26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took- the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that areas of great potential would be served and that it would greatly assist in decentralisation of industry if the natural gas pipelines between Gippsland in Victoria and Sydney were to be constructed through northern Victoria and the Riverina area, would the Minister for National Development be prepared to reconsider his reported statement that he did not consider it would be an economic project?
– I think that this is a matter for the Minister for National Development himself to deal with and I suggest that the honourable senator put the question on the notice paper. As far as I am aware, the routes that these gas pipelines will follow are decided by the State Government. However I may be wrong.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that, under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, 40% of State allocations must be spent on country roads? Are such roads defined in the Act? If so, what is the definition of a country road? Can funds under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement be spent by a State on the improvement of beef roads and main highways?
– The Commonwealth Aid Roads Act of 1964 provides that each State shall, out of the moneys paid to it under this Act in respect of a year, expend on rural road construction an amount that is not less than two-fifths of the amount of those moneys. Rural roads are denned as roads in rural areas, including developmental roads, feeder roads, roads in sparsely populated areas and in soldier settlement areas, and roads in country municipalities and shires, other than highways, trunk roads and main roads. Apart from the stipulation that two-fifths of the funds made available must be spent on rural roads, the expenditure on particular roads is a matter for determination by the State concerned.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which relates to a question of mine on 22nd February 1967 concerning passenger congestion at the Adelaide airport passenger lounge, and reported ministerial statements during 1966 that expansion of the terminal was under consideration. As passenger congestion during peak hours continues, with periods when free passenger movement is most difficult, what immediate and/ or long range terminal expansion measures are proposed?
– The honourable senator did ask me such a question earlier in the session and I promised to get the information from the Minister for Civil Aviation. My colleague now informs me that plans and estimates of costs are being prepared by the Department of Works for extensions of the existing terminal at Adelaide airport which would handle any anticipated traffic growth at this airport for at least five years and possibly longer. The idea of a new terminal building quite separate from the existing building has not been abandoned, but difficulties are. involved in making provision at this time for the very large expenditure which would be incurred in the erection of such a building and in the construction of new aprons, roads, car parks and engineering services associated with it, having regard to the many other urgent airport developmental works necessary throughout the Commonwealth.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the two deputations composed of representatives of the British inmates of various Commonwealth hostels and introduced to the Minister by members of the Opposition and in view also of the various submissions which were made, not merely on hostel tariffs but on attendant matters relating to immigration, can the Minister now make a statement of the Government’s future intention on this question?
– Clearly I cannot make a statement on behalf of the Minister, nor has he informed me whether he is prepared to make a statement.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer in a position to inform the Senate when the legislation adumbrated in a recent speech for financial assistance to the State of Tasmania in respect of our recent bush fires will be ready for presentation to Parliament?
– I am not aware of the stage that the legislation has reached and do not know when it will be before the Houses of Parliament. I shall see whether I can get the information for the honourable senator and advise him tomorrow.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Parliament of any financial transactions that have taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland State Government relating to the development of gas and oil fields in Queensland, including oil search subsidies?
– I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper. There may be a number of transactions of which I am not aware. I shall be able to give him a more comprehensive answer if the question is put on the notice paper.
– ls the
Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of an agreement between the Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia, and a New South Wales firm, George Fielder & Co., to export a ton of a new strain of clover called ‘Uniwager’ to India for ‘bulking up’ during the northern winter? As seed from this crop is to be returned to Western Australia for distribution among farmers of that State, can the Minister inform the Senate whether any special arrangements were sought by George Fielder & Co. from the Department of Health for the reimportation of this seed into Australia? If so, what was the result of the representations, particularly with regard to the need to observe strict quarantine safeguards in respect of plant diseases and noxious weeds?
– The honourable senator was good enough to inform me of his interest in this subject and I have been able to obtain a reply for him from the Minister for Health. The Minister is fully aware of this project and assures me that full quarantine precautions have been taken to prevent any risk of introduction of plant diseases and noxious weeds. Precautions have been taken also to eliminate any risk of introducing diseases of animals. Before shipment to Australia the seed will be washed to free it from soil and debris, it will be packed in new bags and it will be subjected to inspection on arrival in Australia by plant quarantine officers to ensure freedom from weed seeds. Machinery will be used for harvesting and on arrival in Australia the seed will be washed in a 4% sodium carbonate solution to disinfect it. It will then be placed in new bags and the original bags will be destroyed. It must be accompanied by a certificate that animals had not been grazed on the land during the growing of the crop. When distributed in Western Australia it will be sown only on fenced land free from livestock. A further condition is that potatoes will not be grown on the land used for growing the clover in Western Australia for al least eight years. This is an added protection against the possibility of the presence of golden nematode, which is a pest of potatoes.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Will the Minister draw the special attention of the Minister for Social Services to the humane appeals made on behalf of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee regarding telephones for the blind in which a further 17% reduction in telephone rentals has been sought? Realising the many appeals from honourable senators on behalf of blind people, I ask the Minister to use her every endeavour to have this small request granted, during the forthcoming Budget session if it is not possible to do so now.
– I shall be pleased to place this matter before the Minister for Social Services as requested by the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy a question. Does the Government regard the incidents relating to the refusal of the Seamen’s Union of Australia to man ships for Vietnam as now closed? Will the Government study the legislation passed by the Chifley Government to counter a proposed ban on the Woomera rocket range with a view to taking action similar to that taken on that occasion to deal now with political misuse of trade unionism in the seamen’s case?
– The honourable senator is probably referring to the receiving, so I understand, of some form of commendation or congratulatory message from the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong by the seamen who took part in efforts to prevent the sailing of a ship. I hope that they can draw some comfort from this. I shall refer the rest of the question to the Minister for the Navy and see whether I can get a reply for the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Hbs the Minister decided not to impose a 7i% duty on DC9 aircraft to be imported by Ansett-ANA and TransAustralia Airlines? If so, is this action contrary to the preference provisions of the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement?
– I made a Press announcement yesterday that the Government had decided to allow duty free admission of DC9 aircraft for both TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-ANA. This action was taken under the by-law provisions of the Customs Tariff and the duty so waived would have been at the rate of 7±%. The United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement provides for removal of the British margin of preference by means of by-law admission when suitable equivalent goods are not reasonably available from British production. The
Agreement also provides that although the views of the British authorities shall be sought before such by-law action is taken the final decision shall rest with the Australian Government. This Government is now of the opinion that a British aircraft - the BACH 1-500 - was not reasonably available when the two airline operators placed their orders in March 1965. For this reason the decision that no duty will be payable has been taken and I announced it yesterday.
– Was the United Kingdom Government consulted?
– I had not quite completed my answer. The British authorities were consulted in strict accordance with the provisions of the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question arising out of the answer that he has just given to the question asked by Senator Cavanagh. My question is: What were the circumstances in which duty was levied on Boeing 727 aircraft when an equivalent type - the BAC111A - was available in Britain? What are the present circumstances in which duty is not being levied on DC9 machines, which apparently have a British equivalent in the BAC211A? Are these matters conditional on the availability of other aircraft or on the availability of other suitable aircraft? I would be glad if the Minister would make this clear.
– The by-law entry of Boeing 727 aircraft duty free related to a set of circumstances entirely different from those applying to the importation of DC9 machines.
– What is the difference?
– In the present instance the machines that are alleged to be comparable are not comparable. The by-law criteria are to be found in item 20 of the Second Schedule of the regulations. These criteria hinge on the reasonable availability of a suitable equivalent. The decision on the DC9 aircraft was taken because it was not considered that the British aircraft was reasonably available. That is completely supported by the fact that only in January of this year did the British proceed with complete plans for the production of the aircraft that we regarded as being comparable with the DC9.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Air been drawn to a statement by Dr Brass, Assistant Editor of the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’, that the journey by Hercules aircraft from Vietnam to Australia for wounded and sick Australian servicemen must be a nightmare because of the noise involved, the lack of facilities on the aircraft and the time taken on the trip? Has he also noted a statement attributed to the Minister for Defence and published on 28th March that there are some valid points in Dr Brass’s criticism? Because of the urgency involved in this matter in respect of wounded Australians who might be evacuated from Vietnam in the near future, can the Minister say whether any investigations have been made and, if so, what are the results of the investigations? If not, will he urge the expedition of any report that might be being made? If the comments proffered by Dr Brass are found to be warranted, will the Government take immediate action to ameliorate the conditions complained of?
– I saw the article to which the honourable senator has referred. I know from statements that were made to me during my visit to Butterworth, which is usually a staging place for wounded returning in Hercules aircraft, that for many of them the trip is quite an ordeal because the aircraft do not have the conveniences that we would like to have in the transport of wounded. However, this is not a question of what we would like. It is a question of the facilities that are available. I will take the rest of the question up with the Minister for Air and the Minister for Defence. At the moment the method of transportation of wounded is the best that can be supplied. I point out that very often wounded are put down by helicopter at our Army hospital at Vung Tau within about twenty minutes of their leaving our task force zone.
– Do the Americans use the same sort of aircraft?
– I do not know what aircraft the Americans use, but they have far more types of aircraft and very many more aircraft than Australia has. What we are doing is providing the best transportation that is available. I will convey the rest of the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Air.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to yesterday’s announcement that the new DC9 aircraft are to be admitted duty free. In previous answers the Minister has referred to compliance with our treaty with Great Britain. Will he inform the Senate of the principles that justify the admission of these aircraft to Australia without the payment of duty according to the principles of our tariff?
– The short answer to the honourable senator’s question is that, as a tradition, as part of our tariff practice and as part of the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement, we have provision for the duty free entry of goods under by-law where there is no suitable equivalent reasonably available. That goes right across the whole spectrum of our international trade. We give duty free entry where the goods are not available in Australia and so do not compete with Australian manufacture and where the goods are not available in the United Kingdom and so do not compete with United -Kingdom manufacture. When goods are considered to be available in the United Kingdom, under the Trade Agreement a 7i% basic duty is payable on such goods imported from other countries.
When we apply that principle to the question of by-law entry of aircraft, a decision has to be made on whether a British aircraft is comparable with the DC9 which is an American aircraft. The relevant provision in the legislation refers to a suitable equivalent being reasonably available. In this instance the judgment formed by the Government is that the DC9 aircraft has not now and did not have at the time of firm order a suitable equivalent reasonably available. Therefore entry was allowed duty free. I think that is as far as I wish to go at present.
Honourable senators should bear in mind that the by-law procedures are used every day in Australian trade. For instance, about 50,000 applications for by-law entry were handled last year by the Department of Customs and Excise in respect of goods entering Australia either duty free or bearing a margin of preference fixed to meet the position of the United Kingdom Government. The particular by-law transaction referred to by the honourable senator is no different from any other by-law procedure within the framework of the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Territories inform me whether 75% of the sum of $3,111,000 provided this financial year for the welfare of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory had been spent at the end of March last?
– I will ask the Minister to advise the honourable senator by letter.
-J rise to ask another question of the Minister for Customs and Excise in respect of the entry of aircraft into Australia. If the Minister wishes not to reply to the question on the basis that policy is involved I am quite prepared to accept that answer. I ask: If it is valid to allow DC9 aircraft to enter Australia duty free because there is no ready availability of British equivalent aircraft, was the situation not the same at the time of the introduction to Australia of Boeing 727 aircraft, having regard to the BACIII aircraft? Therefore, is it appropriate, for example, that drawback should be available to the Australian airlines in relation to duty paid on Boeing 727 aircraft, to enable them to avoid the high overheads involved in funding the duties levied on importations of Boeing 727 aircraft?
– I think the honourable senator has missed the whole point of the comparison. The only possibly suitable equivalent aircraft to the DC9 is the British BACIII aircraft. The honourable senator has referred to aircraft which had no relationship at all to the BACIII. If my memory serves me correctly, in the previous case the argument was whether the Trident was a suitable equivalent. There was a whole series of different comparisons.
– I did not say that there was any comparison.
– I come back to the basic concept of a suitable British equivalent being reasonably available. There is no question of a comparison between previous circumstances and the circumstances of importation of DC9 aircraft at the present time. The aircraft previously considered are in no way comparable to the DC9 aircraft and nobody has ever suggested that they are.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In view of the great expense incurred by the British Government in combating the effects of the wreck of the oil tanker ‘Torrey Canyon’ with the resultant beach despoliation, could the Attorney-General advise what protection has Australia in regard to the liability of oil and shipping companies should a similar maritime mishap occur?
– I cannot give the advice the honourable senator seeks. I think the question should be placed on the notice paper so that a legal answer may be given.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Secretary of the New South Wales Housing Commission, Mr Bourke, after personally examining civil aid handouts in Vietnam, has reported to the New South Wales Government, and 1 use his words, that Most of the goods received as aid were pure unadulterated junk’?
– That is rubbish.
– That report was in all newspapers last week. Would the Minister care to express a view on this matter and tell me whether or not the New South Wales Government has passed this report on to the Commonwealth Government?
– I read the report on civil aid to which the honourable senator refers. I believe that, in the early stages, a collection was made throughout Australia to assist civilians in South Vietnam. Some quite unsuitable goods were sent in by people although their intentions were good. I have not heard anything further on the matter that I could pass on to the honourable senator in reply to the question that he has asked.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation on the subject about which he has been asked a number of questions already this afternoon. My question relates particularly to the part of the answer given by the Minister in which I understood him to say that the BAC111 has come on to the market in only the last few months. I understand, andI ask the Minister to confirm it, that the DC9-30 aircraft that has been ordered for Australia has been flying commercially for about four months only. I recall that the BAC1 1 1 was in Australia for demonstration purposes in February of last year. Are these the two aircraft about which the comparison has been made? Is it not a fact that the DC9 has been flying commercially in the last few months only?
– I think thatthe honourable senator andI are at cross purposes, Mr President. The situation is that the British aircraft is the BAC11 1-500. What I said was that it did not become a firm project until an official order was placed by the British airlines in January of this year. That is the position in relation to the British aircraft. Regarding the DC9 aircraft, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA have a phased programme to bring in six of these aircraft, each company taking three of them. It is my understanding that the arrival of the aircraft is imminent. In fact, at the present time, the preliminary training of pilots from both companies is taking place in the United States of America prior to the aircraft coming into service in Australia.
– I wish to ask one more question of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation concerning the decision regarding the payment of duty on the importation of these DC9 aircraft. I ask the Minister: Has the British Government protested against the waiving of duty on these aircraft? Does its protest claim that this is a breach of the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia?
– As I indicated before, the procedure to be followed is laid down in the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement. Before the waiving of any duty there are certain procedures for consultation in which both Governments are required to engage. Putting aside the question of the DC9 and the British aircraft for the moment, I remind the Senate that this is a recurring matter in my Department; we deal with it all the time. People seek a by-law. Where the United Kingdom Government is concerned, we have to go to the British Board of Trade and we have - I use the familiar expression - to seek to get a waiver. We have to consult with the Board of Trade. I want to make it perfectly clear that before I made the final announcement yesterday on behalf of the Australian Government regarding this matter, consultation was entered into with the United Kingdom Government strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement.
– Is the British Government still protesting?
– The honourable senator is asking me to indicate what the views of the British Government are. I do not think this is an appropriate question. The proper answer is that in relation to this transaction the Australian Government strictly did all that was required of it under its trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
(Question No. 3)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
The chartering of vessels to carry migrants has not applied for many years now. Both the Department and ICEM book an agreed number of berths for specified sailings of vessels engaged in normal passenger traffic. The shipping companies concerned issue passenger tickets to the assisted migrants and have the same obligations to them as they have to passengers who book their travel privately and pay their own fares. The companies are required to provide for assisted migrants the same standards as for tourist class or one class passengers. The Department of Immigration normally allots to vessels carrying assisted migrants from Britain an Australian welfare and information officer to provide special assistance to the migrant passengers and liaison with the ship’s staff. ICEM normally arranges for an escort officer to accompany assisted migrants travelling by sca under the Committee’s auspices.
(Question No. 4)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 and 2. The Australian Government was informed in advance of the decision to resume the bombing of North Vietnam. The Government supported this decision having regard to North Vietnamese exploitation of the lunar new year truce to effect major resupply operations, to the military disadvantages to United States and allied forces of a continued pause in these circumstances and to the lack of any reciprocal gesture by North Vietnam to the bombing pause.
(Question No. 7)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answers:
(Question No. 10)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies:
Its plans provide, not only for ocean weather ships, but also satellites, constant level balloons and floating automatic weather stations. Australia has supported these plans. The cost of maintaining ocean weather stations, each of which would require two ships, would be very heavy, while it would be extremely difficult to secure suitable ships and crew for extended service in inhospitable ocean areas. The possibility of meeting the need through the further development of meteorological satellites, floating automatic weather stations and constant level balloons is being explored, and Australia is working in close co-operation with the United States in this work. There are no specific recommendations by the International Civil Aviation Organisation relating to air rescue ships on ocean stations. In the event of an aircraft emergency at sea, assistance would be requested from shipping in the area as part of the recognised search and rescue procedure.
(Question No. 11)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answer:
The Migration Ordinance provides also a general ground for deportation, that the person’s conduct has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in the Territory. The Administrator is of the view that the act leading to Mr Chipper’s conviction is not such as to justify deportation proceedings. I do not disagree with that view.
(Question No. 13)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: 1 and 3. I am aware that there have been references in the press to opposition to the televising in Australia of ‘Rat Patrol’.
Rat Patrol’ after six episodes of the 13 episode series had been televised.
(Question No. 14)
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 24)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
(Question No. 31)
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions arc as follows: 1 and 2. I understand that the Sydney Catholic Schools Building and Finance Commission is responsible for the financial aspects of the primary and secondary schools controlled by the Archdiocese of Sydney, including the provision of school buildings and payment of teachers’ salaries. The Commission is concerned with parochial and diocesan primary and secondary schools but not with the schools conducted by the religious teaching orders. The Catholic Education Office is concerned with professional education questions, including inspection services for schools in the Archdiocese.
(Question No. 32)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 35)
asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice:
For what quantities and cash values have orders been placed by Commonwealth departments and authorities for woollen and worsted piece goods with the following manufactures for the years 1962-63, 1963-64,1964-65, and 1965-66: Federal Woollen Mills Ltd, Geelong: Valley Worsted Mills Ltd, Geelong; Collins Bros Pty Ltd, Geelong; Hirst Godfrey & Co. Pty Ltd, Geelong; R. S. Woollen Mills, Geelong; and Ettrick Woollen Mill, Geelong?
– The answer is as follows:
6 Ettrick Woollen Mill 1962-63 to 1965-66 Nil purchases
It is possible that other Commonwealth departments or authorities may have placed orders with the companies mentioned. However, the quantities and values given here cover the major purchases of such piece goods and purchases by others would be minor only.
(Question No. 38)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 39)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
In the light of authoritative criticism emanating from the Adelaide University on the serious damage that is done to gums and teeth by most types of tooth brushes for adults, will the Minister take immediate steps in conjunction with State authorities to insist that tooth brush manufacturers correct this serious dental defect?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
I have seen references in the Press to a statement by Mr Frederick Henning of the Adelaide University concerning the damage to teeth and gums by poorly designed tooth brushes. I am informed that there is no standard laid down for the manufacture of tooth brushes in Australia. I have asked my Department to obtain a copy of Mr Henning’s full statement with a view to considering the desirability of referring the matter to the Dental Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council for investigation.
(Question No. 43)
Senator WEBSTER (through Senator
Scott) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is cattle semen, available from stock in certain overseas countries, a prohibited import due to the possibility of the introduction of blue tongue and other diseases to Australia?
Are there certain provisions whereby this item may be imported from certain countries where the semen has been held for a two year period?
Is any scientific investigation being made in this country to ascertain whetherlatent disease may be present in stock semen?
Cattle semen may be imported from New Zealand and Great Britain subject to certain stringent conditions of health certification and testing. The responsible veterinary authorities in these countries supervise the tests, which include health tests on the donor bulls at the time of collection of the semen. In addition, proof is required that blue tongue has not occurred in the country of origin. Cattle semen -from Great Britain must be stored for a period of two years under the supervision of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food prior to shipment to Australia. Donor bulls must have been located at approved artificial insemination centres for at least six months before collection of the semen.
Testing of imported semen is not carried out in Australia as the prescribed health tests on the donor bull carried out under official supervision in the country of origin ensure the freedom of semen from latent disease.
(Question No. 44)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers supplied by the Treasurer are as follows:
(Question No. 51)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies:
(Question No. 62)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister investigate to what extent aircraft of the Department of Civil Aviation and of the Services could be organised to provide -
an emergency service, at present, to the flooded areas of the Northern Territory, and
in the case of any future national calamities where breaks in transport and other communications isolate Australian communities?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are well established arrangements whereby the State governments and Territory administrations can request Commonwealth assistance in the event of emergencies of the kind recently experienced in the Northern Territory, and natural disasters. This of course includes assistance by the defence Services. The Services have assisted on numerous occasions, including the recent floods in the Northern Territory and north Queensland and the tragic bush fires in Tasmania, to the extent of their available resources.
The aircraft operated by the Department of Civil Aviation are not suited for the carriage of freight because they are fitted with special equipment to test air navigation aids throughout Australia. However, in an emergency they could and at times do provide assistance.
With regard to the floods in the Northern Territory, the Royal Australian Air Force was authorised to provide and has been providing aircraft for the transport of essential foodstuffs as requested by the civil authorities. Close consultation was maintained with the civil authorities to determine these needs.
(Question No. 64)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 70)
Senator WEBSTER (through Senator
Scott) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Are there, in the State of Victoria, telephone subscribers who in normal business hours are required to pay 20c for calls to other subscribers who are located not more than twenty-five miles away?
Does this position apply in near capital city areas or in other States?
Does the Postmaster-General consider this fair policy by the Postmaster-General’s Department?
Will the Postmaster-General seek alleviation of such charges where there are short distances between subscribers?
– The answers are as follows:
(Question No. 72)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers are:
(Question No. 74)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Did the Minister for National Development, on 28th February 1967, present to the House of Representatives certain documents, statements and letters concerning an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria relative to the disposal of natural gas; if so, are similar documents, statements and letters to be presented to the Senate?
– The reply is as follows:
Yes. It is my intention, with the permission of the Senate, to make a statement, and present the correspondence referred to, later today.
(Question No. 75)
asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice:
– The answer is as follows: 1 and 2. The joint project arrangement between the United Kingdom and Australia has been in operation for twenty years. During that period various agreements have applied for the sharing of costs. The current agreement was signed in 1962 and will end on 30th June 1967. The workload at the Woomera range for at least the next two years will be greater than over the past few years. This and other factors will be taken into account in the negotiations on future financial arrangements. To date the Australian Government has not received any proposal from the British Government on future financial arrangements for the joint project. Within the next few weeks the Australian Government will determine its requirements for the future conduct of the joint project partnership and so advise the British Government. An announcement will be made as soon as agreement has been reached between the two Governments on the financial arrangement to apply as from 1st July 1961.
– On 28th February Senator Marriott asked me the following question without notice:
By way of brief explanationI say that previously in questions I have detailed whatI consider to be the absurd practice of the Postmaster-General’s Department of inserting in its telephone directories entries for government and business undertakings in the form: ‘ANZ Bank (see under Australia and New Zealand Bank)’. I have advocated the printing of the telephone number in all cases. That suggestion has not been adopted. I now ask: what attitude or action does the Postmaster-General’s Department intend to take to overcome a mistake on page 19 of the new Canberra telephone directory? We read on that page: ‘Bureau of Agricultural Economics’ and its number; then ‘Bureau of Census and Statistics (see under Census and Statistics - Bureau of)’; and then: ‘Bureau of Meteorology’; but the directory does not give any number at all for the Bureau of Census and Statistics in the Commonwealth Government section?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The entry ‘ANZ Bank (see Australia & New Zealand Bank Ltd)’ at page 23 of the Canberra telephone directory is a paid cross reference inserted by the subscriber. The complete entry for the Bank occupies sixteen lines on pages 26 and 27. Paid entry cross references are inserted in the form sought by subscribers. Following advice last year from the Bureau of Census and Statistics that it was removing to new premises in the Treasury Building, Newlands Street, Parkes, details of the revised entry were recorded for inclusion in the new directory. Unfortunately the revised entry, was mistakenly positioned in the alphabetical list of subscribers instead of the Commonwealth Government Section. The entry appears on page 44. Details of the entry have been specially noted at the ‘Telephone Numbers’ positions at Canberra and all State capital cities. It will, of course, be positioned correctly in the next issue.
