with the Commonwealth of Nations as a whole, I do not see.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 62), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the motion - “ but the Senate is of opinion that the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement should be further amended to provide that approval on behalf of the Commonwealth of works under the Agreement shall be given by the Minister for National Development “.
This Government, like its Liberal-Country Party predecessors, has been a government of fits and starts. Its fits have been convulsive efforts associated with a manifestation of energy followed by lassitude, lethargy and ineffectiveness. It starts certain things but does not show ability, effectiveness, energy or a desire to complete what it begins. The provision of beef roads is a case in point. I shall confine my attention to the Bill and to the beef roads scheme as it affects Queensland. Some honorable senators might not know that in 1959-60, the Queensland Government made representations for the introduction of a beef roads scheme but the LiberalCountry Party Government of the day did nothing about it. In the panic preceding the 1 96 1 elections, the Government realised it was in danger of electoral defeat. Consequently, it introduced into the Senate on, I think, the second last night before the House rose, a Bill authorising the expenditure of £5 million on beef roads. It offered to contribute £650,000 provided Queensland contributed £350,000 to build 262 miles of road between Normanton and Julia Creek.
Actually, the Chifley Labour Government originated the idea of a beef roads scheme with its States Grants (Beef Production Encouragement) Act which was granted the royal assent in October 1949. That Act provided for the expenditure of £1.500,000. Some might say that this amount was comparatively small but we must remember that this provision was made after a difficult period of rehabilitation when a million men and women who had served in various capacities during the Second World War had to be transferred to peacetime callings. The Chifley Government had faced a tremendous task, but at least it was prepared to embark on a beef roads scheme. The only gesture by the succeeding Government was made in 1954 when the Government led by Mr. R. G. Menzies, later Sir Robert Menzies, amended the Act but only in several minor details. It increased the £75,000 for the provision of stockyards in Queensland to £150,000 and increased the £31,500 for water facilities in Western Australia to £50,000. Nothing more emanated from the Government until 1961 when it was pointed out to the Government that it would be futile to lay down an unsealed road particularly in the area between Julia Creek and Normanton. The Government took no notice. It was pointed out that £1 million would go virtually nowhere in constructing an efficient road to serve this area. Subsequently, in 1962 the Queensland Government approached the Gommonwealth Government as the State Government had realised that the road would have to be sealed or it would simply disappear in the first wet season.
The Government then introduced an amendment and agreed to provide a loan of £3,300,000 to the State Government for the purpose of sealing beef roads. This was a three card trick because originally the Government was going to provide £4,650,000 as a grant. When the amendment came up, for some peculiar reason the Government suddenly plucked from the air £1,700,000 to be a grant not associated with any contribution from the Queensland Government other than £350,000 as incorporated in the Bill of 1961. Previously money for beef roads had been provided on the basis of 50 per cent, grant and 50 per cent. loan. This may not seem to be of particular significance until one realises that the Queensland Government was interested originally in obtaining the extra money to seal the roads and on the average the sealing of a road involves 30 per cent, of the total cost. The other 70 per cent, covers earthworks, gravelling, drainage and so on.
We have not had a plan for beef roads. Graziers, State Governments and all parties interested in the beef industry have advocated a long range plan. It has been suggested that certain money should be provided annually with a plan designed to meet the long term needs of the industry. Experts have said, and I have not seen it contradicted, that beef production in Australia is of value not only for the home market but also for overseas consumption. This is despite the fact that the per capita consumption of meat in Australia has decreased by something like 30 per cent, because of the Government’s callous disregard of the position of householders and its neglect of price controls. It has always been accepted that beef production for export has an assured future. It was assured first by the 15 years meat agreement with Great Britain. This was supported subsequently by the export of substantial quantities of meat to the United States of America and Continental countries. It is expected that as the standard of living in Asian countries is raised, there will be markets for our meat there also. There is a small market at present in Japan which promises to expand and there are good prospects in other Asian countries. But the Government has done nothing.
– Nothing. I ask Senator Scott to be a little tolerant and to give me a break. I shall proceed and
Senator Scott can speak afterwards. No doubt he will be uninformative as usual. Let me proceed. The Government did say that it would provide $16,600,000. Now we have an amendment to increase this amount by §3,900,000 to $20,500,000. Peculiarly, coincidentally, accidentally or intentionally, this increase was announced just prior to the Dawson by election in the expectation, associated wilh a vague hope incidentally, that the Country Party would retain the seat. Labor because of its honesty, sense of responsibility to the north and the excellence of an outstanding candidate achieved a magnificent victory. But even that result has not been, a lesson to the Government. The Government stm has provided only this extra $3,900,000. It has not suggested what is likely to happen at the end of this financial year or when the money provided by this Bill is exhausted.
The Government has had in its hands a report, which was finalised in June 1965, by the then Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. This is a comprehensive report following relatively thorough investigation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and the Departmental officers themselves of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development into various possibilities, probabilities and potentialities in the north. The report, I understand, has gone to Cabinet. Through some mischievious or accidental faux pas a few copies of the report appeared in the Parliamentary Library. No copy of the report was made available to the appropriate Queensland Minister and, consequently, I take it that no report was made available to the responsible Minister in Western Australia, even if a copy of the report has been made available to the responsible officer in the Northern Territory.
The Government has not seen fit to make available the contents of . this report. The report has been in its possession for 12 months. It is of vital importance to the northern part of Australia. It is an urgent necessity that its contents be known. But this Government has such callous disregard for the rights and interests of the north, just as the governments of its political colour that preceded it with the exception of the period 1962-63 were disregardful, that it has not had the decency, courtesy and frankness to place this report before the members in another place or honorable senators. The Government is asking the members of the Australian Parliament to discuss beef roads when it has in its possession a report embracing over 200 pages of detailed facts with comprehensive figures in addition to maps showing the various areas, proposed beef roads and beef roads already constructed. We are asked to debate this important issue, but the Government has not seen fit to let us have the report.
Has the Government anything to hide? What is the intention of the Government regarding the future? If the Government happens by some mischance to negotiate the coming electoral hurdle, will it throw this report away? Will it pigeonhole it? Will the report be cast into the limbo of the forgotten? What is to happen regarding beef roads? In all fairness, frankness and honesty we are entitled to be suspicious of the action and attitude of the Government. This is disgraceful action on the part of the Government particularly when we realise the urgent necessity for earning overseas income. I know how fortunate the Government has been in that it has been able to balance expenditure overseas by the importation of overseas capital. How long this will continue, how long it should be permitted to go on, and in what proportion it should do so, are questions for consideration. This is an extremely serious matter. But the Government is not concerned with it either.
This is borne out when we look at certain things in this report. I would like to quote from this report which goes into the matter thoroughly. The report says with respect to beef road development in northern Australia that -
I would like here to pay tribute to the C.S.I.R.O. in relation to the excellent work that it has done showing the utilisation of land that previously could carry only one beast to many acres and, in some cases, to many square miles.
SenatorHenty. - Mr. Deputy President, I wonder whether the honorable senator would be good enough to tell the Senate the document from which he is quoting?
– I am quoting from page 31, paragraph 92 of the report on beef roads in northern Australia.
– By whom?
– It was reported on by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development.
SenatorHenty. - Is this the report made to the Government?
– The honorable senator is quoting from that report?
– Yes, I am quoting from it.
– That is not the secret document, is it?
– Let me have the argument with the Minister for Supply first.
– Thank you very much.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order!
– The report says that - . . through the application of improved technology in the following respects - general property improvements and improved management methods to make better use of existing pastures and reduce wastage level; land development in the form of timber clearing or ringbarking of the established and improved pastures in some areas; the breeding and selection of cattle better suited to the environment; the control of internal and ex- ternal parasites and disease and the correction of specific nutritional deficiencies*, the introduction of management methods to maintain perennial pastures and prevent soil erosion in arid and semi-arid areas; the adoption of specialisation in the breeding and fattening enterprise and integration between areas suited to each type of production.
By and large, these are the responsibilities of each individual landowner who has tenure of land by way either of freehold or of leasehold. But these improvements will not be obtained and they cannot be justified unless improvements are afforded also for the turnoff of increased production or the turnoff of a greater number of cattle in relation to the number of cattle that are on any particular property or group of properties. Consequently, we come back to the responsibility of the Government to provide roads to give access to these areas, saleyards, railheads, meatworks, and so on. This is why it is vital to recognise the work that has been done by various research agencies and various land owners regarding possible improvements on their properties. This work has resulted in increased turnoff of cattle already occurring or increased numbers being held on particular properties.
The Government is not providing indi vidual landowners with much of an incentive. They do not know what will happen. If they knew that in 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years or even 10 years - whatever the case may be - they would have a road suitable for the efficient transport of their cattle at a given period, and that, as visualised by many of the experts, with improved pastures disease will be eliminated and general land holdings will be improved, individual land owners may be able to turn off or transfer their steers at one and a half years and not two and a half years as at present and have them taken to fattening areas. But the Government does not give these people any hope or provide any incentive to them. Consequently, much of the country in Queensland is as it was 40 or 50 years ago. In many cases there is just range raising of cattle, with large areas running the minimum number, whereas there should have been a great increase in the number of beef cattle.
I know that these things are not palatable to the Government; but in paragraph 106 on page 37 of the report the actions needed to develop the beef cattle industry are set out. These are not my words. They are the words of the Government’s expert or experts, because I take it that, although the report was signed by the then Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, he and his staff correlated what they knew and the facts that had been gathered or elicited by experts who were asked to provide information. The actions needed to develop the beef cattle industry include action by cattle producers. I have already outlined this action, which includes the subdivision of properties by means of fencing, the provision of adequate water supplies, increased interest in cattle breeding, the elimination of diseases and improved pastures.
