26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator MILLINER presented from 38 citizens of Queensland a petition showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the class room situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as self-reliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there by qualified teachers are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system pre-school facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
Senator MCCLELLAND presented from 123 citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the decision of the Government to lift the 40-year ban on the export of merino rams will do irreparable harm to the present and future merino wool industry of Australia; that the initial quota of 300 rams will be sufficient to make any future protest worthless; and that the production of fine medium quality merino wool in cheap labour countries will put the Aus tralian merino wool grower and all connected with this industry out of business. The petitioners pray that the Government will cause to be held a referendum of wool growers to determine this issue.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. A few days ago T asked whether Australia had plans to withdraw our forces in Vietnam in view of America’s intention to draw out, as reported, 50,000 troops in the next few months. Has the Minister seen the major policy statement by the United States Secretary of State, Mr Rogers, which confirms that America intends unilaterally to withdraw troops from Vietnam even if there is no progress in the Paris peace talks and, further, that the United States will seek to negotiate the withdrawal of all outside troops as a first step to ending the war? What plans does the Government have to follow the policy clearly stated in Mr Rogers’ speech? Why is the Government failing to announce its support for this United States policy? In truth, is the Government trying to hang on as long as possible in the Vietnam conflict?
– It is true that there was a Press report of Mr Rogers’ statement and it is equally true that the President of the United States of America, Mr Nixon, made a statement some time ago which may well have been in the background of Mr Rogers’ statement. ] believe that Mr Rogers’ statement does not depart from what had already been said by the United States President. I feel that it is quite premature to deal with this subject at question time. I understood the President’s statement to be in the context of the Paris peace talks and his comments to be against a background of what was taking place there. However, this is a serious matter and an important question. In all the circumstances I suggest that the honourable senator should place his question on the notice paper so that I may direct it to the Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that there is some disquiet in the wool industry about the involvement of Australia in international container shipping to North America, the United Kingdom and Japan, can the Minister give an assurance that the strong recommendation to the Parliament by the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes that shippers of wool have a clear cut choice of shipping methods and arrangements will be adhered to?
– I think everyone in Australia is conscious of the need to have cheap freights from Australia to European and North American countries. The Government is conscious of this need. I am aware that the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes expressed in its report the belief that with the advent of containerisation we in Australia could expect a possible reduction of up to 7i% in freights between Australia and Europe. In relation to the latter part of the question which asks whether the Government will consider containerisation and/ or other methods of shipping wool to these countries, I ask that that be placed on the notice paper so that I may obtain an answer from the Minister.
– Has the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities seen reports which draw attention to the alarm expressed by residents of New South Wales north coast towns who see beach mining as a threat to tourism? Has the Minister any views on this problem? Is there any substance in the fears of these people?
– I inform the honourable senator that my attention has been continuously directed to this problem, although it is one within the primary responsibility of the States. I inform the Senate that beach sand mining in this country yields a considerable figure - about $35m - in export earnings. This, of course, is a factor of some importance. The leases in connection with these mining tenements provide for the restoration of the areas being mined. Notwithstanding that, everybody realises, of course, that restoration often is incomplete and this is a matter of real concern to conservationists and those who see great advantage in the pleasure of travelling. As recently as December 1968, a comprehensive report on this matter was issued to the New South Wales Government. That report suggests some compromise between the views of those who advocate complete conservation and the claims of miners. It will be satisfactory to the Senate to know that the report is expected to be debated in the New South Wales Parliament next week.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Has the Minister received from the Australian Broadcasting Commission any reply to representations which were made in the Senate regarding the programme “This Day Tonight’ containing allegations regarding the evil eye? If no reply has been received, I ask whether the following statement, which I am informed was sent in a letter by the Director of Current Affairs for the ABC to a lady who had protested, is correct:
I agree with your view, and in my opinion the sequence to which you have referred in the segment dealing with Italian superstitions should not have been included in ‘This Day Tonight’. Appropriate action has been taken with the officers concerned to ensure that this sort of thing is not repeated. (Signed) Peter Hollinshead.’
If it is correct, and if the decision of the ABC is being conveyed to private individuals, when may we hope that the Minister and the Senate will be informed?
-As I promised the honourable senator when he informed the Senate of this particular programme, I have conveyed his views and the views of others to the PostmasterGeneral. I have also seen a report that Mr Duckmanton has spoken to those concerned about this programme. I shall put before the Minister the other questions which the honourable senator has asked.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. I may say that I informed the Minister that I proposed to ask the question. In 1967. the last year for which [ understand figures are available, there were 2.157 full course arts students attending the University of Melbourne and 1,467 part time arts students. At Monash University, there were 1,673 full course arts students and 620 part time arts students. How many of these students attending the universities held Commonwealth scholarships?
– I am obliged to the honourable senator for having given me the opportunity to verify the statistics that concern him. I am informed that the figures he has used appear to come from the annual reports of the universities concerned. The figures for the University of Melbourne relate to all students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts in 3967, including students who were proceeding to post-graduate degrees and students who were taking single subjects. The figures for Monash University that Senator Kennelly used refer to students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts in that University in 1967 and they include students in the post-graduate courses as well as those taking single subjects. 1 mention these things only by way of a preliminary explanation. Statistics of student enrolments, which, perhaps, are more suitable as a basis for answering the honourable senator’s question, are obtainable from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics publication ‘University Statistics 1967’. These show that the total numbers of students proceeding towards the degree of Bachelor of Arts were: For Melbourne University 3,129, and for Monash University 2,432. Of these, the numbers of students who held Commonwealth scholarships were: Melbourne University 1,025, Monash University 428. My information, Mr President, includes the make-up of those figures and with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the following table in Hansard:
The number of students holding Commonwealth university scholarships studying towards an Arts degree in 1967 is set out in the following table:
– -My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. While acknowledging that the Government is well aware of the serious and severe drought conditions currently existing over a large area of Queensland and the extreme north east of New South Wales, does the Government consider that a great opportunity exists to demonstrate thai drought in Australia can be alleviated to a great extent when it is evident that ample stock fodder is available- throughout Australia and that organisation and transport facilities are the only ingredients required to keep stock losses in drought areas to a minimum? Will the Government take the initial step by attempting to ensure that excess stocks of wheat in Australia are made available immediately, at low cost, to the States concerned and thereby give a consequent benefit to all interests in Australia? ls it not a fact that Commonwealth Government income would be enhanced by sustaining stock numbers in drought areas?
– The honourable senator asked about drought conditions in Queensland and the north east part of New South Wales. Yes. it is true that the drought has caused a very serious state of affairs. The honourable senator suggested that the best way to alleviate the drought situation would be for the Commonwealth ‘ to intervene in a direct way. He referred to some special concessions relating to wheat. Because of the federal system of government under which we operate, the initial responsibility in these matters clearly is that of the Stale concerned. If we attempted to usurp the powers of the States in any of a number of ways I suppose there would be difficulties. The Commonwealth has shown that it is ready and willing at all times to assist the States in time of drought, storm damage, flood damage, earthquake or any national calamity. The Commonwealth responds very rapidly. But quite obviously, because the States themselves have sovereign power, are closer to the problem and know it at first hand, it is up to them to come to the Commonwealth for special assistance. There is a long and magnificent history of the Commonwealth going to the assistance of the States, whether it be Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales or any other State.
The honourable senator’s questions are quite important but I suggest that the initial representations for what is needed, whether it be special fodder concessions, special transport arrangements or organisation, as he suggests, should come from the States because they know the problems. They should seek special assistance and I am confident, as is everybody here, that the Commonwealth will respond, as it has in the past, to meet these special calamities.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Supply refers to the Australian aircraft industry and the current visit to Australia of the British aircraft mission. Have any discussions been conducted between the Government and this eight man mission which may increase the possibility of manufacturing aircraft parts within Australia and the productivity of the Australian industry? Also, will the Minister advise what is the current position of the Anglo-Australian project to manufacture a supersonic trainer?
– I am happy to be able to say to the honourable senator and to the Senate that I received the British mission in my offices this morning at half past nine. I had discussions with the members of that mission. I had the advantage of looking at its programme. It certainly has visited the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Air and the Service Departments. This meeting followed up to some extent discussions that I had when I was in the United Kingdom in January.
The situation in relation to the possibility of the advanced trainer and the feasibility study that is being carried on currently with the British Aircraft Corporation is such that I am not in a position to add any more at this point in time. We are in a critical situation in the whole of these discussions and in the best long term interests of the industry and in the ultimate I would prefer not to enlarge upon those discussions at the present time. As to the mission that I received this morning, I had the advantage of having the Head of my Department with me and we had very fruitful discussions with the members of the mission on matters of general and mutual interest in the aircraft industry.
– Will the Minister for Works and Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities advise the Senate when it is expected that the construction of a cableway to the summit of Mount Bellenden Ker in north Queensland will be commenced to enable the construction of a television transmitter on that mountain?
– Tenders were called on Saturday for the mechanical and electrical part of this cableway which, in itself, is a major part of the job. Tenders will be advertised here and in several countries where that sort of contract is appropriate. Those tenders will close on 1 July 1969. The access road has been commenced already and it is expected that the whole of this construction will be banded over to the Postmaster-General’s Department in the early part of 1971.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that the 1964 amendment to the telephone regulations of the Post and Telegraph Act enables a telephone service to be provided for age. invalid and widow pensioners and also blind people at an annual rental equal to two-thirds of the usual charge, will the Government give urgent consideration to providing a similar concession in respect of the installation costs of telephone services to pensioners so that they can take advantage of this concession?
– I will put the suggestions made by the honourable senator to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, for his consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to Press reports of an assertion by Representative Richard McCarthy of the United States Congress that three types of gas were being used or had been used by South Vietnamese forces? Is the Minister aware that Mr McCarthy stated that these gases were CN, CS and DM, and that his authority for making this claim was based on the report in 1965 by Mr Cyrus Vance, the former United States Deputy Secretary of Defence? Is he also aware that Mr McCarthy has stated that the gas DM, once classified by the United States Army as an irritant gas designed to irritate the eyes, ears and throat and, in some cases, to cause vomiting, is now classified as an incapacitating gas along with tear gases? I ask the Minister, in view of his recent replies to questions on this subject in which he has referred to the gases CS and CN, whether he is in a position to say whether the gas DM is also being used in Vietnam.
– I saw the news report this morning. Tt is true that a Mr Richard McCarthy, who is a New York Democrat, has made some observations in relation to CN, CS and DM gases. My understanding is that CN is not as efficacious as an irritant gas or tear gas as CS is. In relation to DM, I will have to obtain some further particulars. However, it is also my understanding that all these gases are non-lethal, irritant gases. I do not think J have anything to add in that regard to what I have already said at question time during the last several days. I will obtain some further information in relation to DM.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a question. Did any of the armed forces offer a helicopter, light aircraft or other assistance in the search for a man who was recently lost and who finally perished in rugged country near Esperance in Western Australia? Are any general orders issued to the armed forces to make equipment or personnel available in appropriate cases, where lives may be saved?
– I am not aware of the circumstances or of whether the Services co-operated or their co-operation was sought in this case. I suggest that the question go on the notice paper. Then I will obtain the facts of this incident and also the basic facts in terms of policy. I have known, as I am sure everyone else has, circumstances in which the Services have been called in at short notice and on an ad hoc basis and have given valuable assistance in cases of emergency. If a guideline is laid down, I will obtain it and make it available.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development state what amount the Commonwealth proposes to make available to South Australia for the completion of the water pipeline from Tailem Bend on the River Murray to Keith in the upper south east of the State? Can he give any details of the project? What matching contribution, if any, will the South Australian Government be expected to outlay?
– 1 have to advise the honourable senator that the Commonwealth Government is making available a total of $6m for this scheme. I understand that the South Australian Government has already started a part of the project. Taking that part into consideration, together with the additional amount of money that the South Australian Government will find, the amount will be in the vicinity of 50% of the Commonwealth contribution.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question which relates to one I asked previously. On J 6th April, as a result of a report that the Leader of the
Australian Country Party had used a VIP aeroplane to fly himself and two other Party members to a party political meeting in Tasmania, I asked the Leader of the Government a series of questions on Government policy on the use of VIP aircraft. The Minister gave an assurance that he would obtain the information requested. I now ask whether it is possible for the questions to be answered before the Tasmanian State elections are concluded.
– I do not think the criteria for answering questions are based on some event in one of the States, whether it be an election or something else. I certainly said that I would seek the information requested. I have not the information available to me as yet. I will renew my request and see whether I can obtain some information on the matter that has been raised.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. Has the Queensland Premier made direct representations to the Commonwealth Government for financial or other assistance for those primary producers in Queensland who are experiencing difficulties because of prevailing drought conditions?
– I will find out the current position in relation to representations made to the Commonwealth Government by the Premier of Queensland and I will let the honourable senator know.
– Can the Minister for Supply state what efforts his Department is making to obtain work for and ensure use of missile launching facilities existing at Woomera in South Australia by nations or organisations outside Australia? Did the Minister hear an Australian Broadcasting Commission news item this morning that India is embarking on missile production and development? Has an approach been made to India or by India relating to the use by that country of Australia’s missile launching facilities?
– My understanding is that the Indian Government as a considered matter of policy is desirous of establishing a missile capability in India. The whole emphasis of the news report was to that effect. Australia is in collaboration primarily with the United Kingdom Government in respect of the joint agreement operating for use of the facilities at Woomera. We are also in collaboration with European Launcher Development Organisation countries in repect of use of the Woomera facilities. I am happy to say that despite the difficulties that have been experienced for some considerable time by members of ELDO, it now appears reasonably certain that rocket firing is to continue at Woomera for the remainder of this year, before operations are transferred to French Guiana. There would be an exchange of views and discussions in this particular field with all other countries concerned. It will be necessary for me to obtain some departmental information about direct contact with the Indian Government in relation to this matter. I will certainly do that and I will make the information available to the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to recent publications by the Australian Institute of Management and the Bank of New South Wales and articles published in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ setting out the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and the things likely to happen when Australia goes metric? In view of the interest being shown in the report of the Senate Select Committee and the uncertainty that is at present evident in the business community concerning the likelihood of a change to the metric system, will the Government make an early announcement of its intentions?