– On 1st March Senator Ormonde asked me the following question without notice:
Is the Minister aware that commercial television stations in Sydney have switched the programming of church services from Sundays to week days? Does the Minister know that this means that church sessions now have to compete with such popular trivia as Andrea, Mums and Dads, Pussy and Charles, Eric Baume and Hazel and the Girls, with Dita Cobb bringing up the rear at about 1 a.m.? Is it fair that the church services now have to compete with this sort of popular entertainment? Would the Minister inquire of the Postmaster-General as to whether or not the stations concerned are breaching the agreement that they have to give the churches reasonable broadcasting and television time?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
I am informed that the re-arrangement of religious television programmes in Sydney is experimental and has been made in consultation with executives of the Christian Television Association and the Catholic Radio and Television Committee, which are the bodies charged by the various Churches with the responsibility for arranging and presenting religious programmes on commercial television stations. I am informed that the new arrangements are only experimental.
– by leave- Senator Cant, in a question upon notice which I answered earlier today, asked whether the statement concerning the development of oil and gas discoveries in Bass Strait, presented in the House of Representatives on 28th February 1967 by the Minister for National Development, the Honourable David Fairbairn, would be presented to the Senate. As the contents of the statement are of considerable interest to all senators I would now like to present to the Senate the facts about these developments. To put the matter into perspective I should mention that in addition to the general discussions with all the States on the content of the proposed uniform offshore petroleum legislation, the Commonwealth has had discussions with Victoria concerning, firstly, the granting of production licences to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Esso Exploration Australia Incorporated group over the Barracouta and Marlin fields; and secondly, the interstate sale and supply of natural gas produced from those areas.
As to the production licences granted to BHP-Esso, as indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his announcement of 29th December last, the Commonwealth has agreed that Victoria should proceed to grant licences in advance of the introduction of the joint common code legislation. The terms and conditions of the BHP-Esso production licences were outlined at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Mines Ministers and Attorneys-General in Adelaide on 25th January 1967. On 21st February the Victorian Government introduced a Bill to enable the production licences to be granted. When the comprehensive joint offshore petroleum legislation is introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament the legislation will include provisions providing Commonwealth legislative support for the production licences now to be granted to BHP-Esso.
On the second matter of the arrangements for the disposal interstate of natural gas from the areas subject to the BHPEsso production licences, there have been discussions between the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier and other Commonwealth and State Ministers. In these discussions the Commonwealth and Victoria had the common objective of encouraging interstate sales. On the other hand, it seemed fair that Victoria should not be put at a disadvantage in relation to an interstate purchaser in respect of these discoveries. Moreover, adequate reserves must be available for BHP-Esso to effect delivery of gas to Victoria under contractual obligations already existing. It was also recognised that account would have to be taken of the cost of transmission of gas to interstate markets and that in consequence the city gate price of gas in those markets could be higher than the city gate price to the Victorian markets. This sort of differential willindeed apply within Victoria itself.
The result of the discussions appears from the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Premier, which I now lay on the table of the Senate. The Commonwealth will have full opportunity to make its voice heard and will satisfy itself that the requirements specified in the letters will be observed. We have, in any event, made it clear in our discussions with Victoria that the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers are fully reserved.
I think I should correct an impression that appears to have arisen in some quarters that the Commonwealth has somehow abandoned its constitutional authority and responsibility in connection with offshore petroleum. Any such impression is quite erroneous. When the question of constitutional authority over offshore petroleum first came up as a result of moves to explore Australia’s offshore areas, the States asserted that jurisdiction over these offshore resources rested with them. The Commonwealth on the other hand held firmly to the view that jurisdiction rested with it. Moreover, some oil companies indicated that they would not be happy about the legal effectiveness of titles granted to them unless these had Commonwealth legislative support.
In 1965, the Commonwealth and State governments reached agreement that, in the national interest, they should endeavour to avoid litigation by co-operation in a scheme of joint uniform legislation covering exploration for and exploitation of petroleum on both the sea bed beneath territorial waters and the sea bed on the continental shelf beneath the high seas. Under this scheme, the conflict over constitutional powers was put aside but without prejudice to the respective standpoint of the Commonwealth and the States.
When the Minister for National Development announced the general principles of the offshore scheme in November 1965 he remarked that the ability of the States and the Commonwealth to reach agreement on this matter was a tribute to the strength of our Federal institutions. The discussions between the Mines Ministers of the States and the Minister for National Development and the Attorneys-General of the States and the Commonwealth Attorney-General have been characterised both by frankness and by a demonstrated willingness on the part of all to set their minds to achieving a national solution to the orderly and effective development of these natural resources. The scheme which is now coming to fruition will be, I believe, unique in a nation where there is a federal system of government. Already the scheme has aroused interest in other countries of the world. It is my firm belief that the arrangements on which the States and the Commonwealth have reached practical agreement, and which are now being finalised for presentationto Parliament, will be in the best interests in Australia. I present the following papers:
Offshore Petroleum - Development of Gas and Oil Discoveries in Bass Strait - Ministerial Statement, 4 April 1967.
Copies of letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria, February 1967.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henry) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the National Library Act 1960, the Senate elects Senator the Honourable Sir Alister McMullin to be a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia for a period of three years from this day.
– Honourable senators will have received in their rooms today a booklet on the services available from the Parliamentary Library. I hope that they will find the time to examine it carefully and that it will help them to make the most effective use of the Library. The Library has recently been developed to meet the needs of senators and members. The Library Committee has had an important part in this and has wisely suggested that Mr Speaker and myself should have this guide prepared to make the services better known.
All honourable senators will know how far the matters they have to deal with have increased in number and variety in recent years. This is a reflection of our unprecedented growth as a nation and is welcome. The Parliamentary Library is there to assist honourable senators and members with the problem of informing themselves, and I hope that the ‘Guide to the Library’ will help.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable senators will recall that, towards the end of last year, the Parliament passed the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Act the purpose of which was to amend each reference to an amount of money in Commonwealth Acts to its decimal currency equivalent so that, when Acts are reprinted, money references can be expressed in decimal currency terms. The purpose of the present Bill is to correct certain typographical errors and incorrect citations in the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Act 1966. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to fix for the future the rate of the stevedoring industry charge at 48c a man-hour. The stevedoring industry charge is paid by the employers in the industry. The moneys collected go into Consolidated Revenue and, as provided under the Stevedoring Industry Act, equivalent amounts are paid to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. From these funds the Authority pays waterside workers attendance money and makes payments due for sick leave, statutory holidays, long service leave and annual leave.
Since the amount of the stevedoring industry charge was last before the Parliament in 1962 there have been very sizeable increases in the amounts of the money required to service these payments. Firstly, following decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the hourly rate of pay for waterside workers on which payments for holiday pay, sick pay and annual leave are based has increased by nearly 18%. Apart from the effects of this, the annual leave provisions in the waterside workers award have been amended to provide for a maximum of 120 hours annual leave instead of 88 hours. Since 1962, payments have increased by 80% or more than $1,450,000. Secondly, the daily rate of attendance money payments was increased last year from $2.83 to $3.10 per day, and it is expected that this financial year payments on this account will rise to a record $3,200,000. Thirdly, by the October 1966 amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act the long service leave provisions for waterside workers were liberalised; in particular by reducing the qualifying period from twenty to fifteen years to conform with decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and by extending benefits to men at B class ports. This also will mean a considerable increase in payments - of the order of $300,000 this financial year.
Finally, administrative costs have increased, despite the Authority’s effort to keep them to a minimum. For example, while staff has increased by only thirteen since 1957, staff salaries and wages have increased by approximately $300,000 since 1962 due to decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator and increased commitments for staff superannuation. In short, the need to increase the charge now is very largely the consequence of decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Public Service Arbitrator. There is regrettably no alternative to an increase in the charge.It is proportionally a large increase but it is no more than is required to enable the Authority to meet its commitments. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6,750,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. This provision for raising $6,750,000 will permit the carry forward of appropriation to 1967-68 to meet expenditure under the scheme after 30th June 1967, until Parliament approves the further raising and expenditure of loan moneys for this purpose. As honourable senators will recall, the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital moneys required for the scheme in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. It is anticipated that the money will be made available in the following amounts:
The total of $6,750,000 is the gross amount required for grants under the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act of 1952. Of this amount, $5,850,000 is required for making advances to settlers for working capital and for purchasing stock and plant, including replacements, and $874,000 is required for some work of a developmental nature on projects in Tasmania and South Australia, the remaining $26,000 being required to pay for the Crown’s interest in land in Tasmania, the survey of which is expected to be completed shortly.
As in previous years, all payments of rent and interest received from settlers together with repayments of advances made to them will be paid to the credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is estimated that payments by settlers during 1966-67 will reach $8,780,000 of which $6,630,000 is expected to represent repayments of advances.
The need to provide funds for the purpose of making advances to settlers will probably be necessary for some years to come but the amount required annually should gradually decrease. As honourable senators are aware, lack of capital did not debar ex-servicemen from participation in the scheme and as most of the settlers had only limited funds, it has been necessary for them to borrow their full financial requirements. With the effluxion of time, increasing numbers of settlers are reaching the degree of financial solvency which enables them to operate through the established institutions dealing in rural credit. Others are selling their leases, the purchasers seldom, if ever, being eligible persons under the scheme.
In Western Australia, the developmental phase is now complete and the amount of $3,024,000 is required solely for making advances to settlers. In South Australia, $260,000 is required to meet anticipated expenditure in connection with block drainage of the Loxton Irrigation Area farms together with minor expenditure on the final development stages of sundry other projects which virtually are complete. The balance of $2,040,000 is required for making advances to settlers. In Tasmania, major developmental work is proceeding on King and Flinders Islands and at Togari, and $626,000 is provided for this purpose. An amount of $800,000 has been estimated as the State’s requirements for making advances to settlers. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill and associated Bills being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all of the Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of these Bills is to give effect to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities which concerns the privileges and immunities of diplomatic missions, and members of their staffs. If passed, these Bills will provide for the first time in Australia a comprehensive code of law on the subject of diplomatic privileges and immunities and they will also enable Australia to ratify the Vienna Convention which came into force on 24th April 1964 and to which fifty-seven countries, including Britain, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Canada have already become parties. Australia has signed the Convention but the terms of the Convention require that a signatory state must ratify it in order to become a party to it. The Convention resulted from activity over a number of years under the auspices of the United Nations - first in the International Law Commission, and then at an international conference which was convened in Vienna in 1961 pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.
It might be of interest if I were to say a few words about the International Law Commission. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 with the task of promoting the progressive development and codification of international law and in the nineteen years of its existence it has had some significant achievements to its credit - notably the preparation of draft articles on the law of the sea, which formed the basis of the four Geneva Conventions on that subject, and in the preparation of the draft articles on diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities which formed the basis of the two Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 on those subjects. It recently has completed a draft on the law of treaties. Its twenty-six members are jurists nominated by states and selected every five years by the United Nations General Assembly. It has adopted the practice of submitting to the United Nations General Assembly, after taking account of the comments of governments, draft articles on the subjects under consideration. It is then for the United Nations General Assembly to deal with the articles, and in the three instances which I mentioned a moment ago, the General Assembly has referred the draft articles to an international conference for consideration by governments. This briefly was the background to the conference of eighty-one nations which met at Vienna in 1961 and which drew up the text of the convention to which the present Bills are intended to give effect in Australia. It is a tribute to the high standard of the Commission’s work that its draft articles were in large measure adopted by the governments represented at the conference.
From this brief account of the history of the Convention it will be apparent that the convention represents a balance between the views of expert lawyers and the views of governments. The experts prepared the drafts, and the representatives of governments reviewed them. It also represents a balance between the views of governments because compromise on the part of all was necessary in the interests of securing a convention. There are probably very few governments in the world which would not have preferred that some of the provisions of the Convention had taken a different form. What is significant, however, is the fact that for the first time in history, a widely accepted set of rules on diplomatic privileges and immunities was evolved. These rules are gaining wide international acceptance. A significant number of countries have already become parties to the Convention and others who have not yet become parties apply the Convention in practice. The Australian Government takes the view that it should adopt them as the basis of law and practice in Australia on these subjects.
I shall refer briefly here to the meaning of the two terms ‘diplomatic privileges’ and diplomatic immunities’. The term ‘diplomatic privileges’ is commonly used to describe the concessions, often of a fiscal nature, which countries traditionally accord to foreign diplomatic missions and their staffs. The term ‘diplomatic immunities’ describes the jurisdictional immunities - for example inviolability of the person of a diplomatic agent, the premises and archives of diplomatic missions and immunity from suit>- which international law confers on diplomatic missions, diplomatic agents and their staffs. As I shall mention again later, this does not mean that diplomatic agents are not required to respect the laws of the receiving State. They are so required; but unless the sending State waives the diplomatic agent’s immunity, the courts of the receiving State are unable to exercise jurisdiction. These privileges and immunities - as the preamble to the Convention recites - are not designed to benefit the individuals concerned. Immunities in particular are protections which experience has long established are necessary to ensure trie performance of the function of a diplomatic mission without undue interference.
At present the Australian law on diplomatic privileges and immunities is scattered over several statutes, and a substantial part - particularly the law relating to diplomatic immunity - rests on the common law. The aim of the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill, which for convenience I shall call the main Bill, is to embrace within its provisions the whole subject of diplomatic privileges and immunities and this objective would be achieved by the legislation now under consideration. The other five Bills dealing with ‘revenue matters have as one of their objectives the removal of provisions in other legislation which deal with diplomatic privileges and immunities.
Australia cannot expect that its overseas missions and their staffs should receive more generous treatment than that which Australia is prepared to concede to overseas diplomatic missions and their staffs in Australia. Any curtailment of the internationally recognised privileges and immunities on Australia’s part could thus create difficulties for and perhaps jeopardise the security of Australian diplomatic missions overseas. There is need to maintain a balance between these two considerations.
The Convention makes some significant changes, indeed some significant reductions, in the scope of diplomatic privileges and immunities. I mention two specific examples. First, as regards diplomatic immunities, it is the traditional international law that members of diplomatic missions, together with the private servants of the Head of Mission are immune from the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the country in which they are serving, not only in respect of their official acts, but in respect of their personal acts as well. Under the Convention, members of diplomatic missions are divided into several classes and immunity varies from class to class. Full immunity is conferred only on the diplomatic staffs of a mission, that is to say, the Ambassador, Minister, High Commissioner and Charge d’Affaires and members of the diplomatic staff - counsellors, first, second and third secretaries and attaches.
The administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission - the typists, clerks and archivists, for example - are accorded full immunity in respect of their official acts but in relation to their non-official acts they have no immunity from the civil jurisdiction of the state in which they are serving. They are, however, given immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state, this being regarded as essential to enable these members of the staff of a mission to carry out their duties without risk of interference on the part of the state in which they are serving. Service staff of the diplomatic mission - that is the domestic staff of the mission, including chauffeurs - are accorded complete immunity only in relation to their official acts, and private servants only such immunity as is accorded by the receiving state - that is the state in which the mission is established. Secondly, the Convention reduces the extent to which members of diplomatic missions may claim exemptions from customs duty. In the case of administrative and technical staff, the right is limited to the time when they first enter the receiving state to take up their duties. This provision would reduce considerably the scope of customs privileges as now accorded in Australia.
Other instances where diplomatic privileges and immunities are reduced could be given but I should like to mention at this point the one respect in which the Government proposes that Australia might go beyond the minimum level of privileges set out in the Convention. This is in the area of excise duty and sales tax on excisable goods. The Convention gives members of a mission no right to exemption from excise duty. This duty is referred to in the Convention under the description indirect taxes which are normally incorporated in the price of goods or services’. In the case of retail purchases, members of missions will thus have no claim for exemption from payment of excise duty. Most members of missions, however, at present purchase excisable goods duty-free from bond. The Government proposes that excise concessions should be granted on the same basis as customs concessions. This has the effect.of restricting the excise concessions in favour of members of diplomatic missions to cases where purchases are made from bond by Heads of Missions and members of their diplomatic staff, who are not
Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. The Government also proposes that these excisable goods be exempt from sales tax.
I might also mention here that the Convention provides that certain persons shall have privileges and immunities only to the extent admitted by the receiving state. The Government considers that private servants and non-diplomatic staff who are Australian citizens or who are permanently resident in Australia should not be accorded privileges, but that it is reasonable to accord them immunity in respect of acts performed in the course of their duty. The same immunity is proposed for private servants of Heads of Mission who are not Australian citizens or permanently resident in Australia.
I pass now to consider another aspect of diplomatic immunity. It is argued that diplomatic immunity often involves hardship for an individual who has a right of action against a member of a diplomatic mission which would otherwise be adjudicated in court. It cannot be denied that such a consequence may, and sometimes does, arise but there are other considerations to be borne in mind.
Article 32 provides that diplomatic immunity may be waived by the country which the diplomat involved represents; and, in practice, waiver often occurs. Moreover, the Vienna Conference passed an important resolution which recommends that governments waive the immunity of members of diplomatic missions in respect of civil claims when this can be done without impeding the performance of the functions of the mission. The resolution also recommends that, should a mission not waive immunity, the sending state should use its best endeavours to bring about a just settlement of the claim.
It could well be the case that this resolution will result in changes in the attitudes of governments as regards claims of diplomatic immunity in respect of actions involving their staff. So far as Australia is concerned the Australian Government has drawn the attention of missions in Canberra to this resolution in several cases over recent years with the result that claims of immunity have been withdrawn. Furthermore, if cases of hardship resulting from the application of the rules relating to diplomatic immunity arise, the Department of External Affairs is prepared to assist whenever it can to bring about a solution acceptable to both sides - perhaps by bringing the parties together in some way or by seeking agreement that a dispute be referred to arbitration.
I do not want to leave the impression that I am of the opinion that claims to diplomatic immunity may never cause inconvenience or hardship, but I have sought to show that the Government will do all it can to overcome any problems which individuals might face in this regard. It is the Government’s view that a fair balance is struck in the Convention between the needs of individuals and the needs of Governments. We should remember too, that an effect of any further reduction of diplomatic immunities could well be to place in jeopardy the security of Australian missions overseas and of Australian personnel serving in those missions.
From the wide range of other matters dealt with by the Convention, which I believe honourable senators will find self explanatory, I make particular reference to two problems which often arise in this field. The first concerns traffic offences and the other concerns abuse of the privileges of importing goods duty free.
As to the matter of traffic offences, it should be borne in mind that the immunity of diplomatic personnel is not an immunity from the provisions of the local law. It is an immunity from the jurisdiction of the courts of the receiving state. The Convention, in article 41, makes it clear that k is the duty of diplomatic personnel to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. In the case of a serious breach of the law by a member of a diplomatic mission, or in the event that frequent offences are committed by any such person, earnest consideration will be given by the Government to declaring the person non grata in which event the Government to which the person belongs would have no alternative but to recall him. Secondly, the changes made by the Convention in relation to the immunity of subordinate staff - I referred to these earlier - will have significant effect in this regard. Thus, as I have mentioned, administrative and technical staff will be subject under the Convention to civil proceedings in relation to any off duty accidents and members of service staff will be liable to both civil and criminal proceedings in relation to off duty accidents or offences.
I mention too that incidents involving traffic breaches by diplomatic personnel are not allowed to pass unnoticed in Australia. Reports of any such incidents are forwarded by the police to the Department of External Affairs which brings them to the notice of the Head of Mission concerned or other senior officer at such mission, and serious or frequent abuses would, as I have mentioned, lead to the consideration of whether the offender should be declared non grata.
On the subject of abuse of the privilege of importing goods duty-free, it is the Government’s usual practice to require persons importing goods duty-free to give an undertaking that they will not dispose of the goods within two years without payment of duty. Despite this, some abuses have occurred in this field. Administrative machinery to maintain surveillance, as far as possible, over imports of duty free goods by diplomatic personnel has been strengthened, particularly in relation to the importation of cars. But in addition the Bill, besides requiring the giving of an undertaking on the lines of the present law - to which I have just referred - contains a further provision relating to the case of a person who has failed to honour such an undertaking. The provision enables the Minister to make the acceptance of further undertakings subject to additional conditions designed to ensure compliance with these undertakings. Moreover, the Bill also provides that the Minister for Customs and Excise may limit the privilege of duty free entry of goods in any case where he considers that the reasonable requirements of the mission or officer concerned, have been adequately met by articles of the same or similar kind already imported.
Having made these general observations I now turn to the specific provisions of the Bills. As to the main Bill, clauses 1 and 2 are formal provisions. Clause 3 provides for the repeal of the Diplomatic Immunities Act 1952-1958. This Act deals with the immunities in Australia of High Commissioners, members of their staffs and their families. The Vienna Convention is so drafted that it is applicable to High Commissioners, members of their staffs and their families, and the consequence of the legislation now under consideration would be that special provisions relating to High Commissioners are no longer necessary. Clause 4 contains several necessary definitions of terms used in the convention. Clause 5 provides for the extension of the Act to the Territories of the Commonwealth and clause 6 makes it clear that the Act is intended to cover the whole field of diplomatic privileges and immunities to the exclusion of other legislation on the subject. Clause 7 (i) is the main operative clause of the Bill and provides for the incorporation into Australian law of specific articles of the Vienna Convention.
Other articles of the Convention are not appropriate for legislation, but if Australia ratifies the Convention it will, of course, accept international obligations in relation to these articles. These obligations either do not require legislation because they can be met by administrative action or legislation sufficient to meet them already exists. The other provisions of clause 7 are inserted for reasons of clarity of interpretation. Clause 8 would enable the restriction of the privilege of duty free importation of goods to the extent which I have discussed earlier. Clause 9 provides for exemption from excise duty of goods purchased from bond by heads of mission and members of their diplomatic staff and clause 10 provides for the exemption of the same goods from sales tax. Both clauses include provisions for the restriction of these privileges in a manner similar to that provided under clause 8. Clause 11 concerns the privileges and immunities of private servants of the Head of Missions, as well as the privileges and immunities of Australian citizens employed by diplomatic missions here. The convention in paragraph 4 of article 37 and paragraph 2 of Article 38 provides that such classes of persons receive privileges and immunities only to the extent specified by the receiving state. The intention of clause 11 is that such persons should be accorded only jurisdictional immunity in respect of acts performed in the course of their duties.
Clause 12 enables privileges and immunities accorded under the Bill to be withdrawn from a mission or from members of the staff of a mission in Australia if the country to which that overseas mission belongs has curtailed the privileges and immunities of the Australian mission or the staff of that mission in that country.
Clause 13 enables the making of regulations to incorporate the substance of the provisions of the section 7 of the Diplomatic Immunities Act which would be repealed in accordance with clause 3 of the main Bill. The retention of these provisions is necessary to enable the appropriate privileges and immunities in respect of official acts to be accorded to members of nondiplomatic missions in Australia established by the governments of British territories.
Clause 14 enables the Minister to certify in writing for the purpose of the present or the repealed Acts any fact relevant to the question of whether a person is or was entitled to privileges and immunities. Such certificates are commonly sought for court purposes and the clause provides for any such certificate to be evidence of the facts certified.