Another suggestion is that there should be investment in additional meatworks facilities. We know that over the past few years many of the meatworks have had to improve their facilities for the killing and handling of cattle to meet the requirements of the United States export market. But there are many other deficiencies associated with the meatworks. In many of them the facilities for the staff are almost deplorable. The money required by some of them may have to be provided by the Commonwealth. This is all part and parcel of the beef industry. That is why I am putting it forward. If you feel that I am digressing, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I trust that you will permit me to refer to these matters because they are all part of the picture that I am attempting to portray - a picture of a really great national industry associated with a great State which has nearly 50 per cent, of the beef cattle in Australia and could carry many more if the Commonwealth Government saw fit to give it the assistance which is justified and which it now really urgently requires.
There should also be finance for producers and transport operators. The report does not mention transport operators at this point; but if the producers and the meatworks are to be assisted, some of the transport operators, who are coming into the industry in increasing numbers, will require a measure of financial assistance. Another suggestion is the continuation and intensification of research. These suggestions are all self-evident. They are matters in which the Government can play a really big part.
I come now to further action that is mentioned in the report; namely, improved transport facilities - road, rail and port. Speaking from memory, I point out that the report visualises for Australia a scheme involving an expenditure of £96 million or $192 million for an estimated additional return of just over £36 million or $72 million. Surely that would be an adequate return for even the most usuriously minded person. Surely we could not expect a greater proportionate return than that on the expenditure of public money. Let me give just one example of this scheme. For roads in the Gilbert, Burdekin and Fitzroy areas, the report visualises an expenditure of £31 million or $62 million for an increased return of £18 million of $36 million. To be fair to honorable senators, I admit that that is the highest return from any of the roads visualised in the report. But surely everyone must realise that the expenditure of this money can be justified and that this money should be found for Queensland and the other parts of northern Australia.
The Queensland Government has made a submission to the Commonwealth Government in respect of 5,300 miles of beef roads. Some of that mileage is not to be of a very high standard of construction. It seems to be a large mileage, but Queensland is a large State and has a large beef cattle population which could be increased many fold, lt was estimated that if these roads were unsealed the cost of them would be $76 million and that if they were sealed the cost would be more than $100 million, and possibly a figure approaching $116 million. But when one considers the area of Queensland that they would serve, as honorable senators should know if they are interested in the north-
– Honorable senators opposite are not.
– But members of the Labour Parly are. For beef production purposes. Queensland is divided into five areas. I suppose someone could say that these are arbitrary divisions and that one division merges into another. There is the Cape York division, which is the northern and eastern areas of the Cape York Peninsula. There is the Mitchell division, which is the southern and south-western areas of the Cape York Peninsula-
– Who made these divisions that the honorable senator is talking about?
– They are in the report on beef roads for northern Australia.
– Is that the report from which the honorable senator has been quoting?
– How do we obtain a copy of it?
– By asking the Government for one.
– Is that the way the honorable senator obtained his copy?
– The honorable senator might be able to obtain one by approaching me. That has happened before. The third division is the Gulf country. Then there is the western area or Channel country of Queensland. Then there is possibly the best country of all, namely the Gilbert, Burdekin and Fitzroy areas of the Queensland coast and hinterland.
When one realises that those divisions embrace between one third and two thirds of the State, one appreciates the necessity for a large mileage of roads and the justification for the people of Queensland being anxious to know what the future holds for this very important industry. We must realise just how important an assurance as to the future is to the people associated with this industry - the people who own the land or hold it on leasehold tenure, the people who work on the properties, the people who live in the country towns, the people who work on the railways, the people who work in the meatworks, the people who transport the cattle and the people who load the beef on to the ships or the trains, as the case may be. Yet the Government sees fit to adopt a higgledy piggledy approach to this beef roads scheme. It adopts a short term approach. It will not be honest even about the idea that it has a long range plan. It will not furnish to anyone any details of what it proposes to do when this $20,500,000 has been spent. Yet it asks us to approve of the measure as enunciated by the Minister.
Certain roads, which are mentioned in the report, have not been included in the Bill. At page 197, in paragraph 10 of chapter 7 it is stated -
The following roads warrant immediate construction: Dingo to Mount Flora via May Downs; Mareeba to Laura; Upper Burdekin region to Townsville; Oxford Downs to Mackay through Nebo; Windorah to Monkira via Currawilla, and Mount lsa to Dajarra.
That shows that the Government has not included certain roads in the Bill. Although the Government’s experts have said that work on these roads should be commenced immediately, the Government has done nothing about them. We must consider the tremendous possibilities that these areas hold. The experts say that they are more than possibilities - they are verging on certainties. The construction of roads in these areas could result in an increased amount of export income for this country. It would provide additional employment and increase the productivity of the land. But the Government adopts a paltry approach to this matter.
The amount of $3,900,000 might appear to be a substantial one, but it is little more than the amount that was paid recently for the Chevron Hotel in Sydney. This is the Government’s approach to a big industry in Queensland. What will happen in the future? Will the Government release this report on beef roads? Is it going to announce details of what it proposes to do, or is it going to wait for a Labour government to do it after the next election? I think that might be the best approach for the Government to adopt.
There is one other feature of beef roads that disturbs me. Along with others, I told the Government that the £1,650,000 provided by the Commonwealth and the £350,000 provided by the State for the Normanton-Julia Creek road is totally inadequate, that the Government’s approach to the question is inefficient and that a road that is constructed at that cost could not possibly survive. Subsequently, the Government has seen the error of its ways, although it has not admitted that it has accepted our advice. Other roads have been sealed, and Queensland has provided an extra £3,300,000 towards this work. What happened with the NormantonJulia Creek road? When the Government went into the matter thoroughly, having had adequate time to prepare estimates, it found that the original estimates were wrong. They were so far below the real cost as to be appalling. They reflect gross inefficiency on the part of the Government. This matter must, in turn, reflect on the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) who has the authority to determine the standard and location of roads. If he is to determine the standard and location of roads, then he has the responsibility to see that he has accurate estimates before him in relation to any proposed task. We find that almost $3 million has been spent on the Normanton-Julia Creek road, but it is not finished yet.
We come to the Mount SurpriseGeorgetown road. Incidentally, there was not even a track where this road was constructed. 1 want to say something in anticipation of discussion that will take place this afternoon. I do not want to let the Minister fall into a trap because I always try to help him. I do not want him this afternoon to tell me, in relation to the road from Oxford Creek through Nebo to Baker’s Creek outside Mackay, that there were no plans or specifications and no information as to the beef carrying capacity of the area because the answer was already there. But in the case of the Mount Surprise-Georgetown road, practically nothing was known of this area. It was difficult country. The contractor and his men went into the area. They faced difficulties. Their determination of soil samples did not turn out to be accurate because the material used was not a reflective sample of the area. The parties to the contract almost became involved in legal proceedings. I do not know what actually happened to the contractor, but the estimate of the cost of the work was far below the actual cost.
When we come to the Winton-Boulia road in the west of Queensland, the actual cost was more than 100 per cent, above the estimate. We know that there are inflationary occurrences associated with the maladministration by the Government that has been in control of the Federal Parliament in Canberra for the last 16 years, but these inflationary occurrences certainly do not account for the gross discrepancies between the estimate and actual cost of these roads. This is at least one reason why the Treasury appears to be inefficient. I shall refer to other reasons when I resume my speech after lunch. There seems to be something wrong. It is not good housekeeping. The Treasury does not budget, or if it does, the figures have been incorrectly determined.
Is there any practical approach to this question? Do the Treasurer and his officers approach the most competent people in obtaining their estimates, or are they too casual? Is the Queensland Government neglectful in its task? We place the responsibility on the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. If the Commonwealth Government, in turn, says that it is not its fault but that of the Queensland Government or the Queensland Department of Main Roads or whatever other authority it likes to blame or hide behind, let the Minister tell us. There has been gross underestimating in the actual costs of the Normanton-Julia Creek road and the Georgetown-Mount Surprise road, and a shockingly inaccurate estimate in the case of the Winton-Boulia road. From memory, the estimate of cost was $3,200,000 and the actual cost was $7,200,000.
– Worse than the Opera House.
– Yes, but I am not responsible for the construction of the Opera House. Senator Ormonde can keep it in his own State. Incidentally, when the idea of the Opera House was mooted, I told the New South Wales Premier that he would not know where it was going to finish. But the Opera House is not as important as beef roads. The Opera House will cater for the entertainment of a particular class of people in Sydney who like opera. I am speaking about the beef cattle industry, which is one of the essential basic industries in my State.
I suggest that the Minister must realise the justification for the amendment that we have moved. It is a simple amendment. I cannot understand why any antagonism should be shown towards it. We know that primarily the Treasury has to provide the money because it has control of the purse strings. But the people in the Treasury are not practical people when it comes to questions such as road building, the determination of the location of a road, the standards of a road, the subsoil conditions in relation to what is to be placed on top, and so on. Surely this is a matter for experts, and one would think that the experts in this field were the people in the Department of National Development. They are associated with this particular type of enterprise.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the justification for the transfer of responsibility in relation to the money to be provided under this legislation to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn). I think the extracts I have quoted from the report on beef roads for northern Australia certainly are sufficient for any reasonable group of people to justify such a transfer. Beef production is a particularly important industry.
On the coast and in the hinterland of Queensland are probably the best areas for beef cattle production in Australia.
A few years ago, subsequent to the near political hiding that the Government got in 196.1, it saw fit to make a loan to Queensland for the development of the brigalow country. Government supporters surely must realise that the loan was concerned with increasing the utilisation of the potential beef production in Queensland. It is apparent to the ordinary, intelligent person. However, the Government did not think in terms of providing money for roads in the area. Government supporters referred to clearing and adapting pastures suitable to the area and of providing water facilities. I mention in passing, irrespective of the enormous sums of money made available to the southern States and Western Australia as direct grants by the Federal Government, that the money made available to Queensland for the development of the first two brigalow areas was provided as a loan. From memory, it was only £7.2 million. Nothing was made available as a grant. No suggestion was made of the provision of money for roads. In this legislation money is to be provided for a road from Dingo to Mount Flora.