– I have not had the advantage of seeing the articles referred to by the honourable senator. It is true that the Senate Select Committee brought down a magnificent report on the future use of the metric system in Australia. Senator Laught was Chairman of that Committee. The Government is currently examining the report. I cannot anticipate the result of the Government’s consideration, but I will certainly bring to the attention of the Government the interest and concern expressed by the honourable senator for a quick decision in the matter.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is considerable overseas capital investment being attracted to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Where the Administration of a Territory controls the conditions of exploitation of a resource of that Territory, does the Administration with the approval and support of the Commonwealth Government require each overseas investor to reserve a percentage of its original paid up capital to be available in the future for the benefit of the people of the Territory? Does the Government feel that there is sound reason for the application of such a principle of local administration of overseas capital development of Australian resources throughout the Commonwealth?
– I shall deal with the last part of the honourable senator’s question first. The Prime Minister and the Government have made it abundantly clear that in the view of the Government Australian participation is most desirable and should be encouraged. The other part of the honourable senator’s question should be placed on notice and directed to the Minister for External Territories for a considered reply.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services ask his colleague to correct a statement reputed to have been made by him, and which appeared in the Tasmanian ‘Mercury’, to the effect that Tasmania was imposing a duty tax on moneys granted by the Commonwealth to church and charitable organisations for the construction of homes for the aged and the sick? Will the Minister also pass on to Senator Marriott, who should know the position, the information that no duty is imposed on such moneys and that the wrong impression was gained from an erroneous statement published in the Tasmanian ‘Mercury’?
– I shall take this matter up with the Minister for Social Services.
– I direct a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of the resurgence of interest in the tourist industry on the north coast of New South Wales, I ask: Is the Minister consulted by his Cabinet colleagues when rural road grants of a Commonwealth nature are made to tourist regions?
– I have some difficulty in fully understanding the subject matter of the honourable senators question. Generally, the programme for tourist roads in New South Wales is a matter for the New South Wales Government. I would not be consulted in that respect. The Commonwealth Government is concerned only with roads in its own Territories. It is in respect of those roads that I keep myself informed asto the tourist features.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I remind the Minister that on Wednesday, 19th March 1969, which is 5 weeks ago today, I placed on the notice paper two questions concerning the oil industry in Queensland. For the information of the Minister, the questions are Nos 1016 and 1023. Question No. 1016 concerns the possibility of the issue of oil exploration permits on the Great Barrier Reef. Question No. 1023 concerns a sum of $12,000 which apparently is unaccounted for. Will the Minister undertake to obtain the information I have requested before the rising of the Parliament on this day?
– I regret that I cannot give the honourable senator an assurance that I will be able to obtain answers today to those questions asked of the Minister for National Development. I assure the honourable senator that I will take up his questions with the Minister to see whether a speedy reply can be obtained for him.
– In the absence of the Minister for Housing, I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On 27th March I asked the
Minister representing the Minister for Health to request her colleague to produce free in booklet form, for the benefit of all women in Australia, the articles relating to cancer as it .affects women, which were published recently in the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror.’ and thereby help fight this dreaded disease. Can the Leader of the Government advise whether the Minister representing the Minister for Health has any information on this important matter?
– I will have the honourable senator’s request redirected to the Minister for Health to ascertain the current position in relation to the question he asked.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Attorney-General been drawn to a recent utterance by three judges of the New South Wales Court of Appeal deploring the incredible cost of providing documents for divorce appeals and pointing out that one man appealing against a divorce decree granted to his wife had to incur the cost of producing an appeal book of 463 foolscap pages, of which no more than half a dozen pages were referred to in legal argument during the course of a 1-day hearing? Will the Minister agree that the costs of litigation have reached the stage where, generally, recourse to law is now far beyond the means of the ordinary citizen? What action, if any, does the Government intend taking to reduce this type of unnecessary cost, thus giving some opportunity to ordinary citizens to cope with the present high costs of litigation?
– I have not seen the judicial statements to which the honourable senator referred, but divorce jurisdiction stems from Federal legislation and, therefore, whether or not costs are too high is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. Legal costs would be subject to the comment, I would think, that they should be kept continually under review to ensure that they do not become excessive. With regard to the particular instances that were referred to, if excessive costs were incurred in an appeal book which was unnecessary to argue the real issues of the case, I would think that the Taxing Master would be fully clothed with authority to strike those costs from any solicitor’s bill presented to him for taxation. I give that, of course, as a general comment. In all these cases the particular circumstances must be borne in mind, wilh regard to the decision given.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in the absence of the Minister for Housing. Recently 1 asked the Minister to use her influence with the PostmasterGeneral to try to reinstate a ‘Meet the Candidates’ television programme for the coming federal election. Has the Minister had any specific response from the PostmasterGeneral or from the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
THE PRESIDENT- Order! 1 am not very enthusiastic about questions being asked on another question when other honourable senators want to ask an original question. Senator Ormonde, you may finish your question. I think it is only right that other honourable senators who wish to ask an original question should be given the opportunity so to do before a question is asked on another question.
– I close on that note. Has any information been received?
– At this point of time I am not aware as to whether or not the Postmaster-General has supplied information in relation to the approval of a ‘Meet the Candidates’ television programme, as suggested by the honourable senator, for the next federal election. I will obtain the information and make it available to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to provide any information concerning the decisions made by the committee set up to make appropriate arrangements to mark the occasion of the fiftieth year of operation of the International Labour Organisation?
– I have nothing by way of further information to give to tho
Senate today but, in view of the honourable senator’s interest in the matter, I shall make inquiries and see whether I can provide him with the information that he seeks.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is supplementary to that asked by my colleague Senator Cohen earlier. Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether the Australian Government will undertake to urge all nations to adhere to and, where necessary, ratify the 1925 Geneva protocol on poisonous gases and will support the convening of a world meeting of United Nations countries to update the said 1925 Geneva protocol?
– Obviously I could not answer a question of that nature at question time. 1 shall certainly take the question on board and have it put on notice for consideration by the Minister for External Affairs.
(Question No. 838)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Most pastoralists using baits work on the basis of long experience and select particular areas where most intense dingo activity has been observed. Surveys conducted by Administration Wildlife officers provided no evidence nf !o.« of other animal life.
Recent observations and reports indicate thai dingo numbers have increased in certain areas following good seasons. In addition, the rat plague of 1967-68 and increased rabbit numbers in central Australia have provided added food for dingoes.
(Question No. 839)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
The matters to which the honourable rn:,;01 has referred have been the subject of correspondence between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government.
(Question No. 909)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Whole of area- June 1949 to June 1953.
That part east of Wallgrove Road, known as Units 3 and 4 - June 1954 to December 1964.
That part west of Wallgrove Road, known as Units 1 and 2 - January 1955 to December 1964.
(Question No. 982)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1043)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In order to qualify for an agricultural rating a pilot is examined in the theoretical aspects of agricultural aircraft and equipment, aircraft performance, operational planning and techniques and the health and medical requirements of agricultural operations. He is also required to complete a course of flying training in agricultural operations and to demonstrate his skill to a departmental examiner of airmen prior to the grant of the rating. Initially the pilot is granted a class 2 agricultural pilot rating and is required to operate under the supervision of the holder of a class 1 rating for at least 200 hours before being considered for the grant of a class 1 rating. At the end of this time the pilot is required again to demonstrate to an examiner of airmen his skill in all of the normal and emergency flight manoeuvres which may be encountered in the performance of agricultural operations. All agricultural pilots engaged in commercial operations are required to undergo annual flight checks and oral examinations.
Aircraft being flown in agricultural operations are permitted by the Air Navigation Regulations to fly at heights lower than 500 feet over areas other than a city, town or populous area. This permission does not confer on an operator any rights, as against the owner of any land over which the operations may be conducted, or prejudice in any way the rights and remedies which any person may have in common law in respect of any injury to persons or damage to property caused directly or indirectly by the operator.
There is one exception to the requirement to hold an agricultural operator licence or an agricultural pilot rating and this is the case in which agricultural operations are carried out on land occupied by the owner of the aircraft. Under such conditions the holder of a private pilot licence may fly the aircraft, but without remuneration.
(Question No. 1047)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1, 2 and3. Patients accommodated in hospitals approved under the National Health Act are eligible for Commonwealth benefits in accordance with the conditions set down under the Act and, in the case of insured patients, for fund benefits in accordance with the rules of the registered organisations to which they contribute. Patients accommodated in nursing homes approved under the National Health Act are eligible for nursing home benefits in accordance with the conditions determined under the Act. The criteria for eligibility for hospital benefits are different from the criteria for eligibility for nursing home benefits. Generally, but not invariably, hospital benefits are higher than nursing home benefits. The Commonwealth Department of Health is responsible for ensuring that the criteria for benefits determined in accordance with the Act are properly observed. In pursuance of this responsibility it arranges for inspections of private hospitals and nursing homes which have been approved under the Act to be undertaken at least every 2 years by an inspection team consisting of a departmental medical officer and a clerical officer. These inspectors are not authorised to advise hospitals, nursing homes or doctors what course should be followed in relation to the accommodation or treatment of particular patients and. to the best of my knowledge, they do not in any circumstances do so.
(Question No. 1051)
Senator WRIEDT (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised me as follows:
-BROCKM AN asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 4th March in response to a question concerning the export controls on tin asked by Senator Webster I undertook to obtain further information from the Minister for National Development. The question asked by Senator Webster was as follows:
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer.
– On 27th March 1969, Senator Lawrie asked the following question without notice:
In view of the fact that newspapers are able to comment on electoral matter and take advertisements from political parties on the Thursday and Friday immediately before an election, will the Minister reconsider lifting the ban on radio and television advertising of political matter which was originally introduced as a wartime measure?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information in reply.
I stated some time ago that the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act referred to by the honourable senator would be examined to determine whether any changes should be made.I am not in a position to comment further at this time.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia-
Minister for Customs and Excise) - by leave - The statement that I am about to make was made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) in another place yesterday. The personal pronoun’I’, where it appears, relates to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The statement is as follows:
Honourable members will recall the statement made by the Prime Minister on 26th November 1968 that the Government had decided, subject to the satisfactory conclusion of negotiations, to enter overseas shipping by operating Australian crewed vessels in its own right in both the Australia-United Kingdom-Continent trade and the AustraliaNorth America trade. I now inform the House that the Government has approved the formal agreement whereby the Australian National Line - that is. the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission - will enter into a joint venture with the British shipping lines comprising Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Limited. The Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, Sir John Williams, will be authorised to sign the agreement and will sign it later today. Sir Basil Smallpiece, Chairman of the Cunard organisation, will sign on behalf of that company’s subsidiary, Port Line; Mr Edmund Vestey will sign on behalf of Blue Star and Mr Alastair Lloyd on behalf of the Ellerman organisation.
There have been two developments of which the House should be informed. The first is that the ANL has joined as a member of the appropriate conferences with a 71/4% share of the trade sufficient to ensure a sound basis for ANL entry into the trade between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. The second development is thai the Government has now decided to buy the ships from the outset rather than charter them for 5 years with the obligation of purchase at the end of the 5-year period. Honourable members will appreciate that entry into a major operation of this kind involves consideration of a whole host of factors, among them finance, terms of payment, British investment allowance, crewing, costs involved in operation, and arrangements for effective management.
In making its decision on how best it could proceed the Government had to weigh against each other the effects of all these matters and decide on the best kind of operation from Australia’s overall point of view. While 1 cannot, of course, divulge the estimates involved - which draw on Associated Container Transportation lines’ assessments of revenue and thus concern the private affairs of companies - the negotiations have involved intensive and detailed discussions between the partners, with government and with a great many groups of people in order to ensure that all relevant factors were given their proper weight. In the result it became clear that our earlier intention to charter should be modified and that on balance Australia’s interest will be best served by owning the ships from the outset.
The Government will buy the ship which the ACT lines had previously designated ACT 3’. The Australian name of the ship will be announced shortly. The ship was launched in Germany last week. It is expected to be delivered by the builders at the end of July and will then be bought by the ANL for the ACT lines at the actual cost of the vessel. The ACT ships for the UK/ Europe trade will cost around $8im each. However, ANL will be obtaining the vessel on terms which 1 shall explain in a moment.
There is no doubt that this is a very favourable price for a ship of this kind. Because of the time at which the orders were placed and because three ships were being bought at the one time the ACT lines were able to obtain a most advantageous price from the builders. By coming in now, after these arrangements have been developed by the ACT lines during the last 2 years, the Australian Government will receive the full benefit of their forward planning. A like advantage will be obtained for the ship to be built for the trade between Australia and the east coast of North America. The cost of this ship is not precisely settled. It will be higher than the cost of the ship for the UK/Europe trade but, here again, the ACT lines are buying a number of ships from the same yard and obtaining a benefit in the price from the volume of business involved. The Government is certain that, had Australia sought to buy a single ship on its own, for either of these trades, it could not have achieved a price comparable with those at which the ships are being bought.
Consideration was given to building in Australian yards. This would have meant placing an order now, with delivery much later. It would have been most costly, and would not have enabled Australia to enter the UK/Europe trade at the beginning of the container ship era. The ship for the UK/Europe trade will be bought on terms from Germany. It will be bought at 20% deposit with a loan repayable over 8 years at an interest rate of 5i% on the reducing balance. Honourable members will know that these terms for ships stand comparison with any terms available in the world.