The other Bills constitute amendments to the customs tariff, excise tariff, income tax, pay-roll tax and sales tax legislation. If the main Bill becomes law it will provide the necessary authority for the diplomatic privileges set out in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Regulations to be accorded in Australia. As I have already indicated the level of privileges set out in the Convention is significantly below that now accorded. The other Bills therefore propose consequential amendments to the relevant provisions of the revenue laws which now authorise privileges.
In addition, the consequential Bills will modify the consular privileges now granted under the revenue laws. A reduction of diplomatic privileges requires a corresponding reduction of consular privileges and the consequential Bills are, in the main, directed to this end. In establishing the reduced level of consular privileges, account has been taken of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and generally Consular privileges have been brought into line with the level established by that Convention. I should mention here that the Government is giving consideration to the Convention on Consular Relations and its present intention is to introduce legislation in due course on the subject of consular privileges and immunities. That legislation would enable Australia to ratify the Convention on Consular Relations. In the meantime, honour- able senators will appreciate that it would be anomalous to leave the provisions of the revenue laws on this unchanged when the substantial reductions which I have mentioned are made in relation to diplomatic privileges and immunities.
The main clauses of the Customs Tariff, the Excise Tariff and the Sales Tax Bills provide for limitations on privileges for consular officers and staff (and others not included as members of the staff of a diplomatic mission) similar to the limitations which may be placed on the privileges of diplomatic officers and their staff under clauses 8, 9 and 10 of the main Bill. The schedules of these three Bills make detailed amendments to the schedules of the principal Acts. In the cases of the Income Tax Bill and the Pay-roll Tax Bill the amendments to the principal Acts are made in the main clauses of the Bills. The provisions of the taxation Bills are dealt with in more detail in an explanatory memorandum which is being circulated for the information of honourable senators.
The Government considers that the Bills and the Convention on which they arc based offer a realistic approach to the subject of diplomatic privileges and immunities. I commend all six Bills to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
: I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to an amendment of the Tasmania Grant (Gordon River Road) Act 1964 mainly to extend the period of its operation by two years. Under the Tasmania Grant (Gordon River Road) Act, the Commonwealth is providing a grant of up to $5m to the State to assist it in the financing of a developmental road in the Gordon River region of south west Tasmania, to enable the State to undertake a detailed investigation of a further stage of its hydro-electric system. The Act provides for reimbursement by the Commonwealth of the State’s expenditure on construction of the road, up to the limit mentioned, during the four years ending on 30th June 1967. The Premier of Tasmania has now requested that the period of operation of the Act be extended for two years beyond 30th June 1967 to allow the deferment of expenditure on sealing some sections of the road until after that date.
Up to 30th June 1966 an amount of $3,153,000 had been spent on the road. The Premier has advised the Commonwealth that some $4,750,000 of the overall limit of $5m is expected to have been spent by 30th June 1967. The State plans to spend the remaining amount on sealing work after 30th June 1967. No increase in the total amount of funds available under the Act would be involved. The road is being constructed to sealed standard. However, not all sections of the road will be sealed by 30th June 1967. The State wishes to continue with the remaining sealing work, but feels that it would be desirable to defer it until the summer of1967-68, or possibly 1968-69, to ensure that the formation is soundly consolidated first. It is understood that weather conditions in the area make this desirable, and that expenditure on this sealing work now could turn out to be a waste of public funds, as resealing within a few years could well be necessary. The Commonwealth Government considers that the Premier’s request is a reasonable one and should be acceded to.
The Bill also makes provision for a variation in the description of the road in the Act, so that it accords more precisely with the exact route followed by the road. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, the Customs Tariff Bill now before the Senate provides for amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966. The amendments include those changes made by tariff proposals that were introduced into the last Parliament from 16th August 1966. As that Parliament did not have time to debate the measures, the collection of customs duties in terms of the proposals was validated by the Customs Tariff Validation Act (No. 2) 1966. The Bill now before the Senate will enable the debate on the tariff alterations to take place and will, when enacted, constitute the enabling Bill on a long term basis. This Bill also covers certain changes made during the recess by Gazette’ notices.
In the main, the tariff alterations proposed by this Bill arise out of Tariff Board reports and reports by the Special Advisory Authority. The subjects - from the Tariff Board - comprise:
Industrial chemicals and synthetic resins,
Vanillin and ethyl vanillin,
Hollow bars, tubes and pipes of iron or steel, and Motor vehicles.
The subjects - from the Special Advisory Authority - comprise:
Butyl alcohols and butyl acetates,
Ethylene oxide derivatives,
Metal-working sawing machines, and Coated fabrics.
For the guidance of honourable senators I shall set out at some length the background and facts associated with each report. The Tariff Board’s report on coffee covers the question of assistance to the production of coffee in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the effect of imports of coffee and coffee products on the sale in Australia of coffee products in the Territory. In a report in 1962 the Tariff Board found that the coffee industry in Papua and New Guinea materially aided economic advancement and assisted the Commonwealth in the discharge of its responsibilities in the Territory. The Board has found that the industry’s contribution is even greater now, measured in terms of capital invested, income and employment, to the Territory’s export earnings.
One of the methods by which assistance is to be given to Territory coffee is that persons who obtain at least 30% of their total requirements of raw coffee from Papua and New Guinea can obtain refunds of the duty paid on imports of raw coffee from other sources. Acting upon the Board’s recommendations it is proposed to continue this arrangement. A concessional rate of duty of 2.5c per lb which previously applied to those persons who obtained between 25% and 30% of their raw coffee requirements from the Territory will however be discontinued. The Tariff Board reported that, in practice few manufacturers have difficulty in meeting the higher quota.
As before, the arrangement will be based on payment of duty and subsequent refund when it has been established that 30% of requirements have been obtained from Papua and New Guinea. The Board has recommended that steps be taken to reduce the delay in making these refunds. To this end existing methods have been examined and a revised procedure has been introduced, this has minimised the time required to verify the usage of New Guinea coffee and has enabled refund of duty claims when submitted by the persons taking advantage of this scheme to be processed quickly. In respect of consumer products it can be said that the demand for coffee products in Australia has been rising. The main commodity is instant coffee and local manufacturers have obtained a large and increasing share of this market. The Government has adopted the Board’s recommendation that the duty on instant coffee be reduced from 52c to 40c per lb.
Several years ago, immediately following the removal of import licensing, the Australian chemical industry found itself in the position where it needed to make frequent applications for assistance because of increasing competition from imports. In the three years after import licensing was lifted in 1960 there were twenty-seven separate Tariff Board references on chemicals and a further fourteen references concerning the need for temporary protection on such products.
The industry came to the Government with a request for an overall review of the level of protection it was receiving vis-a-vis imports. It stressed the complex integrated relationship of many of its manufacturing processes and the dislocation that had occurred when fluctuating imports of one product altered the balance of production and demand of other products made in the same production complex. The industry’s overall concern was to achieve an optimum level of throughput in order to keep production costs and prices as low as possible. In this highly capital intensive industry, throughput, of course, is the key to cost economies. For these reasons local manufacturers considered there were dangers and difficulties in assessing the need for tariff protection on individual products in isolation.
The Government accepted the need for such an inquiry. The Tariff Board was given terms of reference permitting it to hold a free ranging investigation into the particular problems of the chemical industry. The Board on 13th April 1966 submitted a comprehensive report on this reference. It made an overall assessment that the sound development of the chemical industry should make an important contribution !o our economy by widening the base for industrial growth. It also found that Australian manufacturers of chemicals have particular disadvantages inherent in the Australian economy. The most significant of these is that local producers cannot achieve the same economies of scale as manufacturers in other countries. The Australian market, although growing, is small by world standards. Chemical plants in Australia, therefore, are smaller than those in North America, Western Europe or Japan. This is a serious disability for a capital intensive industry. High internal transport costs and high charges for electricity also add to the local industry’s cost disadvantages.
The Board recommended a comprehensive scheme of assistance intended to offset these disadvantages. On a wide range of chemicals it recommended the alternative of either a duty-cum-bounty arrangement, involving bounty payments on seven basic chemicals, or of assistance by protective duties alone. The Government decided to adopt the second alternative - that is, that assistance be given mainly through the Tariff.
Consequent on the implementation of the Board’s report, chemicals are divided into two broad groups, one requiring protection at rates of 40% general and 30% preferential and another at rates of 25% general and 15% preferential. The Board’s recommendation that four products - polyethylene, PVC, that is to say polyvinyl chloride, synthetic rubber and vinyl acetate monomer - should be accorded a higher level of protection has been adopted. All of these are vital to the economics of particular chemical complexes. Duties of 60% general and 50% preferential will apply to these products. A specific recommendation for a higher level of protection on hydrogen peroxide has also been accepted. However, in the light of the Board’s opinion that there is scope for future cost reductions in the production of these five products, these duties will be reviewed in three years.
In addition, the Government adopted the Board’s recommendations that bounty payments of $8 per ton on sulphate of ammonia and 5c per lb on cellulose acetate flake be continued and that a new bounty at the rate of $16 per ton be paid on urea. Bills enacting these recommendations were passed by the Parliament last year.
Due to the size of chemical plants overseas, further additions to such complexes often result in excess capacity which may be used, in export markets. This has, at times, resulted in prices for imports which have had serious consequences for local industry. Existing normal counter measures by way of anti-dumping legislation have not always prevented disruption of local production. The Tariff Board therefore recommended, and the Government has agreed, that for certain chemicals which have been subject to disruptive pricing, additional customs duties designated as support duties’ be established, and that any imports which fail to reach a determined value, known as a ‘support value’, when their cost, transport and insurance charges and ordinary duties are totalled, should be subject to a further duty to bring their landed cost up to that support value.
These support values have been determined after comparison with the value of imports under normal conditions during the period of the Tariff Board’s inquiry. Such support values will, it is intended, be subject to annual review by the Tariff Board. The Board also recommended that fast-moving machinery be established for the application of support values when it can be established that normal duties are being rendered ineffective and local industry is suffering detriment due to disruptive low pricing. This action will be taken by appropriate references to the Special Advisory Authority and indeed a number of commodities have already been reported on by that Authority and temporary duties imposed under the Gazette’ notices I mentioned earlier and now incorporated in this Bill.
One of the main problems of the chemical industry is that substitution of one substance for another is relatively easy, although there are few chemicals which are completely interchangeable in all applications. The Board’s recommendations cover the problem of substitution as it affects the Australian chemical industry at present. However, new chemicals are continually being developed and undoubtedly new products involving substitution of existing Australian made chemicals will occur. Furthermore, new uses may be found for chemicals resulting from changes in technical qualities and these too could lead to substitution for local chemicals. The Board is of the opinion that in cases of future substitution, the imported chemical should be made dutiable at the same rates as apply to the local chemical with which it competes. This action will be implemented, both in the specific cases covered in this report, and in future cases, by applying a protective duty through a change in the relevant legislation, that is, by amending the Customs Tariff Schedule. The Parliament will have an opportunity to debate any such tariff changes.
The Government will adopt the Board’s recommendations for a planned system of reviews. As already stated, there will be an annual reference covering all support values. A further reference in 1969 will call for a review of the support value system, of all chemicals subject to bounty payments, and of those chemicals having protection in excess of 40% ad valorem general. An overall review of al! aspects of assistance to the industry will be held in 1972. The Board’s proposals for replacement of the existing drawback provisions by by-law procedures will be further examined by the Government in the course of a general review of existing drawback provisions now in progress.
Leaving the chemical industry, I turn next to vanillin. The Government has accepted the Board’s recommendations for reductions in duties on pure vanillin and ethyl vanillin. The Board believes that there is scope for reduction in costs of local production in pure vanillin and for negotiations with the overseas suppliers for a significant reduction in prices paid for crude vanillin from which it is refined. Ethyl vanillin is not made in Australia but is similar to pure vanillin and is used for the same purposes, mainly in the food industry as flavourings, and will be dutiable at the same level as pure vanillin. The new duties are 25% ad valorem general - a reduction of 25% - and 15% ad valorem preferential - a reduction of 12*%.
Following inquiry into the protective needs of the candle making industry the Board found that local manufacturers of coloured and beeswax candles have substantial disabilities against imports from Japan and Malta. Assistance to producers of these candles at the levels necessary to offset these disabilities was considered not to be justified by the Board. Nevertheless the Board recommended an increase in duties which should enable the industry to reorganise its activities to operate satisfactorily. The increased duties are 7.5c per lb general and 5c per lb preferential. Expressed in ad valorem terms, this represents approximately an increase of 10% general and 5% preferential. The Government has adopted the Board’s recommendations.
Turning next to clothes pegs, the Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendations on these goods. The Beard found that increased assistance for wooden pegs was not justified, and that there were no grounds for the present tariff distinction between spring type clothes pegs and other pegs. It recommended that the rate at present applicable to spring type clothes pegs - 20c per gross general, 12.5c per gross preferential - be applied to all pegs.
On footwear the Board has found that a period of considerable change is materially affecting this industry. The number of factories has declined although employment has remained relatively steady. Developments in manufacturing processes and materials used, technological developments and major changes in the nature of demand for footwear have all affected the industry. The more efficient and adaptable units of the industry have benefited from these changes and from the new demands and styles generated by imports of new types and styles.
The Board considers that it is now appropriate to treat the Australian footwear industry as one unit for tariff purposes. It finds that the industry is still labour intensive, despite increased use of machinery and labour saving devices, and still needs assistance. In the long term the Board considers that the Australian footwear industry should be assisted by duties of 45% general and 25% preferential. However, it considers that some sectors of the industry require, for a transitional period, additional assistance to enable them to adjust to the industry rate.
These sectors are those producing sandshoes and waterproof rubber footwear, where assistance alternative to the industry rate is recommended at approximately the same levels as now apply. For thong sandals and footwear with non-leather uppers the recommended rates are lower than those previously in existance. The Board considers that the sectors where additional assistance has been recommended should be again reviewed in about three years. The Government has accepted these recommendations. However, international negotiations are necessary in respect of goloshes, sand boots and shoes, adult female and children’s allleather footwear before the Board’s recommendations on footwear can be implemented in full.
On glassware the recommendations of the Tariff Board have already been partly implemented, that is in respect of certain glass ovenware and tumblers. The balance of the Board’s recommendations are now implemented following the completion of international negotiations.
The Board found in relation to container glassware such as carboys, bottles and jars, that the duties, ranging from 22i% ad valorem general, to free preferential, could be reduced to a non-protective level, 7i% general, free preferential, as this portion of the industry is in a strong competitive position against imports. Nonprotective duties are also being applied to lead crystal glassware and higher priced domestic glassware.
On lower-priced table, kitchen, toilet and office glassware, duties are being increased consequent on the Board’s recommendations, in the main, from 30% to 45% ad valorem general and from 5% to 35% ad valorem preferential. An alternative specific rate of 30c per dozen as recommended by the Board, is also being implemented to provide effective protection against lowpriced goods. The Board considered that if the industry is to obtain a greater share of this market and so increase its throughput to an economic and profitable level, increased duties are necessary. The protective needs of the industry will be reviewed in three years time.
On hollow bars, tubes and pipes, the Tariff Board’s recommendations are being adopted in full. Briefly, the existing duties will continue on welded tubes and pipes exceeding three inches internal diameter, and there will be a reduction of 15% to 20% at valorem general rate applying to other tubes and pipes. The Board was satisfied that the proposed rates will permit a reasonable return on funds employed.
Turning next to the Board’s report on motor vehicles, I point out that the duties on assembled cars and station wagons are increased by 10% that is, to 45% general and 35% preferential. This action has been taken in accordance with the adoption by the Government of a recommendation that the duties be increased if imports of such vehicles should exceed 7i% of total Australian registrations of new cars and station wagons over the 2-year period which ended on 30th June 1966. In the event, imports clearly exceeded this percentage.
I turn now to recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority. The recommendations of the Authority on butyl alcohols and butyl acetates and on ethylene oxide derivatives are, in effect, in the form of temporary assistance by means of support values. As I mentioned earlier in respect of the Tariff Board’s report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins, fast-moving machinery by way of reference to the Special Advisory Authority would be established for the application of support values when it can be established that the tariff has been rendered ineffective by disruptive low prices of imports.
In respect of butyl alcohols and butyl acetates, the Authority found that imports are being made at disruptive low prices and have rendered the existing protective rates of 25% general and 15% preferential ineffective. To protect the Australian industry he recommended a temporary duty of 90% of the amount by which the landed price falls below $310 per ton for iso-butyl alcohol and acetate and $350 per ton for other butyl alcohols and acetates. This recommendation has been accepted.
On ethylene oxide derivatives, the Special Advisory Authority found that imports of ethylene glycols, ethylene glycol ethers, surfactants and triethanolamine are also being made at disruptive low prices. The local firm has been forced to make a series of price reductions to obtain its share of the market and the existing protective rates of 25% general and 15% preferential are ineffective. Temporary duties based on landed duty paid values have been imposed. The Tariff Board has been asked to examine and report on the question of whether support value assistance to the production of these goods is necessary as a continuing measure, and if so, the appropriate level of such support values. The temporary protection now applied is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Board’s report.
On certain polyvinyl chloride products, namely sheet, film, textile coated or supported fabrics, curtains and tablecloths, the Special Advisory Authority has recommended varying temporary duties. Expressed on an ad valorem basis, the general rate is increased in the following ways: on printed film or sheet - on average by 20%; on textile supported or coated fabrics - between 40% and 75% depending on the country of origin; and on curtains and tablecloths - by 80%. These temporary duties are in addition to the normal duties and the Tariff Board has been asked to inquire and report on the long term protective needs of the industry. The temporary protection now imposed is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Tariff Board report.
In respect of metal-working sawing machines, the Special Advisory Authority has recommended temporary duties of 32i% ad valorem general rate and 27i% ad valorem preferential rate, with a reduction in duty of 21% for each $5 by which the free on board price of the machine exceeds $550 - in the case of friction circular sawing machines - and $300 for other circular sawing machines. When the Tariff Board’s report on metal-working machines was implemented in 1962 protective duties were applied on those machines which the Board found to be in efficient and economic production. However, no evidence was presented to the Board concerning the local manufacture of circular sawing machines. Consequently non-protective duties were applied. Imports since 1962 have adversely affected sales and profits of the local manufacturer to such an extent that the Authority considered emergency protection is required. The sliding scale duties recommended reduce the incidence of protection .on those machines outside the price range of the local product. The longer term protective needs of the Australian industry producing metal-working circular sawing machines have of course been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
On coated textile fabrics temporary duties of 47i% ad valorem or, if higher, 25c per square yard general and 37i% ad valorem or, if higher, 25c per square yard less 10% ad valorem preferential have been imposed on the recommendation of the Special Advisory Authority in respect of coated fabrics having a base fabric consisting of at least 20% man-made fibres. The temporary duties, the ad valorem equivalent of which is approximately 60% against Japanese imports and 50% against United Kingdom imports, are in addition to the present ordinary duties of 7i% general and free preferential. They will bring the duties on the coated fabrics concerned to about the same level as those applying to the man-made fibre fabrics used in their manufacture. The Tariff Board is examining the protective needs of the industry under the General Textile Reference, and the temporary protection now imposed is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Tariff Board report.
An amendment to the Second Schedule to this Bill proposes the insertion of a new item for goods the produce or manufacture of New Zealand. Last year the Australian Customs Tariff was amended to provide authority for goods to be admitted at concessional rates of duty when imported from New Zealand, in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. The purpose of providing for concessional entry of goods from New Zealand is to facilitate the development of reciprocal arrangements, as provided for in the Agreement between New Zealand and Australian manufacturers beneficial to the trade and development of both countries.
In brief, customs duties on a large range of goods agreed to by the representative countries are being eliminated over a period of ten years. This elimination of duties is steadily proceeding. The addition of further goods to the range covered by the agreement is at present being considered in consultation between the two countries.
However, it has been found that further stimulation of this free trade area can be achieved if some flexibility is given to the Minister for Customs and Excise to grant by-law admission to goods from New Zealand. As an example of this, it may be that if certain New Zealand goods containing Australian-made parts are admitted free of duty into Australia, the New Zealand industry will increase its purchase of the Australian components. It is therefore proposed that the Minister for Customs and Excise shall have the power to admit New Zealand goods free of duty under by-law provisions whenever this situation arises.
The remaining tariff changes in this Bill stem from three sources. They are: Firstly, the completion of international negotiations with the United States of America, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Sweden. Secondly, the simpler method of expression for certain duties appearing in the Customs Tariffs 1966 which vary on a sliding scale depending on factors such as the free on board price, horsepower rating, weight or value of machines. Experience has shown that the mathematical formula for determining sliding scale duties as presently expressed causes some confusion at the working level and a simpler method has been devised. Thirdly, amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966 which improve the translation from the Customs Tariff 1933-1965, to the New Tariff based on the Brussels Nomenclature which operated from 1st July 1965. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed to serve with the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee:
Debate resumed from 9 March (vide page 444), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May It Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyally to our most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When I rose at a late hour on 9th March to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate it was not possible for me to conclude my speech. The debate was interrupted at a stage when I was referring to the economy of Australia, which I described as ‘phenomenal’. There are many significant pointers to the Government’s contention that the economy is running on a steady and even keel. During the recess it was significant to read that unemployment registrations were again on the down grade. This is encouraging and a clear indication that our economy is the best in the world. Our stability is due, of course, in a very large measure to the Government with which this country has been blessed since 1949. For the past seventeen years there has been a stability which is the envy of most governments in the Western world. During this debate, Senator Cant has gone on record as saying: 1 often wonder whether the people of Australia deserve the Government that they have.
I interjected and said:
Of course they do.
I add now that the people in their wisdom and good judgment at the poll in November gave a resounding victory to the Government which was ably led by Mr Harold Holt. Surely Senator Cant must accept the verdict of the people. We live in a democratic society and Australia is ruled under a democratic form of government. Senator Cavanagh has made some interesting comments on the Australian Labor Party and why it failed at the general election. He made a rather extraordinary statement when he said:
Whether the Australian Labor Party ever becomes the Government and sits on the Government side in this Parliament will not depend on the followers of the Government in office. … It will not depend upon the personalities of the ALP. It will depend solely upon the newspapers which are not on the side of the Labor Party today.
Because this is happening, a dictatorship is being created. The position is being created where the Leader of the Government obtains such a large majority that he can become arrogant and simply ride roughshod over parliamentary democracy.
I interpose here to say that this certainly does not apply in the Senate. Senator Cavanagh continued:
I hope that I have raised the thought in the minds of some honourable senators that there should be an inquiry into this matter. Is there an obligation on the Press which it is not fulfilling? If so, should not we do something to see that the Press does fulfill this obligation?
I pose the question: How can any honourable senator in his true senses say it is the Press and not politics which wins the Government for a party? The only inference that can be drawn from the honourable senator’s remarks is that he favours a controlled Press similar to that which exists in the Soviet Union today or which was in vogue in Hitler’s Germany. I warn honourable senators, if there is any need to warn them, that once we shackle the Press the country is headed towards dictatorship. We have seen many examples of this. Later in the debate Senator Bishop, who has distinguished himself in this chamber by the moderation of his views, expressed himself in terms similar to those used by Senator Cavanagh. I, for one, was very surprised, f wondered whether I could discern in his views a new axis developing in the Labor Party, a left and a centre. His reference to the great Hollywood stunt of bringing President Johnson to Australia was in poor taste and not in keeping with his usual moderate and sensible views, lt is because we have the United States on our side that we can breathe freely in this uneasy world in which we live.