Unless one is politically blind, completely irrational and mentally disoriented, he must come to the conclusion that the amount provided for in this measure - $3.9 million - is comparatively paltry. The Government has the responsibility to legislate not only for the present and the immediate future, but also for the ultimate future of this country. It has adopted a miserable, parsimonious and paltry approach to the magnificent beef cattle industry. However hard Government supporters may have worked, their efforts have been ineffective. They have shown no sense of national responsibility and you must concede, Sir, that the responsibility of administering this money should be transferred from the Treasurer to the Minister for National Development. I appreciate that the present Minister is quite a decent type of chap. I like him and I think everyone else likes him. But he has not shown any great sense of appreciation of the legitimate demands of the north. He has not exhibited a sense of realism. Nowhere has he shown a sense of proportion as to what should happen in relation to development and settlement as between the North and the South.
– To which Minister is the honorable senator referring?
– The present Minister for National Development. His predecessor was not much better, except in 1962.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator must not reflect on Ministers.
– I am sorry. 1 will just say that the conduct of his Department was inefficient in respect of development and settlement of the north. The Opposition believes that Treasury officials and the Minister are not people competent to assess what should be the site of a road or the standard of a road to increase beef production. It is recognised by many Opposition senators that the officials of the Northern Division, as part and parcel of the Department of National Development, are the people, by and large, with a scientific background and a knowledge of the industry. Many of them have a thorough knowledge of the area. They can more readily obtain expert advice, whether scientific or engineering, if they need it. That is the world they live in. No-one would deny the authority of the Treasury to determine how much should be provided as between certain departments or divisions within departments, but why the Government persists in entrusting the responsibility of determining its allocation to the Treasury I do not know.
I turn now to the details of the roads mentioned in this legislation. They are estimable roads, and many of them are of immediate urgency. The road from Dingo to Mount Flora will serve the brigalow country. The road from The Battery to Townsville is necessary because of a change in the stock route from north of the Burdekin River to Townsville, because of the university and Army settlement there. The road between Mareeba and Laura is justifiable because of the sale yards at Mareeba and also railway facilities for transporting cattle. The road between The Lynd and Charters Towers is also desirable. Every beef cattle road is desirable. Perhaps a better title would be “ developmental road “. Far be it from me to endeavour to presuade the Government to change the term. They are all beef production roads, but they serve other purposes. They can assist in development and, in some small measure, in some places they assist in the provision of facilities for tourists. They assist in the transport of incoming goods at a much cheaper rate. So on many grounds they are justifiable and necessary.
I turn again to the report on beef production which mentions some roads as urgent and warranting immediate construction. I refer to the roads from Oxford Downs to Mackay via Nebo, from Windorah to Monkira via Currawilla and from Mount Isa to Dajarra. Nowhere has the Government referred to these roads as being of immediate necessity. They have not caused the Government any concern. For some particularly peculiar reason, the Government has departed from the advice of its officers. I know it has the right to do so; I do not quarrel with that right. But surely the Minister will give us some reasons for the Government’s attitude. He is in possession of the report. He probably had a look at it at lunch time to check that the extracts which I quoted were correct. 1 cannot see why he would not tell us why certain roads have been eliminated from the Government’s plans. We are not of a suspicious nature. But we, indeed the people generally, could be forgiven for being a bit doubtful about the motive which justified, necessitated or warranted - or any other word that one may like to use - the Government’s action in eliminating the road from Oxford Downs through Nebo to Baker’s Creek.
This road would serve an area in which there are 450,000 head of cattle. 1 do not know how many have died or what the increase has been, but I know that that is the number that should be there. Does the Government propose to play a part in a sinister plot by the shipowners, who are eager to close the port of Mackay and the port of Bowen as meat shipping ports? The want to utilise Gladstone, Townsville and Brisbane basically, but they are not yet game to announce that, if they could, they would bypass Cairns and have meat taken to Townsville for shipment. For some peculiar reason. Mackay seems to have been left out of the scheme of things. Not long ago the State Government provided the money to erect a modern abattoirs at Mackay at the cost of §2 million. As I said, the Oxford Downs road would serve 450,000 head of cattle with a turnoff of more than 20 per cent., which is one of the highest rates of turnoff anywhere in Australia. If the facilities were provided, this number could be increased substantially. The Minister might say: “ They have an access over the Sarina Range to the Bruce Highway “. But this is not a satisfactory area for road transport. It is dangerous for road trains. As we all know, droving has almost disappeared and most of the cattle are moved by road train. Road trains are increasing in size, being limited only by the determination of State Governments or of the administrative authorities in the Northern Territory. To transport cattle over the Sarina Range would mean an extra distance of 50 miles.
The Minister has a lot to answer for. I hope he will provide the answers with the frankness that is characteristic of him and with the honesty that is ever his constant companion. .1 hope that he will bare his soul to us and reveal his mind and that, irrespective of what might be the ulterior purpose of the Cabinet and his associates in the Cabinet, he will come clean, to use an Australian colloquialism. I know he is he type that would do that. [ know that many other honorable senators are eager to speak on this matter and that I have not unlimited time, although I will have plenty more time later. In response to pleadings that have been made to me I do not propose to continue much longer - not until the other amendments come forward. I have not yet dealt fully with the other amendments. Before I conclude, I want to say that the whole thing smacks of an infantile approach to a tremendous problem. It suggests a measure of political dishonesty. If you quarrel with the word “ dishonesty “, Mr. Deputy President, I will use the word “ frankness “. I thought I might get in ahead in this case. The Government’s action suggests inefficiency; it suggests a callous disregard of the needs of Queensland. It smacks of an indifference to the north, justification for the development of which is undoubted and is not the subject of quarrel on the part of the people of Australia, including the people in the south. Justification for the development of the north certainly is not doubted by the people on this side of the House. Indeed, it was we who first pointed out the justification for developing the north. It was terror engendered by political .results in 1961 which brought about a measure of care for the north. That care was forgotten once the results of the 1963 election were known. The Government’s actions constitute a story of complete indifference to or lack of knowledge of the potential earning power overseas of the meat industry. There should be a sensible long term approach to this problem, as envisaged in the report on beef roads for northern Australia which was placed in the hands of the Government in the middle of last year but which has not yet been revealed to the public and, as far as I know, has not yet been released to the responsible Ministers in Queensland and Western Australia. The Government stands condemned. However, I ask it to accept this minor amendment, which seeks to remove control of the funds provided by the Treasury from that Department once they are made available to the Department for National Development.
.- This is the first opportunity I have had since we returned for this sessional period to offer my congratulations to Senator Willesee upon his elevation to the leadership of the Australian Labour Party in the Senate. I do so quite sincerely. I believe that he will devote himself to his work with the care and attention that are necessary in this very important position. I should like also to comment quite briefly upon the retirement of Senator McKenna. Since I became a member of the Senate I have very greatly admired his approach to the problems and the matters that have come before the Senate for consideration. If at all possible I have not missed one speech of his. I have never known him to be other than fair. I think it is desirable for those who wish to do so to join with the expressions that have already been made and to join in the hope that Senator McKenna will have a great deal of pleasure and happiness in the years of his retirement-
I offer my congratulations also to my colleague from Queensland, Senator Heatley. We all know the trials and worries that are attendant upon the making of a maiden speech. It is not often that we see a maiden speech delivered as calmly and as logically as Senator Heatley delivered his speech last night. Not only was it delivered with thought and after a great deal of study, but also the material itself was outstanding. I repeat that I have very much pleasure in extending my congratulations to him.
I come now to the amendment that was moved by Senator Dittmer. I am afraid that the honorable senator has fallen into many of the errors that a theoretical person fails into as against a practical man. I do not think he even followed the’ case that he tried to present. Indeed, in his closing remarks he said, I think, that at a later stage he would carefully develop the amendment that he had moved.
– I did not say that at all. Be careful. I said that there would be further amendments.
– If the honorable senator did not say it, all I can say is that it was as I understood him.
– I said that I would deal fully with further amendments. Now apologise.
– I accept his explanation perfectly willingly. It is a strange thing that of all honorable senators the one who objects most strenuously to any interruption of his own speech is the one who is most unruly when anybody is speaking. The only approach that I can make to the amendment that has been moved by Senator Dittmer is to say that from any point of view it is quite a ridiculous and illogical amendment, as I said a while ago. Honorable senators may remember that I queried Senator Dittmer by interjection. I asked what he was speaking about. I did that deliberately for a reason, because he was saying that the conduct of a certain Minister’s department was not conducive to helping northern development, and he developed this theme much further than I have in the brief quotation I have given. When I interrupted and asked what Minister he referred to, he came back quite vigorously with the statement that he was referring to the Minister for National Development. Having criticised the Department of National Development and its Minister, as he undoubtedly did, he went on to support the transfer of powers in relation to the spending of money on beef roads from the Treasurer to the Minister for National Development. If that is not a ridiculous and illogical approach, I do not know how else one could describe it. He obviously does not understand the processes not only of this Government but of any Government.