The effect of the decision to buy the ships at this time is to increase the initial capital required for the venture. While these amounts are subject to final administrative details, the down payments on the ships, working capital, containers and related setting up costs are likely to increase the initial amount needed to around $9m from $6 to S7m indicated earlier on the charter basis. This modest increase for purchase at the outset on terms rather than charter and the obligation of subsequent purchase obviously influenced the Government’s decision to buy. 1 might add that, in addition, the Government has been able to obtain the benefit of exchange cover orginally negotiated by the British shipping companies for their purchase arrangements with the German shipbuilding yards.
Containers for the three ACT ships for the UK/Europe trade have already been ordered and largely constructed. In fact, these containers are already in service between Australian and the UK/Europe with ACT 1’ and, shortly, will be further employed with ‘ACT 2*. The arrangement for the Australian ship for the UK/Europe trade will therefore be to draw on a basic stock of containers already provided for that ship. Containers for the ship for the Japan trade on the other hand are already being bought from Australian manufacturers. The Government, of course, is completely free to take its own decisions in relation to its future ‘ requirements of containers.
The Government has deliberately chosen to move into overseas Conference operations at this time of major changes in the technology of shipping, when container ships, vehicle deck ships, and the whole range of new cargo handling techniques associated with these ships show every prospect of fully viable operation. The Government’s decision has been made to associate the ANL with a group of companies long experienced in international shipping, rather than to go it alone. These companies will bring their knowledge and skills into the joint venture, with the ANL a full and responsible Australian flag operator alongside them.
On many occasions it has been said that Australia should go into overseas shipping at any price, as if these were not complex commercial undertakings. The Government has not acted lightly in this matter. Tt has weighed the extra costs of Australian crewing against the many other advantages which participation in the joint management of these operations will bring. Under the arrangements, these extra costs will not be reflected in freight rates. They will stand to the account of the ANL alone. By participating in the joint management of the container ships of the ACT Lines, alongside the ANL, valuable insight will be gained into the operations of these ships and of the conferences involved. We can ensure that the Australian exporters who pay the freight will receive the protection that this information will confer.
The ANL is to acquire equities in the Australian land facilities serving these container ships also. This will add further to our knowledge. To all this will be added the experience from the operation of the Searoad service, jointly with Flinders Shipping Co. and Japanese interests in the AustraliaJapan trade. Together, these moves will add greatly to the understanding which the Government brings to bear on its policy involvement in overseas shipping. Taking these arrangements and the ANL’s entry into the Japanese trade the position is then that Australia is poised to enter international shipping in three major areas for Australia’s international trade - with the United Kingdom and Europe, with Japan and with North America. In all three trades we will be operating Austraiian ships, crewed by Australians, owned by Australia, sailing under the Australian flag. I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to read to the Senate a statement made by the Minister For Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in another place on 1 7th April. Honourable senators will . understand that the use of the personal pronoun ‘I.’ refers to the Minister for Education and Science. The statement reads:
I wish to give the House some details of progress made under the Government’s new scheme for the development of secondary school libraries. Honourable members will recall that under this scheme, the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968 made available a total sum of $27m over a period of three calendar years 1.969, 1970. 1971. For each year the allocations between State and government and independent schools are:
I am very pleased to be able to announce that I have authorised the first payments to all States. These funds will be used by the States to build libraries in State secondary schools and also to buy books and equipment. The books and equipment so provided will have an immediate impact on the learning materials available for students.
This Committee which I announced in my second reading speech to the Act has been working consistently since appointment. One of its main jobs is to advise me on the conditions and standards necessary for the effective development of the new programme.
Accordingly the Committee has produced a booklet entitled ‘Standards for Secondary School Libraries’, which I propose to present to the House at the end of this statement. We hope that as well as detailing standards likely to be acceptable for Commonwealth grant purposes, the booklet will bring to the notice of schools something of the modern concept of an adequate secondary school library and the library’s function within the school and will advise architects of recent trends within Australia and overseas in library planning. As the programme develops we will undoubtedly learn much about library design. I am pleased, therefore, that the Committee regards this booklet as a first edition and proposes to produce later editions to keep schools in touch with advances.
In December last 1 wrote to all independent secondary schools inviting them to apply for Commonwealth assistance by completing and returning a questionnaire on existing library facilities which was enclosed with my letter. We have received 650 applications for assistance.
Another major job of the Libraries Committee is to visit independent schools seeking Commonwealth assistance and advise on their library needs. The Committee also assists the schools in developing plans for buildings and in selecting materials and equipment. This visiting has been going on in all States over the last few months and ultimately all schools that have applied will be visited. The schools have now begun to send me their plans for formal approval. The development of plans does take some time and we have been anxious not to hurry this step unduly. I am keen to see that projects assisted by the Commonwealth meet the standards of the Libraries Committee.
State Advisory Committees 1 mentioned earlier that for the independent schools I would have the assistance of two advisory committees in each State, one representative of Roman Catholic schools and one of other non-government secondary schools. These committees have now been established and they will recommend priorities among applicant schools and amounts of individual grants. Schedules of all applicant schools have been forwarded to the appropriate committees and they are now working on their recommendations. I expect these recommendations to be coming forward to me in the very near future. Shortly after that time I shall be in a position to make the first offers of assistance to independent schools.
Honourable members will recall that in my second reading speech on the State Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968 I said that the Government had allocated a small sum in this year’s Budget to enable it to sponsor some short specialist courses in library training. In January last, in association with the State Education departments, library authorities and the independent schools, courses were held in Sydney over 3 weeks and in Adelaide over 4 weeks. Both Government and independent school teachers attended. Queensland teachers participated in the Sydney course. In February a 3-week course was held in Melbourne to cater for Victorian and Tasmanian teachers. Further courses have been planned in May for Sydney, Townsville and Perth. All courses held so far have been judged to be very successful and I am satisfied they have made a real contribution to the Commonwealth programme. I hope honourable members will agree that we can look forward to a very healthy secondary school library development programme representing a substantial contribution by the
Government, to the quality of education. I table the booklet entitled ‘Standards for Secondary School Libraries’. I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Motion by Senator Anderson agreed to:
The the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Customs Tariff Bill 1969
International Sugar Agreement Bill 1969
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) reada first time.
– I move:
That the Bill he now read a secondtime.
The purpose of this bill is to give the force of law in Australia to two comprehensive double taxation agreements - with Singapore and Japan - and a limited double taxation agreement with France. These agreements were signed in February and March of this year. They will not enter into force, however, until Australia and the other countries concerned have completed the formal procedures outlined in the agreements themselves.
The general objectives of comprehensive double taxation agreements are, I think, quite well known and I do not propose to make a lengthy analysis of them in this speech. It is sufficient,I think, for me to say that in its negotiations for agreements Australia aims for tax arrangements which, on acceptable terms, smooth the way for investment and trade between it and the other country. The Government believes that each of the two comprehensive agreements covered by this bill constitute arrangements of this kind.
In most respects, the comprehensive agreements with Singapore and Japan follow closely the new agreement with the United Kingdom that Parliament approved last year. The limited agreement with
France refers only to the taxation of profits from the operation of aircraft in international traffic. It is convenient, to clear the decks, to deal with this short agreement first.
The French agreement provides that each country is to exempt from its tax profits derived by the other country’s international airline from international traffic. To put it in another way, each country will have the sole right to tax profits derived by its own international airline from international traffic. Comparable provisions are included in all of our comprehensive double taxation agreements. This agreement will enter into force when each country has advised the other that it has taken all steps necessary to give it the force of law in its territory. It will then be deemed to have had effect as from the 1966-67 income year in Australia, and from 1967 or accounting periods ending in 1967 in France.
I turn now to the comprehensive agreements with Singapore and Japan. Both agreements provide for Australia to reduce its tax on dividends flowing to the other country from 30% to 15% of the amount of the dividends. This is in line with all our comprehensive double taxation agreements. On dividends flowing from Japan to Australia, Japanese tax - at present 20% - is to be reduced to 15%. Dividends paid by Singapore companies do not at present effectively bear tax in Singapore in addition to the tax on company profits out of which the dividends are paid. The Singapore agreement provides, however, that if Singapore should in the future impose a separate tax on dividends, the rate of tax on dividends flowing to Australia is not to exceed 15%.
The reduced rates of taxI have mentioned will not apply to dividends forming part of the proceeds of a business carried on by a resident of one of the countries in the other country. In such cases the country in which the business is carried on will tax the dividends by ordinary assessment processes.
Both agreements impose a limit of 10% on the tax that each country may levy on interest flowing to the other country. This will not involve any reduction in Australian tax but Singapore tax and Japanese tax will be reduced from 40% and 20% respectively. As with dividends, these reduced rates do not apply to interest forming part of the profits of a permanent establishment in the country of source. At present, royalties flowing from Australia to Singapore and Japan are taxed in Australia at general rates of tax on the net amount of the royalties. Royalties flowing to Australia from Singapore and Japan are taxed in those countries at 40% and 20% respectively. Under the agreements, each country is to limit its tax on royalties flowing to the other to 10% of the gross amount of the royalties. The Singapore and Japanese agreements, like all of our other double taxation agreements, provide that each country has the sole right to tax profits derived by its own international airline from international traffic. The position is the same in relation to shipping profits under the Japanese agreement. Under the Singapore agreement, however, the country of shipment retains the right to tax the other country’s shipowners on profits from the international carriage of passengers, cargo or mail, but must reduce the tax that would otherwise be payable by one-half. Both agreements provide that, in general, business profits derived by a resident of one country from sources in the other will be taxed in the other country only if they are derived through a permanent establishment - broadly speeking, a branch - in that country. This is the basis universally adopted in double taxation agreements.
There are also other provisions commonly found in double taxation agreements, concerning visiting businessmen, public entertainers, students and pensioners. The salary of a visiting businessman who is an employee or director will generally not be taxed in the country visited unless his visit exceeds 183 days in a year of income. On the other hand, income derived by a public entertainer, or by an enterprise providing the services of public entertainers, may be taxed in the country visited whatever the duration of the visit. Government remuneration will generally be taxed by the government paying the remuneration while pensions, apart from government, pensions, will generally be taxed only by the country in which the pensioner resides. To relieve double taxation in cases where, in accordance with the agreements, both countries tax the same income, there are the customary provisions for the country of residence to give credit against its tax in respect of the tax paid in the other country. The Bill provides that interest and royalties derived by residents of Australia from Singapore or Japan and subject to tax of only 10% in those countries will, like interest and royalties derived from the United Kingdom and subject to only 10% United Kingdom tax, be taxed in Australia with credit for the foreign tax.
In addition to the usual credit provisions, the Singapore agreement contains two provisions that are unique in Australia’s double taxation agreements. These are related to Singapore’s economic incentives legislation. Under this legislation the Singapore tax on income from investment in Singapore, or from the supply of industrial know-how to Singapore enterprises, by persons not resident in Singapore may he reduced or remitted in full. Singapore fell some concern that these incentives would bc wholly nullified if Australia retained taxing rights over the income, because Australian tax would be increased correspondingly to the reduction in Singapore tax. As to investment by an Australian company through a subsidiary company established in Singapore, what Singapore feared could not in practice happen. This is because the Singapore profits of the subsidiary would not he subject to Australian lax and. when remitted to the Australian parent .as dividends would be free of Australian tax by virtue of the rebate of tax on dividends from any source that is. under our general income tax law. allowed to Australian resident companies. Nevertheless, to make this position quite clear it. was decided to include in thu agreement a provision that an Australian company owning at least 10% of a Singapore company will continue, during the life of the agreement, to receive the rebate of tax on dividends our tax law provides.
The second of the special provisions relates to interest and industrial royalties received by Australian residents from Singapore. The Singapore economic incentives also apply to income of this kind and. in the absence of provision in the agreement to the contrary, the remission of Singapore tax would have resulted in an equivalent increase in Australian T:ix. To avoid thus nullifying the incentives, sought to be provided bv Singapore, but in a way wholly fair to the Australian revenue, the agreement provides that Australia is to treat interest and royalties received by Australian residents from Singapore free of Singapore tax as if they were net amounts after payment of the Singapore tax remitted. la practice, this will mean that Australian tax will be imposed on the income received from Singapore as increased by the Singapore tax deemed to have been paid, and credit will be allowed against the Australian tax payable for the notional Singapore tax.
If this Bill is approved the Singapore agreement will enter into force and will have effect, broadly, from 1st July 1969 in
Australia and from 1st January 1969 in Singapore. A formal exchange of instruments of ratification will be required to bring the Japanese agreement into force but it is anticipated that this will be completed in time for that agreement to have effect in Australia and Japan respectively from the same dales as the Singapore agreement.
More detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill and of the agreements are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators and I do not propose to speak at greater length about them at this stage. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 946), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator 0*Byrne had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’ - insert the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide -
for the payment of a bounty of $4m on total production of raw cotton for the year commencing on the first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine;
for an immediate review of the economic position of the raw cotton industry with the object of providing adequate financial assistance to those areas which are still in need of a bounty, and which have not yet had time to become established viable economic units, such as the Ord River and the Queensland irrigation areas; and
that special financial payments to assist the developing areas to become established viable economic units be implemented within section 96 of the Constitution’.