Contemporary Labor history is studded wilh examples of what I might describe as political somersaulting. There was, for instance, the classic case of the interference by the thirty-six faceless men on the issue of the North West Cape. On that occasion the thirty-six men who controlled the destinies of the Labor Party gave the parliamentarians their marching orders. How the Parliamentary Labor Party toed the line. Labor suffered irreparable political harm over that incident. That is recognised by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. At that time Labor was led by Mr Calwell, but today’s Labor Leader, Mr Whitlam, recently suffered similarly at the hands of the twelve men of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive whom he dubbed as the twelve witless mcn. Let me explain for the benefit of honourable senators that the twelve-man executive runs the Labor Party between conferences of the Party, as I understand it. It is all-powerful, as I shall demonstrate. Recently the New South Wales Branch of the Party, in its wisdom, proscribed an organisation known as the ‘Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament’. It did this because it claimed, quite rightly, that among members of the Association were members of the Communist Party. But what did the twelve witless men do? They overruled the New South Wales Branch. And who is the No. 1 man in this witless group, which has been so described by Mr Whitlam? He is Senator Keeffe. It was he who summoned the Executive together to overrule the New South Wales Branch. In the words of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald* industrial roundsman, who I suppose is one of the ablest journalists in the field of Australian Labor Party and industrial politics:
The ALP Federal Executive dealt a humiliating rebuff to the New South Wales Branch of the Party.
He went on to describe the Executive’s decision as a triumph for the left wing, especially for its Leader Mr F. E. Chamberlain. In referring to him the roundsman added:
It showed that he is still the strong man of the Executive.
I pose this question: how much longer can Mr Whitlam and moderate Labor men accept this kind of dictation from their leftwing masters? Surely the day is coming when responsible Labor men will cast off the shackles. The sooner they do the greater the support they will get from the Australian electorate. We now have the spectacle where Labor men can no doubt appear on the public platform with Communists. I say this because it is well known that some of the objectors to the New South Labor Party decision to proscribe the Communist dominated so-called peace organisation were Labor parliamentarians. If they continue to associate with Communists, the Labor Party must be prepared to accept the consequences politically. I would welcome the views of Labor senators on the observations that I have just made.
When Senator Hannaford, who until a few weeks ago was a loyal supporter of the Government, went on record as saying: ‘Do we have to spend our wealth on dispatching military forces to Vietnam to gain the support of the United States of America in the future?’, I felt that this was a most irresponsible statement and one which was not worthy of him. Surely it is patent to all, as it was to the electors in November last, that we are in Vietnam as an insurance against our future and our children’s future. We cannot abandon the Government or the people of South Vietnam. Their fight is ours. Australians do not desert their allies. I believe that it is not too late for Senator Hannaford to reconsider his attitude and to throw his full support behind the Government’s policy on Vietnam. It is shameful and disconcerting to think that our policy on Vietnam, endorsed as it was by the people at the recent poll, could be endangered by the vote of a senator who was formerly a Government supporter.
– You do not give us an opportunity to vote on that question.
– Since the honourable senator has interjected, I would like to say that we witnessed the spectacle of him rising in his place here, as he had every right to do, and reading to the Senate some half dozen letters - I think that was the number - from people who supported his attitude. I could respect a person who, believing that he could not go along with the Government’s policy, said: ‘The Government’s policy is in distinct contrast to the views that I hold. I cannot remain in the Government’s ranks’, and then left the ranks of the Government. But I have no respect for a person who, having been put here by an organisation, turns on that organisation and resigns from the ranks of the Government that that organisation supports, and remains in the Parliament. That sort of conduct is not befitting any man who has the interests of the country at heart. If a senator wants to get out of the Parliament, that is all right. Let him get out. He should not remain in the Parliament to which he has been sent by an organisation that he has in effect deserted. It is very saddening to see a man’s political career coming to an end of this fashion and to see a senator go from this place unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
I now turn to the development of our basic resources. The expansion of the mineral industry over the last few years has been spectacular. The value of output in the mining and quarrying industry was of the order of $600m in 1966 compared with $540m in the previous year. This production was of tremendous importance to us, especially because of the ravages of drought that we suffered in New South Wales and Queensland. These caused a very large reduction in the volume of exports of our primary industries and in the total value of our exports. So it was particularly pleasing to see an increase in the value of exports of minerals, which rose in this period by about 7% to approximately $3 30m per annum. New discoveries and developmental projects relating to oil and gas, bauxite and alumina, tin, nickel and phosphate will be .of particular importance in eliminating basic deficiencies in raw material production. Over the last decade the mineral industry has achieved a growth rate of 5% per annum. In the next five years the rate of expansion is likely to rise to 10% per annum. There is every possibility that this high expansion rate will be sustained until 1975 or even later. This accelerated rate of expansion of the mineral industry will be brought about by the contributions made by the newly discovered oil and gas fields, the newly established iron ore export industry and the realisation of the integration and export plans of the aluminium industry, as well as by increased exports of beach sands, coal, lead and zinc, salt, and manganese from Groote Eylandt. In future we can confidently expect large scale production of nickel and possibly ferro-manganese products and phosphate rock. These developments demonstrate the tremendous existing and potential wealth that we have in this country. They emphasise once again the fact that we in Australia are very fortunate indeed to be living in this land under the conditions which we have here.
Australia’s third commercial oil field at Barrow Island in Western Australia is expected to go into production about the middle of the year. This field, together with those of Moonie and Alton in Queensland, should provide about 5% of the nation’s crude petroleum requirements. Plans for the development of the significant discoveries of gas that have been made in the Barracouta and Martin fields in Bass Strait, at Gidgealpa in South Australia and at Roma in Queensland, and for the exploitation of the substantial oil resources in the Martin field are of marked national importance. The availability of natural gas to industries and households on a large scale represents a major innovation that will bring great benefits. Only recently a friend of mine in Sydney was considering the installation of some kind of heating appliance in his home. He tentatively decided on an oil burning appliance. Then the thought of gas came to his mind and he concluded that as we could expect to have cheaper gas from the projected pipeline from Victoria within the reasonably near future he ought to put in a gas heating appliance instead. Already people are beginning to plan for the day when cheaper gas will be available. The effect on Australia’s balance of payments will be substantial because of savings of foreign exchange made possible by the use of oil and gas produced for the Australian market from an Australian field.
I come now to tourism. In 1966 we had some 200,000 overseas visitors. Indeed, those of us who have had an opportunity to see the tourist facilities available in other countries and the attractions that induce people to go to those countries realise that we in Australia have a great deal to offer tourists. We have a wide variety of conditions and attractions that many people would travel long distances to see. We have extremes of climate. We have areas with a very hot climate and we have more extensive snow fields than Switzerland has. The 200,000 or so visitors who came to Australia from other countries in 1966 spent $60m here. It is expected that by 1975 we shall have an annual flow of 600,000 overseas visitors who will spend $200ra a year. This will be of tremendous advantage to Australia.
I turn now to the population situation. In 1947 we had some 7.5 million people in this country. Today we have just over 1.1.5 million. This represents a large increase - about 53.5%. Migrants have accounted for more than half the increase in our population since 1947.
– Labor set the pattern with the migration programme, of course.
– I recall the time when the Australian Labor Party would not have a bar of any proposal to bring migrants to this country. Members of that Party claimed that migrants would threaten the employment of Australian workers.
– Oh, now!
– 1 have a better memory than the honourable senator has. 1 recall the time when members of the Labor Party said that if migrants were brought to this country there would not be sufficient jobs for both them and Australian workers and that they would put Australians out of work or else there would not be work available for migrants. We now see the answer to those claims. Once again the Labor Party has been proved to be wrong. Migrants, with their skills and cultures, are welcome here. Naturally, they influence our culture and our national character. They have been fully accepted into our society. I think we all are agreed on that. They have been very satisfactorily integrated with the Australian people. Indeed, some honourable senators have heard me say many times in this chamber that one of our long term means of defence is to increase the population of this country. Thank goodness we are doing that. Many of our migrants are now employers of labour. Whatever else one may say of them, it is rare indeed that migrants are heard to say that they are not prepared to work. They are hard working and they are prepared to suffer far greater inconveniences - not hardships but inconveniences - than most Australians are prepared to undergo, so that they can get ahead financially and assist more of their own people to come here. In these respects there is, I believe, a lot that we can find to admire in them. The Churches have greatly helped in the integration of migrants into the Australian community. The migrant target for this financial year is 148,000. The programme of assisted migration is based on an expectation of 92,000 arrivals each year, of whom 71,000 will come from Great Britain. From time to time we hear stories about disappointed migrants going home. In investigations that I made during my trip abroad in 1962 I heard the same story everywhere. It was that this position arose chiefly from homesickness on the part of migrants. Most of them, having gone home, found that their friends and relatives had drifted away and conditions had altered; they were anxious to come back to Australia. I believe that that is quite understandable.
I turn now to the sugar industry. The present production is 2,340,000 tons a year. The expected production next year is 2i million tons. Whether that will be realised, in view of the floods that have occurred in north Queensland recently and the drought that is being experienced in other sugar producing areas at the present time, I do not know. The industry is passing through very troubled times. As we all know, the price has dropped to a very low figure. The Government has seen fit to provide $19m in assistance to the industry, which is certainly deserving of assistance. lt is very pleasing to see this assistance being provided for it. As most of us know, there is a total embargo on the importation of sugar into Australia. The industry has an assignment system of controlled production. It has a home market price set up under an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. That gives a return of $121 a ton. The negotiated price for the United Kingdom gives a return of $108.50 a ton. The negotiated price for the United States of America gives a price almost equivalent to the price received on the domestic market, namely $120 a ton. There are certain quotas in respect of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The task of negotiating an international sugar agreement is not easy, but there are encouraging signs that it could and will be achieved. 1 wish to discuss briefly two other matters in the time at my disposal. One is wool, about which I am quite sure Senator Bull will be saying something. The wool growers of New South Wales are worse off than those of any other State at the moment because they are coming out of one of the worst droughts that it has been their misfortune to experience. Prices are in the vicinity of 49c or 50c per lb of greasy wool. Whilst that would have been more or less satisfactory a few years ago, in view of the costs which the industry faces today and which are outside its control it is not nearly enough to enable wool growers to make a reasonable living. However, I will leave the matter there, not because it does not warrant further comment from me, but because I know that Senator Bull will be commenting on it.
The other matter is the bright spot as far as the primary producers, particularly in New South Wales, are concerned. That is the wheat industry. Only now are our financial people, including the large companies in Sydney, beginning to realise what the last wheat crop in New South Wales will mean to the State financially. I suppose that by the end of this month about $170m will be made available to the wheat growers of that State. This represents only the first payment for the wheat that has been produced. It seems that the amount will be even more than that. This will get the motor car industry out of its troubles. The retail trade must pick up. In many areas the suppliers of farm machinery, particularly seeding machinery, are not in a position to supply machinery that farmers need. Overall Australia has had a very good wheat crop. The wheat area of Queensland has had a good crop. Fortunately, Western Australia again has had a fair crop. The New South Wales crop will have a tremendous influence. I was surprised to see the shortsightedness of people who could not realise the effect that this crop would have.
I was equally surprised by the shortsightedness of people who could not foresee the inevitable effect that the drought that we experienced last year would have. This good crop, the consequences of which people who had been in business for years were so shortsighted that they could not foresee, once again brings home very forcibly the importance of the primary industries to Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– It is six weeks since the debate on the Address-in-Reply commenced and in the last few hours of the debate not much that is new can be said. I wish to refer particularly to Senator McKellar’s attack on Senator Hannaford for declaring himself on the Vietnam issue. Senator Hannaford is in very good company. If he has sinned, he has sinned in very good company because very few people are proud of what is happening in Vietnam. They may believe that it is necessary to be involved in the Vietnam war, but they are not proud of it. Senator McKellar is one of the few people I have heard say anything praiseworthy about it. Even those people who support the Vietnam war hang their heads and make excuses for it. They say that we have to go on; that if we do not fight them there they will come here and fight us. They make that kind of meaningless statement. In their own minds they do not really support the war but they feel that it is best for us to be involved in it and keep trouble from our shores. It is of course a fantastically stupid attitude to take.
I have not heard of anybody who is prepared fully to support the Vietnam war. Even the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has reservations about it, as have most Ministers. They say that we have to support it while we are in it, but they do not attempt to justify that reasoning. Although Senator McKellar criticised Senator Hannaford and said that it was not a matter of conscience for Senator Hannaford, when Mr Sam Benson declared himself as a matter of conscience against the policy of the Labor Party, I do not think I am being unfair to Senator McKellar by saying that he criticised the Labor Party for not allowing Mr Benson to act in accordance with his conscience. The Minister is not pre pared to grant that right to Senator Hannaford. I believe that Senator Hannaford has acted very courageously. I compliment the Government for allowing him to exercise his right to differ from the Government on the very serious problem of relations with Asia.
Our relationship with Asia is a very serious problem for all of us. It involves questions of Communism and starvation. The position in the East is a challenge to all of us. It is useless to say that there is no problem to be faced in relation to Asia. In election speeches the Prime Minister has referred to the problem. In a burst of rhetoric he said: ‘The threat could be twenty years off, but who am I to say?’ At a Press conference the Prime Minister said that the menace of China may be fifteen or twenty years off but we have to prepare for it by doing what we are doing now.
I do not wish to develop my remarks on Vietnam because I believe that we will be having a debate on foreign affairs tomorrow which will provide an opportunity to discuss that issue. I want to say only that I am opposed to all aspects of the Vietnam war. I am really horrified that people can find anything to support in what I call the American invasion of Vietnam. I thought that the bringing of Air Vice-Marshal Ky to this country was an affront to the Australian people. I would not like to belong to the Labor Party if it thought that it was right to bring him here in the circumstances that prevailed at the time of his visit. It was a public relations exercise by the Prime Minister and he should be ashamed of it. I think that probably he is ashamed of it now.
President Johnson’s visit to Australia was carried out like a circus act, without dignity. It also was an attempt at public relations. The same was true even of the Manila Conference, because nothing has come out of it. Not one extra soldier has gone to Asia as a result of the Conference and not an extra penny has been spent. It was a good public relations exercise for America by the American President, and for Australia by our Prime Minister. It was very clever politics, but there was nothing in it. I believe that the Prime Minister will be pleased when it becomes only a memory. Nobody mentions it now.
Every time 1 looked at the beautiful Madam Ky - her visit was also a public relations job - my mind went back to the emaciated women in Asia who were being hounded out of their homes and brutally assaulted by force of arms. I was not carried away by the picture of Madam Ky presented to this nation. It is true that many thousands of people gathered to see President Johnson during his visit. And well they might. What do honourable senators think would happen in the circumstances? A crowd of almost half a million people could turn out in Sydney to see President Johnson-
Sena:or Marriott - Not many people turned up to march behind Mr Calwell.
– But the people who came to see President Johnson were given free transport on the trains and buses. Mothers and fathers were able to bring in their families without cost to see President Johnson, so that he could - in his own words - kiss the babies. The whole thing was undignified, in my view. I did not want to have any part of it at any time. I believe that America is fortunate that we are a friend in this situation. Honourable senators should always remember that no other nation on earth is such a friend.
Honourable senators opposite may say: Fancy criticising President Johnson!’ The other day he said that when North Vietnam reduced its escalation of the war to the American standard, America would cooperate in taking reciprocal action. Just imagine the greatest military nation and the most powerful financial nation on earth asking what is probably the weakest military nation on earth to reduce its war effort to the American war effort before America would talk peace. I think that statement is completely hypocritical, and I was shocked that it should have come from the mouth of President Johnson. It is a practical impossibility to carry out that proposition. How could North Vietnam reduce its military effort? Comparatively, the North Vietnamese are fighting with peanut shells, are they not? They have no aeroplanes or large armaments. They are fighting a guerilla war against the mightiest nation on earth, whose President has said that providing the North Vietnamese are prepared to cut down their infiltration from the north - by their almost unarmed soldiers - America will stop the bombing.
I agree with U Thant. The great United States ought to stop bombing and fighting to induce North Vietnam to come to the peace table and talk peace. After all, the Americans should set an example, not the Vietcong - the people who are being invaded. 1 had not planned to develop that theme, but I was prompted to do so by an interjection. What did President de Gaulle say? He was one of the mighty three, the great trinity of World War II. According to some people overseas and here he was the bravest man on earth. The great de Gaulle said that the Vietnam war was odious. I could go on to quote dozens of important people including his Holiness the Pope. He said that this unchristian and inhuman war must end. The Americans say that they do not want a military victory. What sort of victory do they want if they are to please the Vietnamese people? Of what use is it for the Western nations to talk about the sanctity of family life :n view of the actions of the Americans in Vietnam? They go into an area to free it from Communism. A village is singled out. Mothers, fathers and children are forcibly taken away from that village. Then they say they give them freedom by shooting up the fathers. To me this is the most inhuman war that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Australia ought not to have anything to do with it. I am shocked that our Prime Minister does not say something in support of the appeal made by U Thant who has asked America to pull out of Vietnam, lay down its arms for a week at least to give the Vietcong the chance to believe that the Governments of Australia and the United States of America desire peace. The United States is powerful enough to do this. Should the offer be rejected the Americans can resume the war afterwards if they want to do so.
First, America should test the case put forward by U Thant. I believe that the world would breathe a sigh of relief if America did so. Nobody wants to see this war continued. I do not think the Australian Government wishes to see it continued. After all, our Government is really taking only token action in Vietnam, lt has not attempted to rally Australian manhood to fight in this war. The Government does not want our manhood rallied. Under the system of recruiting, the Government sets out to recruit limited numbers of men from widely scattered areas, so reducing the risk of alarming the public. Large scale recruiting would alarm the public so it does not occur. That is why there is no real opopsition to the Vietnam war.
L have no apologies to offer for being with Mr Calwell at the anti-Ky demonstrations. I think that the visit to Australia of Air Vice-Marshal Ky was an insult to the Australian people. I am certain now that Mr Holt had misgivings about the whole idea. There was no newspaper in Australia that was not opposed to Ky coming here in the first place. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, the ‘Sun’ and the ‘Daily Mirror’ along with many other newspapers said that this was a dangerous exercise in public relations that might not come off. They said that the Prime Minister might have made a great error. I think that that was the Prime Minister’s view, too. 3ut the visit did come off. But it was a pyrrhic sort of victory because I do not think that anybody is proud of the Ky visit to this country. I believe that when people examine the reasons underlying the visit by Air ViceMarshal Ky they will be glad that it belongs to the past and the memories of it are dead. Honourable senators know what the United Stales did when Air Vice-Marshal Ky offered to go there for a goodwill trip. I think the term that he used was a trip of remembrance.
– A sentimental journev.
– That is right.
– He ought io take his other wife with him. She is rather good looking.
– Yes. The point is that America will not have Air ViceMarshal Ky. He is not going to the United States. I think that President Johnson has shown great wisdom in not inviting Air Vice-Marshal Ky of Vietnam to visit the United States.
I have listened to honourable senators on the other side praising in their turn the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General. They said that they were proud to see Lord Casey, an Australian born Governor-General, opening the Parliament. Well, when I heard this, I nearly turned over. If honourable senators opposite have not opposed the appointment of Australian Governors-General, their fathers and previous conservatives did everything possible to stop tha Australian Labor Party from appointing an Australian to the position of Governor-General in this country. I have looked up the history of the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs. The Australian Labor Party alone was responsible for his appointment. It was told that this was an awful thing to do. In the minds of honourable senators opposite and their predecessors, the appointment of Sir William McKell was sacrilegious. Now honourable members opposite say that the appointment of an Australian as GovernorGeneral is a good thing. But they did not think so in past years. The Australian Labor Party accepts the responsibility of initiating these moves. We are glad that the Government now accepts Australian born governors.
The Minister for Repatriation spoke of the great assets that are being developed in this country. He referred to the mineral discoveries, our increased coal exports, the finding of oil and other related matters as if this Government was responsible for them. The facts are. of course, that it was a Labor government - in fact, the Chifley Government-
– Did the Labor Government put. them there?
– Put what there?
– Put the minerals there?
– We established the machinery for the metallurgical development and discoveries in Australia today. We provided all the machinery to treble the output of coal. The present Government did not. Honourable senators opposite were opposed to our plans. They did not want to see the Joint Coal Board established. The present Government did not want any interference with private industry. When it was in Opposition it said that private industry was sacrosanct and that it should be left alone. The Labor Party when it was the Government semi-nationalised or socialised the coal industry to achieve the results that we see today. We cut out all the uneconomic mines. I have dealt with this subject in the Senate before. The Australian Labor Party laid the foundations for the great development that has taken place in the coal industry. We established the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Honourable members opposite had never heard of it and their Party then probably would have opposed it. They would have said that we were interfering with private enterprise. I know that Senator Gair will agree with me in what I am saying.
– The Australian Labor Party had an oil drill wrapped up in paper down in Melbourne-
– All right. Everything is wrapped up in paper at the start. The Australian Labor Party as a government had priorities. The point I am making is that the present Government cannot claim responsibility for any of these developments. The present Government had nothing to do with them.
The Minister for Repatriation this afternoon committed the unpardonable offence of not giving the Labor Party credit for Australia’s immigration policy. He is the only man in Australia who would say that Arthur Calwell was not the architect of our immigration policy. The Minister for Repatriation said: ‘This all happened under our Government. We did this. The Labor Party did nothing.’
– He said that Labor opposed it.
– Of course. Yet, the average school child would say that Arthur Calwell, whatever else people might say of him, was the father of Australia’s immigration policy. I nearly said that he was the father of the extra four million people that Australia now has. But an honourable senator on the Government side even claims credit for the Government for the increase in our birthrate. That honourable senator is not here tonight. He seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. When he made those remarks, I looked across at Senator Wood and asked him what contribution he had made to the increase in the birthrate. Then I looked at Senator Mulvihill. He is in the same category as Senator Wood in this regard. They are single. But the Minister for Repatriation even claimed credit for the present Government for the establishment of our immigration policy. Well, this is really pushing things to an extreme. I believe that people should support their own Party but not to the extent demonstrated by the Minister for Repatriation. There is an alternative Government in this country and Labor was the Government in the most vital years of the country’s history. This fact should not be forgotten, not even by the members of the present Government.
I make this plain: things are such today as a result of the original plans made by the Labor Government and particularly by the Chifley and Curtin Governments that the present Government could probably go out of business for one year and the economy of the country would not be affected at all. Basically, the present Government believes that the least government possible is the best for everybody. I know that this was the attitude of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. He believed the more days Parliament had off the better it was for the community and the country. They still support that argument. The Parliament will sit for approximately 40 days only this year. I noticed in my reading that we are to rise on the 20th April. If this happened, it would give us an all time low for parliamentary attendance and sitting days for the year. This is not a very good argument in support of the referendum. I see Senator Gair considering this matter. I assume that he has it jotted down as one of his points in opposition to the referendum.
– It is already in our case.
– From an economic point of view, Parliament could almost close up and the economy would not be affected. This is the situation the whole world over, as a matter of fact. Australia is not the only country in this position. The Australian Labor Party is probably too honest to govern in the modern world. I remember attending a meeting held in support of Prime Minister Chifley at the Randwick Town Hall. Mr Menzies, as he then was, had announced at that time a proposal to provide 10s endowment for the first child. ‘That was the start of inflation. Mr Chifley who was still thinking in the past would not agree to this. He said that it would be completely dishonest-
– It was 5s for the first child.
– Thank you, senator.
– Put it on its proper basis.
– I am getting away from my notes at the moment. But Mr Chifley claimed that the payment would bring inflation. That was Labor thinking at that time. We were after value in the £1. As a matter of fact, we said so. Our principal case against the present Government which was in opposition at that time - and I think that our case was quite wrong - was that it would not re-establish value in the £1. Mr Menzies, as he was then, woke up to the fact that we were about to enter a period of the greatest racketeering and inflation in history.
– Follow the dollar.
– Of course. Spokesmen of this Government like the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) talk in millions of dollars. The Minister has said the Government will spend millions of dollars on education but when we consider the present value of money what is proposed does not mean such a lot. The public is pretty gullible, however. The Press, which is also pretty gullible, is making more profits than it has ever made. Powerful television companies and radio broadcasting companies are also making record profits. They are not going to foul their own nests, so they keep the flag flying.