He should realise - and I think it is time that he did - that the procedures and the various steps that are taken in matters such as this are as follows: First, a report is made by a department. In this case, he refers to a report that was made. Then that report goes from the department to the Minister concerned - in this case the Minister for National Development - who studies the report very carefully and thoroughly; I shall be referring to this fact shortly. From him comes a recommendation to Cabinet for the expenditure of certain sums of money. Cabinet as a whole makes a decision. It is not correct to suggest that a decision such as this is made by ‘.he Treasurer alone or by the Minister for National Development alone or by any other Minister on his own. It is done by Cabinet as a Cabinet responsibility. When Cabinet makes its decision, that decision is conveyed back through the Minister and implemented through the Department of the Minister. There is no process of government that can make the Minister for National Development more responsible for this work than is the case at present. Certainly the amendment that has been moved by the honorable senator would not have this effect. Consequently, I say that his proposal is quite ridiculous and unrealistic and could come only from someone who is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the processes of government to recog -e what those processes are. The honorable senator made other comments and I would say that I found some of them - contrary to the usual custom - quite acceptable.
– That is a change.
– Some of them. I refer to those that he has given us as a result of quotations from various sources, apparently. These are sources which I do not know but I would pay some credit to them because there is a great deal of merit in much that was said in those comments. If 1 may say so, they lent a great deal more reason and common sense to the speech than would have been present otherwise. The honorable senator said that this Government wanted beef ships to call at certain ports in Queensland and to eliminate others. He suggested that it was in the Government’s interests to have the ports of Bowen, Mackay and even Cairns bypassed by those ships that are carrying our meat overseas. This is quite an incorrect statement of the situation. There has been a move, certainly, to reduce the number of ports at which each ship carrying beef will call. But the whole purpose of this - and it has been thoroughly explained by the Ministers - is to try to reduce the numbers of calls at the various ports by each ship, to assist in the economy of loading and transporting beef. Surely this is common sense. It is much more common sense to load one-third of the cargo at each of three ports than to load one-sixth of the cargo at each of six ports, provided of course that subsequent ships call at those ports which have been bypassed by the earlier ships. This is the pattern. As for any suggestion that the port of Cairns and others that he mentioned will be deleted from the itineraries of these ships, that is just too silly for words.
Senator Dittmer said that the Government had not suggested what might happen after the present financial allocation had been spent and he was also critical that the Government had not stated its intentions for the future, although a report had been with the Department for 12 months or more. Of course, this is contrary to the speech by the Minister. I shall cite a passage from this speech for the benefit of the honorable senator, because he should at least realise this. The Minister said -
The report of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development on a possible future programme of beef cattle roads is at present under examination, and when that is completed we expect to hold discussions with the Stales concerned about various aspects of the future programme. In the meantime, it is important that work on beef roads should proceed pending the outcome of the Government’s study and discussions with the States concerning a future programme.
Surely this is common sense. It would be most undesirable for a report on a matter of such grave interest to the States concerned to be circulated and published before the discussions between the Commonwealth and the States took place. At least I do not quarrel with the programme and I do not think that any sensible person will quarrel with it. I am perfectly satisfied that the Minister will, as he says, carry through this programme and carry it through effectively. 1 refer to another comment by the honorable senator. He said that these beef roads served a much wider purpose than merely the transport of beef. With this I most heartily agree. As I recall it, the purpose of the beef roads is stated as being to provide access to railheads. A portion of the beef roads allocation has been expended on the building of ramps and yards and, in at least one case J know of, on increasing watering facilities. This work has been included in the programme because it concerns part of the problem of transporting cattle.
There are other most important aspects of the work that, is being done under this allocation. These roads provide for the transport of cattle from the breeding areas to the fattening areas throughout the State, particularly on the eastern seaboard. Another important aspect is that they make possible the movement of stock during droughts to a far greater extent than was possible before the roads were built. I agree that the beef roads play an important part in the general and wide development of areas contiguous to them.
If we look closely into the assistance these roads provide to the beef industry, we find there are several aspects of it. The first that I would mention is the transport of fertiliser to beef producing areas. This is one of the vital aspects of the new type of programme of beef production. Unless there is opportunity to introduce fertiliser into many of these areas, it is not possible to develop the advantageous improved pastures that have been made available to us through the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Without these improved pastures, our cattle lands will be far from being as productive as they could be and as I believe they should be.
The second important aspect of the beef roads is that they make it possible to bring fencing materials reasonably easily to the cattle lands. The provision of fencing materials has been a major problem over the past few years, particularly on Cape York Peninsula. Fencing enables the introduction of better breeding herds, which were noticeably absent in the Peninsula area in years gone by. If anyone visited the Mareeba sale yards during the beef cattle sales, he would be shocked by the quality of the beef cattle presented for sale - not all of them, of course, but particularly those coming from areas which have no good road access. There is also the aspect of the provision of general amenities in these areas. So I agree that some beef roads can well be classified as developmental roads in general, and not only as beef development roads.
If I may, Madam Acting Deputy President, I will come back to the Minister’s speech. 1 will not requote the paragraph which I quoted before, except to underline that the Minister anticipates that, the present report will be studied carefully and thoroughly and that a decision will then be made on the programme which is to be accepted. Let us remember that this has been no hit and run business. The development of beef roads was suggested right back in 1 959, following a report made by a committee of officers of the Queensland Government. Late in 1960 there were discussions between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth. In May 1961 - J would underline that date, because what I am about to mention did not occur after the 1961 election, as I think Senator Dittmer would have us believe - the Commonwealth Government, having discussed this matter with the Queensland Government for some considerable time, agreed to supply the finance to assist in the building of the beef roads, and this programme proceeded thereafter. I say quite frankly that there have been underestimates of the cost of some of the beef roads, but this is something which may happen in all cases of road construction, because the cost of road building is tremendously dependent on the type of climate experienced during construction of the roads. Many other factors can intrude which make it quite impossible for a very accurate estimate to be made of the cost of roads.
At the beginning of the programme, as I remember very clearly, it was thought that it would be desirable to spread this work over as broad an area as possible - in other words, to build as many miles of access roads as possible and, therefore, to build them without bitumen surfaces. But it was very quickly found that these roads, having been built only up to gravel standard- would not stand up to the work. This called for further expenditure of money. However, the work has gone ahead year by year and the roads have been steadily improved.
Having said that, I come to one aspect of this matter where I quarrel quite a deal with what has been done and what has so far been announced. I have here a map which shows the beef cattle roads constructed up till March 1966 and the programme for the next stage of development. Let me refer here to another o.. Senator Dittmer’s remarks. He said that the Mount Isa-Dajarra road had not been considered. That statement is not correct, because the road is shown on this map, and the honorable senator can look at it. The map shows the roads which have been built and those which are at present projected. This is an up to date plan which is available to anybody who cares to see it. But an examination of the map leaves me most unhappy, in one sense, because, with all the roads that have been built and with all the announcements about roads that are to be built, there has been, apart from the construction of a few bridges on the LauraMareeba road - the Mulligan Highway - no expenditure in this regard in the whole of the Cape York Peninsula. This, to me, is a tragedy, and I will try to explain why it is. I want to make it clear that I do not denigrate the value of any mile of road that has been constructed in the programme, but I am very disappointed that a priority that was established back in 1960 by the late Ernie Evans, then Minister for Main Roads in Queensland, has been departed from. This is perhaps the biggest tragedy associated with this work.
– Who was responsible for that departure?
– I will try to develop this as I go on. I have a statement released by the Honorable R. E. Camm, the present Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland. I will quote a small section of it in which he says -
On 30th December the then Minister for Main Roads, Mr. Evans, handed to the Premier a further report on roads.
That is a report further to the one to which I referred a little while ago, made by officers of the Queensland Government. This had been submitted in October 1960. Two months afterwards, Mr. Evans submitted a further report to the Premier. This report was prepared by the Commissioner for Main Roads and when Mr. Evans presented it he stated that he considered the scheme of Channel country roads as No. 1 priority with possibly a road from Weipa to Mossman as a second priority. There was the basis of the original examination by the Queensland Minister for Main Roads into the whole concept.
I do not disagree at all with the desirability of roads into the Channel country because the whole purpose of these roads was to take cattle into the very lush Channel country when it had a good season and bring the cattle out for slaughter later. No one would quarrel with that aspect of the proposal. But according to a statement issued by Mr. Camm, Mr. Evans then felt that the road from Weipa to Mossman should be in the next priority. Nothing has ever been done about it. Why it has been overlooked 1 do not know, but I shall advance reasons why it should become the No. 1 priority.
– -In addition to the present plan?
– Yes, but I think it is more important than any of the projected roads on the present plan. However, I would feel it was presumptuous for me to make that statement on my own account. I make it merely because I do support most strongly the original contention by the then Minister for Main Roads, Mr. Evans, and his Commissioner for Main Roads that the road from Weipa to Mossman or Mareeba should then come next in priority. It should have been done years ago.
– Was that contained in the suppressed report of the Department to the Minister?
– Presumably it was. I have not seen that report so I do not know. 1 know this was the thinking and I know in part why he advanced this contention. But I want to answer a question put to me by Senator Cavanagh earlier. He asked whose fault it was that this project had been left out. I do not know that I can say specifically it was any particular person’s fault; but a host of roads have been considered and in the later considerations for some reason or other- - perfectly valid I have no doubt in some ways after taking all aspects into consideration - it has by mischance gone down the grade in priority.
– ls not the honorable senator suggesting the Minister is acting contrary to advice? Is that not the gist of the honorable senator’s remarks?
– I do not think 1 am competent to say that, but I am competent to say that I completely disagree with the deletion of this road as a priority. I reiterate that according to statements by Mr. Camm in April of this year, his predecessor had regarded this as a high priority road. It is not now so regarded, so I must say I disagree and I will try to present reasons. This road from Weipa to Mossman or Mareeba - it makes no difference because either would cover the Mulligan Highway or beyond and that is the critical area - comes within the Cook Shire. The Cook Shire is huge, lt covers an area of approximately 80,000 square miles. Within it some 30,000 square miles have been allocated to missions. Covering as it does an area of some 80,000 square miles, it is equal to almost one-eighth of the area of Queensland. It is three times the size of Tasmania and nearly equals the whole of Victoria - 80,000 square miles compared with 88,000 square miles. It is equal to a quarter of the area of New South Wales.