– When the debate was adjourned yesterday
I had dealt with the difficult world market situation as regards cotton. I had pointed out the important part cotton played in the economic life of developing countries. I questioned the wisdom of Australia producing cotton for export, in this difficult world market situation, in competition with developing countries. For a few moments I want to deal further with this problem. When we speak about the vast markets of South East Asia we should also remember that certain countries in that area are interested in the production of cotton. When I was in Thailand last year I was told by people concerned with the economic development of that country that they were seriously considering large scale cotton production. As we all know, Thailand has a large scale irrigation project. Not only was the anticipated production to meet the domestic requirements of Thailand; it was also for export. No doubt this country in South East Asia is looking to supply cotton to other countries in the region who desire to import it. We should also remember that, by our standards, the costs of production are relatively cheap.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation - conscious of these factors, as I pointed out yesterday - has warned against increased cotton production. It pointed out that the trend of prices is downwards. I note that the report of our own Bureau of Agricultural Economics, on its survey of the cotton industry, also made that point. It mentioned the likelihood of a decline in world prices. It states that the longer term world prices would be unlikely to exceed the relatively low levels of the period from August to January in 1966-67. So here again it is recognised that the export prices pose a very serious problem. But to come back to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, it concludes its report on the world cotton situation by saying: lt does not now seem very likely that consumption will rise in view of the slowing down of economic activity in developed countries, and the recent fairly general acceleration in the rate of substitution of synthetic fibres for cotton. The 1967 reductions in synthetic fibre prices have already led to more extensive blending of cotton with polyesters, and may herald further inroads by synthetics into cotton a« well as into cellulosic fibre end-uses. Cotton usage is likely to fall again in North America and western Europe though it may continue to rise slightly in Japan.
I quote this because 1 believe it is very pertinent to the arguments advanced by the Opposition. The report concludes by saying:
No significant change is anticipated in the volume of international trade in 1968. Prices of all staples will probably remain under pressure due to more abundant supplies and more intensive competition from synthetic fibres.
So on the best possible authority we have the view that consumption of cotton is not likely to increase but well may be showing a decline, and that world prices are likely to rise but the pressure will be downwards. In view of those facts I fail to understand how the Opposition can suggest that Australia should enter into the world export cotton market.
Before 1 leave this factor it is interesting to comment on the report of the Special Advisory Authority on woven shirts and parts therefor of cotton and man-made fibre mixtures. In the report the Special Advisory Authority pointed out that the factor giving rise to the inquiry had been the increased imports and the increased demand for shirts other than purely of cotton. He stated:
This reflects the demand for ‘permanent press’ or ‘non-iron’ shirts, and is was generally agreed that in order to produce a satisfactory shirt of this type it is necessary to use a polyester cotton mixture containing at least 65% by weight of polyester.
So we find, even in Australia, that the demand is away from pure cotton to mixtures of synthetic fibres. In its amendment the Opposition refers to the Ord River and the problems which exist there today. Let me say here and now that I have visited the Ord River probably as much as, if not more than, any other senator in this chamber. I know the problems of the Ord River. The aim of the Government has been to develop an economically viable cotton industry. This has been achieved on the Namoi and in the irrigated areas of Queensland, but unfortunately the Ord River is not proving to be an economically viable cotton producing area. This is not the fault of those who foresaw this scheme or of the growers: it is mainly a problem of climate, pests and disease.
I have been informed that to develop an economically viable industry they must produce each year at least 3,000 lb of cotton seed per acre. But in only 1 year has this quantity been produced. Last year was a bad year and this year will be a bad year because of climatic conditions. Those who have spent many years on the Ord growing cotton are now beginning to sell their properties. They do not blame anyone for their situation. They believe that the governments have done everything that they could do to help, but as yet we have not been able to develop an economically viable industry on the Ord. Until such time as further experiments are carried out and a more reliable cotton variety to suit the environment of the area is bred there will not be very much prospect of the cotton industry on the Ord being a viable industry. Those are just the plain facts of life. The other point to consider is that the Ord River cotton industry harvests later than the rest of Australia, yet this is the area that would be thrown onto this difficult export market. The Australian manufacturer in general has found all his requirements from the Namoi, Queensland and the other cotton growing areas in eastern Australia. Surely it is not suggested that the Ord River should have to bear the brunt of exporting to the world markets, no doubt subsidised heavily by the taxpayer and competing against the developing countries where cotton plays such a major part in their economy.
– What does the honourable senator suggest we do with the Ord?
– This is another subject on which 1 do not express any views at the moment. Nor do we need facetious remarks from Senator O’Byrne who knows less about this matter than others.
– The honourable senator is extraordinary in the way he is speaking now.
– If Senator O’Byrne produces arguments to prove that I am wrong I shall be interested to hear them. I believe that the Ord may well develop as an are:i allied with the cattle industry of the Kimberleys. The region may well develop into a cattle producing area and that may well be its future. Sorghum is possibly a crop which at any time could prove to be economically viable, but at the moment all the evidence points to cotton not being an economically viable crop on the Ord. These are just the plain facts of economic life in this area. As I said yesterday, I understood that the aim of the bounty was to develop an economically viable cotton industry in Australia. This has been achieved.
If we consider the Namoi region, in particular, and also the Queensland areas where 80% of Australian cotton requirements are grown, we find that without the bounty the return on capital on the Namoi is 9.1%. In 1967 the Namoi produced 51,000 bales of cotton, yielding approximately 850 lb of lint per acre, which returned 9.1% on capital without the bounty. The following year’s crop produced 115,000 bales with a yield of 1,170 lb per acre which would obviously give a far greater return than 9.1%. If we continue the bounty indefinitely it would only serve to assist further the wealthy section of the industry but would not assist those in the more difficult areas. Yet this is what the Labor Party proposes. Do honourable senators opposite propose that growers on the Namoi should have a substantial return on their capital, assisted by the taxpayers of Australia, when they are now achieving an economic return? This applies also to those areas of Queensland where cotton can be produced economically. I suggest that it is economic madness to assist those who already are achieving an economic return and to encourage others to stay in the industry in areas which are not economically viable and where they will be forced to sell their product on the export market.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I had almost completed my remarks on this Bill. 1 had quoted figures which disclosed that in the Namoi area the return on capital, without bounty, was 9.1%. I had made the point that we could nol sustain an economically viable cotton industry on the Ord River at this time. To support those assertions 1 should like to give some figures from an economic survey of the Australian cotton growing industry conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. These figures relate to the return on capital, less bounty, in the various cotton growing areas of Australia for the period from 1964-65 to 1966-67. During that period, the annual average return in the Murrumbidge Irrigation Area was 2.3%: in the Namoi area, where as I have stated previously, there was a big increase in pro duction last year, it was 9.1%; in the southern areas of Queensland, it was 6%: in central Queensland it was 9%; and in the rain grown areas of Queensland it was 5.5%. So that obviously in Queensland we have an economically viable cotton industry which can sustain an adequate return without bounty. On the Ord River in Western Australia, however, the return was minus 9.8%. This, therefore, is one area which could not sustain an economically viable industry.
In my remarks during three sessions 1 think I have proved that the cotton industry of the world is one industry which faces an extremely difficult market situation. Firstly, consumption is not likely to rise. Again, in South East Asia and other less developed areas where we can expect standards of living to rise with a consequent increase in consumption, domestic production more than meets this rising consumption. 1 have pointed out also that cotton is a major export for the developing countries of the world and I have suggested that if we arc really interested in the welfare of those countries we should not try to compete with them on the world market because this would cause a downward pressure in prices for their products. For these reasons, I give my full support to the measure before th.’ Senate and most emphatically oppose the amendment.
– The Bill before the Senate is one to abolish the cotton subsidy in Australia. The term ‘phasing out’, which is used, simply means that the subsidy will be abolished 3 years later than if the action were taken immediately. To this proposal the Opposition has moved an amendment which in effect means that we seek to pay the subsidy of $4m for this year and then to take a further look at the whole question of the cotton subsidy. We have heard used such expressions as ‘economic madness’, lt has also been suggested that the Opposition is not showing any responsibility in connection with vast sums of public money. One honourable member of another place said that he could not go to his electorate and tell his electors to keep on paying taxes while all this money was being wasted on an industry that did not need a subsidy. The actual amount about which we are arguing is $4m. This is not a lot of money when considered in the light of the Budgets of today. Nor is it a lot of money when compared with the increased cost of such things as the Fill aircraft.
I have noticed that Government speakers in both the Senate and the other place have hedged around the question of the actual amount of money involved. Apart from the cotton bounty itself, I fear the general altitude which the Government has adopted towards newly developing industries. We know that the situation in the Namoi area where the farmers are making fairly large amounts of money is vastly different from the position in the Ord River area of Western Australia, but the Government talks about this as though it was something new to Australian politics and Australian economics. Surely it is obvious that in a huge country like Australia which has arid regions, snow regions and vastly differing climates, soils and rainfalls, conditions must vary from area to area. But, suddenly, when it comes to helping the cotton growing industry, this fact comes to the mind of the Government. No matter how this matter is looked at, the fact is that because of the pressure of politics, this Liberal-Country Party Government became suddenly interested in developing such outback areas of Australia as the Ord River. J welcomed this attitude, no matter what pressures might have brought it about. lt is suggested now by the Government that the second stage of the Ord River scheme cannot be developed until it can be certain that the scheme will be economically viable. The members of this Government, who claim to be the great financiers of Australia, say they will not move further until they can be satisfied that the scheme is economically viable. Presumably they had come to the conclusion that it was an economic proposition to go ahead with the project, when the second stage of the Ord scheme was begun. But, before it is completed, before we have been able to get a clear picture of what the Ord River development scheme really means, the Government, suddenly cuts the ground from under the cotton growers by deciding to phase out the subsidy over 3 years.
The point I emphasise is that when the surveys of the Ord River scheme were first made, they were not made with the idea of proceeding with only half the scheme, or a quarter of it; they were made with the object of ascertaining the amount of water that could be impounded. This was found to be a tremendous amount. During close surveys, account was taken also of such things as soil types, climate and so on. Then, because the seat of Kalgoorlie which at that time was held by the Liberal Party was won back by the Labor Party, the Liberal-Country Party Government started to lose interest. The thing that I regret - and it stands out as plain as a pikestaff - is that those members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party of Western Australia who had strongly supported the Ord River scheme and the development of outback areas are now wilting under pressure from the big Liberal interests of Sydney and Melbourne. Because of this pressure, the very men who were telling us what a great scheme this was when it was begun, are now running to water and telling us that it is not economic to do anything further about the Ord River scheme.
Mr Deputy President, because you are a Queenslander, I am sure you are appreciative of how the Government vacillates in connection with these matters and what can happen. Government members talk glibly about how cattle can be fattened in the northern areas. When we of the Labor Party suggested this a few years ago, we were told that it was a foolish idea. When we talked about glowing sorghum up there 2 or 3 years ago we were told that this was not a viable proposition at all. Today, those same men talk airily about changing over from cotton growing to these activities. But would those honourable senators who claim to be farmers, appreciate, being required after only a short period of production, to scrap cotton ginneries costing tens of thousands of dollars or to throw away cotton picking machines which could cost anything up to $25,000 each? They say this as though it is a backyard garden where one can change over from cabbages to cauliflowers in 5 minutes. This is not the situation at all. This decision by the Government will strike a great blow against these cotton growers. There are people - and I am one of them - who believe that governments ought to take risks in these areas. I believe that the Ord River area, the Kimberleys and parts of northern
Queensland are as much a part of Australia as are Collins Street and Pitt Street. I know that this concept is difficult to put over to some of our friends opposite. But those outback areas are very important. They are part of our heritage and our responsibility and they provide many opportunities for us. The Government has gone through a period during which it could give its attention to these areas, but this legislation is the very type of thing that will deter people from taking courageous steps. The fact is that the Government moved to commence the first part of the Ord River scheme and then hesitantly moved in respect of the second stage when it was satisfied that the project was economic. But now the Government is saying that although the project is economic it cannot go on with it anyway. Where does the Government stand on this project? Is the Government saying, on the one hand, that the second part of the Ord scheme can continue but on the other hand - as Senator Sim said - that cotton cannot be grown there? The Government, in this case, is making the facts fit its decision. It has decided to stop paying the subsidy on cotton and now it is fitting in other things in an effort to bolster that decision.
As f understand the situation, Australia is still importing about $80m worth of cotton textiles a year. Duty has to be paid on those imports. Would there be anything wrong with using the duty collected on those imports to pay some form of subsidy for cotton growing? Taking that argument a bit further, would it not be great for Australia if we could cut out another one of our import*? Would this not be of tremendous economic advantage? We did this in a short space of time with aluminium and other commodities. We turned from being an importing country and became an exporting country. If it can be done with heavy industry then it seems to me that it would be a pretty good bet that it could be done in the case of cotton. lt is not as if Australians have not had experience in growing cotton. People commenced growing cotton in Queensland in about 1871. True it is that cotton growing died out afterwards. However, with greater knowledge of the subject and with the resources of the Commonwealth Government, it was decided in the early 1960s to examine cotton growing again. It was decided that we should have a cotton industry in Australia. Now, ail of a sudden, the Government is washing its hands of the matter and is saying that outback areas can fend for themselves so long as we have some cotton growing in the Namoi area and similar regions. If we look through the history of Australian development we realise that there have been failures in Western Australia and Queensland. In the old days we did not have the resources of education and skilled government departments that we have today to face up to the challenge. Private people went into the outback, went broke and made a mess of things. However, in a few short years people were growing other crops in those same areas. Some of the south west parts of Western Australia are testimony to what I am saying. Now thi Government is saying that the subsidy has to be taken away. I have not heard the Government say that the subsidy on superphosphate should be withdrawn or that the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers being used to grow bananas and other products should be withdrawn. It seems to me that the Government is saying that one of the primary producing industries of Australia should not be assisted but that the others should.