At present there are three Ministers overseas, including in effect, two Ministers for foreign affairs - Mr Harold Holt and Mr Hasluck. I hope they do not clash before they come back to Australia, but they might, because both of them are apt to drop clangers. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his trip through Asia is not tying this Government to a policy, to which I have heard reference, based on the domino theory. I hope the right honourable gentleman is not saying in Asia that because we are in the Asian sphere our people will fight country by country to the fringe of Darwin. I hope the Prime Minister is not tying this Government and Australia to a policy like that. I hope that he has not the authority to do it.
In this Parliament we have debated our policy on Vietnam and we had a debate on conscription. The Government’s case came close to being dishonestly presented, particularly in relation to conscription. The Opposition asked whether the Government’s policy meant conscription for overseas service. Senator Kennelly, who was then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, asked that pointed question. The next morning the departmental heads were called in and we were told the Government’s proposal did not mean conscription for overseas service. In my opinion snide tactics were adopted to get us committed to conscription for service in Vietnam, and it was an accomplished fact before we knew where we were.
Having dealt with Vietnam I return to the appointment of Australians to the office of Governor-General. The Australian Labor Party popularised the idea, against opposition from this Government’s predecessors. Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir William McKell were appointed. Now it would be a courageous government that decided to appoint an English Governor-General. The Labor Party gave effect to the idea of having an Australian Governor-General, against opposition from the other side, and we should be given credit for it.
I notice that Senator Wright is in the chamber. I feel humble when I speak before him, because I read in his expression that he thinks legally that I do not know what I am talking about. A few years ago I asked a question which I knew seemed to him to be sacrilegious. I asked why it was that lawyers were considered to be particularly well fitted to be arbitration court judges in charge of the wages system in Australia. It seemed that lawyers had a divine right to adjudicate in this field. What Act of Parliament allows them to say whether there should be a total wage or a basic wage plus other components? I am horrified when I see the courts have power to decide on these matters. The judges might be brilliant lawyers - and probably are, or they would not attain their high position - but they are not economists and they have no economic machinery to assist them. The trade unions have such facilities. They have the services of an economist. Mr Hawke, who acts for the unions, is an economist. Certainly these organisations are not very big, but they have the assistance of an economist. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should have an economic section with economists who could work out independently the reasons why wages should be fixed at certain levels and such matters as capacity to pay.
– That is a very good idea. I hope the honourable senator goes on with it.
– All right. I am pleased that the Institute of Public Affairs is asking this Government for the appointment of an economic branch of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to assist the tribunal to reach decisions on wages. Under the present setup those who adjudicate have a tremendous power. Fortunately for us and the trade unions, wages have been rising on an average by $2 a year and this keeps everybody reasonably happy; but I believe the judges should have the assistance of economists. The banks have such assistance and it is imperative that the judges have it too.
I criticise the Government also for its attitude towards public health. There has been a lot of talk about the menace of cigarette smoking, but the Government does absolutely nothing about it. Honourable senators on both sides have referred to cigarette smoking and its relation to lung cancer. This relationship is accepted everywhere by the medical profession, but the Government will not take on big business, and big business is interested in advertising cigarettes. Rothmans spend about S3. 5m a year on advertising. If the Government does not do something soon, it will be charged with being an accessory to the scourge of lung cancer. The Government proposed control of advertising to stop the tobacco manufacturers glamourising cigarettes with pictures of girls in mini skirts smoking cigarettes. This lasted about two weeks. Now cigarette smoking is glamourised more than ever.
Recently there have been references in the newspapers to the poisonous effects of phenacetin. For years the medical profession has been stating that hundreds of people die each year from kidney disease brought about by escessive intake of phenacetin. But this Government will not do anything to check the intake of the drug. It was reported in the Sydney ‘Sun’ that the Government did not intend to check the intake of phenacetin because its attitude was that this matter was in the hands of the doctors. Here is a great anomaly: the Government has removed phenacetin from the list of drugs supplied at a special rate under the national health scheme. This was the first action by the Government to show that it supports the idea that the drug should be controlled. In other words, the Government will control the doctors. Why control the doctors?
– I am with the honourable senator there.
– Thank you. In every workshop, every school and every annexe there are packets of powders containing phenacetin, available to thousands of men and women and young people. They are everywhere. No attempt is made to control the supply of the drug.
– The Government will not stop that because it is big business.
– I know that the Government will not stop it.
– The Government has taken it off the free list from which it should be dispensed by the doctors.
– That is absolutely true, and that is where the Government is completely hypocritical. It says to the doctors: ‘We are going to control you. We are not going to allow you to distribute this drug.’ But the Government does not attack the big major factories which want to keep up their production. In every refreshment room and in every luncheon area of every factory people are able to get APC’s whenever they want them. Of course, increased production is wanted, an extra couple of APC’s helps. Nothing is said about the effect that the factory supplied phenacetin powders will have on the kidneys of these young people. This Government is not doing anything about that. I believe that this Government should do what is done in America. Every drug which is distributed in paper packets and which contains phenacetin has to carry a small typewritten warning such as: ‘This powder contains phenacetin and if taken in overdose is dangerous to the kidneys.’ That is what happens in America. Why cannot we do that here? The Government is going to control the doctors, but it is not going to protect the thousands and thousands of young and old people who have recourse to phenacetin supplied by shops, restaurants, or factories. The Government has done nothing to control places where phenacetin may be bought and it does not intend to do anything to control them. I think that that is a serious situation and the Government should do something about it.
The other matter to which I want to refer briefly is the question of education. Senator Gorton’s statements about education look good on the face of them. He talks in millions of dollars. But when we get down to the rock bottom there is not much action. We cannot call it a ‘crash programme’ by any means. The Government is going to finance the erection of three colleges for teacher training. That is very good. The results will be distributed over the State school systems and the private school systems. The private school share will be 10%. This question of secondary education is a very urgent one. But it will be nearly 1974 before the teachers start to appear in the secondary schools about which I am speaking, particularly in the non-State schools.
– Where are the colleges to be?
– There will be one in each State.
– One in Victoria, too?
– Yes. The point I am making is that the Government is mak ing a pretence of doing something to relieve the teacher shortage in private schools and in Slate schools but, in effect, it is doing nothing because teachers will not become available until .1.973 or 1974. Only then will the scheme start to show results, f know that it cannot be done by saying: ‘Hey presto.’ The Government has difficulties to face in this matter. But why does the Government claim that it is doing something when it is not? The same observation applies to the assistance which the Government is providing for the erection of science blocks in schools, lt is true that it provides the science blocks, but unless it supplies the teachers it is wasting its money because the schools need science teachers ps well as science blocks. If the Government does not hurry up and provide the schools with teachers, then all that it is doing in making a financial allocation to build schools will be useless for another seven years. I do not think that it is much of a contribution towards solving the urgent problem of the education of children. Children are not being educated today - certainly not in many private schools - as they should be educated. They are not being educated in the way that we want them to be educated because there is a shortage of teachers.
– How would the honourable senator get over this difficulty?
– I think that there ought to be a crash programme. As the situation is urgent I do not know why the Government has to wait for the erection of huge stone colleges and all those sorts of things. Why cannot Nissen hu.s or similar buildings be used? I am talking about something that is urgent. The Government has to do something. The Government does such things in housing the people. I think that something like that has to be done in education.
– What about using the Opera House?
– That is another point. I do not want to be sidetracked about the Opera House, but I might say that this Government is associated with the New South Wales Government which has had a great deal to do in destroying something that was going to be a wonderful advertisement for Australia. The Opera House was sponsored by the Australian Labor Party. I was on the State Executive of the Labor Party when we put the idea of the Opera House through. The Premier of the day, Joe Cahill, said: ‘We want to have an Opera House in this country, not merely for the great singers overseas; we want a musical area where the children of the workers can go and learn music and have their little theatre movements.’ That was his conception. But, of course, it has been butchered by propaganda. Now we have the example of the Australian Country Party people. Who would know less about opera than the Country Party? The Government’s whole attitude to education is the same as its attitude to the Opera House. The Opera House matters not to the Country Party. Davis Hughes, the responsible Minister in New South Wales, has had the effrontery to wipe out the vision of the Opera House.
It will now be a musical centre. As a matter of fact, it has been taken over by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– They are going to start to build an opera house.
– They will never build an opera house. All of Joe Cahill’s work was in vain. The point I make is that even in the field of culture the Labor Party leads. It was the Labor Party - the trade union movement - that got behind this move at a Labor conference. We had to sell the idea because there was a very strong feeling that we should build homes before we built an Opera House. That is the sort of argument that is advanced by a working class audience. There is something 10 be slid for it, too. But we wanted io push this idea through. It was to cost the community nothing. That might be why the Liberal Party and the Country Party were opposed to it. It was not to be paid for by borrow ing money at 6% or some rate like tnat Nobody was to make a big loan. The money was to come from lotteries. It was to cost the taxpayers nothing. We would have had an Opera House, but we are not going to have one now. We are going to have a building which will cost something like S60m so that the ABC can play its orchestra. That is all right. I am in favour of that. I do not think that the ABC should be prevented from using ils part of the Opera House. I think that the members of the Country Party who say that there will never be an opera house in Sydney ought to be made to stand up and defend themselves as I have said. Davis Hughes is the responsible Minister. He is a member of the Country Party. He represents &n electorate in northern New South Wales. Certainly the ABC’s action most have been supported by this Government because with the ABC’s record I do not think that it would do very much to offend this Government. First the ABC would have ascertained whether the Government was in favour of what it was doing. It has won its argument. It has defeated the newspapers, really. Now our OperA House ‘n> virtually no longer an opera house.
I appeal to the Government to take some urgent action in the matter of teacher training. Teachers are needed - now. I visited a primary school the other day which was attended by 300 children. There is no need for me to name the school, but I will say that it is in a very poor area of the Newcastle district and that the children are the children of the workers there. I said to the teachers: ‘What will happen to the 300 children when they are due to leave the primary school?’ The teachers said: ‘We do not know. There is nowhere for them to go unless they are particularly clever’.
This Government certainly provides for the bright and highly intellectual children but the Labor Party, and I know most honourable senators opposite, are particlarly interested in what happens to those who may not be so bright or whose parents cannot afford to give them a higher education. One parent said to me: ‘How can I afford to send my children to a secondary school and then to a university? The fees are £40 a term. I have three boys so it would cost me £120 a year for each of them’. That man earns £27 a week. The boys are bright but they have no chance of getting to the university, or even to high school, because their father cannot afford to send them there. That situation confronts a very great number of working class people in this country. Do not imagine that the prosperity about which Senator Mckellar was speaking extends throughout the nation. We still have a working class in Australia, we still have a poverty class, and it is a numerous class. I hope the Minister will heed my plea. The Australian educational system should be examined so that we can learn the number of children who should be getting a higher standard of schooling but are not getting it, and will not be able to get it because of the inability of their parents to pay.
Senator Gorton has referred to a Bill, I think to be introduced tomorrow, which is designed to provide three colleges for the training of teachers. But it will be something like 1973 or 1974 before the first teachers arrive at the colleges. This means that students wishing to undergo training as teachers will have to wait until then before commencing training. That is too long for them to wait. Dozens of researchers and professors of all kinds have said that our secondary schools and universities are sacking hundreds of staff and officers because the income being received by those institutions has been reduced. Those are not my own words; they are public property. Yet the Government does not seem to be awake to the urgency of the situation. Possibly the Government does not understand the situation. Hie only way in which the Government will be able to understand the problems of education in Australia is for it to conduct a public examination of the Australian education system. The Labor Party has been asking for this for many years. Politics should be put to one side. There should bc no politics in this great subject of education. The matter is urgent. I hope the Government will pay some heed to what I and many other honourable senators on this side of the chamber have said - Senator Murphy was particularly eloquent - and do something to solve the problem.
– Before dealing with the matters I wish to bring before the Senate let me refer to Senator Ormonde’s statements about the Honourable Davis Hughes, Minister of Works in the New South Wales Government. The honourable senator’s attack was completely unwarranted and unjust. I can assure him that Mr Hughes has the confidence of the New South Wales Cabinet. According to Press reports, his recommendations were adopted unanimously by the Cabinet, lt is obvious that Mr Hughes has the confidence not only of the Country Party but also of the composite Government of New South Wales. I leave the matter there.
I should like to be associated with the expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen contained in the motion so ably moved by Senator Cotton and seconded by Senator Webster. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) on his very able leadership not only of the Government but also of the nation during his first year as Prime Minister. This able leadership was confirmed most convincingly by the results of the election held in November last. I commend him particularly for his various visits to Pacific and South East Asian nations. Following the at least partial withdrawal of Great Britain from this area, both from the point of view of defence and, to some extent, of trade, it is essential that our Prime Minister have contact with the leaders of the nations of the area so that he can get to know their problems and so that they can be informed of some of our problems and of our high hopes for the future. The future security of Australia depends largely on our good relations with those nations and I can think of no better way of ensuring good relations than by our Prime Minister making personal contact with their people and getting to know them better.
Recently the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to the general soundness of the Australian economy. This is worth noting. He said also that certain areas were causing some concern to the Government. Those are the aspects to which I wish to direct attention now. He pointed out that we have a high rate of production and employment. The Government deserves great credit for this because over the past few years it has aimed at that objective. Let me refer to the high cost of production as it affects primary industry generally and the wool industry in particular. I have no hesitation in saying that the wool growers are faced with a cost of production probably unparalleled in the history of the industry. I use those words deliberately. I speak from the experience I have gained not only as a grower but also as one who has been associated with the grower organisations which take an interest in these matters. I believe that what I am about to say and the figures that T shall cite will bear out my contention.
If steps are not taken soon to remedy the situation many wool growers will be faced with disaster in the foreseeable future and, in the long term, the national .economy will be affected. I know that much of the present difficulty has been brought about by the very bad drought which has struck Queensland and New South Wales and, to a lesser extent, certain other States, but I remind the Senate and the Government that unfortunately the drought is not yet over. The latest information available to us indicates that vast areas in both the States I have mentioned are still in difficulties. Some districts are suffering acutely and others are suffering to a degree which must concern each one of us.
There has been a big fall in sheep numbers. In 1965 we had 170 million sheep in Australia but because of the drought and the resultant additional slaughterings our sheep numbers were down to 157 million in 1966. However, given reasonable seasons and reasonable costs - which is most important - I believe that we will be able to build up these numbers gradually. The scientific knowledge we now have will help us to do this. It will be much more difficult to increase our cattle numbers. There has been a fall from 19 million in 1964 to 17.9 million in 1966. It is well for us to remember I hat over the last ten years our cattle population has increased by only a little more than half a million. Whilst the drought position has been largely responsible for this, unfortunately the cost of production has been a factor. I have no doubt that thousands of people normally regarded as wool growers and relying in their income from wool have been rescued from a financial crisis by a bumper wheat crop in the Eastern States. This particularly refers to areas in parts of Queensland and down the centre of New South Wales into northern Victoria. In relation to cost of production I refer the Senate to a table prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics showing farmers’ production and marketing expenses, and lo the consumer price index. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the table in Hansard.
I do not propose to read the table but I shall just give some indication of the trend in our costs of production. Taking 1950 as a base year with a figure of 100, I note that costs rose only twelve points from 233 to 245 from 1960 to 1964, or approximately 1.25% per annum. But from 1964 to 1966
they rose from 245 to 268 - twenty-three points in two years, or 5% per annum.
– How does the cost affect the natural increase in cattle?
– I shall come to that directly. Let me carry the argument a little further and look at the consumer price index figures for the capital cities, which are a guide, but are not to be taken as the guide, to production costs generally. In the two years I960 and 1961 the increase was 52% annually, but from 1964 to 1966 the increase was 3.25% annually. The consumer price index gives an indication of the cost of living and this cost affects production. If we look at it in another way we find that the aggregate income from wool would have to increase from $84 1 m in 1964-65 to $909m this selling year to maintain its real value to the wool grower. In other words, because of the increase in cost of production the wool grower is worse off my S34m each year and, as I shall try to explain, it is difficult for him to catch up on this. His loss of purchasing power is due principally to two factors. One, of course, is the price that he receives for his wool but the main one is higher costs of production, which are strongly confirmed by the figures that I have presented tonight. 1 know that increases in costs of production are inevitable and, might I say, historical. In this regard economists say that if we can contain our increases in costs to about li% or 2% a year we are able in most industries to match this with increased productivity, but once we get beyond 2% we are tending towards inflation. Most secondary industries and even some primary industries can pass on costs to consumers but the selling of our wool is mainly external. More than 90% of our wool production is sold overseas at the best price that we are able to obtain for it. We must overcome this cost problem with increased productivity or accept lower returns on investments.
Let us look at the avenues open to wool growers to match increased costs. We could hope, perhaps, for higher prices for wool but I believe - and I think most wool growers would agree with me - that we shall have to be content with something like the average price that we have received for the Australian clip for the last three years. I hope that I am wrong but I think that it a generally agreed, because of factors beyond our control in relation to synthetics and such matters, that this is about the price that we can expect. Let us look at meat, which we must associate with the grazing industry, and particularly at mutton, which we must associate with wool. Whilst we might be getting big prices for meat, and particularly for beef, we have a production problem because we are not increasing our cattle numbers. In fact the export price index for all primary commodities obtained from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics shows that there has been a fall of 3.9% over the two years to 30th June 1966. Then we must look to the other matter to which I have referred, namely, increased productivity, which is one of the indicators considered in the basic wage case by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
We in the wool growing industry regard the area in which the industry is conducted as being divided into three regions. These are the pastoral zone, which usually has a rainfall of less than fourteen inches; the woo! and wheat areas, which are mainly west of the mountains from Queensland right down to Victoria; and the higher rainfall areas where we are able mostly to obtain greater production. In the pastoral zone, where about 30% or 40% of Australia’s sheep - mainly merinos - are pastured, we are definitely limited in relation to increased productivity because we are unable to have irrigation, and pasture improvement is almost out of the question. So graziers in this area have to match increased cost of production oy putting a little more wool on the sheep, which is very difficult, or accept lower returns and, of course, the latter is the position. In the wool and wheat areas we have more diversity of production and the wheat that has been grown in this area has helped tremendously. I believe it is correct to say that because of the tremendous wheat crops we have had over the last year, and because other exporting nations have had similar crops, a tremendous wheat crop again this year could in some respects be an embarrassment to the Government because the wheat may be difficult to sell, bearing in mind that it is quite possible that Russia and China may be out of the market for buying wheat. Then we have the additional prob lem of storage, which has been such a factor this year.
I refer now to the third zone, which ?s the high rainfall area. There it is possible to increase production. However, most people would agree that costs are becoming so high in the high rainfall areas that people are loath to invest as much there as they did previously. This is borne out by the fact that last year in many of the high rainfall areas less superphosphate was used than in previous years. In looking to other matters which might help the wool growing industry and primary industry generally we must consider Government subsidies on inputs which have been of great assistance. There has been help from the Government for research and promotion. There has been a subsidy on superphosphate. But generally speaking the subsidy on inputs is not equal to the increased cost of production to which I have referred. I do not believe that subsidies strike at the root of the cost problem; I believe that to quite an extent they lead to inefficiency in the industry. It would be quite impracticable to apply a direct subsidy on wool because a subsidy of even lc per lb on wool would represent $15m per year to the taxpayer. Of course, this is quite impossible. If we were to reduce costs from the 5% to the 2% to which I referred *e would benefit by a saving of $14m per year, which would be much better than having a direct subsidy.
We in the wool growing industry are most appreciative of what the Government has done for research and promotion, subsidies on superphosphate, petrol price equalisation and some taxation concessions. Last year we had assistance from the Farm Development Loan Fund which the Government made available for those affected by the drought. Unfortunately, there seems to have been some breakdown in the pipeline between the Reserve Bank of Australia and the local bank manager because some people whom we think are entitled to this benefit do not seem to be getting it. I believe that another reason for this is that some people are rather disinclined to obtain the additional money because of lack of confidence in the industry. They are fearful that they may not be able to service the extra debt and they would like to see a little more clearly where they are going. In referring to the seriousness of this position I cite again figures produced by the Bureau of
Agricultural Economics which showed that farm indebtedness in 1960 was only $77m; in 1965 it was $353m; and in 1966 it had grown to $446m. I believe that these are true indications of the plight that some primary producers are getting into.
Generally the rising costs quoted in the index to which I have referred are generated by internal causes such as decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, unwarranted increases in tariff duties and the failure of the Government to give enough consideration to the severe fluctuations in the woolgrowers’ incomes in its taxation policy. All Australians recognise that in a developing country such as ours we need reasonable tariffs to protect economic and efficient industries. I subscribe to this, but I believe we have departed from what are reasonable tariffs. An address on tariffs given recently by Sir Leslie Melville to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, in which he made a constructive criticism of Australian tariff policy, must not be allowed to go unheeded. Sir Leslie Melville, a former Chairman of the Tariff Board, with a wealth of experience behind him, is regarded as one of the most competent and best equipped Australians to discuss our protection policy constructively. I support his remarks when he said in his address:
What is needed now is a more moderate approach to protection than we now have. Instead of providing more and more protection to virtually whatever industries seek assistance, we should deliberately select for assistance only less costly ventures. The prospect that any of these guide lines will be followed does not at present seem good. The change perhaps would come about only if sponsored or acquiesced in by manufacturers. The possibility of this may seem remote at present but eventually some manufacturers nay come to realise that excessive protection is not in their own interests either because it raises their costs to such an extent that it is difficult for them to comoete in export markets or because by holding back increases in standards of living In Australia it reduces domestic demand for their output.
I .regard these remarks of Sir Leslie Melville as words of wisdom which we dare not ignore. There seems to be an inclination among Australians - in influential quarters too - to attempt to build up new industries with high costs, requiring protection or bounties and using up capital and other limited resources. I believe we are looking too much to the industry seeking higher duties and not giving enough attention to the effect that such higher duties will have on the exporting industries. Many of these rebound against our old established industries, such as the wool industry, by driving up their costs and in turn threatening to render them uneconomic. Honourable senators and the Australian public generally must be made conscious of the fact that the wool industry and other primary export industries are confronted with a tremendous cost problem aggravated by external market problems such as synthetic fibres, which are always in competition with wool and which will remain so.
Britain’s decision to increase farm subsidies is another matter for great concern because as a result of these increased subsidies we are likely to find that fewer of our products are going to Great Britain. Then we must take into consideration Britain’s probable entry into the European Economic Community. If she does enter the EEC probably we will not have some of the safeguards which were available to us when consultations were held with the British Government two or three years ago. It seems from what we can read that France, and perhaps other European countries, will be very demanding to ensure that as much trade as possible between Great Britain and other countries is prevented. With regard to meat, we must remember and be ever conscious of the fact that the United States has imposed a beef quota of less than 300,000 tons per year, which means that if other countries are relying on exports to America we could be limited in what we could export in the event of our beef production rising. I have referred also to the world surplus of wheat and sugar. As Senator McKellar has said, there are problems in this matter not so much of production and the price we obtain for our sugar but because we are further hampered in our selling operations by the restricted credit available to underdeveloped countries which need our products but unfortunately have not the finance with which to acquire them.
On the credit side, with hopeful signs of high standards of living, we can look for an expanding market in the Pacific and South East Asia area if a halt is called to the continual increase in costs of production so that we can produce our primary products, both agricultural and mineral, and our secondary products for export at reasonable prices. May I give honourable senators a good example by referring to our exports of mutton to Japan. The Japanese people are becoming more meat conscious, but there is a price resistance among them and if we attempt to lift our prices we shall find them unwilling to pay the higher prices that we ask.