I repeat despite many interruptions that the Cook Shire is approximately 80,000 square miles and I have given honorable senators a comparison with the area of Queensland. Yet this area, equal to oneeighth of Queensland, virtually has no road network and the money available to the Cook Shire to build roads is sufficient to build only small access roads. For all that, nothing has yet been spent in the area. It is interesting to note that in the Cook Shire there are approximately 100 large cattle properties. These are very important properties. Yet none of the missions and none of the cattle properties are served by an arterial road because there is no arterial road. All they have are bush tracks and very rough country until they get out of the Cook Shire. In the Cook Shire there is a huge area of wonderful cattle country and practically all of it has a good rainfall pattern. But there is poor utilisation of the land because there are no roads. Because of this and all the other handicaps the cattle husbandry is extremely poor.
Up on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula there is a huge deposit of bauxite at Weipa. Even this very valuable area has no road outlet at all. The area between the southern country of the Cook Shire and Weipa and Thursday Island is being examined at present for its mineral wealth. It is reasonably well known that the area is rich in minerals but it is undeveloped because of its inaccessibility.
My next point is this and I am quoting from figures for the financial year 1964-65: Although it is one-eighth the size of Queensland and Queensland spent in that financial year some S71 million on roads, the total amount of money available to the Cook Shire out of that $71 million was less than $300,000. I ask honorable senators who know the slightest thing about road building how they would like the task of being in charge of the administration of the building of roads in a shire that is one eighth of the size of Queensland, three times the size of Tasmania, and nearly as large as Victoria, with an allocation of less than $300,000 a year?
– Would Premier Nicklin play a role in advocating more money from the Commonwealth for Queensland? What role would he play?
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I do not propose to enter into a debate with honorable senators on personalities. This does not interest me at all. I repeat however that I am mighty interested in this road. If Queensland can obtain £71 million for the building of its roads, our shire - the Cook Shire - should receive $8 million of that sum in accordance with our area. But we received $300,000 only. I say that this is quite wrong. But the comparison becomes even worse. Let us look, not at the money that is allocated for Queensland, but the money that is allocated to Tasmania. I have no bone to pick with Tasmania. I like to see Tasmania progressing. I think it is a wonderful State. But I still wish to make my comparison. Tasmania is one third of the size of the Cook Shire which receives $300,000 for roads. Yet Tasmania receives $17 million. This is far out of proportion when we consider the respective areas of Tasmania and the Cook Shire. On the same basis that Tasmania receives £17 million, the Cook Shire should receive some $50 million and not the $300,000 that it does. Taking a comparison with Victoria, we find that that State receives $94 million. That is not a bad allocation when it is contrasted with the $300,000 that the Cook Shire receives. If the Cook Shire received an allocation on the same basis as Victoria - I do not think that it should receive its allocation on the same basis - $50 million would be provided each year to be spent in the Cook Shire.
Perhaps I have laboured this point a little. But I have laboured it because I wish to bring the story home that the comparison is too ridiculous for words. I make no apology for saying that. I regard what I am saying as being very critical of some of my own people. I cannot help that. 1 have the interests of this area very much at heart. I am advancing my case in relation to it. If in 1960 the building of this road was of such priority that the then Queensland Minister for Main Roads had it next in importance to the channel country roads - as he did - how much more important has it become today? Today we see there the development of the Weipa bauxite deposits which in itself is enough to encourage the building of this arterial road, the cost of which I would say would be possibly as high as $10 million. But with $10 million spent in that area on an arterial road, Cape York Peninsula would make progress much more rapidly than it is progressing at the present time.
The building of this road has become infinitely more important today because in August of last year - 12 months and a couple of weeks ago - negotiations commenced for the setting up of several joint Australian-American enterprises in the Peninsula. The basis of the discussions with these Australian-American enterprises in that area was to develop their part of the Peninsula for cattle production, marrying American finance with Australian management and using Australian materials which, incidentally, can be purchased at Cairns. I would interpose here, in case I forgot to mention this later, that as a result of the success of these negotiations and the agreement reached thousands of dollars worth of material is going into these areas every week.
I have been most interested in this development. I should like to show honorable senators a map that 1 have here, lt delineates the areas which have been the subject of these discussions and on which finality has been reached now with the agreement for this project involving Australian-American co-operation.
– What are they producing?
– They are producing beef. These interests examined the areas concerned. I am pleased to know that they became interested in this area when they saw the development of tropical legumes which had taken place in another part of the very far north, not a great deal of distance away from Cairns. These interests believed that this area could be a most satisfactory one for cattle development. But they recognised that it could be successful only by the expenditure of a great deal of money, by the exercise of enormous patience, and with a great deal of knowhow relating to the cattle industry. Negotiations proceeded and were finalised. Today, five and three quarter million acres in the Cape York Peninsula area - approximately one-tenth of the area - are being improved for cattle production by this joint Australian-American venture.
Although it is only 12 months and a fortnight since first negotiations were commenced, the programme was started immediately. It is due to be completed at the end of December this year and already the first stage of it is near to completion. Under that programme there will be in this area, which had been utterly neglected, dividing fences to permit better cattle husbandry in the way of the segregation of cattle sexes and various types of cattle, which is a very necessary ancillary to good cattle production. These interests will have completed over 500 miles of fencing by the end of this year. Also, they will have developed 13 sets of yards and dips on various properties. They will have built five houses and constructed and equipped four workshops. They will have provided accommodation for over 60 people, both whites and natives. When I use the expression “ they will have provided “ I should point out that this programme is almost finalised. These interests will have provided vehicles, utilities and trucks to the number of five, and also five bulldozers, four tractors and one grader. Further, 26 bores will have been equipped. These interests will have built nine dams. Improved pastures have been established on 21,000 acres of land. This work has been carried out by the conveying of fertiliser over bush roads which has made the cost of the work infinitely greater than it would have been otherwise.
Stud cattle, including 560 heifers and brahmans, have been brought in. These are mighty expensive to buy as everybody would know. These interests have built their own internal access roads. In fact, 60 miles of these roads have been built, and they are continuing with the building of them. They have laid down 55 miles of telephone line. These interests anticipate - and they have no reason to doubt the success of this anticipation - that this development will lead to good cattle husbandry of 45,000 head of cattle by December of this year. This, Madam Acting Deputy President, is probably one of the greatest developments that have taken place in the whole of the Cape York Peninsula area. For 40 years to 50 years, this area has produced and turned off cattle that would not be acceptable to many cattle buyers except for processing as tinned meat. This is a wonderful development. These people are not expecting to be able to make big profits. Indeed, they do not expect to make any profit for about 10 years. They have no desire to repatriate their capital. Most of the people who are joining in this operation financially expect that the members of their families will become residents in these areas and that their children will become Australian citizens.
– What has this to do with beef roads? The honorable senator should connect his remarks with the Bill that we are discussing.
– That is precisely what 1 am about to do.
– lt has taken the honorable senator three quarters of an hour to do so.
– I would say that Senator Benn has seldom spent a more valuable three quarters of an hour. I have here a map of the area about which I have been speaking. Honorable senators will notice that it is coloured to show the areas in which the American-Australian enterprise about which I have been speaking is operating. But they have no roads. It is vital that a road be built from these areas to the places where the cattle can be sold, down in the south of the Cape York Peninsula, following the line that I have delineated in red on the map. If we are thinking of general development of the north, we must regard this road as a vital one. If we are thinking of the development of the beef industry in Queensland, we still must consider this road as the most vital road that could be built to meet the needs of Queensland and of Australia.
I repeat that up to date virtually no money - less than £300,000 - has been provided to build roads in this huge area. Today I make an impassioned plea that, in the new programme which, as the Minister has announced, is being considered and to which I referred earlier in my speech, this road from Weipa to Mossman or from Weipa to Mareeba - I do not care which - be given the No. 1 priority and be proceeded with without the slightest delay. I make no apology for where I stand on this matter. I believe that this road is vital for the north of Australia and for the beef industry. I believe that it can be built for about $10 million. In my opinion, no expenditure on roads would be more productive than expenditure on this road.
Apart from the properties operated by the American-Australian enterprise to which I have referred, there are .100 cattle properties in this area. There are people trying to develop them. Those people cannot bring in superphosphate or any of their other necessities. But they could do so if there was an arterial road, because many of them would build their own access roads to the arterial road.
– Such a road is not proposed under this Bill, is it?
– The road is mentioned in the programme; but all that is mentioned is the construction of, I think, 11 bridges on the Laura-Mareeba road - the Mulligan Highway. If we proceed as rapidly as we have proceeded since this beef roads programme started, we will not have this mighty improvement, this vital beef road, for another 10 or 15 years.
– That is a shame. Why does not the honorable senator rebel?
– What am I doing today?
– It is not sufficient.
– That might be so. I have been accused of talking for too long. I would like to say more about this matter. This is not the only effort that I am making to get this road built. I am making every effort I can to get it built, because I know-
– The big weeper.
– This is no joke. I assure Senator O’Byrne that it is no joke for the people who are living in this area and have no road transport from their properties, as he has. No other area in Australia which has been settled as much as this area has been as neglected as this area. I appeal for an end to this neglect and .for this road to be built at the earliest possible opportunity.
.- We are discussing a simple appropriation bill. Any visitor to this chamber of the National Parliament this afternoon could be forgiven for not being able to follow the trend of the discussion that has taken place. I know that, when discussing an appropriation bill, under the Standing Orders a senator is permitted to deal with extraneous matters, but I think that has been overdone this afternoon. We have lost sight of the fact that, under the Bill now before us, a certain amount of money is to be used for the purpose of constructing beef roads in Queensland.