Of course, the Government is on a pretty safe bet because cotton growers are not numerically strong. The Government would not treat the wheat growers or the wool growers in this way because it would lose their votes. Because the cotton growers are numerically few the Government can push them around. The Ord development is taking place in outback Australia but it is an area which is peculiarly suited to meet the requirements of the Asian area. As I understand the figures, the Japanese are importing two and a half times as much each year as we produce in Australia. If the Government is trying to adjust its figures to meet Japanese imports or what other developing countries import today, then it is pulling its own leg. If anybody at the end of the last war had believed that Japan and Germany would become the importers and processors that they are today one would have thought that they had a screw loose. The fact is that you cannot gauge economic development in the rapidly moving world of today. However, in the Ord River area we have a beautiful natural harbour, we have good rains and catchment areas, good soil and all the other things that we need. The area is peculiarly situated to enable us to dive into the Japanese market. However, suddenly the Government decides that there is overproduction and that therefore we cannot compete. I suppose this was said a few years ago about meat production, and meat exports. I give great credit to Australian exporters. They are competing every day of the week in all sorts of commodities. They are taking on the great giants of the world, the Japanese, the Americans, the British and all the rest. Time and time again they are beating them in the world markets because they have the courage, the knowhow and the real desire to go out and do so.
The Government talks about world parity prices and that sort of thing. What about world parity prices of the things that farmers have to buy? What about saying: You can export from the Ord to the Japanese and you can buy back from the Japanese, duty free, things such as tractors and other needed equipment.’ I realise that there is a bounty on tractors, but such a scheme could apply to fertilisers and other things, lt seems to me that the Government uses one argument when dealing with exports affecting these few farmers but another when it is dealing with their expenditure, their imports.
Government supporters have again used that old device, the Constitution, which is always trotted out when the Government is in trouble. Government supporters say: Constitutionally we cannot give money to the Ord scheme when we do not provide it for the Namoi.’ That is true enough but everybody knows that the Government can make special grants to the States. A special grant would be one way of overcoming this problem. I have no doubt that the fertile minds in the Treasury would find another dozen ways of providing money if the Government wanted to do so. If the Government considered it was in danger of losing some seats in some of the wheat growing areas, as was the case some years ago in the Kalgoorlie electorate, it would do something. You may think that these are harsh remarks, Mr Acting Deputy President, but you are a realist. You know that the great developments in the. brigalow country of Queensland, the beef roads projects, the Ord River projects and the others came about because the Liberal-Country Party Government came within one seat of losing power in 1961. If such a situation occurred every 5 or 6 years we might be able to put the needle in the arm of the Government and get some activity from it. 1 really thought that at long last we had a government which considered areas outside Collins Street and Pitt Street. The Government even fooled me for a time. However, in 1963 the Kalgoorlie electorate came back safely into the hands of the Labor Party and that was that. The Government is going back to doing the same old things.
I was interested to know how to bear out some of my remarks. However, on 23rd July 1963 there was an interview with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Mc Ewen). The article was headed ‘Government Gives Pledge on Ord Markets’. That is pretty good headline stuff. The article continued:
Finding markets for production from the Ord River farms was a responsibility which the Government had accepted, Trade Minister McEwen said on TVW7s ‘Focal Point’ last night.
In the remote regions of the Ord, transport costs would be a problem. Governments would have to stand by the farmers and help with their problems.
They are good words, are they not? It reminded me of when Mr Menzies opened the Ord scheme and said: ‘Exciting things are happening here today. They are far more exciting than what is happening in Kooyong. We will go on and on from here.’ They were words, just words. Further on in the article I referred to earlier, the Minister for Trade and Industry said:
To discover new markets and penetrate them was the real responsibility of government.
What about those words today when we are overproducing? The article continued:
The concept of agriculture in this remote area is sound. If some difficulties in production and marketing arise, having put our hand to the plough, we must never let it be the settler who suffers.’
I wonder if somebody could remind the Minister of those words today because he is letting them suffer. I will not quote all of this article. I noted recently that the Minister said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had written to the Premier of Western Australia and told him that this matter was his responsibility and not that of the Commonwealth Government, lt seemed to me that the Minister for Trade and Industry did not agree.
The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) made a statement recently and we are now being brought up to date on Government policy. We should remember that there have been a couple of elections. He said:
He told the gathering that if they did not tackle the problem of a voluntary basis, some cotton growing areas would find themselves seriously disadvantaged by lack of an orderly approach to marketing.
This is a stand and deliver attitude, lt is the attitude of: ‘Either fix it and fix it the way that we want it fixed or somebody will go to the wall’. How can the sincerity of this Government be tested when two statements like that from 1963 to 1969 can be produced?
This is cynicism of the worst political sort. This project has been dominated completely by politics. The Government is cynically throwing away this form of primary industry. Will the Government get away with this? I know that numerically few votes are attached to this matter. No big cotton growers finance and direct the Liberal Party as that Parly is financed and directed by wool growers, wheat growers and people from Collins Street and Pitt Street. Because of that fact, the Government is not particularly worried about this decision. What it is doing concerning the Ord project is completely shortsighted.
If somehow we ever could gel the Government or any other government to be interested in developing the outback of Australia, how could wc say with all sincerity that such development should go ahead when we see here that the Government has allowed these people to gel nicely out on the end of the limb and has then chopped it off or has let it die on the main body of the tree? That is what the Government is doing. The Government will not hear any criticism from me if it takes risks and develops the outback areas of Australia. If a few thousand dollars go down the drain in that endeavour, I will not criticise the Government on that account nor do I think any other reasonable person in Australia would.
Nobody expects to be able to write the economics of these areas 20 years, 30 years or 40 years ahead. Risks must be taken. We learn from our mistakes as we go along. But the Government has left these people out on a limb away from the main body of the tree and has thrown its hands up and said: ‘We cannot compete with America on the cotton market’ at a time when we have peculiar advantages in the cotton market with the Ord being placed so handy to Japan. The Government has said that it will put import duties on the goods that are used by farmers but that it will not subsidise the exports of those farmers. The Government should not have any hesitation about doing this because every country in the world is subsidising its exports. In the fast moving world of today, it is a case of export or die. What the Government has done with regard to the Ord River project will have repercussions very much further than the Ord. This action will dampen enthusiasm. This action throws the credibility of the Government again very largely into the open. 1 would love to hear the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) when he replies, relate, if he can, the two statements, one by the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), which was made in 1963 and the other by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) last year.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales) 12.38) - I think it is appropriate that I should say even a few words in the argument on the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1969. I am interested in this matter principally because it seems to me to be developing a new approach to primary production finance and marketing in Australia. This is one that I believe is necessary and wise. Looking at the second reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) I see that certain fairly fundamental things are involved. This scheme had to be reoriented to change from a basis of domestic use to a basis of production. Thai I think, first of all, was a wise step. 1 will develop as 1 go on, at the end of my very short comments on this Bill, what I think is an adequate reason why we should be approaching this sort of thing from this angle
It also provides thai there is to be a standard in production, in other words, that a farmer in effect will need to meet a quality standard which will be sufficient to attract a market. That, equally, seems to me to be extremely wise. Thirdly, a good economic survey has been done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. These sorts of surveys and these examinations of costs to make and sell, finance involved and market potential will be more and more essential in Australia particularly in primary industry, despite the wishes of many people for total development, many of which I share emotionally. But I do wish to say, with respect to Senator Willesee, that we still must have regard to our ability to do all the things that we want 10 do. It is still the same argument of means to be balanced against needs. That is why I believe the sort of approach that is contained in this Bill and the sort of thinking that leads up to these changes are necessarily wise.
Although it perhaps might upset some people who prefer weir own approaches against some other approach, what we are dealing with here fundamentally is an import replacement industry. Nowhere have I seen the argument advanced that the growing of colton in Australia under our present structure has any potential for an export staple. I have not heard this proposition advanced in this debate, I have not seen it in anything (hat 1 have read about the matter and from what I know about the subject this is nol the case, lt seems to me fundamentally an import replacement industry. What we seek to do therefore is cover our imports of cotton. The argument about spinning cotton into cloth in Australia is another argument for another lime. This matter turns on the imports of raw cotton which we seek to replace by local production.
The argument for replacement is a good argument, lt has a lot to commend it as long as those proposing it know what they are doing. A big exporting country like Australia which depends on people to buy its product cannot seek lo replace totally all its imports otherwise it just will not have a business. In import replacement we must have some regard to the cost of producing what we can produce against the cost of getting it somewhere else within the other limitation of wanting to develop Australia and employing a growing population. Fundamentally, this is the thing that 1 am sure we must do always. We must ask whether we are justified in producing in this country something that we can import. In some cases the answer is: ‘Yes, we are’. In some cases, it is a little doubtful whether we are. If we are in any doubt, sometimes it is better to wait because the opportunity later often is better than the opportunity today, when we look at the demands on our resources for other things which, as a rule, are more important.
When we look at this import replacement industry - that is what it is - and the development within Australia to try to get some import replacement by growing our own cotton, we find that a need still exists to import long staple cotton. We need to import approximately 15% of our requirements. We are directing our present activity in the finance of this industry towards encouraging the production of that amount which has to be imported. This again seems to me to be wise. This is not to gainsay that Australia’s performance agriculturally in growing cotton has been quite remarkable. I look at the yield tables that are given for cotton production in this country as against the comparative figures for other countries. I see that the Australian yield table shows a production of 987 lb per acre against 115 lb per acre in the United States of America, 613 lb per acre in Mexico, 246 lb per acre in Brazil, 757 ll> per acre in the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, 1.18 lb per acre in India and 60 lb per acre in Uganda. So, irrespective of any other criticism that may be made of this matter, what appears to bc an efficient import replacement industry has been developed in growing the amount of replacement cotton required.
Some most fantastic yields have been achieved under irrigation, again demonstrating the capacity of Australian primary producers to be technically most competent. The same story may be told about rice production. But there are limits to this. The limits are the limits that we find in the market within our own country and. even beyond that, whether we can produce for export. In the case of rice Australia appears to have some capacity for export production. In the case of cotton, as I said earlier, the case is not yet demonstrated. When we speak of this subsidy which it is proposed should be brought down progressively, we must have regard to the high percentage of production of cotton that is grown now in the Namoi Valley in extremely competent operations. We find, if we look at this, that if the subsidy were to continue we would be passing a large amount of the money of the Australian taxpayer across to concerns that are highly profitable now. 1 doubt that this would be achieving really any useful result.
The result has been achieved by earlier financial assistance to generate production to the stage that we have this production. The aim, therefore, that is announced in the second reading speech - to produce an economically viable industry without governmental assistance - is fundamentally a good and a sensible aim and has nearly been achieved. In earlier comments in this chamber we have heard of the tremendous rate of expansion in the industry, which was rapidly beginning to pass into a situation of surplus.
We have before us an amendment which substantially seeks the withdrawal of the Bill. Senator Scott might be able to help us here. I note that clause 2 provides:
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine.
Am I to assume that if the Bill is withdrawn subsidy payments under the formula proposed will not be able to be paid? Senator Scott might enlighten us on that point. It seems to me that what we have in the amendment is an open-ended financial proposition under which cotton production will be allowed to go on wherever it goes on and will be supported financially. This is the kind of thing which in the past has brought great trouble to large primary producing countries, of which Australia is one.
Irrespective of what our past behaviour might have been under different sets of circumstances in respect of different commodities, I suggest very seriously to the Senate that this country, with its huge trading position, its great dependence on exports of primary products and its need to import in order to balance its trade with its customers, has to be very careful in the future about farm support programmes under which the government says something like this to the farmers: ‘If you want to grow your product irrespective of the market we will buy it, we will guarantee you a price and it will be our responsibility to look after you’. Such a programme produced in the United States at one stage about 21 years supply of cheese stored in caves. I mention that one example without running over the whole gamut of production in excess of local demand under farm support programmes. Most of the cheese finally had to be given away or sold at a heavy discount.
I suggest, that all of us should be thinking about the financial problems implicit in the increased primary production in which Australia will have to engage. We should be doing the things that we are best suited to doing. We should have regard to the fact that the people to whom we are selling want to sell to us. We should think seriously about the economic consequences of farm support programmes and open-ended deals under which we say to the farmers: ‘You go for your life and produce as much as you can. We will guarantee your price and we will guarantee to buy your product’. I suggest that that is a disastrous path for Australia to follow in the years that lie ahead. Therefore 1 am unable to support the amendment. 1 do support the Bill. To me, it represents a most forward looking piece of legislation and one which will be well worth emulating through the range of Australia’s primary production as the years draw on.
– In the light of the data and figures that have been revealed in the course of the debate on this Bill, it is very difficult to argue against its introduction. It provides for an alteration in the amounts of bounty to be paid in the 3 years from 1st March this year and for the phasing out of the bounty on cotton production in Australia. There can be no argument against the proposition that bounties, subsidies, or whatever one may term them, cannot continue to be paid to an industry merely to keep it alive, unless it has some particular economic value to the nation.
Over the years we have frequently seen subsidies paid to an industry, and immediately the decision was made to withdraw those subsidies or to reduce them the inevitable happened: When the prop was taken away the industry collapsed. In addition to the industry collapsing, many individuals who had pursued that industry collapsed with it. Most of the individuals involved had convinced themselves that they would continue to enjoy a subsidy for all time. They were living in a false atmosphere. That is an attitude which should be discouraged. Temporary subsidies and bounties may be justified in certain instances. But we have seen so much of this sort of thing over the years that there can be no argument against the decision of the Government to review the bounty on colton production.