Trade is a two way business. I believe that Sir Leslie Melville was realistic and echoed the views of tens of tnousands of Australian exporters when he said:
Insofar as the restrictions which were imposed on imports from Japan and other Asian countries are necessary to maintain employment and standards of living in Australia, the risk of antagonising our trading partners in Asia is one we must take.
But some of our tariffs against Asian imports have now become so high that it is possible to say that they are reducing rather than increasing our standards of living. With a policy of full employment Uley are not needed either to provide or maintain employment. In these circumstances our tariff policy towards Asian countries is not only unhelpful to underdeveloped countries which are trying to build up their external trade, but from our point of view is self defeating and is both imprudent and damaging la our standard of living.
It is important, also, for us to realise that we shall be hampered in these promising markets if we are unwilling to participate in a two way trade. Ships travelling in one direction, if they cost more, have little to carry in the other.
The foreign merchants who come to sell are usually equally interested in buying.
In my opinion the Government must give urgent attention to its protection policy and insist that protection is given only to those industries that are regarded as economic and efficient and are low cost industries. More reasonable competition between our own industries and imports from other countries would bring more efficiency into industry for both management and employees. The Government’s failure to revise its high protection policy is helping to build up the high cost of production. It is a deterrent to increased trade in the Pacific and Asian areas and thus leads to a lowering of the level of production and a tendency to disinvestment in rural industries.
I realise, as I have said, that the tariff is only one of the areas that must be closely examined by the Government if Australia is to maintain its place as one of the great trading nations and if we are to have a high rate of employment. I believe that the decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Government’s policy on tariffs, which is not always in keeping with the recommendations of its own Tariff Board, are a major factor where stability of costs is involved. I believe it is high time that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended to enable the Commission to take into account the economic effect of its decisions. Stability of costs is of equal importance to every Australian, whether he be a wage earner or in business. Nobody gains from an increase in wages or margins if such increases are quickly swallowed up by further bursts of inflation.
Surely we in government recognise that no economy, or any important section of it, can hope to continue to operate successfully while we have an increase in costs of almost 5% per annum, the level that I mentioned earlier. It is good and pleasant to be able to say that rural production is at a high level. But unless the increased production has the effect of widening the gap between the prices received and the cost of production we achieve very little. For tens of thousands of producers the gap is closing. For some it is probably already closed. In my opinion there is far too much self satisfaction in publicising our higher production levels without acknowledging the cost problem. I was interested to read that the Treasurer expressed certain views when opening a conference of primary producers in Sydney yesterday. Those views were reported by a newspaper in these terms:
Increased production and productivity could not occur unless every section of production became cost conscious.
This applied not only to rural industry but to manufacturers, ores and mining industries.
I entirely agree with those observations. However, I wish that the right honourable gentleman had added that the Government also was cost conscious, for the Government is in a commanding position and is best able to give most assistance in this matter. I have no doubt that the Treasurer intended to express himself in this way, and I am sure that the primary producers whom he was addressing would have liked him to say that the Government was conscious of costs and was prepared to take action of the kind that I have mentioned.
– And to give a few instances in which costs were being arrested.
– Yes. Profits are essential in any industry. But in rural industries a high profit is essential in some years to provide for varying seasonal conditions and fluctuations of income. Only by making a reasonable average profit can the primary producer hope to increase his productivity. The money that comes in regularly from the investments that he makes out of that profit provides the only means of improving his property and thereby vastly increasing his production. Because costs are rising and primary production is no longer as profitable as it used ‘to be we have to try to manage by borrowing, and this is sometimes difficult.
In February of this year representatives of the various primary producer organisations conferred with the Prime Minister and other senior Cabinet Ministers. I know that the high cost of production was the central theme that the primary producer organisations put to the Government. But I wonder just how much the Government is prepared to take note of their submissions, because I fear that if due weight is not given to them primary industry is in for a bad time. I regret that I have to be critical of the Government that I am proud to support. But I believe that there is reason for alarm in the rural industries and a need for positive action of a fundamental nature to correct the cost problem. The Government’s failure to act in pursuit of this objective could bring disaster to many producers and have serious effects on the national economy. Until such time as the Government takes remedial action to improve the cost of production position, which, I believe, is rapidly getting out of hand, I must be critical of this aspect of the Government’s economic policy.
– I associate myself with those honourable senators who have expressed their pleasure that this Governor-General’s Speech was delivered by an Australian. I am not very concerned about what party can claim the credit for that happening. All I say is that
I hope that the exalted office of GovernorGeneral of our country will continue to be occupied by an Australian. I am glad to be back in the Senate after a period in which, because of illness, I was unable to be here. I am very pleased to notice that the population of the corner that I inhabit with others is increasing. I cannot help looking around and wondering who will be next.
I will not be speaking for a very lengthy period. I wish to associate myself with Senator Gair, Senator Wright and the other honourable senators who took a stand on the Bill in regard to the referendum to be held in the next month or two. I regret that I was unable to be present to support them and to have my name listed as one who is opposed to that referendum proposal. I agree with what they put forward. I also agree with the member of the Australian Labor Party in the Tasmanian Parliament who said that the holding of this referendum was entirely wrong and that the Slim that it will cost to hold the referendum could have been spent much better on housing or something else for the benefit of the people.
I have noticed that frequent pleas have been made by people who have been considering the referendum publicly, including the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), that truth may prevail. They have said that there is need for a very high level of argument and that whatever argument is put forward should be soundly based. I agree with them. I wish to consider some of the arguments that have been put forward, particularly by the people who support this referendum, and to point out to them the unsoundness of the foundation on which they base their support. I notice that in previous months there has been, and even at the present time there is, a suggestion that the people who oppose the referendum are not democrats. The clear statement was made that any honourable senator who voted against the referendum legislation in this chamber was no democrat because he was trying to stop the people expressing their opinion on a matter of great public importance. That statement was made by at least two Ministers.
Let me say to them that this matter of the nexus is only one of a very considerable number of matters on which a committee of this Parliament deliberated for a considerable period and made a large number of recommendations, particularly in regard to the Constitution. Repeatedly I have heard members of the Australian Labor Party rise in this chamber and ask the Government when it proposed to let the people have an opportunity to express their will on all these recommendations for constitutional reform. On numerous occasions the Government has evaded the issue. In view of the fact that the Government’s own members participated in the Constitutional Review Committee which made so many powerful recommendations, it amazes me that the Government, while preventing the people from expressing an opinion on those many matters, should select one of them and say to honourable senators: ‘If you will not let the people cast their vote on this matter you are no democrat.’ I believe that the Government’s action in refusing the people the opportunity to record their opinion on the numerous recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee has caused its own charge to recoil on its own head. I was amazed when I heard members of the Government parties say that any honourable senator who voted against this proposal for a referendum was no democrat because he was not letting the people express their opinion.
– That is an autocrat’s expression.
– -I know that. So I decided to do a little delving into history. I did not have to delve very far. If the Ministers and other members of the Government parties who said that anyone who voted against holding this referendum was no democrat look at Hansard for 9th and 10th April 1946 they will find that two divisions were held - one on the second reading and one on the third reading of a Bill - on the question of whether a referendum should be held on a constitutional alteration in regard to industrial employment. When I look at the Noes and the names of those who did not want that referendum to be held, the first two names that I notice are R. G. Menzies and H. E. Holt. Surely the Ministers who say that anybody who votes against referring a matter to the people is no democrat do not intend to tell us in this day and age that Sir Robert Menzies and Mr Holt are no democrats. On that occasion, those two gentlemen did what the honourable senators who are opposed to this referendum are doing now. I suggest that if we looked through the pages of Hansard we would find that on frequent occasions leading personalities in the present Government parties and the Australian Labor Party have voted against referendums and that they have done so for good and sufficient reasons. As far as I know, it has never been suggested that because a person did that he was no democrat.
Let us look at the reason why honourable senators have to vote against a referendum proposal if they are opposed to it. Section 6a (1.) of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1936 states:
If within four weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
an argument in favour of the proposed law, consisting of not more than two thousand words, and authorised by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted for the proposed law … or
an argument against the proposed law, consisting of not more than two thousand words, and authorised by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted against the proposed law . . . the Chief Electoral Officer shall, within two months after the expiry of those four weeks . . cause to be printed and posted to each elector a pamphlet containing the arguments together with a statement showing the textual alterations and additions proposed to be made to the Constitution.
In other words, if a person wants to take advantage of the law which says that the No case shall be prepared and authorised by those who voted against the proposal in the Parliament, he has to vote against it in the Parliament. The Ministers who said eloquently. ‘It is dreadful to vote against putting this referendum to the people. If you do so you are no democrat’, were suggesting, in effect, that the people who were opposed to the referendum should not vote against it, and then all that would happen would be that only the Yes case would be presented to the electors. On the ‘no democrat’ issue, I have always understood that it was a Fascist or Communist state in which, on a big public question, only one side was put to the people. I regret that Ministers should have had the hardihood to come into this chamber and suggest that honourable senators were not entitled to vote on this matter in accordance with their own views. The effect of the adoption of that suggestion would have been that only one side of the case would have been put before the people.
I come now to another argument that has been put forward with considerable strength to the people. In my view it is a very unfortunate argument. The people are now being told that if the referendum is carried there will be an increase of about thirteen or fourteen in the number of members of the House of Representatives. If the referendum is not carried, it is said that the Government then will set to work to increase both the number of senators and the number of members of the House of Representatives. In effect, there will be many more members of Parliament. That is the favourite argument being put forward on behalf of the Government. But I would point out that it is not for the Government to say whether legislation to increase the numbers of members and senators will be passed by the Senate, because the Government has only twentyeight supporters in the Senate. It has not the right to say whether such legislation will be passed.
For that state of affairs the Government has itself to blame, for the reason that if an election had been held last year to fill the vacancies in the Senate, under the existing law the Government would have won the lot. It would have had thirty votes in the Senate. But the Government decided in its wisdom or lack of it that it would alter the legislation and enable the Australian Labor Party to win two Senate seats that it could not otherwise have won. I would love to see the Government, as a token of gratitude for all that the Democratic Labor Party has done for it, do something to help the DLP gain increased parliamentary representation. Although we delivered 450,000 preferences to put the Government in power and keep it there, our reward is that it will do nothing for us electorally. However, when the Labor Party is in a spot of bother the Government will proceed to alter the law and to give it two seats it need not otherwise have gained, thus leaving the Government with only twentyeight votes in the Senate to support its legislation, so that its supporters must run around the House in an attempt to influence some people to save it from the consequences of its own sins.
The Government cannot honestly use the argument - and in view of its plea that we should do the right thing I hope it will not - that if the referendum is turned down, instead of an increase of thirteen or fourteen members of the House of Representatives, there will be many more senators and members of the House of Representatives. Senator Murphy torpedoed that argument in the closing stages of the debate when he said very distinctly that the Australian Labor Party would not be bound by any suggestion of an increase in the number of senators if the referendum was not carried. When the representatives of the Government go before the people I hope they will not tell them that if the referendum is not carried there will be many more senators and members of the House of Representatives, because the Government has only twenty-eight votes in the Senate to carry out what it has been promising.
– Of course, the position could alter in three years time and your argument would be down the drain.
– We are talking about the present time and the Government’s argument about the referendum referred to the present.
– You are down the drain then.
– Who knows who will be down the drain in three years time? I have been associated with politics for years. In 1947 and 1952 Victoria had Labor Governments which were so good that in the normal course of events they would have been in office for years, but they were destroyed electorally on federal issues with which they had nothing to do. If that turn of events convinced me of one thing it is that anybody who predicts confidently that this or that will happen in politics, is sticking his neck out.
I come now to the question of the bona fides of the Democratic Labor Party. I appreciate the fact that many members of this House - on the Government side and elsewhere - consider that the Democratic Labor Party should set higher standards of conduct than any other political party because they will engage in any negotiations, skulduggery and all kinds of undercover arrangements with other parties, but when they see a suggestion that the DLP might possibly have an ulterior motive they believe it their duty to the community to spotlight what the DLP is doing and to say: ‘Thank God we are not as these are’. A statement has been made with great definiteness by leading Government supporters and leading members of the Australian Labor Party that the DLP is interested in gaining increased numbers in the Senate because then it will have a better chance of getting more members elected to the Senate. The Government has at its disposal a good deal of expert electoral knowledge, and I am sure that the Australian Labor Party has also. I take a great interest in the system by which senators are elected because of what I had to go through at my last election. Unlike many people, I have gone to a lot of trouble to try to find out what would be the effects if six senators were to be elected instead of five. I have gone to the trouble of getting expert advice from a gentleman at a university who knows about these things. I can assure leaders of the Government and the Opposition that if they can find evidence to show that the DLP will be better off if six senators were to be elected instead of five, I would be glad to see it because no electoral expert agrees that that would be the case. In 1958 six Victorian senators were to be elected. If what has been said is true, the theory should have worked out then. In 1958 the fifth position was filled by Senator Hannan of the Liberal Party and the sixth position was filled by Senator Sandford of the Australian Labor Party. If only five senators were to have been elected, both Senator Hannan and Senator Sandford would have lost and the fifth position would have been filled by a Democratic Labor Party candidate. So that on the only occasion when the situation provided for by this argument has been put into effect, instead of the DLP profiting by six senators being elected, in fact we were worse off.
– But there is a smaller quota.
– Whatever there is, the argument is that with an election of six senators the DLP would be better off and that therefore it is trying to feather its own nest.
– But the quota-
– Whatever the quota is, the fact remains that in the only case where it was tried out we would have been better off with five. I have had a good look at it and what I have sa’.d probably will result in the Government and the ALP getting together to work out a new system of doing the DLP in the eye. A lot of secret consultations have been held on this matter. I know, as everybody else knows, that one of th>; big factors that sold this particular referendum to the ALP was the Government’s assurance that it would stop the DLP gaining any more parliamentary representation. That was one of the big argument: that sold the idea to the ALP. Just as the ALP was sold a pup when it joined with the Australian Country Patty to defeat legislation for a redistribution of seats and thereby brought about a gerrymandered redistribution, so it has been sold a pup by the Government to accept the coming referendum.
I suggest that the ALP should have another good look at the proposition of five or six senators. I have examined it and the suggestion that the Government put forward, and which the ALP fell for, is not actually .borne out in practice by the figures. How could anybody determine how it would result, particularly in Victoria where there is a big DLP vote? In Victoria one of the most crucial factors is the position of a candidate on the ballot paper. This has a tremendous influence. When I was defeated in 1961 my name wis fourth on the ballot paper. Had my name appeared first or second on the ballot paoer I would have won by about 180,000 votes. I lost because my name was fourth on the ballot paper.
Therefore, the big factors particularly in a State like Victoria where there is a large DLP vote are not whether there are five or six vacancies. The big factors are firstly the positions that a party draws on the ballot paper and, secondly - and this is a very powerful factor - the way in which the different parties determine to cast their preferences. These are the things that decide the issue. All this talk about five or six position’s is not based upon any study of the electoral facts as they exist. It merely appears to me that when some people have said that the DLP has more hope of success they have not examined the .situation. If they had, they would come to a very different conclusion from the one that they have arrived at. Now, I hope that this referendum will be defeated.
– Of course it will.
– It will be supported by the Government.
– With tongue in cheek.
– Yes, it will be supported by some Liberal Party members in some States with their tongues in their cheeks. I would love to look over the shoulders of members of the Country Party in the different States when they are recording their votes. Everybody knows what the Country Party in its heart thinks of this referendum. It regards the referendum as something that is for the benefit of the Liberal Party and which the Liberal Party hopes will put it in a situation where it will have a majority that will enable it to dispense with the support of the Country Party. The Country Party put up a successful battle against a redistribution that would have done it a lot of harm a year or two ago. It did this with the assistance of the Labor Party which, if it had had any electoral sense, would have voted with the Government because it would have avoided then a much worse redistribution later. The Country Party was shrewd. Members of the Country Party are called peasants. I do not call them that. I think that they are very shrewd political actors. The Country Party has been shrewd enough to see what this referendum if carried will do to it. As I said before, I would love to look over the shoulders of Country Party senators when they go to record their votes at the referendum.
– What about the members of the Australian Labor Party? Does the honourable senator think that they will be strong?
– I think that members of the ALP will let their pencils slip when they go to record their votes in this referendum.
I now want to make a brief reference to foreign policy. Senator Ormonde made some reference to the situation in Vietnam. I would love to deal with that now but, as there will be a discussion later on foreign policy, I shall leave my remarks on his subject till then. What I want to say briefly is this: I think it is unfortunate and wrong that, with all this concentration upon affairs in Vietnam, the situation there and the fight against Communism, there is a tendency to neglect the fact that in other parts of the world there are people who have suffered under Communism for many years and who feel some resentment and some hurt at the fact that their sufferings appear to be ignored now.
I refer, for example, to the people of Hungary. Last year they celebrated the tenth anniversary since the rebellion and the wonderful fight that they put up against tyranny. Their fight against tyranny was repressed by the entry into their country of the Red Army which was guilty of atrocities and oppression of the worst type that has held this country under subjugation ever since. It also seems strange to me that people who have so much to say about the United States of America going into South Vietnam have so little to say about the fact that the Red Army has been in Hungary for years keeping the people in a state of complete subjugation.
Mr President, I hope that with all this concentration upon Asia and Vietnam we will not forget the people of Hungary and the fact that the free world still has an obligation to those people to respect their fight and to do what it can when the time comes to assist them to regain their freedom.
This situation applies not only in Hungary. The other day I received from a group of Ukrainian people living in Western Australia a petition in which they pointed out the repression that is going on in the Ukraine where for years there has been a strong independence movement that the Soviet authorities in Moscow are continually engaged in repressing. These Ukrainian people have pointed out that at the present time in the Ukraine there are such actions as the arrest and secret trial of the outstanding literary critics, and numerous arrests of intellectuals, writers and artists in Kiev and Lvov, the two principal towns of the Ukraine. These people point to the arrest and trial of a group of lawyers who have expressed their intention to raise the question of the colonial status of the Ukraine in the Soviet Union. They point to the fact that these things are going on today in the Ukraine. As true democrats we should condemn these actions. We should not forget them. But it seems to me that we are tending to forget about them at the present time.
The other day, the people of Poland attempted to celebrate one thousand years of Christianity in their country. Anybody who reads what has happened there will see instance after instance of the religious persecution that resulted in the brutal suppression of the attempts of these people to celebrate the one thousandth year of Christianity in their country. This indicates that in Poland there is no such thing as religious freedom. Of course, at the present time in the cause of peace we are told that it is necessary to appease the Soviet Union. I have here a letter from some number of Latvian citizens who have written to me as follows: it must bo mentioned that up till now Great Britain has not recognised the incorporation of the Baltic States into the ussr and England and Russia have had a financial dispute ever since the above incorporation; England demanding compensation for the property of its citizens that was nationalised in the Baltic States oy the Communists, and Russia in turn demanding $22m worth of gold deposited in London by the governments of those States before the occupation. These deposits have been blocked ever since 1940, awaiting the day when lawful governments are again restored.
Now Wilson and Kosygin have agreed to drop the demands against each other as pin of improving relations, but in the process the British Government has decided to take ove the funds entrusted to England, and use them to compensate its nationals . . . for what the Soviet Union owes it out of that money. These Latvian citizens go on to say:
This has caused a very bitter reaction among the Baltic people. Apart from the financial aspect (which is not affecting anybody directly at the moment) the move is generally seen as a Mep towards official recognition of the incorporation.
– How do these people interpret the talks between the Vatican and Mr Kosygin? Do they not welcome them either?
– They know sum.cien about world affairs to interpret appeasement when they see it. I respect these people. They have suffered under Communism. They refused to live under Communism. When they were forced to leave their own countries, they still continued the fight for free institutions. I am on their side. I think that it is regrettable in these times that the tendency appears to be rife to forget these people ind to adopt the attitude that, after all, they are expendable and that it does not matter if they are forced to live under Communism as long as we arc all right and as long as we can get the Soviet Union to make us this little concession or that little concession.
I conclude with the statement that has been so often made: Freedom is indivisible. If we think that we can obtain freedom by selling out other people, we are wrong. I am sorry at the suggestion that these people are being sold out. But that is what they are thinking at the present time. They arc thinking that. I hope that we will adopt a stronger and a firmer attitude and that we will support the legitimate aspirations of these people for freedom for tne countries to which they belong.
– Mr President, I intended to raise a certain matter on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate tonight, but the Whip of my Party has informed me that you have told him already that there is quite a long list of speakers for the adjournment debate. Therefore I take this opportunity because of the wide scope that the Address-in-Reply offers for debate to raise this matter now. On Saturday in Western Australia there was a land sale at a place called City Beach. Fifty four blocks of land were sold and returned $447,700 to the vendors. They were building blocks and not industrial blocks. The top price was $10,800, and twelve were sold for more than $8,000 each. The lowest price was §6,400. This is not a matter of greatmoment lo the Commonwealth Parliament except that it highlights, if highlighting were necessary, the parlous position that applies to land for building and industrial purposes. I refer particularly to land for housing purposes and the obvious effect of high prices on the cost of building.
The bad feature of this matter is that nobody is doing much about it except, of course, the land speculators. There is something wrong with the nation, whether it is at the Commonwealth, State or municipal level, when home owners, and particularly young people about to get married, can be exploited in this way. It is not good enough when these people, in an affluent society, can become submerged financially. This begins a vicious circle and it is high time somebody stepped in.
– In what suburb was this land?
– At City Beach, about eight or nine miles from Perth.
– What was the snob value put on the land?
– I shall deal with the question of snob value in a moment, because this is the type of thinking that contributes to the vicious circle I have mentioned. Let me say in fairness to Senator Prowse that the State Housing Commission would not be interested in his suburb. It is not the sort of land where mass produced houses would be built. The vendor was the Perth City Council. For a long time the Council has, so far as it can, used the classic private enterprise system of juggling supply and demand. As I have said, fifty-four blocks and not 200 or 300 blocks were sold. Over the years this has been the deliberate policy of the Perth City Council in its role as land speculator. It keeps up the price of land in this area ‘by selling in small lots. Originally it was endowment land given by the Western Australian Government. The idea was that the proceeds would be spent on the improvement of the area. I do not know whether it is proposed to put a monument on every street corner to the glories of free enterprise or perhaps to build a lake which could be called Stickers’ Lake, but nearly $448,000 is not a bad return to get from one sale.
Over the years the Perth City Council has been acting as a top speculator. It has been doing on a grand scale what thousands of people have been doing in cither parts of Australia and particularly in Western Australia. The attitude is that it is all right to leave land for housing in the hands of free enterprise. The Commonwealth Government itself gives a modieum of help in housing by granting $500 to home builders who save $1,500 in certain circumstances. I notice that those concerned never refuse to accept the unearned Increment from government spending on development. All this is done under free enterprise. It will be said, and probably by a Minister if I can get a reply, that this is a State problem. I suggest that it is everybody’s problem, and particularly that of those who have the privilege of development. Whether development be done by the Commonwealth, a State government or municipalities, some of that problem comes under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
We have the situation today where there is less government building and more building in the hands of private people. This situation will worsen. When a State government acquires a large area of land it is possible to keep the price of blocks down, but au State governments fall behind in their proportion of building the price of land increases and has a marked effect on the cost of building. I suggest to ‘.he Government that it set up a royal commission or an inquiry into land control and the effect of land prices on building costs. That is the overall step that is necessary. I have several suggestions to make, but I feel quite inadequate, as anybody would after looking into all the facets that have developed in land speculation over the past tew years.