– Don’t give us that.
– I would not give the honorable senator anything. Last night a man offered to give him something, but he was too much of a cur to take, it and he ran away.
– The honorable senator is just an old humbug.
– Senator Wright is always interjecting when other people are speaking, but when anybody interjects while he is speaking he becomes insulting, as he did last night. He is not out of his troubles yet, according to what I have been told.
Under this Bill the sum of $4.5 million is to be made available by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government for the purpose of constructing beef roads in that State. We have been told of the roads that are to be constructed or improved, and there is no argument about that in principle. I think a measure of this nature was first introduced in 1961 or 1962. A road was to be constructed from near Normanton to Julia Creek on the north-western railway line. A commencement was made then on the construction or improvement of that road. When something good is provided in one part of a State there is clamour from other regions of that State for similar treatment. 1 believe that this clamour will continue. Although beef roads have been constructed and today we are making financial provision for the construction of more, the construction of beef roads in Queensland is only in its infancy. We will have to proceed with this undertaking for a number of years. That is inescapable. One of the things that the Government failed to do was to make it clear to honorable senators where these roads are to be constructed. The names are familiar to me, because I know the geography of Queensland very well. I know that the roads will lead out into cattle producing country. I have nothing whatever to say about the construction of the roads.
Let us have a look at what we are being asked to do. We are being asked to say whether we approve of the Government withdrawing from the Treasury the sum of $4.5 million and transferring it to the Queensland Government, at the same time saying that one-half of it is a gift from the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and the other half will have to be repaid over a period of 15 years, with interest at the rate of 1 per cent. That is all there is to this Bill. But other factors have been brought into the debate. I think some honorable senators are very confused about the matter.
What are the powers of the Commonwealth Government in regard to national development? Can the Commonwealth Government go into the State of Queensland and construct a beef road? Under the Constitution it has not the power or the authority to do so. It has the authority to transfer a portion of its funds to the State Government to allow that Government to construct beef roads where it wishes and how it wishes. Let us look at the situation. Queensland has an authority which is known as the Department of Main Roads. It has functioned for the last 30 or 40 years and it is a very efficient Department. No one could find fault with its performance.
I know what will happen as a result of this Bill. Therefore, I do not want to engage in a lot of nonsensical talk. The Department of Agriculture and Stock in Queensland will discuss the matter with the Department of Main Roads and they will come to certain decisions. The Northern Division of the Department of National Development will submit comments to the Department of National Development, which will have to discuss the matter with the Treasury. Finally, the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government will reach a decision. There will be a clear understanding that all of the money must be used for the construction of beef roads. As I said before in Queensland we have authorities which decide where roads should be constructed.
Let us examine the economics of the matter. Money is taken from the Treasury. It is money that was put there by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth by way of income tax, excise duty on ale, wine, cigarettes and tobacco, and by other means. The Commonwealth receives this money and it returns some of it to the State Governments. For whom will these beef roads be constructed? They will be constructed for a few station owners and beef producers. Who receives the benefit from the expenditure? I cannot see clearly how the State will benefit from the expenditure, nor can I see how the Commonwealth will benefit to any great extent. The persons who will gain the real benefit are the station owners who are serviced by the beef roads.
– Is the honorable senator against beef roads?
– I am in favour of them. I think that they should be built. But let us look at the cattle population of Queensland in the last 20 or 30 years. We find that there has been no increase in the population. The number is probably down today because of the drought, but it has always fluctuated between 6 million and 7 million head. Beef roads will not increase the number of cattle in Queensland. Other things have to be provided, such as irrigation and fodder. But the money that is to be spent under this Bill will not be used for those purposes.
Things have been easy for the Government. It has had a majority whenever a vote has been taken in this chamber, but that might not be the situation in 1967. We may be more exacting then and may not be satisfied with informationn such as is given to us today. The Government has not told us how many stations are within the area which is to be serviced by these beef roads. It has not told us how many head of cattle are grazing on the stations or the average annual turnoff from the stations. We are in the dark on those matters. We do not know whether the construction of the beef roads will be of any benefit. The Government has not told us how many station owners are living permanently overseas. Let it give us that information so that we can judge the position for ourselves. This Bill is the greatest piece of socialistic legislation that the Government has ever introduced.
– To help the station owners?
– It will benefit a few of the station owners in Queensland. Nobody can convince me that the people living in the cities and towns will be able to purchase their meat any cheaper because beef roads are to be provided, at the people’s expense, throughout Queensland. If the Government can increase the cattle population by constructing beef roads, then let it proceed on its happy way and build roads all over Queensland. But it has to do other things first, because approximately one third of Queensland’s cattle population perished during the last drought, ft will take the graziers at least 3 or 4 years to recover from the effects of the drought. 1 have seen the old method of transporting cattle from where they were raised to the markets or railheads. On several occasions I have toured the Barkly Tableland, which is one of the greatest tracts of grazing country in the world. 1 have seen mobs of 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 head of cattle travelling towards Queensland. Perhaps they had been sent out to pasture where they could be fattened and were being taken to the railhead to be transported to the coast where they would be slaughtered. Will the construction of beef roads provide quicker transportation of cattle from the station to the town or railhead? There will be one advantage under this proposal. If the cattle are fat they will not lose weight during transportation. It will take only one or two days to get them from the station property to the meat works where they will be slaughtered. The people of the Commonwealth will not benefit from this expenditure. It will benefit a few graziers in Queensland. It will increase production, and I admit that the demand for meat in Australia is increasing every year. We are now exporting meat to America, we will continue to export meat to the United Kingdom and we will probably export more to Japan. But the people of Australia will not receive any benefit from that for some years.
That is all I wish to say on beef roads. If the Government, in 1967, intends to introduce legislation similar to that which we are discussing today, I would like provision to be made for the termination of the toll of $1 which is now imposed on people using the bridge between Toorbul Point and Bribie Island near Brisbane.
– Is that a beef road?
– No, but it is a road that is used by the battlers living in the Brisbane area to travel to the seaside. They are consumers, and they are the best market for meat that the cattle grower can possibly have. My second request is for the termination of the toll now operating on the Hornibrook Highway between Brisbane and Redcliffe. The Government is providing roads for the graziers and station owners, but people who live in the cities are being charged ls. to drive a vehicle on the road between Brisbane and Redcliffe and $1 on the bridge between Toorbul Point and Bribie Island - a distance of 50 or 60 yards. Thirdly, we want to know the names and areas of the station properties adjacent to the beef roads which will be serviced as a result of this proposal. Fourthly, we want information as to the ownership of the station properties and whether the owners are permanently residing overseas. We would like to know fifthly, the expected increase in beef production from the expenditure incurred in the construction of beef roads, and sixthly, the expected reduction in the retail price of beef in Australia resulting from the construction of beef roads.
– Before the honorable senator sits down, could he tell me whether the State Government or the Commonwealth Government imposes the toll on the bridge?
– It is the State Government.
– We cannot do anything about that.
– I know, but the State Government is one of the negotiators of the Agreement.
– What agreement?
– The Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement. The honorable senator should read what we are considering. The State Government is getting money free from the Commonwealth and then it inflicts a toll on the citizens of Queensland who must pay SI to drive a vehicle over a bridge.
– We cannot interfere in the taxing rights of the States.
– We can get an explanation. I want to tell honorable senators opposite quite plainly that these Bills will not go through so easily next year if we have a majority after the election. If we obtain a majority, we will be in a position to ask for certain things. We want ordinary justice to prevail in these matters.
.- I shall be brief, because it is getting late. 1 have listened to two honorable senators opposite speaking in this debate and both of them seemed to be very uncertain whether they are in favour of beef roads. Because of some of the remarks made by honorable senators opposite, I wonder whether they have ever seen some of these beef roads, or the areas in which they are located. Certainly they have not seen them recently.
– I had my photograph taken in the holes in the beef roads, lt appeared in the Press of Australia.
– Senator Dittmer took 55 minutes to tell us not very much. The speeches of honorable senators opposite contained the criticism that there is no orderly planning of northern development. The Opposition’s amendment seeks to take power away from the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and give it to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) so that the Minister may consult his officers and say where the roads should be located and what amount of money should be spent on them. We are told that the Government is not doing anything in the field of northern development. 1 point out that all the roads referred to in the agreement except one are in northern Queensland. It is very much a programme of northern development.
Senator Benn said that the only people who are to benefit from the beef roads are a few station owners. I submit, with respect, that that is a long way from the truth. The beef roads will benefit meatworks in many towns. A very large area of the north will benefit. Senator Morris pointed out the development now taking place in some areas on Cape York Peninsula. For instance, many people in the Cairns area have already benefited because they are now able to obtain supplies more easily. At present the people who own the grazing areas are not in a position to proceed with their development because it is not possible, in many cases, to obtain adequate supplies.
The new roads will give a tremendous impetus to development. The two honorable senators opposite from Queensland who have spoken in this debate should know that most of the land in the area is held on terminable leases. As the leases expire, the land will be sub-divided in nearly every case. The result will be that many more people will benefit. Criticism has also been made of the fact that Queensland is to obtain $4 million under the Agreement. It is a little unusual to see honorable senators from Queensland arguing against the allocation of money to Queensland. This was the effect of most of their arguments.
I turn, now, to some of the roads which are named in the agreement. The road between Julia Creek and Normanton is well known. The road from Georgetown to Mount Surprise will make a big difference to part of the Gulf country. The road between Dingo and Mount Flora is part and parcel of No. 3 section of the brigalow scheme. It runs through the middle of that area of brigalow land and will, in conjunction with the development of No. 3 section, give a tremendous impetus to transport out of the area as it develops. It will also allow production to be greatly increased.