When we speak in this strain we are nevertheless emotional about the effect such a decision has in certain phases or spheres of the industry. That is the situation in respect of the cotton growing industry in the State I represent - Queensland. Its contribution to the overall production does not represent much. It is in the vicinity of 12% . Queensland has 160-odd growers out of the Australian total of 300 growers. But thenacreage and production figures are very limited. They do not have the assistance of irrigation to any great extent, if to any extent. I suppose that the bounty has kept these people going, in common with their fellows in New South Wales and whereever else cotton is grown. For the last 5 years they have had the advantage of this bounty. They now feel that any reduction of it will bring about disaster. lt is true, as Senator Willesee has stated, thai, the amount involved is not great and that we spend greater amounts of money in other fields without very much question. But that is not the main consideration. The amount docs not matter. It is the principle with which we must be concerned. In the light of the figures that have been produced, the return on capital invested has been very good for the last few years. It is to be hoped that that situation continues for those people who are able to make a go of cotton production in Australia. In the New South Wales area the figures have been quite good. In 1967 about 51,000 bales were produced in the Namoi valley area, yielding approximately 850 lb of lint per acrea and returning, without bounty, 9.1% on capital. In 1968 the crop totalled about 115,000 bales, yielding about 1.170 lb of lint per acre. Obviously this crop would give a far greater return on capital, without bounty, than 9.1%.
About 300 cotton growers in Australia will participate in the bounty of $9m over the next 3 years. This represents $30,000 for each producer over 3 years, or $10,000 a year. That is not an insignificant contribution and it is understandable that cotton growers would be disturbed by any reduction in those payments. The question is whether payment of the bounty can be maintained and justified. That is the important point. I repeat that I am concerned as to what will happen if there is an unanticipated decline in prices or an unexpected increase in costs of production. Is there provision for a review by the Australian Agricultural Council or the Bureau of Agricultural Economics? Can the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who introduced this Bill, give an assurance that the cotton growers will be safeguarded should extraordinary circumstances arise? I would like the Minister to give such an assurance. I do not want to be unreasonable, but I am inclined to ask for an assurance that action will be taken should any unexpected and extraordinary decline in prices take place.
Since the debate began I have received a telegram from a conference at Wee Waa of 150 cotton growers, representing Queensland and New South Wales cotton processors and growers. The conference has resolved as follows:
That the Commonwealth Government be informed that since the new cotton bounty legislation was drafted there has been a serious decline in world cotton prices which could prove disastrous to Australian cotton growers.
Is that in accordance with fact? Was provision made in the economic assessment of the industry for the declining cotton prices referred to by the conference, or has the decline taken place since the survey was carried out? If the decline has occurred since the survey was completed, immediately the Government is faced with the necessity to reassess this legislation. The conference states that there was a sharp increase in costs due to the introduction in New South Wales of the Cotton Farm Employees Award. I can well imagine that the people who conducted the economic survey of the colton growing industry would have had regard to probable increases in wages. That is a continually recurring factor. Anyone making an assessment or survey would surely provide for that contingency.
The telegram goes on to say that in the period from 1963 to 1968 the Colton Bounty Act succeeded in creating an efficient domestic cotton growing industry, the continued survival of which is now threatened by the terms of the current Bill. 1 can make allowances for extravagance in the communication. 1 do not think it could logically be contended that because of this Bill the cotton growing industry will fail lt confirms what 1 said earlier, that people take for granted when they are in receipt of a subsidy or bounty that they will continue to get it forever and a day. That is not so and cannot reasonably be expected, irrespective of whether the product concerned is butter, cheese or anything else.
Industries have to stand on their own feet to a great extent. That was discovered in the post-war years when federal governments subsidised potatoes and almost every item in the list. It caused a lot of trouble from time to time. The telegram goes on to say that the conference seeks a further extension of the level of bounty which will ensure that net returns lo growers envisaged by the economic survey will continue to bt received. That sums up the point 1 am making. I. am not in favour of the proposed amendment because it would suspend or delay payment of the bounty which is to be paid as from 1st March of this year. Th; Opposition seeks to withdraw the legislation and have it redrafted. If the relevant Minister decided to redraft the legislation, that would take some time. He may decide not to redraft it and say instead;- ‘You can take it as it is or leave it’. The bounty system could fail. If this legislation is passed, at least there is a phasing out period. 1 do noi think it would be to the benefit of Australian colton growers to approve the amendment. They would lose what they are guaranteed in this legislation.
Although the number of cotton growers in Queensland is small and their colton production represents a small percentage of the total Australian production - and in most cases they grow cotton in conjunction with another pursuit - they are entitled to some consideration in the event of a change in circumstances involving a great decline in prices or a great increase in costs. That is the point that concerns me. 1 cannot bring myself to vote against the Bill because I cannot see that there is any argument against a review of the bounty from time to time by the Government or the Department in the light of prices and returns, and all relevant facts. The figures that have been produced in this case provide evidence for a review of the bounty. 1 do not support the amendment because 1 think it would do cotton growers a disservice. Payment of the bounty that is needed by the cotton growers would bc suspended.
I feel that in all the circumstances the Bill warrants my support. However, I would like the Minister for Customs and Excise - and I appreciate that he is a proxy Minister, representing somebody else on this occasion - to give an assurance that cotton growers will be given some consideration; that if there is a marked increase in costs or an appreciable decline in prices there will be a review of the position and cotton growers will not be left stranded, as it were, because of circumstances beyond their control. In the meantime. 1 would like the Minister to state in his reply whether the increase in costs and the decline in prices to which this conference of growers refers has taken place since this legislation was. drafted and introduced. If these factors were taken into account or anticipated by the economic surveyors then J do not think that the conference has any cause for complaint because they have been provided for. I want the Minister to be sure of his facts on this aspect because it is important. I think the cotton growers should be properly informed and that they should be put right if they are wrong. But if they are right, 1 think that the Government should have an immediate look at the whole question because it looks as though further consideration is merited.
– in reply - Firstly, may I say that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne on behalf of the Opposition. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment because it has a definite policy in relation to the bounty on cotton. The Government has been encouraging the cotton industry since 1964 by granting a bounty to it. The Government’s policy has been to develop the cotton industry in Australia as an economic industry and it granted a bounty in the initial stages to assist the growers to achieve this goal. In 1964 only about 12,000 bales of cotton were grown in Australia, but because of the Government’s bounty cotton production has increased to such an extent that last year the quantity was up to about 150.000 bales. That is, of course, more than the local spinners require.
Having reached this position of selfsufficiency, the Government has decided thai the bounty should be withdrawn. But the Government considers that the bounty should be phased out over a period to make allowance for the new ginneries and the increased storage capacities associated with the increased production. So. for a period of 12 months from 1st March 1969 the bounty will be $4m, for a period of 12 months from 1st March 1.970 it will be $3m, and for n period of 12 months from 1st March 1971 it will be $2m. The Government believes that this will provide those people who are committed to the purchase of plant and so on with an opportunity to phase out their- costs. The Opposition’s amendment provides for a bounty of $4m for a period of 12 months as from 1st March 1969. lt also requests an economic review of the decline in world prices. The Opposition’s amendment also suggests one or two other items that may be taken into consideration after the end of that period of 12 months.
– What is this decline in world prices?
– That is the Opposition’s amendment.
– No,’ it is not. The Minister said the wrong thing. The Opposition seeks an immediate review of the economic position of the raw cotton industry.
– The Opposition’s amendment reads:
Leave out all words after ‘That’ - insert the Bill bc withdrawn and re-drafted to provide -
for the payment of a bounty of $4m on total production of raw cotton for the year commencing on the first day of March, one thousand nine hundred unci sixty-nine;
for an immediate review of the economic position of the raw cotton industry with the object of providing adequate financial assistance to those areas which are still in need of a bounty, and which have not yet had time to become established viable economic units, such as the Ord River and the Queensland irrigation areas; and
that special financial payments to assist the developing areas to become established viable economic units be implemented within section 96 of the Constitution’.
The Opposition’s amendment provides for an across the board subsidy or bounty to areas such as the Namoi Valley, which is the main cotton growing area in Australia., and the Ord River as well as parts of Queensland. If one looks closely at the Ord River scheme one finds that the Commonwealth Government decided to come to the assistance of Western Australia by providing finance for the major dam at a cost of approximately S49,n on the understanding that any agricultural policies and/or requirements would be guaranteed by Western Australia. We have heard quite a long speech by Senator Willesee, who is from Western Australia, to the effect that the Commonwealth is gelling out from under with the Ord scheme. The Government is continuing to accept its responsibilities in connection with the Ord River scheme, lt is prepared to find the money necessary for the second stage, but it has reached agreement with the Western Australian Government to the effect that the Western Australian Government will pick up any tabs in relation to agricultural needs. An application for financial assistance was made to the Commonwealth by Western Australia. In his reply of 6th February 1969 to the Premier of Western Australia the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said: 1 refer again to your letter of 27th September 1968 seeking special Commonwealth financial assistance to the amount of $750,000 for the cotton growers in the Ord River area over the next 3 years. The recent extension of the cotton bounty for 3 years on the basis of production wan made after an economic survey of the cotton growing industry had been completed and the decision represented my Government’s considered assessment of the Australian industry’s needs.
Commonwealth financial commitments to the Ord scheme by way of grants for stages 1 and 2, loans for irrigation works, cotton bounty payments and expenditure on the Kimberley Research Station amount in total to over $70m. In view of this, my colleagues and I believe that any
Government responsibility for crop failures or other temporary setbacks should be undertaken by the Stale and 1 am informed that at discussions in August 1966 with Commonwealth Ministers about stage 2 you gave an undertaking to my colleague the Treasurer, who was the Chairman of the meeting, that the State would accept responsibility for economic setbacks in the scheme.
The Commonwealth is therefore not able to accede to your present request.
That reply was given in answer to a request for assistance for the cotton growers in the Ord area in Western Australia. The other item of considerable interest is the large amount of profits being made by the growers in the Namoi area in New South Wales, where between 70% and 80% of Australia’s cotton is produced. In this area large acreages of cotton are grown by individuals who have been able to reach maximum production in the most economic manner. The result is that cotton growers in the Namoi area are able to get a return of 9.1% on capita] invested. That was the figure in 1967, without the bounty, when their production figures were 51,000 bales yielding approximately 850 lb per acre. No doubt the percentage return on capital increased considerably when the next year’s production figures were taken into account. In the following year - 1968-115,000 bales were produced, with an average yield of 1,170 ib per acre as against the S50 lb per acre in the previous year. This return, which is up almost 320 lb per acre, obviously would give a far greater return than 9.1% on capital, without the bounty.
One of the reasons for phasing out the bounty is that overall1 less than 300 cotton growers in Australia will share in the $9m to be provided over the next 3 years. On an average $30,000 will be paid to each producer over the 3 years, which works out at $10,000 per annum per producer for the next 3 years. The 1969 bounty of $4m, which began as from 1st March this year, will provide assistance to the 300 cotton growers at the rate of $13,333 per farm. The Namoi growers receive this assistance in addition to the return of 9.1% on capital for the 1967 crop; obviously they would receive a much larger return on capital invested for the 1968 crop.
I now comment on a few of the most interesting speeches that were made during the debate. Senator O’Byrne, who moved the amendment, dwelt mainly on the large incomes earned by the Namoi growers. He said that they would pay almost as much by way of income tax as they received by way of bounty and, therefore, the Government should carry on with this scheme of financing cotton growing in Australia. He was of the opinion that we should give more to the rich cotton growers because we would get it back by way of income tax. Because they are rich, large, economic units operating in New South Wales, they should be able to continue their large scale earning capacity so that we, as a government, could come to the party and make the kind of arrangements that have been made already with Ord River growers and others. 1 refer to the second part of the amendment which relates to an immediate review of the position of cotton growers in the Ord River and in Queensland. An arrangement has been entered into and agreement has been reached between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government regarding the economics of the Ord scheme and the granting of finance for the second stage of the scheme. The State Government has undertaken to pick up any lag in relation to the need for assistance to cotton growers and/or other growers in the Ord area.
Senator Maunsell gave two reasons why the bounty should be continued. The first was to enable an industry, under Australian conditions and costs, to produce and compete without too high a burden on the consumer. The second - I think this was referred to later by Senator Cotton - was to establish a new industry such as cotton and thus replace imports. He mentioned the research that is being undertaken in relation to the Ord and the assistance given to research in the industry. Senator Bull mentioned the net annual return of 9.1% to growers in the Namoi area in New South Wales, without the bounty. Senator Lawrie cited the Australian average of 897 lb of lint per acre as compared with the average in other countries in the world, namely, the United States of America, 511 lb; Mexico, 613 lb; Brazil, 241 lb; Russia, 757 lb; India, 118 lb; and Uganda, 66 lb. He said that Australia, because of its large irrigation areas, should enter into competition on world export markets. I believe that this phasing out programme that we are carrying out at the moment will enable the Australian industry to become so efficient that we will be able, without a bounty, to enter into competition on world export markets.
Senator Wilkinson seemed to be opposed to the phasing out and mentioned that America was competing on world export markets but was still paying a bounty to the growers of 2c to 3c per lb. Senator Sim mentioned the problems of phasing out the bounty and also cited the agreement between Western Australia and the Commonwealth. Senator Willesee, who represents my home State, said that the Government financed the Ord scheme for election purposes and now it is cutting the ground from under the feet of the cotton growers. I do not want to enter into a debate as to whether or not we provided finance for electoral purposes, but I advise the honourable senator that when we decided to provide the additional finance for the Ord, the seat of Kalgoorlie, which he mentioned later in his speech, was held by the present member, Mr Collard. Therefore, the granting of additional finance for the Ord did not help us to win the seat of Kalgoorlie.
– Do not tell half the story. The Minister knows better than that.
– The honourable senator mentioned the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. He also mentioned that we were cutting the ground from under the feet of the cotton growers. I again mention the agreement that exists between the State Government and the Commonwealth regarding the problem? that face the Ord cotton growers at the moment. The State Government has agreed to make - and lately has made - finance available to the cotton growers to carry them over the next growing period. He mentioned that the bounty payable to an industry like this cannot be phased out because of the great blow that growers would suffer. He said that they would have purchased cotton picking machines and other expensive machinery and mentioned that in spite of this the Government proposed to remove the bounty. I believe that the Ord, particularly when the larger dam has been built, will become an economic unit. Land holdings may have to be granted in larger units, but with the production of other crops and with use of the area for fattening cattle, because of the very cheap construction in relation to the amount of water that can be contained in the dam the project is assured of success.