A royal commission could investigate such proposals as that made in the Western Australian Parliament, but which has now been shelved. This was for a special surtax on unimproved land, such as blocks that were held for a long time. There would have to be special safeguards, because the last thing in the world anyone would want to do is to put a surtax on land held by a young person who had the foresight to buy a block four, five or six years before he intended to marry. This position could be safeguarded by making a surcharge which could be refunded if the owner built on the land within a stated period of five or six years. Perhaps there could be a limit on the number of blocks of land held by one person, as is done in the case of chemist shops in Western Australia. Nobody is allowed to have more than two such shops. Let us say that nobody could hold more than two blocks of land. Steps must be taken to protect middle aged persons who might decide that they want a smaller house when their family leaves them, and buy land in a suburb to suit them in anticipation of that time No reasonable person v/ould object to such people buying one block for future requirements. The first proposition would protect younger people and the second would protect older people.
There is no doubt that more land must be released. Pressure must be brought to bear on government departments to ensure that they do not hold land beyond their requirements. Although they are supposed to be following this policy of restraint I doubt it. Municipal councils in the various States should be made to disgorge land. They should not be allowed to hold it for speculation, as the Perth City Council is doing. At the same time land should be rezoned. In a country like Australia, where there is so much undeveloped land, there should not be provision for zoning land for a particular purpose so that some organisation can say: ‘This land will be divided into building blocks but not in the next ten or fifteen years’. If the Commonwealth Government financed Slate Governments, this would reverse the position of the Perth City Council, which manipulates supply and demand so that the demand does not meet the supply. If this v/ere reversed and competition came into the field it would be a step towards grappling with the problem of unearned increments.
In an expanding country land values never fall. There are not only big speculators in the field. Thousands of people who have a few spare dollars put a deposit on a block of land knowing very well that they will have a tax free increment in a year or two. Therefore, even if there is a slight recession or a credit squeeze or something like that, if they have paid, say, $4,000 for a block of land, they are not going to turn around and sell it, because it has been bought with spare money. They are able to afford to sit back. They know full well that, in an expanding country like Australia, particularly with an expanding population, something has to happen. They know that they will make an increment out of it somewhere along the track.
Another matter which should be considered - it has been considered often in the past - is the imposition of a capital gains tax. There must be problems in the introduction of a capital gains tax to cover the whole structure of earning money. In this case I would suggest that an investigation should be made into the possibility of applying the tax only to land. Although this would not stop speculators it would make it less profitable for them to hold on to land. It would bring back to the Government some of the profit that is made as a result of money being spent by the Government somewhere along the line. I know that for the Commonwealth to undertake an investigation on its own would mean that in some ways we would not get the full inquiry that we want. I do not see any reason why any State Government would not want to cooperate. Surely no State Government has got anything out of having a housing problem which has been given a vicious twist by land speculation. I would suggest that the Commonwealth has some pretty persuasive powers over State governments. After all, in the final analysis the Commonwealth pays the piper. Therefore it ought to call the tune. If the State governments do not want to co-operate - if the Commonwealth cannot or will not use its persuasive powers - my final recommendation is that the Commonwealth Government should go it alone. It should hold an inquiry. It should elevate it to a royal commission if it wishes. It ought to do something about this very urgent situation.
I took this opportunity to raise this matter only because of what happened on Saturday. But this is not unique. This is not the end of it. The next bulk land sale that is held in that area or in another area will produce a worse situation than arose last Saturday. I do not know whether Senator Prowse was with me or against me when he interjected and referred to a snob value in this area. Let us make no mistake about this: When you boot up the price in one area it has an effect right down to the most humble block in any part of the State. Although a person will not pay the same prices for other land that does not have a view of the sea or is not in a high position, nevertheless high prices will set a standard which will boot up prices all along the track. This is an unhealthy sign in the community. It has created a very real problem for those people who want to go out, select a block of land and build a home. I say to the Government that the time is overripe for something to be done. Something should have been done years ago. But nevertheless I urge the Government, with all the power at my command, to set up an inquiry, if not with the co-operation of the State governments then without it. In other words, the Commonwealth should go “t alone.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) agreed to -
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such honourable senators as may desire to accompany him.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply to his opening Speech at Government House on Tuesday, 11th April, at 4 p.m. 1 extend an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany me on the occasion of the presentation.
– by leave - 1 present the following paper:
Report of the Delegation from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the Twelfth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Ottawa, Canada. and I ask for leave to propose a motion in relation to it.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The report deals with the Conference, the meetings of the General Council, the general meeting of the Association, and the visit to Canada. The delegation consisted of the Minister for Air, Mr Howson, as Leader, Senator Lacey, the former honourable member for Deakin, Mr Davis, the former honourable member for Hughes, Mr Johnson, the honourable member for West Sydney, Mr Minogue, and myself. Mr Howson was Branch representative on the General Council. Some 70 Branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association were represented by over 140 delegates who in turn represented a total membership of the Association which is just under 7,000 members of legislatures.
The report was recently circulated to all senators and members. As a full verbatim report of the Conference discussions will shortly be issued by the General Council, the report which I have presented is restricted to a summary of the main points of the discussions which took place in the Conference, the General Council and the General Meeting but emphasis is placed on matters of major interest and the views expressed by your delegates are given in condensed form.
The proceedings in Ottawa lasted nine days during which there were eight sessions of the Conference, three sessions of Conference committees, three meetings of the General Council and one day was set aside for Council sub-committees. The Conference discussions covered a wide range of subjects. Many issues of interest to the Commonwealth of Nations and to the world were, raised but it was most striking that although there was inevitably a divergence of opinion in particular matters there was also a sense of common purpose directed towards the peace and well-being of countries of the world. This note was struck by the opener of the first session, the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, who prefaced his speech with the certainty that the Commonwealth cannot be immune from world conflicts and disturbances.
Honourable senators will agree with me that the importance of the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association should never be under estimated and that each delegate as a parliamentarian has a power greater than that given to most men to influence the course of events in the world. Tt is for them to use this privilege wisely and well.
Each CPA Conference is primarily a meeting of parliamentarians, all speaking the same language and this enables a better and easier understanding of the views which each delegate expresses. Delegates are free to participate in the Conference discussions uninhibited by the views of their Governments but, at the same time, assisted by statements of Government policy made by those delegates who are at the same time Ministers. It is from this that a consensus of opinion emerges. This consensus is of great value because it is the practice of the Association that proceedings take the form of discussions and no resolutions are passed.
At the instance of the Australian Branch two subjects were discussed, the first being food resources and the population explosion, and the second the creation of an informal link between the CPA and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The discussion on food resources and the population explosion revealed the serious nature of the problem confronting the world. Since the end of the last war world population growth had doubled from 1% to 2% a year and was steadily increasing. United Nations estimates showed that the world population of 3,000 million of 1960 would have more than doubled to reach 6,300 million in the year 2000. This would necessitate an increase in animal products of 300%, in cereal products of at least 33% and of milk, meat, fish and eggs of at least 100% in order to achieve an adequate nutritional standard.
On behalf of the Australian Branch Mr Howson opened the discussion on the creation of an informal link between the CPA and the Prime Ministers. Our Leader stressed that the Branch was not at this stage putting forward any definite proposal but rather was seeing whether there was a consensus favouring a link which could be of value to parliaments and governments. The proposal was strongly endorsed by the great majority of delegates who stressed that it should be on a wholly informal basis and, in the result, the subject was referred for consideration by a working party appointed to review the whole field of CPA activities.
Other discussions ranged over international affairs, Commonwealth self help, trade and aid and parliamentary government in the Commonwealth. In regard to aid, Mr Howson was happy to be able to direct attention to Australia’s record in external aid which in the previous year amounted to $133m equivalent to .65% of the gross national product, a rate of contribution exceeded only by Britain, France, the United States and Belgium and, in the Commonwealth, second only to Britain. Moreover, our leader was able to say that Australian aid was wholly in the form of grants.
An interesting innovation was the discussion of two subjects in committee instead of in the plenary sessions of the Conference. Committee proceedings allowed a more detailed and flexible discussion and many delegates took the opportunity to attend both committees, which met concurrently.
It is quite likely that the use of committees will be expanded.
Another departure was an address given by Mr Arnold Smith, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, at a special meeting of delegates. This was followed by a question period during which many probing and critical questions were asked of Mr Smith in relation to some things he had said, and the activities of the secretariat. It was obvious that many delegates were concerned to know the limits of the Secretary-General’s authority, particularly where this might touch on the policies of governments. The address and the question session will be reported in full in the verbatim report to which I referred earlier.
Turning now to the meetings of the General Council, where Mr Howson was our representative, the most interesting decision, particularly for the Australian Branch, was for the establishment of a working party. The Australian Branch had proposed the appointment of a relatively small management committee which could deal with management problems more effectively than could the large General Council. This proposal was referred to an ad hoc subcommittee of the General Council which recommended that in anticipation of the appointment of a management committee, the need for which was recognised, a working party of twelve members with an independent chairman be appointed for 1966-67 with wide terms of reference. This recommendation was agreed to by the General Council and a working party consisting of twelve members, of which Mr Howson was privileged to be appointed chairman, was established. The terms of reference were very wide but covered specifically the setting up of a management committee, die evolution of the aims and tasks of the Association, the constitution of the Association, the frequency of parliamentary conferences and the form they should take, the exchange of parliamentary delegations, the CPA and the Prime Ministers Conference and the CPA and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The working party is scheduled to meet in Malta towards the end of May.
It was, I feel, a tribute to the active part played by the Australian Branch in Association affairs that Mr Howson was appointed chairman of the working party. It is too, I am sure, a tribute to the valuable work of Senator Sir Alister McMullin during the many years in which he was, in one capacity or another, a member of the General Council. His influence was considerable and his withdrawal was a loss which was felt very much by the Australian Branch.
The General Council confirmed that the Thirteenth Conference to be held this year would be in Uganda, which had offered to be the host country. The position regarding 1968 is as yet uncertain.
All delegates were most appreciative of the arrangements for the Conference and the visit which were made by the Canadian Branch. Delegates were given every opportunity to see vast areas of Canada and to meet the Canadian people. I should like to pay particular tribute to Senator John Connolly of Canada, Chairman of the Conference and of the General Council, and to Mr John Turner, MP, Chairman of the Canadian Branch.
I have dealt very briefly with the events in Canada but will refer this report and the verbatim report to the attention of honourable senators for their closer study. I conclude by saying that we were privileged and honoured to represent the Australian Branch in Ottawa. 1 feel sure all delegates appreciated Mr Howson’s leadership. For me the visit to Canada was an experience never to be forgotten. It gave us all an opportunity to have a better understanding of the problems of the people in the Commonwealth.
– I have much pleasure in seconding Senator Bull’s motion that the Senate take note of this report. I was privileged to be a member of the delegation attending the Conference at Ottawa and I should like to refer to the tours of Canada which were arranged for us. They occupied a fortnight’s travel, mostly by aircraft, and required adherence to a really tight schedule. Unfortunately, some of our members fell by the wayside, but most of us were able to see it through. The tour by delegates from the various countries was deemed to be an integral part of the Conference. It was quite an education to be in daily contact with delegates from the other Commonwealth countries, particularly those from Africa, Jamaica, India, Malaysia and others too numerous to men- tion. I pay tribute to the hospitality extended by Canadian governments, both provincial and federal. Without doubt it was overwhelming. We were treated to many privileges that would not be accorded the average person in Canada whether he be a member of Parliament or an ordinary citizen.
The vast resources of Canada were unfolded to us day by day, mostly in air travel but sometimes in bus travel, and we saw some remarkable sights in the form of agriculture. We saw great prairies under wheat - they were harvesting at that time - the bulk handling of the wheat crop and, on another occasion the treatment of fish at the Lunnenberg cannery where 600 employees were canning tons of fish every hour. Eight trawlers are associated with that cannery and it was remarkable to see the way in which the employees handled the product. The cannery has even reached the stage of producing from the offal a meat meal fit for human consumption. We saw the great logging undertakings, the paper mills, the huge smelters and steel works and the motor vehicle factories. Canada’s vast resources, which are at the disposal of these industrial undertakings, were unfolded to us from day to day. On all occasions we had the privilege of members of management dining with us and explaining as fully as we required the various aspects of their undertakings.
This was my first tour overseas as a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It was a great experience. I pay tribute to you, Sir Alister, for the great part you have played through the years in the affairs of the CPA. There were numerous inquiries about you before your arrival in Canada, and I know that during your stay you were inundated with invitations. You are truly respected for the great part you have played in the affairs of the Association. Sir John McLeay was also highly honoured by the assembly and the great work he has performed through the years was lauded. Mr Howson played a very prominent part in the visit as did Mr Turner, our secretary. Those of us who were making our first visit experienced no difficulties or delays. Our papers were right on the line when we required them. In general, everything was made easy for us.
Senator Bull mentioned the committee which dealt with food resources and the population explosion. 1 was not a member of that committee but I heard some of the debate in General Council and it was most informative. The committee on which I served dealt with the question whether the parliamentary system today fulfilled the needs of the people, and with associated matters. My only contribution to the committee’s deliberations related to the system which has been adopted in Australia for the election of senators. 1 learned to my surprise that in Canada senators are appointed, not elected. The Canadian senators were just as greatly surprised to learn that senators in Australia had to submit to an election every six years. So we were able by an exchange of views to learn a lot about parliamentary systems. Particularly were other delegates pleased to learn something of our electoral system. We each had only ten minutes in which to speak and I made an endeavour to explain how the Senate electoral system here was a derivation of the Hare-Clark system. Other delegates had never heard of this system, which is used in Tasmania alone for elections to the State Parliament, but I hope I did inform them to some extent about the system and its worthiness us far as we Tasmanians are concerned. This created some excitement in subsequent speeches, particularly from some of the coloured people who claimed that proportional representation had ruined democracy in their own states, and who would not have a part of it. Of course, they see things differently from us, because some of them have one party parliaments. On one occasion an opposition was wiped out completely. By the good grace of the governing party the Premier of the country created an opposition of five members, who were there on sufferance and could be disposed of at any stage.
All that I want to do is to supplement what Senator Bull had to say about the Conference, to say what a great experience it was and to laud again what was done for us by the Canadian Government as our hosts. It left nothing undone. The tours in particular were very informative. Our association with delegates from various countries, as we met them from day to day, travelled with them, ate with them and per haps had a drink or two with them, helped us to understand what it meant to belong to the Commonwealth of Nations. For my part, 1 hope that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will continue to grow, that there will be a better understanding amongst the countries concerned, and that on some future occasion it will be my privilege again to go to some part of the world to take part in the business of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, as it was my privilege to do in Canada.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Commonwealth Hostels Ltd - Immigration - Flood Relief in Queensland
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator POYSER (Victoria) [10.23,’- I rise to express my keen disappointment at the fact that the dispute between hostel tenants and Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has developed to a stage where we now have demonstrations in the city of Melbourne. 1 understand that tenants in other cities of this nation will be demonstrating in a like manner. I did make an appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to have a further look at this matter before it was out of hand, but unfortunately this has not been done. A number of tenants in Melbourne are facing summonses in the Court of Petty Sessions and I understand that in Sydney and Queensland the same procedure is to take place in the next week or so.
I have made a further examination of the contract that persons sign when they become tenants of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. It is truly a one-sided contract that gives the tenant a lot of responsibilities. It has a number of clauses in which responsibility is placed entirely on the tenant to observe the conditions of the contract. But nowhere do I find any responsibility accepted by this Commonweath Government in relation to the conditions that, it should provide for tenants in these hostels. I concede that technically and legally the tenants concerned probably have no defence because they have refused to pay the difference between the old tariff and the new. But I believe that the Government and Commonwealth Hostels Ltd have a moral obligation to make conditions in these hostels livable. The tenants of the hostels should get justice for the tariffs they are paying. I appeal to the Government to look again at the tenancy contracts and to accept some responsibility in the matter of conditions in hostels. lt is normal to have a tenancy contract between a tenant and a landlord but ordinarily both parties to the contract have certain responsibilities, for example regarding the condition of the property in general. But the contract between hostel tenants and the Government is completely one sided. We as a Parliament have a moral obligation to look further into this matter before more summonses are issued. What is happening will be most damaging to our immigration programme. The programme will suffer greatly because of the adverse publicity which this matter will receive in Britain and on the Continent following the Government’s action firstly in issuing summonses before it looked further into the matter and secondly for issuing summonses at this stage only to a selected number of migrants. It is very significant that no summonses have yet been issued to any tenant of the Brooklyn Hostel. In my view the obvious reason for this is that the hostel is in such a shocking condition that the publicity that would attend the issuing of summonses to tenants of that hostel would be very damaging not only to our immigration programme but to the Government generally.
Selected persons in various hostels have been issued with summonses. Quite a number of tenants who have refused to pay the increased tariff have not as yet been served with summonses. The most significant feature of this matter is the fact that so far no action at all has been taken in respect of one hostel. It is very significant that this hostel is the worst in Victoria. I believe that the adverse publicity about hostel conditions in Australia is one reason why the flow of migrants from Britain has declined to the present level. I am not the only person concerned with this matter. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures also is very concerned at our inability to keep our migrants. In a leading article appearing in the November 1966 issue of its journal, published just before the dispute arose, the Chamber said:
This outflow of migrants and the occasional expression of dissatisfaction amongst our immigrant community poses the question of whether we are really prepared for large-scale immigration programmes.
It is useless trying to attract migrants to Australia and expect them to stay if they are to be greeted by sub-standard living conditions, a dearth of jobs, and lack of incentives to stay.
The Chamber had more to say on the subject in its February 1967 issue in which it deprecated the situation whereby citizens who come to this country are not able to obtain decent housing within a reasonable period of time.
I understand that there will be a series of meetings of tenants throughout Australia and publicity about this matter will be fed to British and European newspapers, indicating what the tenants believe to be the truth of the situation that exists here. We have been told by Senator Wedgwood that there will be some alleviation of this problem in the near future because of two new hostels which are to be built, one at Springvale and the other at Randwick. I have not received a reply from the Minister to my question on this subject, but I understand that each of these hostels will accommodate only about 1,000 tenants. Even on the basis of a stay in the hostel of thirty-seven weeks by each tenant, about 18,000 migrants annually will have to put up with the conditions which have existed in hostels for many years. Although the two new hostels will alleviate the situation to some degree they certainly will not lessen the bad publicity that we have received because of conditions at existing hostels.
In Queensland a few units in the hostel at Wacol are better than the normal accommodation on that property, but hostel tenants are charged a premium to occupy those units. Does the Government intend that a similar situation should operate in the new hostels which are to be opened at Springvale and Randwick? If so we will have a system in which people on the lower scale of wages will never be able to enjoy the better class accommodation. Another aspect of the accommodation in Queensland is that tenants are compelled to sign a contract which provides that they must leave the hostel within six months instead of the two years which is the usual term in a hostel. This also reacts against the lower income group. Only persons in the higher salary groups are able to give that kind of guarantee because only they are able to save enough to enable them to purchase a home in the outside community. We have the situation now that although something is being done it is too little and too late. As I said earlier, the publicity will continue for two years. It will not stop until such time as the new accommodation is made available. I appeal to the Government to look further at this question and to withdraw the summonses which have been issued. I suggest that a complete re-assessment of the tariff and conditions at hostels should be made before we go too far.
I propose to produce figures to show that it is a matter of record that the health of the community inside the hostels is not nearly as good as the health of people living outside hostels within the same suburbs. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ a fortnight ago published a report which showed that thirteen migrants from hostels are ill with infectious hepatitis and are now in the infectious diseases ward of the Fairfield Hospital. The total number of cases in the whole of Victoria is forty. The fact that thirteen tenants at this date are in Fairfield infectious diseases hospital with hepatitis, whereas the total for the State is only forty, shows quite conclusively that a disproportionate number of persons who are ill with this disease are from migrant hostels. Nine of the thirteen patients are from the Broadmeadows Hostel, to which I referred in this place a couple of weeks ago. Official figures from the Inspector of Health at Broadmeadows shows that an 24th March, when the figures were taken out, thirteen hostel tenants had hepatitis. This represented 1.43% of the tenants of the hostel at Broadmeadows. There were 108 cases of hepatitis in the whole municipality, which represented only 0.12% of the total population of this area. Among hostel tenants the incidence of infantile diarrhoea was 0.22%. whereas among people outside the hostel in Broadmeadows it was 0.4% . The position with relation to scarlet fever is similar in that .099% of those living in the hostel area contracted the disease while only 024% of those living outside the area were afflicted by it. These are official figures furnished to me by the health inspector at Broadmeadows. They prove conclusively that the accommodation and habits at the hostels are prejudicial to the health of the inmates, particularly the younger people. The only comment of the Victorian manager of Commonwealth Hostels about this matter was:
We put posters up in every lavatory block this week, and if you went around now 1 guarantee there wouldn’t be one left.
Apparently the management’s method of solving the hepatitis problem is to paste up notices in the lavatory blocks. Not one modern facility has been provided in any of the places where these people are living.
Another point which I have raised in the past and will continue to raise is that the parents are unable to supervise the washing habits of their children properly. I suggest that perhaps economic circumstances are the main cause of the destruction of these notices in the hostel lavatories. In most cases both the mother and the father are working, with the result that bands of children are roaming the hostel areas without parental control for a great number of hours during the day. I submit that this vandalism, which extends to the pulling down of notices, is the result of the environment in which these people are living. 1 ask that the matter be given urgent attention.
I believe in the immigration programme. 1 believe that we should be taking in as many British and European migrants as the country can afford to bring here. I also believe that if something is not done immediately to ensure that our immigrants get a fair crack of the whip when they arrive in this country and that they are provided with reasonable accommodation and healthy conditions for their families, our immigration programme will be prejudiced for many years to come.
– I wish to associate myself with Senator Poyser’s remarks. Most of what he has said about Victoria applies with equal force to New South Wales. My complaint lies in the fact that although a deputation led by me and Senator Poyser waited upon the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) on 27th February, no action has yet been taken despite the fact that the Minister admitted the validity of the arguments submitted. Mr Bury, as Minister for Labour and National Service, has had a tremendous amount of experience of industrial unrest in recent years. 1 suggest that a classic analogy for the purposes of my argument here is the application by the Miners Federation for a shorter working week. In that case, the tribunal rejected the application for a shorter working week but it granted long service leave conditions instead. After the delegation waited upon the Minister on 27th February, we had another summit talk between my Deputy Leader, Senator Cohen, Mr Whitlam and the Minister.
We are realists, just as are the members of the migrants’ committees. In protracted negotiations, one looks for a reasonable compromise, which does not necessarily mean a complete surrendering of principle. The members of the New South Wales committee have said to me: ‘The Minister has expressed certain views. Surely he could make some tangible offer.’ I have discussed the matter with the members of my Party and I know that Senator Poyser will -agree with me when I say that two main points stand out. One is that every new born baby appears to be looked upon as another increase in tariff. We hear a great deal about the need to increase our population. I suggest that if the Government is determined to remain adamant in its decision to increase tariffs it should at least grant some concession for the fourth child and subsequent children. That was one suggestion.
We are talking about immigration in general. Dr Appleyard made a survey. I do not necessarily accept the figures that he gave. He said that the average British migrant comes to Australia with something like £200 or £300. He believes that if the average migrant had £500 to begin with as a starting fund for housing he could build it up. My reaction to that is that we must think in terms of overall government costs and allocations for housing. When we met the Board of Directors of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, Sir Tasman Heyes, an extremely competent’ public servant, pointed out that the organisation operates as a business on the domestic side but that much of the present situation has stemmed from Cabinet decisions. While we address our remarks to the Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Bury, we know that the Treasury and the Department of Immigration are equally culpable. With the decline in the number of servicemen qualifying for assistance from the War Service Homes Division since the Korean War, the call on the Government’s housing funds is less and some of those funds could be transferred for the purposes proposed by Dr Appleyard. It can be said that the Minister has made a decision and the Cabinet has made a decision. However, 1 refute that. 1 find that Mr Peter Heydon, Secretary of the Department of Immigration, has said publicly that not enough attention has been given to psychological factors.