Senator Morris referred at great length to the road between Mareeba and Laura. This is the commencement of what ultimately will be a road right up the Peninsula. Senator Morris referred to the development taking place there by American interests that have just started to improve the land and step up production. It will make a big difference to everybody in that area, including the people of Cairns. Even the small part that is provided for in the agreement - from Mareeba to Laura - will help greatly. Like Senator Morris, I would like to see the scheme when it is extended into the next two or three years provide for the continuation of the road far beyond Laura, ultimately to Weipa, and right up to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula to provide for what could be another province of Queensland, engaged in the development of the beef cattle industry and development generally.
Honorable senators have heard of pasture improvements through the good work being done by the Townsville research laboratory of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. 1 believe that area has a great future and that nothing will keep it back if the road is extended further than is provided for in the Agreement.
Beef roads are contributing greatly to the development of industry, particularly the beef cattle industry and those sections of secondary industry attached to it - meatworks and the like. Honorable senators opposite have said that only station owners will benefit, but development has taken place. Cairns has a good meatworks which is being extended. Two meatworks are in Townsville, one of which is new. Bowen has a meatworks and a new meatworks has been built in Mackay. Of the two meatworks in Rockhampton, one is newly built. These meat treatment plants are a big part of the development. Despite what we have been told by honorable senators opposite, the beef roads are part and parcel of the northern development of Australia undertaken by the Federal Government in conjunction with the Queensland Government.
I definitely oppose the amendment. I can see no reason whatever why the scheme will not work as it has worked satisfactorily for several years. It is quite obvious that the Minister for National Development is consulted and will be consulted by the Treasurer on all the schemes. There is no need for the amendment. The scheme has worked satisfactorily so- far and I have no doubt whatever that it will continue to work satisfactorily. I commend the Bill to honorable senators and hope that it will receive the support of the Senate.
– I did not think the day would come that I would enter into a discussion on beef roads in Queensland, but I have taken, some interest in the debate this afternoon and I am concerned as to whether we are considering the Bill as it is presented to us. ] am concerned as to whether we are aware of the significance of the Bill and whether we are in order in accepting it as it is presented this afternoon. In making an assessment, I am relying on the speeches that have been made.
The first purpose of the measure is to provide an amount under the Agreement to be allocated as a loan - not a gift - to Queensland so that the standard of beef roads may be raised to that required by the Commonwealth for the transporting of beef in the interests of Queensland and of Australia as a whole. The Bill goes further and says where these roads are to be. I gather from the debate that the Schedule to the Bill seeks to add certain roads to the original Agreement and to state the mileage that can be constructed. The amending Schedule will become operative only after it has been approved by the Queensland Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament. So it is of no use to say that Queensland has the say in where the roads will go. The Commonwealth is an equal partner and has an equal say in where the roads will go. If it is desirable that a road should proceed to Weipa, then we as partners have a right to reject the proposal now before us.
What concerns me and what has made me rise in my place is the fact that Senator Dittmer, when moving his amendment, quoted at some length from a document that has been concealed. I believe that offices have even been broken, into for the purpose of recovering this document which, as I have said, is not available to the public.
– The honorable senator is not making insinuations, is he?
– I am not making any insinuations. It is a fact that offices have been broken into and that a particular document was taken from Mr. Luchetti’s table. The office of Dr. Rex Patterson was broken into and an important document was taken. The police have made inquiries. Senator Dittmer seems to know something that is in the document.
– I know everything that is in the document.
– I am giving him credit for knowing what is in the document. The document comes from a very important source, lt is suggested that whoever is advising the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) - as a result of his advice this Bill is now before us - is not acting in accordance with the recommendations of the section that studied the problem, and that therefore the Bill is wrong.
The suggestion is taken further by Senator Morris. I attach great importance to what Senator Morris has said, even though it may not agree with the opinion of my colleagues. Senator Morris knows north Queensland well; he knows the requirements of the people in this area. He has told us that what we are asked to agree to today - the amending Agreement will become law only if we agree to it - is contrary to the proposals contained in the 1962 Agreement with the Queensland Government and is not in accordance with what he knows of the area and what is desirable for it. The road which he regards as being most important to the development of northern Australia will, at the present rate of progress, not be completed for 10 years. Senator Morris spoke in condemnatory terms and said that we cannot talk about the development of Australia when such slow progress is being achieved. The position is that those who know the areas in question and their requirements are giving certain advice but we here are being presented with legislation which runs contrary to that advice and which, if passed, will result in the building of roads in other areas.
The amending Agreement names areas in which it is proposed that roads should be built. If we agree to it, to my mind we will be destroying the possibility of having constructed what Senator Morris thinks is the most important road in northern Queensland. Moreover, in the light of Senator Dittmer’s remarks, we will be acting contrary to the advice of experts in the Department. What the Government is doing has a political significance and does not display a desire to undertake developmental works in Queensland. That is the conclusion that I must arrive at as a result of having listened to those on both sides of the chamber who claim that they are qualified to speak on this subject. I think Senator Lawrie agrees with what has been said. He seemed to join with Senator Morris. I asked Senator Morris: “ If you are convinced about the importance of the road that you mention, why don’t you rise up in revolt?” He claims that he has done so. I question whether he has done sufficient by way of revolt.
I regret that Senator Morris is not in the chamber at the moment. When the Bill is at the Committee stage, we should give special consideration to clause 9. which seeks to add the amending Agreement in which are set out the areas in which roads are to be built but which I understand, as
I have already indicated, are not in accordance with the recommendations set out in the report which Senator Dittmer has and which Senator Morris upholds as being authoritative. Unless we obtain from the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the Bill in this chamber, some indication that the contents of the measure are not contrary to the best advice of those who are interested in north Queensland, we should reject clause 9. I ask in all sincerity: Should we be asked to appropriate money for beef roads if they are not the most essential for the development of northern Australia? I repeat that it has been, suggested by two honorable senators who are qualified to speak about the area in question, and both of whom have quoted other authoritative opinions, that the Bill is not in accordance with the best advice that is available.
– The Mareeba to Laura road is part of the Weipa road.
– That is one aspect of the Bill that I should like to have explained, lt is proposed to build 160 miles of road in that area. To what extent that satisfies the request for a road to Weipa I do not know. Perhaps other senators from Queensland can tell me. The Minister must explain why a report submitted to him by his departmental advisers and quoted by Senator Dittmer in this chamber this afternoon cannot be made public. We should know the facts. Is there something else behind this matter? Was Senator Morris just talking without knowing what he was talking about? I thought he was convincing. We should reject this legislation until such time as we have a full report on the situation and the knowledge that the money to be spent will be spent in areas where it will do the most to develop northern Australia.
– I feel that the terminology in this beef roads legislation is not quite correct. The roads are called beef roads but in fact they could very well be called developmental roads because they are related to the development of the whole of Queensland. Having jackeroo-ed and worked for most of my life in the far northern, central and southern parts of Queensland, I feel that I can give some reasons why we should support this Bill as it has been presented.
Regarding Senator Morris’s statements with reference to Cape York Peninsula, I fully support the urgent development of this country but, as I said last night, everything must take its place in order of priority. Feeder roads from the western portion of the Gulf through to ports on the eastern side of the Peninsula would no doubt stimulate greater production of beef and earlier development. I shall not repeat what Senator Morris has already said in detail, but I believe that the other roads which were under consideration - from Normanton. Forsayth, Einasleigh, down to the Battery, and Townsville, further south to Emerald and into the brigalow country round Rockhampton - could be almost equally as developmental as those other roads in the far north, particularly if we use our brigalow areas - where young settlers are compelled to find their own cattle in a certain period of time - by bringing in stock from northern developmental and breeding areas and fattening them in the brigalow areas. Some alteration in State legislation would be needed to enable the cattle to be fattened on a cost basis. That is another aspect of beef roads that must be considered.
Construction cost has been criticised in another place. 1 have it on the highest authority from people who have investigated this matter that the money allocated to Queensland this year by the Federal Government works out, over a distance of 731 miles, at an average of $28,000 a mile, and not $40,000 a mile. I also believe that much of the discussion on this subject has been for election purposes and not for the ratification of the Bill or for its improvement or amendment. Certain suggestions have been made that roads should start here and finish there, instead of going in the reverse direction. People who have said these things must be speaking with tongue in cheek. People in the south will have reduced costs, because if we have a higher production of beef in Australia our costs will reduce correspondingly as our imports are not increasing at the same rate as our domestic consumption.
A question was asked as to how these beef roads would lead to increased production. 1 have it on full authority that with reasonable seasons north Queensland will increase its present carrying capacity from 100,000 cattle to 5 million. This is on the basis that we can recover from the drought and breed sufficient cattle to stock the area. I oppose the amendment and fully support the Bill as presented.
– I should like to correct one or two statements made during the course of the debate. First, the Senate should realise that the first amount given to Queensland was $16.6 million, of which $10 million was a free grant. I understood Senator Cavanagh to say that there was no grant.
– This Bill is not to make a grant.
– If the honorable senator will rest for a little while, I shall tell him the position. The first amount was $16.6 million, of which $10 million was a grant. The balance of $6.6 million was a loan repayable in 15 years. Of that grant $600,000 has not yet been used. That is all that is left of the grant. The Government has been considering an overall plan for the area. It finds that it wants more time for consideration, so it is making this additional provision this year. That is all that this Bill does. It seeks to add to the $600,000 which has not been used an amount of $3.9 million. Of this, half will be a free grant and half will be a loan repayable in 15 years. So let us get the record straight. This is what we are being asked to do. This year we are to make available to Queensland another $3.9 million. Goodness me! I have never found $3.9 million so hard to get rid of in all my life as I have found with the introduction of this Bill. I should not think that the State of Queensland would object, particularly in view of the Press statement of the responsible Minister on 24th March, in relation to the programme under this Bill, plus the balance of $600,000. He said-
The proposed construction programme was determined during discussions between officers of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development and the relevant State authorities.