Senator Willesee mentioned also the import duty on fertilisers. He said that we were exporting iron ore as a raw material but importing manufactured goods. He said that we were providing other farmers with subsidies on superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. I remind the honourable senator that the subsidy is paid also to farmers on the Ord and to all cotton growers who purchase nitrogenous fertilisers and/or superphosphate. Senator Cotton mentioned that we should consider this as an import replacement industry. He spoke along the same lines as Senator Maunsell and was against the amendment proposed by the Opposition. He asked whether, if the amendment were carried, the result would be that no payments by way of bounty would be made to the cotton growers until a suitable Bill had received the royal assent. I can assure the honourable senator that when this Bill receives the royal assent it will have effect as from 1st March. There are already in Australia applications in respect. of bounty of 2,000 bales of lint cotton.
The only points with which I have not dealt are those raised by Senator Gair who mentioned that he was not in favour of holding up the payment of the bounty as from 1st March because, he understood, some of the growers were already waiting to present their accounts for bounty payments. He asked me, as the Minister in charge of the Bill in the Senate, to assure him that the Government would give sympathetic consideration to the cotton growers if there were alarge decline in world cotton prices or any other tragedy which affected Australian cotton growers. I cannot give an assurance along those lines, butI can assure him that I shall take his representations to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and convey to him the wishes expressed by the honourable senator.I reiterate that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment and hopes that it will be defeated.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator
O’Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I regret that when replying to the second reading debate I missed one point that was raised by Senator Gair. The honourable senator wanted an assurance about the survey that was taken of the cotton growing industry. He wanted to know the conditions under which it was taken and the years that were taken into account. One of the reasons given for the survey is the decline in world prices. It is true that the world price of strict middling 11/14 inch cotton on the Liverpool market has declined from 30.21c per lb in March 1968 to 26.38c per lb in March 1969. The reason for the price decline has been the increased world production of short and medium staple cottons. They are the types produced in Australia. World production has increased from 47.6 million bales to 52.3 million bales over the past 12 months, while trading conditions remain sluggish and consumption levels are running a little below those of a year earlier. Whilst prices have declined, they have declined to the normal level that existed in 1966-67 and 1965-66, which is the period over which the survey was conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. So the argument that special consideration ought now to be given and a new survey conducted because of the world prices cannot be substantiated. The world prices now are those that applied while the survey was being undertaken. As to the expectation of future world prices, in the long term, there seems to be little likelihood of a price advantage for cotton, as manmade fibres set a ceiling to the level of price above which substitution away from cotton takes place. There will, of course, still be erratic seasonal fluctuations in response to variations in consumption and production.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
SCHOLARSHIPS BILL 1969
Debate resumed from 17th April (vide page 892), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Scholarships Bill, which now comes before the Senate, is a Bill of far reaching importance. It places on an understandable and reasonable legislative basis the administration of five schemes of scholarships which are carried out by the Commonwealth. They are Commonwealth secondary scholarships, Commonwealth technical scholarship?. Commonwealth advanced education scholarships, Commonwealth university scholarships and Commonwealth post-graduate, awards. Hitherto, all scholarships have been administered by the Commonwealth Scholarships Board and by the Commonwealth Office of Education. The Bill proposes the abolition of these instrumentalities and the incorporation of the administration of the scheme in the Department of Education and Science, which is now just over 2 years old.
I should like to say one or two things about the history of this legislation because this is one of the most interesting of the Bills now before the Senate. Almost 2 years ago, the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), then Senator Gorton and Minister for Education and Science, introduced into the Senate the Scholarships Bill of 1967. At first glance, one would have thought that what we are discussing today is the same Bill that we discussed in 1967 because it also dealt with the five categories of scholarships which are now to be comprehended by this Bill, and which are now to be administered by the Department of Education and Science. In fact, it was an entirely different Bill and the Senate virtually told the then Minister to take it away and have another look at it. By a series of amendments, the Senate rejected a number of provisions and introduced amendments to achieve the end of subjecting the administration of the scheme to the rule of law. The 1967 Bill provided such a wide ministerial discretion that it was virtually up to the Minister to decide not only how many scholarships should be awarded in each year - a matter which is properly one of government policy because the Budget is involved in the number to be awarded each year - but also the terms of eligibility for scholarships. All these matters were entrusted to the discretion of the Minister without any regulations to prescribe the conditions under which scholarships should be granted, such as the manner of selecting persons to whom scholarships are to be awarded, and so on.
By amendments moved in the Senate, we introduced new clauses into that Bill which was withdrawn by the Minister for further consideration before it was adopted by the Senate in committee. The second reading had been carried, but in committee a series of amendments was introduced by the Opposition, with the support, notably, of the present Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, Senator Wright. He supported the position taken by the Opposition on the matter then. 1 see that he is now entering the chamber. Let me explain to him that f am paying him the very real compliment of telling the Senate how valiantly he strove, when the 1967 Bill was before the Senate, to see that the proper principles of administration in these matters were carried out.
– The good old days.
– The good old days. I believe that the Minister did the country a service and did education a service by supporting the amendments that we put forward and by indicating his support lor amendments which would have been put if the Bill had not been withdrawn from consideration by the then Minister for Education and Science, the present Prime Minister. lt is perhaps not necessary to canvass these matters in detail but i think it is proper lo refer to the important role that the Senate can play in relation to them. The Bill was originally introduced into the Senate by the then Minister for Education and Science, lt was subjected to the kind of scrutiny that this kind of legislation should be subjected to, and it was taken away, ft has now returned to us and I think the Government is to be complimented upon having got the message, lt is now returned to us in a form which allows us in the Opposition, at any rate, to say, broadly speaking, that we believe thai the criticism of the original Bill has now been mct.
There are some questions that I should like to canvass in committee but I do not know that I need to take the time 01 the Senate in the second reading debate. Perhaps I could indicate shortly to the Minister in charge of the Bill that we will want some explanation as to whether the word ‘prescribed’ in clauses II and 12 means prescribed by regulations. If it does, then we would not want to quarrel with it. If it does not, we will want to move an amendment to make sure that the prescription is prescription by regulation. What is emerging in the Bill before the Senate is the very proper principle that people should be able to know the conditions on which they or their children can receive scholarships. Parents want to know the conditions of eligibility. They do not want to be told that this information is hidden in some ministerial direction which may be changed tomorrow. They want to be able to go lo the relevant law and see whether their children fall within the category.
– The honourable senator can have my statement now that the word prescribed’ does mean prescribed by regulation.
– I am content to take that assurance.
– The honourable senator can confirm it by reference to the Acts Interpretation Act if he wishes.
– I am quite happy with the Minister’s assurance. However, considering the history of this matter, when we deal with the clauses of the Bill during the Committee stage, the matter can be spelt out. I will have the Minister’s assurance and it will be in the permanent record of the Senate. I will be content with that.
Before passing to the broader aspects of this legislation, may 1 say that at no stage have we sought to limit the discretion of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in matters of this kind so that he would be unable to exercise some leadership on occasions when administering the Act. Obviously there are many occasions when an individual case has to be referred to a Minister because it does not fit into any recognised category. It may be a hardship case or the case of somebody who is on the borderline of qualification or eligibility. It may be that after looking at all the circumstances there is some convenient ground for the Minister to be in a position to say: ‘I will act in this case because I will be doing justice without upsetting a well accepted general rule. I am not doing it merely because it tickles my fancy or because it comes out of the top of my head. I am properly exercising a discretion in a particular case’. I made this point clear when leading for the Opposition when the legislation was introduced in 1967. The Opposition made it quite clear that if there were any question about this matter we would want the Minister to have a reasonable discretion which he could exercise on a proper basis in various cases. That is all I want to say on that point. The Bill is in its present form because the Opposition, with the assistance of a number of honourable senators on the Government side, made its wishes known in 1967. The Bill is in an acceptable form. It is pleasing to see that the Government has learned its lesson and has acted upon the very clearly expressed wish of the Senate regarding the previous legislation.
I want to move to some wider considerations involved in this Bill. The Bill provides a formal structure enabling the Commonwealth to grant scholarships for each of five fields of education - secondary scholarships, technical scholarships, advanced education scholarships, university scholarships and post-graduate awards. Over the years there has been, in an absolute sense, a substantial increase in the number of scholarships but comparatively speaking there has been an alarming deterioration in, for example, the number of students accepted for entrance to the universities.
The Minister for Education and Science supplied some figures to the Leader of the Opposition in another place on 25th February. They related to Commonwealth scholarship open entrance to university awards. T will refer to the comparative position as at 1952 and 1968. In 1952 there were 7,217 applications for scholarships and 3,680 were granted. The proportion of successful applicants was 51%. These figures relate to students applying for Commonwealth scholarships at university entrance stage. By 1968 the number of applications had risen to 46,527. At the same time the number of scholarships granted had risen from 3,680 in 1952 to 8,524 in 1968. In 1968 the proportion of successful applicants was 18.3%. In 1952, 51% of the applicants received scholarships but in 1968 the figure was only 18.3%.
This means that it is not getting easier to win a scholarship; it is getting harder. There can be no gainsaying those figures. The figures show a very serious situation. One recognises that substantial sums are being spent on increases in scholarships but at the same time, in the relative sense, things are getting worse. The student offering himself today for university entrance has less chance of gaining entrance than a student did in 1952. Today a student faces fiercer competition.
I have looked into this position and I am in some difficulty in reconciling the figures. I had some figures taken out concerning the number of applications for scholarships and the number granted in the various fields, such as open entrance scholarships, mature agc scholarships and so on. These figures were supplied by the Legislative
Research Service in the Parliamentary Library. Some of them come from figures given in reply to questions asked in the Senate. There is one matter I would like the Minister to clarify at some stage. The figure I am referring to relates to the number of open entrance Commonwealth scholarships for tenure at universities in 1968 in each of the Australian States. The figures supplied by the Library are different from those contained in the answer to a question asked this year. There was a total of 37.987 applications for scholarships and 6,427. or 16.9%, were granted. The figure given by the Minister was 1 8. 1 % . Both figures show how far the situation has deteriorated. However, 1 am al a loss to reconcile the figures and 1 would be obliged if the Minister could give some explanation at some stage of this discussion.
Dealing with the figures in the open entrance university section, the proportion of successful applicants was 16.9%. In the mature age section there were 1,659 applications for scholarships and 122 scholarships were offered. 1 do ‘tot have the figure for the number of scholarships accepted. This means that 7.4% of the applications for scholarships were approved. This shows the very real burden that falls on a student of mature age who does not compete against the ordinary run of students seeking entrance to university after leaving school. These mature age students are in a separate category and they are limited in number. I know of mature age students who obtained sufficient credits and honours in their matriculation examination to win a scholarship. While this undoubtedly would have been sufficient to earn these students a scholarship if they had been students coming from a secondary school, it was not enough in the restricted company because applications far outweighed the number of scholarships available. In fact, 7.4% of applicants in the mature age section were offered scholarships.
In respect of the later year Commonwealth scholarships for tenure at university during 1968, 1,988 applications were accepted out of a total number of applications of 6,946. That is 28.6% of the total number of applications. These figures refer to students having passed their first year at the university, or a later year, looking for a scholarship to enable them to complete their course, not having qualified for one at entrance. The percentage of those accepted to those applying was 28.6%.
In the field of secondary scholarships - this again is an extremely significant field, and, important though universities be. a much more far reaching field because it concerns a much larger number of people - the total university population is, in round figures, 100,000 and the total school population runs into millions. 1 have not the latest figures but the total school population would be approximately 2.5 million, or perhaps more. In 1967, some 75,231 students sat for the examination for Commonwealth secondary scholarships - that is for the year for 1968 and the number of 2-year awards to commence in 1968 - and 9,995 awards were made. The percentage of awards offered to examinees as against the number of examinees was 13.3%. lt is very obvious that when one. talks about an increase in the number of scholarships this has to be seen in the perspective that if still represents only some modest proportion of those who are offering for scholarships and who are seeking financial assistance to put them through a university. In respect of the technical sphere, I have not the precise total percentage of scholarships offered. I have it State by State. In New South Wales 38.3% of applicants was offered scholarships. In Tasmania it was 3.9%. In South Australia 1 1.9% was offered scholarships and in Victoria 15.8% of applicants was offered scholarships. Tha conclusion that 1 invite the Senate to draw from those figures which come from the Minister is that-
– Are those the figures of the Parliamentary Library or of the Minister?
– The figures come from the Parliamentary Library. For example, the figures given for the open entrance scholarship are shown to have as their source the reply to Question No. 230 given in the Senate in 1968 by the Minister for Education and Science, through the Minister representing him in the Senate. It happens to be a question that I myself asked. There are others. Some are given as replies to questions asked in another place. They seem to have, if I may say so, the air of authenticity about them as coming from the responsible Minister answering questions upon notice.
This leads me to ask the Senate whether in fact we need some fundamental approach to this problem of financial assistance to university students, secondary students, technical students and students attending colleges of advanced education. From one point of view, a scholarship may be regarded as a reward for excellence. A student who does very well gets a pat on the back and a scholarship irrespective of his financial position. Thai is one way of looking at scholarships. Another way of looking at a scholarship is to ask: ‘Should we not in our education system smooth the path for the able student who, because of financial disability - the financial position of his parents - is not able to undertake, whether it be in the later years of a secondary school course, a technical college education or an education cither in a university or in a college of advanced education which is the newly emerging form of tertiary education, the course of study that he desires?’ lt is my belief that we need a national survey to consider the matter not only generally, as I have advocated on other occasions to form an assessment of needs and priorities, but also to ascertain what wastage of talent there is at all levels of education in Australia. 1 refer especially to wastage caused by financial disability of parents or later felt by a student when that student becomes a somewhat independent person and as he tries to put himself through college, to use an expression that is used in another country. One wonders whether we know really what is happening to some of our talent. Do we know how many students do not finish secondary education because, whilst they have ability, their parents are not in a financial position to put them through that education? Do we know how many do not go to university, to colleges of advanced education or, having taken their first degree, to post graduate study because, although they are capable of doing it, they may not be capable of winning a scholarship or because the scholarship itself may not be enough to sustain them through the particular years of experience? Do we know in what category those students are who may fall by the wayside for lack of finance? Do we know from what sorts of homes they come-
– .How does the honourable senator propose that we should get this information?