Let me be a little more specific about aspects of immigration mentioned by Senator Poyser. Between 1st January and 25th March of this year 33,557 prospective British migrants sought assisted passages to Australia, whereas in the same period last year the number was something like 50,075. In the same period of last year, 65,000 inquiries were made at Australia House in London by intending migrants, compared with only 51,000 in the corresponding period of this year. The next stage was reached when an article written by a journalist named Curtis was published in the ‘Australian’. He hinted that the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the State housing commissions, was seeking to establish a form of priorities for certain classes of British migrants. All this confirms the fact that here we ure confronted not merely with some isolated agitation. I believe that the Minister himself would agree that the persons who spoke for the British migrants were extremely temperate. Many of the British people who have come here held administrative positions in Malaya and other former British possessions. We are not dealing here merely with a case of rabble rousing. I repeat that the times in which we now live are different from the early post-war years when Britain faced many urgent economic problems.
Unless we can reduce to a minimum this barracks complex that arises in hostels we shall find discontent. As a matter of fact, Mr Brown, the General Manager of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd spoke of breaking through the thirty-week barrier when he was discussing the turn-over of migrants. If the Government insists on having its way and remains inflexible, we shall get a backlog of inmates of hostels at this end and at the English end a longer queue of intending migrants. However, some of the prospective migrants in Che longer queue in England may attain higher incomes and decline to come to Australia. Others no doubt will still want to come. In any event, the net result will be that our immigration target will not be met. Nobody wants to prolong the present controversy. I know that Opposition members in all States who have identified the existing trouble have nol indulged in any rabble rousing and have not engaged in any stunts. Sane and reasonable statements have been made. Last week in Sydney at a meeting that I attended, certain pamphlets were displayed. One fellow said to me: ‘Look, chum, these pamphlets are to go to every pub, every club and every trade union in Britain’. Honourable senators might say: ‘Where do we go from here?’. Well, I will return to my original remarks.
The art of government surely is in making some concession. In view of the remarks of Mr Heydon, Secretary of the Department of Immigration, concerning this psychological disturbance, surely the Government can examine the alternative suggestions made by Senator Cohen and Mr Whitlam as a follow-up to what Senator Poyser and I said. These people have exercised their democratic right by meeting the Minister. Mr Bury, the Minister concerned, said: ‘I was a British migrant myself. I battled and I have done all right.’ I suppose he has done all right. I give him credit for making Cabinet rank. But if, similarly, a trade union secretary told his members: ‘I have done all right. I am your spokesman’, they would say to him that he was in a good position and did not have to be in a workshop for most of his life. It is the same with these British migrants. They have to deal with their day to day problems, and I do not know how long patience will last in the present situation. - 1 know that in the mid 1950’s an ugly situation arose in New South Wales involving some Italian migrants. In that instance I did not blame the Australian Government. The Italian Consul had to accept the responsibility. But surely we can learn from these things. I join with Senator Poyser in saying that surely it is not impossible to overcome this if we can bring forward alternative proposals.
While I am on my feet and while migration is being discussed again I would like to refer to another sector of British migrants. I want to speak about those women who came here in the early postwar years as British war brides. I suppose that these women would be in their late thirties or early forties and that their children would be 12, 14 or more years of age. Those women are in a cleft stick. Many of them were aged from 18 to 22 when they lived in Britain during the Second World War. They were working in British factories and, as in Australia, had to contribute to compulsory war savings schemes. Today the children borne by these women are at an age when costs are so high and demands are so great. But these women find that they will not get the £50 or £100 from those compulsory savings until they are 55 years of age. Their husbands are Australian taxpayers and are finding that the shoe is pinching because of high family costs. I refer to men who receive, say, building tradesmens wages. I think that this Government should show a little imagination and say to the Government of the United Kingdom that it will make the going a little easier for these people. The Government should say to the U.K. Government: We know that when these people reach the age of 55 you will have to meet this demand. We know that you have economic problems. But these people are our citizens. We will give them the equivalent £50 or £60 and when they reach the qualifying age you can reimburse us.’ It is all very nice to talk on statistics but we are dealing with people, not figures. If honourable senators mix with these people they will find that they love their children and want to do something for them. This sum of $100. or whatever the amount is, is quite a lot when people are living on a knife edge. The present false economy of excessive overtime is transparent. If honourable senators speak to people who work a set 40-hour week and receive a wage for that period they will find what such people are up against. 1 appeal to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service to request the Minister, who is a British migrant himself, to appreciate the salary problems that these people have to face. I appeal to him to take note of the eloquence of the speech made tonight by Senator Poyser. Secondly, 1 appeal to the Government to talk to Mr Callaghan, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, about the problems confronting the mothers of these children of 11 or 12 years of age who were born as a result of Anglo-Australian marriages and to come forward with some simple solution whereby the wants of these people will be met today and not in twelve or fifteen years time when the women concerned attain the age of fifty-five.
– I want to speak briefly this evening about the problem of the recent disastrous floods in north Queensland. There are a number of factors I would like to mention. Some of them are critical because of actions that have or have not taken place, and I want to refer to what 1 feel are worthwhile suggestions for overcoming such things in the future. I believe that the onus is squarely on the Federal Government in this instance, as it was in respect of the recent fires in Tasmania, to ensure, firstly, that adequate protection measures are taken - in this case adequate flood prevention measures - and secondly, that sufficient funds are made available for relief when disaster overtakes us.
These floods at their worst point extended from the Cooktown region to south of Ingham. Only one helicopter was available. lt was used on the Atherton Tableland. It was the small Bell type and was privately owned. On the evening of 13th March the first Royal Australian Air Force helicopter arrived at Rockhampton or Bundaberg and was subsequently taken on to Townsville. This was used as a base the following morning. A second Air Force helicopter was then made available. The procedure that had to be followed was that a Hercules aircraft had to travel from Richmond to Fairbairn in Canberra, lift the helicopter and take it to the far north. Other helicopters were then made available and operated from the Amberley base. At the height of this disaster, on 14th March, I sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt):
Urgency request that immediate action be taken by the Federal Government to commence assessment of damage caused by disastrous floods in north Queensland with a view to substantial relief being provided by way of a Commonwealth grant Earnestly request also that the Commonwealth Government make available at once a grant of sufficient finance to enable immediate relief to be given to all those who have suffered personal loss and hardship as a result ot flood damage.
It is now 4th April and that telegram has not even been acknowledged by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Australian Labor Party, particularly those who represent electorates in north Queensland in the State Parliament, made a similar appeal at about the same time. The Premier of Queensland, which must be regarded as having a hillbilly government, refused to admit that a crisis has been reached. When the State member for Cairns, Mr Jones, approached htm with a view to having a discussion about the flood - at that time the waters were flowing through parts of his electorate - the Premier refused to meet him.
I took the opportunity to travel over the worst affected areas in a light aircraft. It was a disastrous sight. I saw stock stranded in trees - dead, of course. Many hundreds of cattle, particularly in the grazing area south of Ingham, and pigs, fowls and other livestock on small farms, from which people obtained their livelihood, were completely lost as a result of this flood. It would take me a considerable time to give the details. They have been published fairly extensively in most of the newspapers; so it is not necessary for me to do so.
During the Tasmanian fire disaster the Government sent a senior Minister to Tasmania to liaise with the State Government. I believe that that was the right action. Subsequently the Prime Minister himself visited Tasmania. That did not happen in respect of the Queensland flood. The statistics prove that in some areas this flood was as serious as that of 1927, except that in the latter flood about thirty lives were lost. On this occasion, thank God, no lives were lost. The reason for that was good organisation in the local area and not any steps that had been taken by the Federal Government in the field of flood mitigation.
At the time the newly elected Federal member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) - I suppose ‘he would be a junior member of the government parties - announced in a Press statement that the Prime Minister had given him special leave to go to north Queensland to have a look at the flood area and to see what could be done. Why should a junior member of the Parliament be sent to look at this disaster when a senior Minister went to Tasmania to look at a disaster in a different field? Unfortunately the Liberal members of the Senate, which was not sitting during the worst week of the floods, were not heard of. I do not blame Senator Morris as he probably had trouble on his own property in the Cooktown area. There was no sign of Senator Heatley at this stage. In fact it was not until seventeen days afterwards - I am sorry that I have to do this to Senator Heatley - that he went north, and he then made a political football of this matter. I do not blame him for that because I know he is battling for preselection in the Liberal Party.
On 23rd March the Prime Minister made another announcement. He said that the Government was keeping in close touch with the Queensland Government. But there was still no announcement of any financial aid. lt was about this time that the Chairman of the Hinchinbrook Shire Council made what I thought was a very good statement. I shall read only part of a report concerning it. The statement was made on 22nd March, and the report reads:
Hinchinbrook Shire chairman (Councillor W. O. Garbutt) yesterday criticised the lack of immediate aid action by the State and Federal Governments for this flood ravaged area.
He told the monthly Shire Council meeting he was ‘irked and saddened’ by the fact that there had been no direct offer of relief from either Government.
Although, mercifully, there had been no loss of life, the northern flood disaster was worse than the Tasmanian bush fire disaster, Cr Garbutt said.
Then, the Prime Minister (Mr Holt) had seen fu to send a senior Minister to Tasmania and later visited the disaster area himself.
Although there were two State Ministers - Primary Industries Minister (Mr Row) and Main Roads Minister (Mr Camm) - touring the north-
I will have more to say about that in a moment - there had still been no direct promise of flood relief grants.
Cr Garbutt said the most conservative damage estimate in the Ingham district alone was five million dollars. No local authority could afford to repay loans for their rehabilitation. The ratepayers simply would be unable to meet the repayments.
The article continues:
Cane Growers’ Association experts had estimated that already 20 per cent of the district’s cane was a write-off. This involved 350,000 to 400,000 tons of cane.
Although he had conferred with Mr Row and Mr Camm, there had been no talk of a guaranteed grant for the district.
Since then there has been a promise of aid for local government and other works such as main roads, the rehabilitation of the railway line and so on, but there has been no other suggestion of aid except for some vague sort of promise of matching grants lor personal losses.
The two Ministers to whom I referred a lew moments ago made a statement, subsequently published, to the effect that the loss per household would be $200. I. venture to say that if a flood completely submerged a house or covered it to the extent where all the furniture was damaged by the flood, the sum of $200 would not pay the cost of one refrigerator. It would not pay the cost of one decent lounge suite, of one decent bedroom suite, an electric stove or any of the other things that today are regarded not as luxuries in a home but necessities. As a result of the collection of charitable funds it is possible that each family may get $50 or £25 in our old currency. What is this going to do? It will not pay for supplies from the butcher, the baker and the other tradesmen to keep a family for more than a week. A story is told of aid that was granted to a grazier in the Tully area. Of 350 head of stock he lost 320 and from the relief grant he is to receive the magnificent sum of $406.
It is possible that by charitable collection $100,000 might be raised. The total today of the Queensland newspapers appeal is about $40,000. I know that wharfies in Townsville have levied themselves $1 a head. The St Vincent de Paul Society has taken up a collection. The people of Newcastle remembered their own flood and they sent north a plane load of tinned foods. But all this is only a drop in the bucket when compared to the damage these people have suffered.
At a slightly earlier time serious floods occurred in the Northern Territory. The local railway service became a joke because the trains were falling off the local railway line. A remarkable statement was made by a minister of the church from Mornington Island where serious food shortages occurred because of delays in shipping and the inability of large planes to land in the are?., and because of other problems. Perhaps the most heart rending story to come out of the area is that the minister was able to say that the youngsters from the mission would be able to have off a half day from school each day to go out and catch wallabies, goannas and other game to supplement tha food supplies. They could not do much fishing because the flood waters had affected the fishing areas. The Reverend D. Belcher is widely reported to have said: It h a good challenge for the Islanders. It is teaching them to depend on themselves a bit instead of on outside help all the time.’ Members of the coalition Government will need to watch whoever is to be endorsed as a candidate in that particular area, because, it looks as though that reverend gentleman could have his eye on a Country Parly seat.
The establishment of a national disaster fund has been discussed on manv occasions. Probably the first time that it was raised in a wide way was at a Returned Services League conference in northern Queensland in 1955. It was raised again very vocally in 1956 when a cyclone hit Bowen and other areas, causing great damage. On that occasion the Federal Government said: ‘We will give a grant’. We are still waiting for that grant in 1967.
On this occasion the civil defence organisation fell down, completely. Its many shortcomings were exposed by the Tasmanian bush fires. If we are to lave a civil defence organisation, it must be properly conducted. During the floods four wheel drive vehicles were completely isolated and boat-; that should have been brought closer to the areas that were flooded or about to be flooded were left many miles away. A reasonably conducted civil defence organisation could have obviated ‘he serious delays that occurred. Children from Mount Garnet had to be billeted in Ravenshoe because there was no bridge over the Wild River and it was dangerous to attempt to transport them in any other way. They were billeted with families in the Ravenshoe area. The people of Mount Garnet had no fresh milk to give their kiddies for almost a fortnight. They had no fresh vegetables or fresh fruit because none could be brought into the area after the destruction of the bridge. They were completely isolated in the area. The local aerodrome is suitable for aircraft no bigger than Cessnas, lt was impossible to land there Friendships or Hercules or any aircraft larger than the biggest Cessna. Food supplies became short at Normanton, Georgetown ind in many other areas. At one stage about six people were missing in an area nor’.h of Mount Molloy - prospectors who go out into isolated areas and do not have a great many opportunities of keeping in close contact with points of civilisation.
Those are the critical points I wanted to make. I want to pay a tribute to Police Inspector Gunn of Cairns and Police Inspector Osborne of Townsville who did a magnificent job, together with the sergeants at Ingham, Innisfail and other centres. The police sergeant at Mount Molloy went on long treks looking for people. Various other police assistants did a fantastic job throughout the whole of this very trying period. I -pay tribute, too. to the officer commanding the Army at Townsville and to the officer commanding the Royal Australian Air Force there. Without their wholehearted co-operation, and the help of the police, nothing could have been done. Finally I pay tribute to the Townsville manager of Ansett-ANA who saw fit to ensure that thousands of pounds of mail which had been left at Cairns was finally airlifted into the Normanton area, particularly as much of it was Easter mail.
Perhaps we should examine certain aspects of this disaster. At a time of disaster we cannot rely on charity alone. It is an outmoded theory. although members of the Government Parties may believe in it. If we want to consider public charity let us examine the magnificent sums that were forwarded to the newspaper fund. The biggest donation, as far as I know, was $5,000 from the Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd - a company that has -.built up its stocks and its fortunes on the backs of the workers and cane farmers of northern Queensland. However, in a time of disaster, it donated the magnificent sum of $5,000. A member of the Australian Country Party spoke to me in Townsville - I will not name him because if I did so he would probably be expelled from his Party - and said that he thought that the floods might be a good idea because they could get rid of the sugar marketing problems for 1967. Between 20% and 30% of the cane crop has been destroyed, and the percentage might be even greater when the final assessments are made.
At least $lm is needed to overcome the personal problems and losses in the disaster area. Many of the people in the Ingham, Hawkins Creek and adjacent areas are not entitled to any insurance whatever for flood damage. Unless they have a policy covering storm and tempest, and unless there is a storm, cyclone or event of that nature in their area, they are not entitled to damage under the terms of their policies. Almost the whole of this area was damaged by floods, which were caused primarily because a dam broke higher up in the water system. Yet (he people affected will not get one penny by way of insurance. Earlier I mentioned compensation to the individuals concerned. Many people who took expensive motor boats into this area lost pronellors when they struck submerged motor cars, house stumps and so forth. In many instances boats were completely wrecked. These losses are not covered by insurance and the owners are getting no return whatever despite their magnificent gesture in taking these boats long distances to carry out rescue and relief work.
We can learn much for the future from our experiences on this occasion. Because of the Koombooloomba and Tinaroo Dams much water was held back instead of flowing down the Barron River into Cairns. The water finally came over the spillways, but because so much was held back the flood damage was not as great as it might have been had those dams not been there. These dams were not built by a Liberal Government but by a State Labor Government. In addition to properly located dams, we need a proper civil defence organisation to operate in times of emergency. Such an organisation should be under the control of the police or the Service heads and not under the control of social climbing types who join committees to see where they can get socially and sometimes politically. We need to establish all-weather aerodromes sufficiently large to take Hercules, Friendship or old DC3 aircraft. We do not need aerodromes big enough to take modern jets, but wc need all-weather aerodromes at places like Mount Surprise, where a Hercules aircraft was bogged for four days. We need them at Ravenshoe, Mount Garnet and in isolated places to enable supplies to be brought in during an emergency and to enable people to be taken out, particularly expectant mothers, elderly people and those who are not able to fend for themselves and who cannot travel in difficult circumstances. Furthermore, we need a mobile Army rescue unit equipped with Army engineers. CMF units could be trained in this sort of thing. We asked for a Bailey bridge. We spent twenty-four hours trying to find one. Then we discovered there were no such bridges in Queensland. By the time we had arranged to obtain a bridge from Sydney, Melbourne or somewhere else so that we could bring essential foodstuffs aciOSS the. Wild River, it was discovered that the Department of Main Roads could do a better job in a fortnight. It would have taken us more than a fortnight to get a temporary Bailey bridge.
We want Army ducks stationed at strategic points. The Army ducks that we had there did a fantastic job. We had to bring most of them by train from Brisbane to Townsville which is a distance of approximately 1,000 miles. I know that there are certain problems associated with stationing helicopters in this area because, for instance, of high maintenance costs. But why should we have had to bring helicopters from Fairbairn? Why is it not economically possible to have helicopters stationed at the Amberley RAAF base which is at least within reasonable travelling distance of the area to which I am referring. Let me say finally that we want financial assistance by way of a State grant immediately to help all the people in the far north who have lost their homes, in many cases their livelihood, their furniture and all the other things that they have spent years obtaining. I make that appeal on behalf of the people of north Queensland.
– Mr President, Senator Poyser and Senator Mulvihill have raised some matters relating to Commonwealth hostels. In relation to tariff charges I do not think that I can do other than reiterate what I believe the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), whom I represent here, has already made abundantly clear: we do not propose to call upon the Australian taxpayer to pay more than 40% of the cost of maintaining migrants in hostels. The charges that are being made at present are necessary if the Australian taxpayer is not to contribute more than 40% of this cost. Consequently, those charges will continue.
This has been made clear by the Minister publicly and, indeed, in this regard, I wish to quote from a letter written by the Minister to Mr Barrow of the Victorian Hostel Residents Committee. The Minister stated in his letter:
Now, as you doubtless have discovered, the tariff scales are not determined by the Company.
That is, the company that runs these hostels -
Of these scales, I make several points. First, they mean that the Commonwealth is bearing 40% of the Company’s increased costs, which incidentally don’t service its capital usage. Second, over the past IS years some $18m has been spent on the hostels, and the programme of replacement and improvement continues. Third, not since 19S2 have dependent children’s rates been changed and not since 19S9 adult female dependants’. Fourth, the new tariff scales very considerably assist those larger families in the lower income brackets: many will be better off under the new tariffs. Fifth, looking at the overall effect, the new weekly tariff for full board and lodging for a typical family wilh wife not working and three children aged twelve, eight and four is less than 90 cents per head per day.
I might point out at this stage perhaps that a table incorporated in Hansard by Senator Wedgwood during her speech in the Address-in-Reply debate shows how the ra;e charged at Commonwealth Hostels expressed as a percentage of the basic wage has fallen since 1949.
The Minister indicated to Mr Barrow that he had written to him to emphasise that tariff questions which relate to the effects of operational costs should be thought about quite separately from other questions related to hostel services and conditions. The Minister continued:
If you have points about these the company and its staff are always prepared to listen and when matters are within their power to remedy them.
This is a separate matter from the charges required to ensure that the taxpayer is not called upon to pay more than 40% of the cost of maintaining migrants in these hostels.
– In view of some of the remarks made by Senator Keeffe, I want to say that J purposely delayed my visit to the area. I did not act irrationally, as some people may be inclined to do, by flying over a flood while the waters are still running or by flying over a fire while it is still burning and trying to make an assessment, lt is obvious from the figures given by the honourable senator that he is very far from the facts and has not made an accurate assessment of the ultimate losses. I will not delay honourable senators at this hour, but I could quote the figures arrived at by the cane producers as at midnight last night. I also have the figures from the Herbert Shire and they are very different from those given by Senator Keeffe.
– The honourable senator looks after the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.
– I look after Queensland.
– The honourable senator should look after the workers, too.
– I look after the entire population of Queensland. I represent the people honestly and not irrationally. Despite his telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) the honourable senator knows the normal procedure in these matters. As the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) said in another place recently, the normal procedure is for the State to apply to the Federal Government for assistance. That happened with Tasmania and will happen now with Queensland. Last night I saw the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland and discussed various reports with them. I submitted my own report and I know that all these reports were presented today. I know that Senator Keeffe’s appeal tonight for help, for grants and for loans is at least fourth hand because three honourable senators on this side had already made such an appeal within the last forty-eight hours. Senator Keeffe talks about a political football, but he is trying to make this into a political football. No-one in Queensland wants the disaster to be treated in that way. Perhaps he has not travelled very widely and does not know that similar emergencies occur in other places. He spoke of children chasing goannas and wallabies for food because they had been out of food for a week or ten days. He spoke of places in the north that were within the reach of helicopters and Hercules aircraft. I hope that some day when a flood occurs in the Channel country in the south west he will go there and take part in food drops for three consecutive weeks while the waters are still running, knowing that they will still be there for a further three weeks.
We would all like to see helicopters, Hercules aircraft, bridges and so on in every emergency throughout Australia, from the fire disaster in Tasmania to the emergency in Tully and the Atherton Tablelands. But someone must pay for all this. He does not consider the expense. He talks about the poor workmen and CSR. But he should try to tell the workmen what they must pay for these facilities. He may then change his mind. I hope that the honourable senator was speaking with tongue in cheek and not being as hypocritical as he sounded. The people in the north are willing to wait for the assistance to be offered by the Federal Government, as the Prime Minister has said it will be.
– in reply - I just want to say a word or two on the matters raised by Senator Keeffe. I think that he was answered very well by Senator Heatley. Senator Keeffe knows full well that there is a procedure that is normally followed when requests are made for assistance in emergencies such as floods, droughts and fires. He knows that this procedure has been followed for a long time and he knows how the Federal Government reacts to requests for assistance. An appeal should come from the State Government. I can understand the honourable senator rushing to send a telegram to the Prime Minister but frankly his telegram should have gone to the State Premier because the Commonwealth Government acts in these cases with the State Government and the Premier. Initially it is not a matter for the Commonwealth Government.
In this case, as Senator Heatley has said, last night the Commonwealth Government received from the Premier of Queensland an appeal for assistance and an assessment of the damage. I remind the Senate that an assessment of damage caused by a disaster like this takes a little time to prepare. An appeal for assistance, if it is made before there has been a proper assessment of the damage, may cover only half the losses. If an appeal is delayed a little until a full assessment can be made, the authority making the appeal can give a more accurate assessment of the losses. In this case the normal procedure will be followed. The Premier of Queensland has been in touch with the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The message from the Premier is being given earnest consideration by the Government, which fully understands from experience gained over the years the nature of damage and distress caused by drought, floods and fire.
Senator Keeffe suggested that fire and flood prevention should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Surely such matters come within the jurisdiction of the States which receive grants from the Commonwealth Government and control such matters as civil defence. By the time honourable senators opposite have finished transferring responsibilities to the Commonwealth, the States will be responsible for nothing. This has been the objective of the Australian Labor Party for many a long day. It wants everything to be centralised in Canberra and the abolition of the State Governments. I repeat that action to obtain relief in respect of matters such as the recent floods in Queensland rests with the competent authority which is the State concerned. The Commonwealth Government is fully aware of the position in Queensland following the message from the Premier of the State and will closely consider the appeal it has received.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670404_senate_26_s33/>.