That is where this plan for this one year arrangement came from. This is being done so that the whole master plan can be considered and a decision made by the Government. No-one will suggest that the Commonwealth Government is to go in and build the roads. Of course, it is not. It will supply the money and the Queensland authorities will build the roads. I thought we should get this clear in the first place.
I should like to refer to one or two matters which were raised. I do not want to take up too much of the Senate’s time because we are about to go into Committee. The amendment states that the administration of these funds should be in the hands not of the Treasurer but of the Minister for National Development. Anyone who knows the working of government knows full well that under the Act and the agreement the money is made available by the Treasurer, and that where the roads are to be built and so on is a matter for consultation between the Minister for National Development and the State authorities. Therefore, before the Treasurer makes any decision he consults the Minister for National Development on this basis.
This is merely an interim measure and one which I commend to the Senate. I trust that the amendment will be defeated and that the Bill will have a speedy passage through the House, because the sooner the money can be made available to the Queensland Government - half by way of grant and half by way of loan - the sooner that Government can get on with the work of providing the roads that are dealt with in this Bill. There are, of course, many areas where people want roads, for all sorts of reasons, but after consulting the officers of the Division of Northern Development and the Queensland Government we believe that this is the best programme for Queensland over the next year. I do not know of any authority better fitted than the Government of that State to decide where the money should be spent.
I do not think there is much more for me to add. I listened to the debate with a great deal of interest. No doubt there are many parts of Queensland which, when the time for proper development comes, will give a tremendous fillip to Australia’s export income. However, I believe that in this instance, the Queensland Government and officers of the Division of Northern Development have allotted the right priorities and that we should accept the Bill.
Question put -
Thatthe words proposed to be added (Senator Dittmer’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Drake-Brockman.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
After section 4 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 4a. The Amending Agreement is approved.”.
– I move -
At end of proposed section 4a add “subject to that Agreement being amended to provide that advances made’ to the State under the Agreement for the construction of unsealed roads shall not be refunded to the Commonwealth whereas advances made to the State under the Agreement for the sealing of roads shall be refunded “.
When in 1961 the Commonwealth agreed to provide £5 million for beef roads in Queensland, the first portion was £650,000 for the Normanton-Julia Creek road, associated with £350,000 to be provided by the State Government. There was no question of what expenditure was to be borne by the State in regard to sealing roads. Subsequently, in 1962, the State Government realised the futility of a road such as the one proposed from Normanton to Julia Creek and saw that it was likely that this would apply to other beef roads. Accordingly, it approached the Commonwealth Government for £3,300,000 by way of loan for the purpose of road sealing. The Commonwealth Government then agreed to provide £3,300,000 but very smartly it saw how it could pull the three card trick or the crown and anchor stunt on the Queensland Government. It realised that action was inevitable particularly after the result of the 1961 election which was almost a tragedy for the Liberal-Country Party coalition and unfortunate for Australia. The Government saw that it would have to proceed with this scheme. So it devised the idea of a 50 per cent, loan and 50 per cent, grant for construction of beef roads but excluding the £1,700,000. I believe my figures are correct and not like some of those’ quoted by honorable senators on the Government side. One honorable senator opposite referred to an area of 80 million square miles and within a few minutes it grew to 88 million square miles. Another honorable senator from Queensland queried the statements of an Opposition member on the cost of roads.
– Who said that?
– I did not want to name the honorable senator but I will if Senator Wright wants me to. I excuse Senator Lawrie. He was not in error except when he disagreed with me. One honorable senator said he disagreed with another member of the Australian Labour Party. I take it he was referring to a member in another place. He said the honorable member gave the wrong figures and then proceeded to say that last year 731 miles of road were involved and the cost was $28,000 a mile. That would total over $20 million. Queensland would have been extremely grateful to get that.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The honorable senator is only repeating the speech he gave on the second reading. We are now considering an amendment and he should direct his remarks to the amendment and not to the Bill.
– Order! I ask Senator Dittmer to make his remarks pertinent to the amendment before the Committee.
– I was dealing with the cost of sealing roads compared with the cost of general road works such as gravelling, drainage and so on. It is estimated that sealing of roads involves 30 per cent, of the cost. The purpose of the amendment is to place the real responsibility, as originally visualised, on the Commonwealth Government and not to permit the Government to pull a three card trick - a completely dishonest political trick - on the Queensland Government. I have moved the amendment and I commend it to honorable senators. If they have any sense of real values, particularly Queensland senators on the Government side, they should realise their responsibilities to Queensland which is administered at present by a Country Party-Liberal Government.
– The Government can see no advantage in the amendment. The Bill is purely an interim measure pending a study by the Government and discussions with the States concerned on the future beef roads programme. Under the terms of an interim measure, it would not be logical to depart from the arrangements applying to the current scheme. For the last two years - 1964-65 and 1965-66 - the amounts paid to Queensland have been half in the form of a grant and half by way of loan. The arrangements to apply to future beef roads measures will be decided by the Government as part of its consideration of these measures. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Dittmer’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wood.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
At end of proposed section 4a add: “ subject to that Agreement being amended to provide for the inclusion of the Oxford Downs-Nebo-Baker’s Creek Road in the works programme.
The reason why the Opposition proposes this amendment is that the Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road was included in the list of roads to be constructed in Queensland as a matter of urgency. It would serve an area at present holding 450,000 head of cattle. The number could be increased substantially. The Minister might say that there is no design proposed for the road. But this route has been used for many years as a cattle route and has been gazetted as a highway for over 20 years. It is in need of improvement in the light of the potential for development and the number of cattle to be served. The road would drain area three of the brigalow country and contribute to the welfare of Mackay at which a new abattoir has been established. Mackay is being utilised as a port for shipping meat.
One distinguished senator from Queensland on the Government side said earlier that the Government had no plan for taking shipping from the ports of Bowen and Mackay. I point out that I did not say that there was such a plan. I said that I did not know whether there was. But there was a sinister plan - I think, by the shipping companies - to take this shipping away from those ports. I questioned whether the Government was likely to be in a conspiracy with them. I do not really suggest that it was. But I might be doubtful whether the Government would serve the purposes of the shipping companies.
When we look at the report on beef roads for northern Australia we find that the roads concerned are listed as follows: Dingo to Mount Flora via May Downs, estimated to cost between $3.5 million and $5 million; Mareeba to Laura, estimated to cost$2.5 million; the Upper Burdekin region which includes the Battery to Townsville, estimated to cost $2.3 million. The next road - the fourth in terms of immediate priority - mentioned by the experts who have investigated this proposition thoroughly over the years and have had the best advice, is the Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road which is the subject of my amendment. The estimated cost is a mere $1.1 million. The next road in priority is the Windorah to Monkira via Currawilla road which is estimated to cost $3.3 million and then the Mount Isa to Dajarra road which is estimated to cost $1.3 million.
Why was the Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road taken out of the plan? It might be suggested that the Queensland Government might have taken this road out. But how did the Queensland Government know that this road was in the report? The Queensland Government has not seen the report. The Commonwealth Government has never made the report available to the Minister for Main Roads in Queensland. So, he would have no idea of the priorities that were assigned to these roads by the experts. He certainly would have the benefit of the advice of his own officers. Perhaps this whole project would have been entirely different had the Queensland Minister known what had been recommended to the Commonwealth Government. Surely we are entitled to query the motive of the Commonwealth Government in taking this road out of the plan. Did the Commonwealth Government take it out of the plan out of pi que or spite because it lost the Dawson byelection. The Government will not regain that scat at the coming election. That is a cert ainty. The Government can be sure of that now. The seat of Dawson will be lost to it again. The present member for Dawson will hold the seat. There is no doubt about that. I tell those honorable senators who are interjecting that he will be returned with a greater majority.
I should like the Minister to say why this road has not been included in the schedule. In this area there are 450,000 head of cattle. Cattle can be bred there. It is a good fattening area. The steers are brought from the west and are transported readily to Mackay to a modern abattoir. I commend my amendment to the Committee.
.- The bulk of the work provided for in the expenditure for 1966- 67 - I repeat, for the one year, 1966-67 - is related to the Julia Creek to Normanton, Georgetown to Mount Surprise, Mount Isa to Dajarra and Winton to Boulia roads which form part of the agreed programme dating back to 1962. Some additional works on small sections of other new roads which the State of Queensland is in a position to place in hand to be completed during the year have been included. I want to make that quite clear to the Committee. In addition to the programme that we agreed to in this Parliament in 1962, there are some small sections of other new roads which Queensland has said it can complete in this financial year. Obviously it is not possible to include all future beef roads in this interim programme. I repeat that this is only an interim programme which covers the period of the financial year 1966-67.
As a matter of fact, the main purpose of this programme is to ensure that works previously approved or under way can proceed without any break in continuity while the Government is finalising its investigation which will lead to a new beef road programme supported by the Government. It should be remembered that while the Commonwealth is assisting financially, the State of Queensland is responsible for the provision and construction of its roads. Consequently, the priorities for construction are matters primarily for the States. This interim measure is not the end of Commonwealth assistance in this field. The Government has already announced its intention to support the continuing active beef road programme. The Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road will receive our consideration. I want to point out that this Bill provides for the work that the State of Queensland says that it can do in this financial year. That is all it is for.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Dittmer’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
– I present the Fourteenth Report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– I wish to make a very short personal explanation. When I was speaking earlier this afternoon, I referred to the areas of Queensland and other places in acres. Then on a couple of occasions I spoke of square miles and acres and confused the figures. I spoke of 80 million square miles instead of 80,000 square miles. With the concurrence of honorable senators I propose to make that alteration in the “ Hansard “ report of my speech.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 13th September, at 3 pan.
Senate adjourned at 4.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660901_senate_25_s32/>.