– 1 was suggesting that we ought to have a survey. This would not be an easy thing to do. It is easy to say: ‘Let us take a sample of 2,000 scholarship holders and ask those 2,000 scholarship holders how many of them would not have gone to university if they had not obtained a scholarship’.
– Would that not be prying into their business? They would protest. Probably the honourable senator would lead the protest.
– I do nol think that it is as simple or as silly as that. Students are awarded university scholarships on a means test.
– The honourable senator wants to -
– If the honourable senator did not know that -
– Yes, I know that, but does the honourable senator want their private business pried into by some committee?
– I do not want any prying. I am quite happy to preserve their anonymity. People respond to gallup polls. People respond to all sorts of surveys. Many people like to rely upon those polls and surveys as proving something. I am simply saying, without any element of prying, that I would like to know as I think the Government probably would like to know - I do not know whether it has the courage to try to find out or the initiative to try to find out - and as I think most educationists would like to know how many students who now have scholarships and are at university on those scholarships would not have gone to university without those scholarships. The number might be surprisingly small because the little that I have read on the subject suggests that scholarships may not always go to people who really need them. We must have regard to the inbuilt advantages that some students have in secondary schooling. I refer to the type of schools to which they are able to go and the sort of background that they themselves have. These students have inbuilt cultural and economic advantages which make it easier for them to gel to a university. Many of them are on scholarships.
I am saying that there are two kinds of surveys. One is the survey that comes from saying: ‘Let us look at those who are at university on scholarships and ask them the question: “Would you have got here, could you have afforded to come here without your scholarship?”.’ But the more relevant survey is that of those who did not go to university or did not get into the later years of secondary school, in order to find out to what extent financial considerations cut short their education.
– Would you not have to examine the circumstances of every child and every parent?
– You might have to do that, lt might take a long time. But it would be an interesting guide to policy.
– But the children who were 6 years old when the survey began would be 20 years old when it finished.
– Then we would help the next generation. I want to see not only a much greater number of scholarships awarded but also a thoroughgoing investigation of how much talent this country is wasting. A country such as this, with enormous natural advantages and resources in the material sense but limited in numbers in the human sense, cannot afford to waste talent if it is to keep pace with advanced countries in other parts of the world.
What 1 am trying to get at is whether, with all our discussion of these matters, we are anywhere nearer the truth. The Government can say: ‘We are adding 500 scholarships to the number we awarded last year’, and we can say: ‘That is very good. The Government is to be commended’. But when we look at the percentage of students getting scholarships we see a dramatic decline and we see that the competition is fiercer than it was in 1952. The conclusion to draw from that must be that a substantial number of students are being shut out not only because everybody is not able to compete for university or advanced education scholarships but also because, when they do compete, they now have only 1 chance in 5 or 1 chance in 6 of getting a scholarship. This is just not good enough. This country deserves something better. I am suggesting that we need this survey of resources because the real education issue is whether we are encouraging enough of our capable students and assisting them adequately.
I wonder whether we look enough at experimentation in other parts of the world. Britain has abolished the means test for university scholarships. All full time undergraduate students receive grants sufficient for them to keep themselves. The education authorities in Britain make no apologies for the magnitude of the expenditure proposed. That seems to me to be an extremely important principle.
– What is Britain’s economic position like at the moment, under Labour?
– Britain has placed enormous emphasis on education and improved science and technology. This is not really the place to discuss Britain’s economic position. Let us look at the United States. 1 suppose that the honourable senator would regard himself-
– What he is saying is that education is a waste of money.
– I know that he is saying that. I was not really listening to him all that closely. The United Stales devotes a much greater percentage of its gross national product to education than Australia does. I do not take any special pride in being a citizen of a country which everybody thinks is one of the most advanced countries in the world but which is well down the list in expenditure on education, by whatever criterion one wants to judge it. Countries such as Morocco, Venezuela, Korea and Iraq spend a higher proportion of gross national product on education than does Australia. In the United States about 70% of the population stay at school until much later years than do Australians. I saw some statistics on this point recently, but I have nol them with me at the moment. 1 am concerned to indicate only that we in this country have not. a monopoly of wisdom as to how to approach our problems. We can learn a lot from the United States, which has a federal system. I know that it has huge areas of underprivilege, deprivation and poverty which are much more striking than anything we have. But it has a strong emphasis on education and science and the development of technology. That is what makes it an advanced country. it is no good for us to just talk about what we are spending on scholarships or any other part of education now. compared with what was being spent 20, 1.5 or even 10 years ago. It is what we need to spend that is important. We as a national parliament cannot shrink from the discussion of these important questions because ultimately somebody will ask: ‘Who is going to finance it - the States or the Commonwealth? Where will the money come from?’ These are important questions. If we are to deal with them in surface hurrahs because the number of scholarships has increased from 6,000 to 7,000, we cannot really applaud until we know what the needs are. I have stressed this and my Party has stressed it again and again, especially in recent years when we have sought some survey of national needs and priorities.
Let me conclude by referring to a few suggestions, which come from reasonable sources, I believe, as to the sorts of areas in which people are less than content with the present scholarship system. These suggestions are put forward by bodies such as the National Union of Australian University Students and teacher groups. In the community there is a great preoccupation with, and a growing interest in, the problems of education at every level. We as a community have moved from the days when education was regarded as the prerogative of the elite to a stage at which, in principle but I suggest not in practice, the community accepts the responsibility for the education of everybody.
In practice we have gone about the job in a very piecemeal way. Although the Government has moved into the field of education, I believe that it has done so roughly 15 years too late. It has to bear the responsibility for having failed to provide back in the 1950s the sort of thing that is emerging in recent policy and the schemes to which we have given our approval and which the Parliament has passed into legislation in the field of scholarships and other forms of assistance in particular. Our quarrel with the Government is that it is not ambitious enough in educa tion. It regards a modest improvement as real success, whereas in fact the modest improvement means comparatively little when we look at what is needed.
There are suggestions which I believe should be considered. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) has put forward a proposal for tertiary education to be free. I am told that on the figures of the Minister for Education and Science himself that would cost perhaps Slim. There would be substantial encouragement to all students at all levels of the education process if they could look forward to a time when university education would be without fees. At present there is a real discrepancy between secondary scholarships and tertiary scholarships in relation to means. Whereas there is no means test for secondary school scholarships, $200 is given, irrespective of a parent’s means, at the university level where perhaps the pressure is greater. I do not know whether the severest testing time for parents and students comes at the secondary or tertiary level, but the fact is that the means, test is applied at the tertiary level. 1 have never heard a rational explanation of why it is applied in one case rather than in the other, why it does not apply in both cases, or why it should apply in neither case, lt would be interesting to hear that explanation. I have never heard it spelt out by the Government or seen it explained.
I do not know what is the basis for the distinction. Certainly it is a real distinction. In some cases where a scholarship is granted without a means test it may well be too generous in being given to people who do not need it and who would undertake their schooling without it. Where scholarships are applied with a means test, the scheme may operate unfairly against people who are on the borderline of income that is permissible. These are real questions for any education authority to consider. I believe they are relevant to this discussion on the Bill before the Senate.
Over 60% of university scholarships go to families with an annual income of $5,200 or more. Of course, that is not an enormous income these days, but it is well above the average income. One would assume that there are occasions when university scholarships and fees are granted to people who do not need them. I believe that scholarship allowances should frequently be reviewed according to some sort of cost of living formula, lt seems at present that there has been an erosion of the value of these allowances, looked at particularly from the point of view of a student who is entitled under a means test to a full allowance. Any amelioration should apply also to wives’, children’s and dependants’ allowances generally. lt has been suggested that an extension of the scheme is desirable to cover payments of fees associated with the costs of living-in for medical, agricultural, and veterinary students, and so on, because expenditure of that nature is essential to the completion of the courses. In the post-graduate sphere a survey should be conducted of final year undergraduates to ascertain how many students of the right calibre do not undertake post-graduate work, and what would induce them to do so. According to the report of the Martin Committee this is necessary before any firm statement can be made about the financial needs of higher degree students.
Many matters of this character that were foreshadowed in the report of the Martin Committee were dealt with without recommendation. I do not doubt that some thought is being given to these matters but I wonder whether they are currently the subject of consideration by the Government, because they arise within the Martin Committee’s report. I conclude by saying that the Opposition will not oppose this measure. We think it is important to have the scheme stabilised on a proper legislative basis and from the point of view of prescription of conditions by regulation. I repeat that we welcomed the Government’s recognition of the voice of the Senate when a similar Bill was previously before the Senate. It was recognition that although the Minister is to have a discretion, that discretion is to be exercised according to a law which will be known to everybody.
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) [4.20 - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) in opening the debate for the Opposition on this Bill - which I do not think he even named, let alone referred to - gave us a mathematical and statistical exercise. Then he got onto his theme song. I think the honourable senator wears the old school and university tie. He has a chip on his shoulder and is to the forefront in debates on education. As he becomes more enthusiastic he preaches to us that there should be free tertiary education. He says that money should be spent in all manner of means. He made a speech typical of a person who knows that he and his Party will have no form of responsibility in government and therefore will never be able to put into operation the ideas they Haunt before the people.
– Does the honourable senator agree with the amended form of Bill that is now before the Senate?
– 1 was about to come to the Bill. This Bill relates to Commonwealth scholarships and post-graduate awards. It is a further step in the right direction by the Commonwealth Government, giving the lead and great financial support to nearly every form of education in Australia today. The Bill repeals the Education Act. The Commonwealth Office of Education and the Commonwealth Scholarships Board are formally disposed of and the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science comes into full operation to administer the Commonwealth Government’s heavy and ever increasing responsibilities in respect of education. The Bill sets out very clearly the five forms of scholarship that the Government is making available. Clause 5 deals with Commonwealth secondary scholarships; clause 6 deals with Commonwealth technical scholarships; clause 7 deals with Commonwealth advanced education scholarships; and clause 8 deals with Commonwealth university scholarships. Then provision is made for Commonwealth post-graduate awards, ‘the scholarships that the Government is financing are spelt out in legislative form. 1 believe that the taxpayers would be interested to learn what is their share of the expenditure. Is it increasing? ls it worthwhile? Is it an onerous burden for them? In 1.964-65 the Government spent $ 1 2.7m on scholarships. In the current year such expenditure is expected to be $28. 9m. Without any enlargement or diversification of the Government’s scholarships policy, it is thought that in 1971-72 S35m will be spent by the Commonwealth on scholarships alone. There is an aspect that any Government knowing responsibility would take into consideration. I refer to the fact that the more scholarships that are granted - and we welcome them if they arc available - the more students who will go to universities. Mr Acting Deputy President, you would be the first to agree with me that the greater the number of students who attend universities, the larger the professorial, tutorial and other staff that is needed. Therefore more capital expenditure is necessary. Th:: Government must take into consideration with its knowledge of coming events and its responsibility to the people that it must watch expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.
I do not want to deal in detail with any of the provisions of these scholarships at this stage except to say a few words about the later year scholarships. As I understand the situation, a student who only just passes the first year examination and applies for a later year scholarship would, if he has a good second year, have a chance of getting a scholarship. But 1 believe it is correct to say that a first year student who does not pass the required examinations in his first year will not be successful in his application for a later year scholarship. T believe this aspect should be looked at. I know that regulations have to be made and that when there are regulations there are always borderline cases, but I do not think it is correct to wipe out forever a student’s chances of being awarded a later year scholarship because he fails in his first year at university.
The report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia, which is known as the Martin Committee report, pointed out many years ago thai the children leaving school were immature and that they required another year in the secondary education field before they were mature enough to enter the tertiary education field. So the aspect of immaturity is involved. There is also the point that a child has to rearrange his form of study or learning at the university. I understand that the students are not actually taught at universities nowadays but that they have to learn. I understand that the university staff provide the students with the necessary references and that if they study hard enough they pass their examinations. A student leaving school and going straight to a university may find it difficult to settle down to this arl of studying and learning. lt is possible that a student who has done well in his school examinations or has excelled in sport may go to the university flushed wilh the joy and privilege of attending ii and in his enthusiasm he may unwisely take part in too many extracurricular activities. As the year wears on he may realise this but it is too late for him to change his habits and he fails in his first year. This will jeopardise his chance of obtaining a later year scholarship. J hope that the proposals now before the Senate will have the effect of preventing such a student from getting into such a position. I bring that point up because 1 think it should be considered by the Government. I believe that I have uttered the truth as to the attitude of the Department of Education and Science to later year scholarships-
J have only a little time at my disposal, but I wish to deal with one factor that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) mentioned in his second reading speech. He said that the publicity given to these scholarships will be the normal publicity and that approved institutions will be informed through the Commonwealth Gazette’. I hope that the Minister will convey to his colleague the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) my view - and I hope it is the Senate’s view - that the normal form of publicity, which is notification in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’, is immensely inadequate in respect of the conditions under which these scholarships may be applied for and gained. The widest possible publicity should be given. Having made that point, which 1 think is a most important one - it is by far the most important point that I want to raise during my speech - I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.30 p.m., rill Tuesday, 29 April, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690423_senate_26_s40/>.